Oyster Diving Club – Best of Wrecks Red Sea Liveaboard, October 2014 – Part 1
The Oyster Diving Club crew (apart from one person – don’t ask) arrived safe and sound in Hurghada last night. We were met by our guides Tifa and Lina who seem pretty cool. We set up our kit, had a tasty curry and popped to the pub for a couple well deserved cold ones.
This morning we completed our check dive on a pretty reef just outside Hurghada. A few blue spotted stingrays, napoleons wrasse, nudibranchs and clown fish were spotted.
Some of the techy divers decided to do a 90 minute dive which means we were pushed to get to the next dive site, the Salem Express, in time.
The Salem Express is an infamous wreck to the Egyptians. In 1990 the ferry, overloaded with passengers returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca, ran in to bad weather. Overloaded and with a careless captain, the Salem Express hit a reef and quickly sank with the loss of between 600-1600 people (depending on who you ask). As there was no official passenger manifest, nobody knows for sure. Only 180 people survived.
The wreck is in one piece and goes from 14-25m deep. By the time we arrived to the dive site, kitted up and stood on the dive platform, the sun was just disappearing behind the mountains in the distance.
We entered the water and descended to the wreck. The wreck lays on its starboard (right) side, so we swam along what would have been the top deck. By the time we reached the massive propellers and rudder the water was turning black and meant we had to navigate using our torches.
The Danes, some of whom had ‘all the gear but no idea’ had lights resembling those found on a rally car. This meant the silhouette of the wreck stood out. A few of the divers went in to the garage area but decided to swim out when they saw the remains of people’s belongings, such as a pram and luggage. I think this shocked a few of them as it brought home the true horror of what those poor victims must have gone through.
Having dived many wrecks previously, I can say that this one is the most eerie.
On returning to the boat we refuelled our tummies with some delicious food and cracked open the duty free.
The 5.55am wakeup call wasn’t well received by those who had been on the sauce the evening before. Overnight our boat made its way over to the Brother Islands. These 2 small islands lie around 60 miles from the nearest shore. On the imaginatively named ‘Big Brother’ is a crumbling lighthouse with a few old shacks. The island is inhabited by 3 people who are given fresh supplies once every few weeks. The Aida was one of the supply ships that crashed into the reef in 1947 – in fact all of the supply ships are called Aida, and the current one is Aida IV.
Once briefed we entered the Zodiacs and made our way over to the wreck. A negative entry and a few fin kicks took us to the top of the wreck at 30m – except for Ric who had left his weight belt on the boat!
Luckily I was teaching Kara and Wendy their deep specialty so we continued down to 40m. There isn’t much left of the wreck except frame work which is heavily encrusted in colourful corals and is now home to a variety of pretty marine life.
Having spent a few minutes exploring the wreck we slowly made our way back to the reef wall where giant Gorgonian fan corals hang over the side, and we were surrounded by a large number of golden antheas. The reef at Big Brother is generally considered to be one of the best in the Red Sea and is often home to many pelagics such as thresher sharks, tuna, barracuda and grey reef sharks. Unfortunately today was their day off, so thankfully we’ll be back here next year for the ‘shark special’!
For the next dive we took a break from the wrecks and did a nice gentle bimble along the reef wall to the south plateau. Here you find lots of soft corals wafting around in the gentle current and in the blue some peckish looking tuna. Above us the snappers darting in to the crowds of antheas for their lunchtime feed.
Back on the boat the nicknames continued to be dished out, Akvile is now known as ‘egg white’, Andrew is ‘belt’ – I’d best let him explain that one and Melvin is minion.
Our third and final dive of the day was to the Numidia, the larger of the two wrecks on Big Brother. Melvin had been looking forward to this one as it’s such a pretty wreck.
Dimensions – 137.4m long
Sank July 1901 aged 6 months on its way from Liverpool to India via the Suez Canal. Approx 67 fatalities which led to the Captain being jailed for gross misconduct for sleeping on the job
The top of the wreck starts at 14m and descends downwards to 80m+. On reaching the wreck the main framework is still intact but with the skin long since gone. You can swim in around the structure which provides shelter for its inhabitants from the circling predators above. Due to its age the wreck is covered in a thick multicoloured layer of coral. The wreck is home to beautiful angelfish, butterflyfish and clown fish. Having spent 10 minutes or so exploring the wreck we then slowly made our way along the reef wall back to the dive boat.
Showered and back on the sun deck we were provided with freshly cooked donuts, popcorn and crisps while we watch the sun slowly set in the cloudless sky.