The Straits of Tiran offer divers spectacular diving opportunities, including some of the most amazing historical wrecks. Mandy and Jason spent two weeks on a dive liveaboard adventure to the Northern Red Sea aboard the Red Sea Aggressor II. Let's find out what they got up to day by day, and read about what life on a liveaboard is all about.
Why we like liveaboard dive trips
Liveaboards, also known as a dive safari or a dive charter are a great way to make the most of diving while on vacation. It's a dive focused vacation where you get to access amazing locations and meet other people who share your dive passion. You're on a vessel set up specifically for diving that also provides accommodation for overnight trips. You unpack once, and then focus on diving. The trip costs include diving, food and drinks, making it an easy all inclusive week of diving.
About the Northern Red Sea dive sites
The Northern Red Sea and Straits of Tiran provide some of the most historic wrecks like the Thistlegorm, Rosalie Moller, and Abu Nuhas. Ras Mohamed National Park includes many pristine coral reefs and abundant marine life. The Straits of Tiran are the narrow sea passages between the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas, which separate the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea. These reefs, named after British cartographers (Jackson, Woodhouse, Thomas, Gordon), are world famous for their extraordinary diversity of corals and pelagics.
The Northern Red Sea Dive Itinerary
As you can see below, the days are filled with fantastic dive locations and plenty of opportunities to dive. The diving is suitable for all levels, from beginner through to advanced divers.
----- DAY 1 -----
1st Dive Shaab el Erg 2nd Dive Abu Nuhas (wrecks) 3rd Dive Abu Nuhas (wrecks) 4th Dive Abu Nuhas (coral garden)
Abu Nuhas: Also known as “Ships Graveyard”, is located close to the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Suez. Four wrecks are lying in a chain on a sandy bottom of a steep sloping reef covered with table corals. The following wrecks are found there;
Ghiannis D was on the way from Rijeka to AI Hudayda at the southern end of the Red Sea, when the bow ran aground on the reef on April 19, 1984. The rear half of the wreck lies on the port side. At the front the funnel is the large letter “D” signifying the name of the shipping company, Danae. In front of the funnel is the bridge deck with different areas, an enormous winch and the bollard. Narrow portholes lead into the engine room. The mid-ship area resembles a scrap heap where steel girders are bent and torn up, and the side panels lie caved in on the bottom. Crocodile fish, scorpion fish, parrotfish, and groupers call the vessel home. This wreck is at 30 - 88 feet/10 - 27meters depth.
Carnatic was on the way from Liverpool to Bombay with 27 crew members, 203 passengers as well as a cargo of cotton, copper, and 40,000 pounds Sterling in gold. She ran aground in the night September 13,1869. Now the wreck lies at a depth of 65 - 88 feet/20 - 27 meters. The hull is covered with hard and leather corals.
Chrisoula K started her last trip on August 30 1981, loaded with cheap Italian tiles. Chrisoula K ran aground due to a navigation mistake of the captain and sank in the same night. The wreck lies at 16 - 80 feet/5 - 25 meters depth.
----- DAY 2 -----
1st Dive SS Thistlegorm (wreck) 2nd Dive SS Thistlegorm (wreck) 3rd Dive SS Thistlegorm (wreck) 4th Dive Shaab Mahmoud (Dunraven) 5th Dive Shaab Mahmoud (coral garden)
The SS Thistlegorm is the most famous of the Red Sea wrecks. The English cargo ship (423 feet/129 meters) was bombed by German aviation on October 6,1941 in the area of Shaab Ali. She was transporting supplies destined for the British fifth army based in Alexandria, as well as armored MGs vehicles, motorcycles, jeeps, trucks, rolling stock, airplane parts, stacks of rifles, radio equipment, munitions, and a plentiful supply of Wellington boots. Now the wreck is an artificial reef on a sandy bottom at 104 feet/32 meters depth and is home to an enormous variety of marine life with large schooling fish. Additionally, the wreck provides a hunting ground for giant tuna and snappers.
"SS Thistlegorm is an amazing dive. There is so much down there that blows your mind. It was quite literally like going through a WWII museum. Over 200 motorcycles, trucks, guns and ammo." Jason.
The Dunraven was a Victorian steam and sail ship carrying spices, cotton, and timber from India. Dunraven hit the reef during a dispute between the Captain with his wife and his First Mate and subsequently caught on fire. It sank in 1876 beside the reef, upside down, and broken in two parts. Inside the wreck are schools of yellow goatfish and giant morays. The hull is covered with corals and full of marine life, like schools of batfish, nudibranchs, pipefish and the rare ghost pipefish. The wreck rests at 50 - 95 feet/15 - 30 meters depth.
----- DAY 3 -----
1st Dive Ras Mohamed 2nd Dive Ras Mohamed 3rd Dive Tiran Islands 4th Dive Tiran Islands 5th Dive Tiran Islands
Ras Mohamed National Park: The park is located at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. It was declared a protected area in 1983. The jewels in the crown of this national park are Shark Reef and Yolanda Reef. Shark Reef offers the chance to dive with grey and blacktip reef sharks. It is also home to huge numbers of reef fish and some larger pelagics such as tunas. Yolanda Reef is named after the shipwreck. On the plateau, at 32 - 82 feet/10 - 25 meters depth, are scattered remains of toilets and baths. Anemone City is a wonderful shallow dive at 40 feet/12 meters depth. The Shark Observatory is awesome, with plenty of white-tip reef sharks and huge barracudas. The dive sites in Ras Mohamed offer an abundance of reef fish, scorpion fish, multiple macro critters, as well as hard and soft corals. The whole area is a big fish territory.
Jackson Reef is the northern most reef in Tiran and is well-known for the Cypriot cargo ship The Lara that sank in 1985; some remains of the wreckage can still be seen on top of the reef. The west site has a forest of spectacular gorgonian fan corals at 65 - 100 feet/20 - 30 meters depth as well as many different kinds of reef fishes. The most spectacular and colorful coral garden is at the southwest site in 50 feet/15 meters depth. It is very common to encounter sea turtles, whitetip and grey reef sharks.
Woodhouse Reef is the longest reef in the Strait of Tiran and home to both reef sharks and eagle rays. At the southern part of the reef is a wall at 100 feet/30 meters depth covered with coral from the top all the way down. Along the reef is a canyon at 82 feet/25 meters depth that spreads out into a coral garden with sand alleys.
Thomas Reef is the smallest reef in the strait. The reef’s ends are vertical walls with a large plateau at 82 feet/25 meters depth on the south eastern side. This plateau is covered in colorful coral and has a fence of gorgonian fans longnose hawkfish can be found.
Gordon Reef is the most southerly reef of the four islands and has a different topography from the others offering both a shallow plateau and drop-offs. There is a huge variety of reef fishes and the chance to see sleeping whitetip reef sharks on sandy patches. At 13 - 16 feet/4 - 5 meters depth, there is an eel garden. The top of the reef, with its lighthouse, is also home to the wreck Louilla that lies almost parallel to the wreck on Jackson Reef.
----- DAY 4 -----
1st Dive Tiran Islands 2nd Dive Tiran Islands 3rd Dive Ras Mohamed 4th Dive Shag rock 5th Dive Shag rock
Shag Rock: At the northern side of Shag Rock is a small wreck on the sandy seabed at 50 feet/15 meters depth. Kingston was a British cargo ship and sunk in February 1881. Exploring the ship starts at the stern, the rests at 50 feet/15 meters depth. The dive route continues into the hull, easily accessible as the wooden bridge is gone, and the area is well illuminated by sunlight. The remains of the engine room with the boiler still intact are still visible whereas the bow area situated at 13 feet/4 meters depth was destroyed. The fauna here is particularly interesting and includes surgeonfish, nudibranchs, jackfish, groupers, snappers, sea turtles, whitetip reef sharks, and eagle rays. Pods of dolphins are regularly spotted in this area as well.
----- DAY 5 -----
1st Dive Rosalie Moeller (wreck) 2nd Dive Rosalie Moeller (wreck) 3rd Dive Siyul Kebira 4th Dive Shaab Umm Usk 5th Dive Shaab Umm Usk
The Rosalie Moeller is the sistership of the world-famous SS Thistlegorm. This former 357-feet/108-meter-long cargo ship, transporting coal, was bombed and sunk in October 1941 by a German air attack during World War II. Now the wreck lies in 180 feet/55 meters depth on a sandy bottom. The main deck is at 114 feet/35 meters depth, and the mast rise up to 16 feet/18 meters depth. In the deeper parts of the wreck, the huge rudder and propeller are found as well as the ladders and handrails all along the main deck. Hard and soft corals cover the hull. This artificial reef attracts an interesting variety of marine life including barracudas, tunas, jacks, trevallies, glass fish, scorpion fish, and groupers.
Siyul Kebira is a varied reef composed of dense coral patches with lots to explore. The undulating reef face has furrows, vallies, and depressions. The north side of the Siyul Kebira reef is covered in corals, and both sides of the reef feature a mix of different coral species – hard corals as well as soft ones. The fish life is vibrant and diverse, and Siyul Kebira attracts larger pelagics as well. Nurse and leopard sharks are sometimes spotted on the sandy bottom. This dive site is at 72 feet/22 meters depth.
Shaab Umm Usk is an awesome coral garden with many different soft and hard coral species. Acropora corals are present in different forms such as antler, table, and spreading formations. There is an abundance of parrotfish, snapper, wrasse, emperor, butterflies, angles, fusiliers, surgeons, and big groupers –the usual spectacular, colorful reef assemblage of fishes. Night dives here provide the potential to meet curious cuttlefish and squid. The lagoon is also popular with bottlenose dolphins. This dive site is at 65 feet/20 meters depth.
----- DAY 6 -----
1st Dive Carless Reef 2nd Dive Carless Reef
***Sailing to Hurghada Port approx. 1 hour***
Carless Reef is well-known for gorgeous hard and soft corals, spectacular marine life, and a large population of moray eels. The plateau is at 52 - 82 feet/16 - 25 meters depth and has two large pinnacles covered with hard and soft corals. The reef attracts an interesting variety of marine life like barracudas, tunas, trevallies, jacks, groupers, scorpionfish, nudibranchs, and sea turtles. The wall slopes down to 130 feet/40 meters depth and is covered with soft corals, some fan corals, and longnose hawkfish. The dive site is also well-known for encountering sharks.
*Aggressor itinerary: Northern Red Sea Liveaboard - Red Sea Aggressor II
What is it like on a liveaboard?
It's all about the diving.
From the moment you step on board, the crew do nothing but take care of you. Every morning the stewards take your breakfast order, the dive crew are putting your gear at your spot, then when it’s dive time even assisting you into your BCD and fins. They simply cannot help enough.
Food and beverages
The food was fantastic and the meals are plentiful. We had to stop eating large volumes as it was just too much. All meals and all beverages are included along with all dives, however the moment you drink an alcoholic beverage your dive day is over and you become a snorkeler for the remainder of the day.
The service was top notch with the stewards constantly taking care of your room and your needs between dives. There were very comprehensive and detailed dive briefings. All the staff were amazing, helping you with equipment, daily rinsing gear in antibacterial solution, lots of hand washing. And everyone coming into Egypt has had to have a negative PCR Covid test so everything is clean and safe.
Dive 1: A typical day will start around 0600 wake up. We start the day with a light snack and then Dive 1. After this dive it's back on board for breakfast which is usually eggs with some sides, potatoes, bacon, baked beans, it varies daily.
Dive 2: After breakfast we do Dive 2, then it's lunchtime. The lunch menu was soup, salad, a main course and desert.
Dive 3: After lunch we enjoyed an afternoon Dive 3. Then we're back onboard for an afternoon nap and snack.
Dive 4: Dive 4 is usually a night dive. After the night dive, the bar is open and it’s time for dinner. This was a four course meal.
After dinner was time for camera downloading. There was also a variety of night entertainment including fish identification presentations, movies and games. Then we'd happily go to bed to start again the next day.
What if you've had enough diving for the day?
There was no pressure to do all the dives on offer. If you want a break from diving you can kick back with a book, take a nap, sunbathe, snorkel or enjoy the scenery as you sail by.
The Red Sea Aggressor II dive vessel
The Red Sea Aggressor II is a 138 ft yacht with accommodations for 22 guests in 11 staterooms. In each room there was everything you needed for a very comfortable stay. There was air conditioning, private bathrooms, and a TV where you can watch movies. This is where we would plug in our laptops to edit underwater pictures and video we had taken during the day. The large sun deck with a shaded area was a favorite spot, as was the hot tub and deck lounges.
*Liveaboard photos from Mandy and Jason's trip.
How good was the diving?
The diving was varied and impressive.
The diving was spectacular and very varied. The dives included drift dives, wreck dives, wall dives and night dives.
Four dives a day can be a little tiring for some, but there was never any pressure to do them all. You do as much or as little as you want. By the end of the 7 night liveaboard we had done 21 dives. For those who do every dive possible, Aggressor Adventures recognizes those divers with the “Iron Diver” award.
Dive Gallery - Marine life and wrecks
*All diving photos from Mandy and Jason's trip.
Overall, we had an amazing experience. The food is delicious and the staff is fantastic. The diving is mixed and suitable for all diver levels, from the seasoned, experienced diver to the new entry level diver. They took safety seriously with access to full medical equipment, supplies and oxygen to handle dive related emergencies. You are in good hands with the crew and the service they offer is outstanding.
" What an amazing experience. Crew were always attentive, and every dive was spectacular. So many things to see beneath the surface." Jason.
If you have not experienced a Dive Liveaboard vacation before, it might be time to take your diving to the next level. Dive Liveaboards offer you the chance to dive many times over a short period of time in locations you would not normally access on your own. You have access to dive expertise and the companionship of other keen divers for the duration of your trip. There is also the chance to do pre and post dive liveaboard travel, making your vacation quite an adventure.
We take group trips on different dive liveaboards to top dive locations around the globe. Check out our upcoming Group Trips to see if any appeal to you. Get in touch with questions. Mandy can arrange all your dive travel requirements plus any pre and post travel you might want to do.
"We have met fantastic people on our trips and made life long friends. It is one of the best parts of dive liveaboards". Mandy.