Log Date: Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015
Entry By: Red Sea Aggressor Crew
Water temperature: 72 - 75F/ 22 - 24C
Air temperature: 68 - 80F / 20 - 27C. Cosy jumper, trousers, sock/slippers and hat recommended for post-dive/evenings.
Exposure suit: 7mm full length. Hood/rash vest underneath recommended for those that really feel the cold.
Visibility: 49 - 65ft / 15 - 30m
Cruise Directors: Mahmoud & Erin
Dive Guides: Mahmoud Erin
Chefs: Khaled Said
Salon Steward: Mido
Seamen/Deckhands: Said Emad Ayob Mostafa
Harley Jackie & John Desiree & Chris Tatiana & Alexsey Jen & Rob
This week we excitedly welcomed guests from America and Russia for our first 10 day Best of The Red Sea itinerary of the season. Everyone arrived in good time and was able to unpack and set their dive gear up in the warm afternoon sunshine. Inside the salon, we tucked into the Chefs selection of mini pizzas as guests and crew gathered for the Welcome Briefing. It was then time for a glass of wine, a cold beer, and dinner. The shish taouk and cheesecake went down a treat leaving stomachs happy and minds sleepy! As many of our guests had been travelling for days - some for three(!) - bed was calling and some much-needed sleep caught up on.
DAY 1 - Thursday 19 March
Thursday morning began with bright sunshine, clear blue skies, and a large pot of coffee! We enjoyed a lazy breakfast on the boat at Port Ghalib Marina as our permissions were sanctioned, and before long the engines were fired up signalling our imminent departure from the marina. Off we go to Marsa Shoana for our first dive of the day! For some of our divers, this charter was to be a special bucketlist trip so they were keen to jump in at Marsa Shoana and check the critters out! Lion Fish, Masked Puffer Fish, Scorpion Fish, Bluespotted Rays and a Porcupine Fish were all spotted. We took the zodiac out to the south of the marsa for the second dive, backward rolling off the sides and descending into the blue where we were met by Orangeface Butterfly Fish, and schools of Goat Fish hiding in the shadows between the great mounds of hard coral and rock. A large area of sand is home to a colony of Garden Eels which we saw as we finned past. Further on we encountered two Giant Moray Eels, a Crocodile Fish and a school of Pickhandle Barracuda, one of which was positively ginormous and seemed to lead the school this way and that. A large Green Turtle caught our attention next as it lay on a small patch of sand with its head wedged under a piece of Table coral! The remora lying on the Turtles back looked just as relaxed as the Turtle itself. Dive three took us to Um Rus. This is a fairly shallow dive but there is so much to see! Pastel pink Scorpion Fish lie in wait on the hard coral, Pipe Fish coil around the rocks, and Lion Fish pose for the cameras. An Octopus came out to say hello and then proceeded to walk across the reef, much to our divers delight. On the way back to the boat, a Puffer Fish was seen all puffed up! The night dive was also at Um Rus where we saw Squid, a juvenile Banded Sole, Lion Fish, more Scorpion Fish, Pipe Fish, Parrot Fish, and Freckled Hawkfish.
DAY 2 - Friday 20 March
We arrived safely at Big Brother in the early hours of the morning after a rather bumpy ride! To ease ourselves into the day we dived the south of Big Brother, giant-striding off the back of the boat and descending onto the plateau where we were met by a Hawksbill Turtle ripping into the Broccoli corals for breakfast! There were also Scorpion Fish, many Unicorn Fish, a Giant Barracuda, as well as the ubiquitous Red Sea Anthias. For dive two we took the zodiacs out to the north of the island to dive the wreck of the Numidia, which ran aground here in July of 1901. This is a fabulous dive where the wreck disappears at a steep angle, leaning onto its starboard side down into the blue. Big Eye and Squirrel Fish can be found inside the wreck as well as Christmas Tree Worms that are growing out of the metal structure. The third dive took us to the wreck of the Aida, which crashed into the island when attempting to offload its cargo during bad weather in 1957. This wreck photographs beautifully, especially in black and white, and remnants of the bow structure can be found further along the reef, now covered in hard and soft corals from the years beneath the sea. We
also were fortunate to see a Tiger Flatworm which was crawling over a sandy patch of the reef.
DAY 3 - Saturday 21 March
Having made the short crossing from Big Brother to Little Brother the previous evening, we had a peaceful nights sleep and were ready for our day! The north plateau is the place to be early in the morning as the sun is not yet high in the sky meaning that many fish are still in hunting mode. Schools of Red Sea Banner Fish swam slowly up and down the reef by the plateau and Unicorn Fish passed by in the blue. Giant Trevally chased the Fusiliers, and Giant Barracuda hung perfectly still like pictures on a wall. Along the main reef wall, an Octopus was spotted as it pushed its eye out of a crack before retreating back inside. We revisited the north plateau for the second dive and were this time rewarded with a sighting of a Grey Reef Shark and a couple of Giant Moray Eels swimming about. A large Porcupine Fish was up in the shallows and Groupers all around. Dive three took us to the west of the island. Here the Cornet Fish were as curious, and cheeky, as ever using us divers as cover in order to be able to sneak up on the Anthias before ambushing them! As we peeled away from the wall and the fantastic Broccoli corals, we saw that Surgeon Fish had gathered underneath the boat as well as a Giant Barracuda. To end our time at The Brothers, a Longimanus (Oceanic Whitetip Shark) came to bid us farewell. No sooner had divers entered the water than excited squeals of "Shark! SHARK!!" were heard! This beautiful and inquisitive creature spent much of the dive checking out our divers right next to the ladders allowing for some cracking photo opportunities. All too soon, gauges signalled the end of the dive and everyone clambered up the boat ladders a little chilly but smiling after such a great dive. Meanwhile, Mido, our steward was busy preparing Sangria for our guests to enjoy with the sunset.
DAY 4 - Sunday 22 March
We certainly didnt let the blustery weather affect us as we sipped our coffee during the briefing for the first dive at Daedalus! This was to be an extra-special dive, too, as it was Chris 1000th dive! As we slipped beneath the surface into the calm waters, we adjusted our eyes to look out for Hammerheads and Mantas. Although luck was not on our side this time, there were plenty of other delights to look at such as the Giant Trevally, Giant Barracuda, schools of Striated Fusiliers, and the steep-sloping reef adorned with hard corals and soft Broccoli corals. We headed back up to the north of this huge reef for our second dive and enjoyed exploring the wall and many dark overhangs. A Giant Moray Eel slithered around in a crack before poking its head out with its mouth wide open. Lion Fish bounced along gracefully in the surge, and the shallows were buzzing with activity. Many fish including Surgeon Fish, Parrot Fish, Rabbit Fish and Wrasse can be seen on top of the reef as the coral sits only a metre or so under the water line. We discovered the stunning Anemone City on the west side of the reef during our third dive. This was another special dive as Desiree celebrated her 900th dive! A huge school of Tuna circled our divers next to the wall, and two very large Giant Trevally swam past in the blue, their shapes unmistakeable. The Magnificent Anemone swayed this way and that as Three-spot Dascyllus weaved in and out of the tentacles. The fourth dive of the day was a relaxing bimble along the reef wall in the south. Here, pastel-coloured Scorpion Fish lie in wait, beautifully camouflaged against the yellow Broccoli corals that cover the reef. A Rueppells Wart Slug was spotted on a corner of a rock, and a Large Dragon on the underside. No, we werent suffering from gas narcosis, there really was a Large Dragon! These critters are difficult to see as they are thin and a light lilac colour, but very delicate and interesting to watch. After finishing our desserts at dinner, we all ran outside to get a good look at the two Longimanus circling the boat. One was large, and this nighttime sighting was a great way to end our time at Daedalus before untying the lines and heading further south overnight.
DAY 5 - Monday 23 March
Jumping in at Rocky Island was a great start to our Monday morning! The reef is covered in different shades of soft corals, and there are plenty of overhangs and caves to explore. Before wed even got in the water, a pod of Dolphins were sighted swimming past the boat! Once underwater and finning along the wall, a school of Fusiliers were seen in the blue, a Graceful Shrimp Goby on a sandy ledge, a Giant Moray Eel, and Blackspotted Trevally. Our second dive took us to the east of this wall where we ambled along in the calm waters looking at Giant Moray Eels, Lion Fish and the candy-coloured Broccoli corals. We came across a little Hawksbill Turtle gliding down the wall so we followed at a distance until he came to a rather abrupt halt on top of a coral head! Leaving him to enjoy his meal, we began our ascent, and on doing so, bumped into a not-so-shy Big Eye that wanted to pose for the camera! Above us was the mouth of a cave that sits in the reef wall. The light shone brightly on the rubbly floor as we swam through and out of the other side. Continuing along the reef wall in the shallows during our safety stop was one of the best parts of the dive and where we saw six Napoleon Wrasse! We moved after lunch to Zabargard. This is actually a mountain with the reef all around. Waters of light, bright, mint green are closest to the sandy shore, fading perfectly into light blue and then darker still to a rich, deep blue. It is a truly idyllic location. Our first dive was full of life including a Turtle, various coloured Scorpion Fish, Napoleon Wrasse and around 20 Bluespotted Rays. The last dive of the day was awesome with an enormous variety of different species of coral, and a Vortex of very cooperative Barracuda! They let us get extremely close which resulted in some fantastic footage being shot. Hundreds of Fusiliers came out of hiding from a cave towards the end of the dive, and to top it all off, a big green and blue Napoleon Wrasse swam right
underneath us as we approached the boat ladders! Wetsuits were quickly peeled off on the dive deck so we could jump in the zodiac to take a sunset trip to Zabargard island. Everyone enjoyed this immensely. We strolled along the white sandy beach, took photos, paddled in the azure water, and admired the view of the burnt-orange-coloured mountain behind us. What a view!
DAY 6 - Tuesday 24 March
Today we woke up in the area of St Johns after a short crossing the night before. The wind had abated, leaving the air temperature feeling much hotter, and the seas calm. This was a great day for a birthday, and it just so happened to be one of our guests... Happy Birthday, Alexsey! The sharks were out first thing at Small Gota, our first dive site of the day. One of the Whitetip Reef Sharks was a juvenile lying on a sandy ledge, the other was much larger and swimming around next to the wall. Soft corals grow out of the reef wall at various angles the colours of precious jewels. We unmoored and moved to the next dive site, Paradise, for dive two. Paradise is always popular with divers as its beauty and still waters make for a kind of underwater yoga session! Within five minutes of jumping in, we were rewarded with the sight of an Eagle Ray gliding gracefully by! Great big pinnacles are scattered over the sand which are a lot of fun to weave in and out of to find Puffer Fish, or spy on Blanquillo without them realising a diver is close by! A tiny little Pyjama Chromodorid sat perched atop a corner of rock. Further along, we saw a Porcupine Fish, a Burr Fish, and a Whitespotted Puffer Fish, capturing them on camera as we went. Towards the end of the dive, a clump of Magnificent Anemone came into view, signalling the mouth to a cave. Inside, a Bluespotted Ray eyed us as we went by and a Golddotted Flatworm, and Wart Slug were at home on the rubbly floor. After lunch we jumped in at St Johns Caves. The light was perfect for this dive as we made our way down the wide corridors and swim-throughs. Our divers saw a juvenile Bicolour Parrot Fish, Yellowtail Tang, Wart Slugs, Ehrenbergs Snapper, and the resident Napoleon Wrasse outside the caves. The last dive of the day took us to the pinnacles in the lagoon. The sandy bottom here gives the water a bright, light blue look and we enjoyed searching for Nudibranchs, Bluespotted Rays, Grouper, Yellow Box Fish, and the Napoleon Wrasse on the way back.
DAY 7 - Wednesday 25 March
For our seventh day at sea, we were in the local area of Sataya. There are some fantastic dive sites here, and our first port of call was the south of Sataya reef. We moored up right over the coral garden so everyone made their giant strides into the shallows before heading down to the vertical drop off. Many Bluespotted Rays were gliding over the sand in the early morning light, and Lion Fish are always found in abundance. Luck really was on our side as we took the boat over to the north of Sataya reef and spotted the dorsal fins of a pod of Whitestriped Dolphins. It is often hard to tell just how many dolphins are swimming about beneath the surface until youre in the water yourself, but this week there were more than 100!! They were not the least bit fazed by us snorkeling and came within metres of us, twisting, turning and splashing around on the surface. Wed worked up quite an appetite swimming around for an hour and were ready for a good lunch back on the boat! A short distance from Sataya reef is the dive site, Malahi. Everyone loved this dive site with its gigantic pinnacles, swim-throughs, winding passageways, and species of hard coral. Citron Coral Gobies had made their home on top of an Acropora coral outside, and inside were Scorpion Fish, Bandcheek Wrasse, Bluespotted Rays, Parrot Fish, and Coral Hinds. We moved off once again to the last dive site of the day, Shaab Claude. Cave Sweepers hid inside and shone a beautiful silvery-gold as the light of our torches fell on their bodies. Orange, red and yellow Hydroids lined the caves as we swam through them looking for Big Eye, Squirrel Fish, Bluespotted Rays and Wart Slugs. Ehrenbergs Snapper and Goat Fish hung in the stillness of the main chamber. On the west side, many Yellowtail Tang and Dusky Surgeon Fish had congregated and seemed to be nibbling at something on a rock! The night dive at Shaab Claude was relaxing, and even Captain Abdullah jumped in! Spider crabs walked over the reef, and Orangespine Unicorn Fish, Boxer Shrimp, and two Large Dragons were spotted.
DAY 8 - Thursday 26 March
Our first dive of the day today was in the local area of Marsa Alam at Habilli Marsa Alam. This site is not dived very often so its corals are especially beautiful. The reef is almost a perfect circle and is surrounded by coral heads, pinnacles and many species of fish including the larger Barracuda and Tuna. Dive two was at Abu Dabbab 1. The hard coral structures here are massive and some reminiscent of organ pipes! A Blackmouthed Sea Cucumber was wiggling its way along, a teeny Yellowspotted Scorpion Fish was found in a Staghorn coral head, and some magical caves were the perfect way to finish our dive. We moved the short distance to Abu Dabbab 3 for the third dive taking in the Anemones with their resident Clown Fish, and the wreck of an old safari boat. The shallow lagoon and Bluespotted Rays ended our dive. Last up for the day was Abu Dabbab 3. What a fantastic dive this was! We passed the wreck of the safari boat on the way to the north of Abu Dabbab 3, and after swimming through some amazing caves, a Turtle was right up in the shallows munching on Moon Jelly Fish. We were able to stay with the Turtle for some 10 minutes before he swam off in search of more food. The water above us was full of Jelly Fish, floating up by the surface ever so gracefully. Three big Tuna swam past us on the way back to the boat, and a very large Giant Moray
Eel coiled itself into a coral head as we completed our safety stops.
DAY 9 - Friday 27 March
Our last day came around so fast, but we were excited to jump in at Elphinstone. Fortunately we woke up to a delightfully calm morning with hot sunshine and flat water. This allowed us to anchor over the north plateau of Elphinstone - the reef and deep blue clearly visible from the dive deck. Divers descended against the wall which is covered in hard and soft corals. The colour and light here are really spectacular and there are so many fish. Redtoothed Trigger Fish are always swimming around, and Unicorn Fish, Cornet Fish and Morays are plentiful. The second dive was down in the south. We explored the plateau, and then followed the reef wall round to the east side where we came across a Ringed Chromodorid. This was a brilliant find! All too soon it was time to make our way back to the boat ladders, wash our gear down and enjoy a nice cold beer!
It has been a truly superb 10 days - action-packed and full of fun. We would like to congratulate...
900th DIVE: Desiree
1000th DIVE: Chris
Happy Birthday!: Alexsey
We hope to see all of you again. In the meantime...
Safe Diving Always
Your Red Sea Aggressor Crew