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Dive the Red Sea: Our Favourite Red Sea Safari Itinerary

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Red Sea

The Scuba Place talks about why the Deep South itinerary on Big Blue is their favourite Red Sea Safari….  Do you agree?

RED SEA WALL TO WALL, BDE or SIMPLY THE BEST? Whatever name you know this itinerary by, we can attest they all make perfect sense.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, then here is a guide to what I consider to be the very best liveaboard reef itinerary there is in the Red Sea. And I say reef deliberately so as not to confuse those who like all things rusty underwater – this is all about pretty things and fish, not hunks of metal! Although… there is a little bit of that too!

Some operators refer to this trip as “Simply the Best’, and I totally get that. Some call it simply Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone, and I can’t argue with that either. Some call it Red Sea – Wall to Wall, and that makes perfect sense too.

What is safe to say is, whatever you or they call it, this itinerary totally rocks!

Red Sea

There aren’t many divers across the globe who don’t know how good the Red Sea is, and we here in the UK are spoilt rotten by the fact that it is a mere 5 and a bit hours away. The resorts of Dahab, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Marsa Alam all offer really really good day boat diving, and the safaris are world class. The very best sites to dive are the offshore reefs where currents keep the corals super clean and healthy, and where the bigger animals come to feed and get cleaned – and the stars of these offshore reefs have to be The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone.

Elphinstone is the only reef that is reachable by day boat – there are super-fast RIBS from Marsa Abu Dabbab that will make this trip, and day boats from Port Ghalib also make this trip, a journey that takes approximately 2 hours. But if more big reef diving is your preference, then the only way to do this is on a liveaboard safari.

Elphinstone itself is pretty spectacular. Sha’ab Abu Hamra, its proper name, is a reef that sits just below the surface some 6 and a half miles out to sea from Abu Dabbab. Bizarrely, for such a spectacular dive, the reef is a mere 300m long and some 20m wide at the surface. Running North to South, with steps down to 42 and 40m at either end, the reef ‘grows’ as you descend. Below the lowest steps, the reef drops into the abyss – and allegedly, no one knows how deep the drop-off actually goes!

Red Sea

It is, however, the depth of this reef that makes it so healthy and populated – the up currents bring food from the depths, making the reef at Elphinstone a super-sized dining table if you like. The corals are spectacular – big as can be, the brightest of bright and variety of colours, and marine life swarms the reef. The schools of anthias here are second to none, and bannerfish, parrot fish, damsels and surgeon fish add to the party. Sponges and beautiful soft corals fill your view as you look at the reef.

It is also super important to keep an eye on the blue too – barracuda, tuna and trevally sweep by constantly. Turtles and Napoleon wrasse are also often found here, and both mantas and whalesharks come by, but it is the sharks that really are the draw here. White tip and grey reef sharks are commonly seen, but the highlights here have to be the Longimanus – Oceanic Whitetip – and the hammerhead sharks.

Red SeaOur trip in May 2023 also delivered not one but two Thresher sharks on this dive site! We managed three drift dives – the expert zodiac crew dropping us off at the Northern point and meeting us at the Southern tip at the end of the dive on two of the three dives, letting us use the current to drift along at some speed and pop up an SMB at the end of the dive. Our third dive, the current had dropped to almost nothing, so we dropped down to the plateau at the southern end of the reef and hung around with a huge barracuda and a couple of Napoleon wrasse.

A good safari boat will give you a full day of diving here at Elphinstone, but it will be for one day at the beginning of the trip in all likelihood – there are no anchoring points here for overnight stays. An additional day might be available at the end of the trip if you are super unfortunate and the weather disrupts the other sites, but that isn’t that unlucky in my book

Next comes the dives at The Brothers. Big Brother and Little Brother sit approximately 35 miles off the mainland coast of Egypt – far enough to make them reachable only by safari boat. That is great news for divers on a liveaboard – no day boats! However, there can be lots of safari boats, but a good Captain and Dive Manager will work with the other boats to make sure there are as few divers as possible in the water at any time.

Red SeaThe local name for the Brothers is El Akhawein, and these two islands are reputed to be the very best dive destination in the Red Sea. They sit in a protected marine reserve, and like Elphinstone, there are no moorings here, so no night dives or overnight stays. Both islands are uninhabited, although there is an operational lighthouse on Big Brother.

There are also two wrecks on Big Brother – the Aida which sits between 15 and 45 metres on the Western side of the island, and the Numidia, sitting between 10 and 85 metres deep on the Northern side. Both are excellent wrecks and have been down long enough to be overgrown with corals and inhabited by marine life.

The Numidia wreckage breaks up the reef nicely and we found numerous huge, bearded scorpion fish and a handful of nudibranchs sitting on its superstructure, pipefish and again, large Napoleon wrasse, but seeing another thresher shark, closely followed by a large manta ray, was the highlight for me.

We crammed in four dives here – one on Little Brother, and three on the big sibling. They were all totally amazing – this has to be my very favourite spot in the Red Sea. Straight to the point – manta ray, thresher shark, grey reef shark, turtles, hordes of schooling fish and the most stunning soft corals ever. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

Red Sea

It was then on to Daedalus Reef. I have tried to get here on several occasions in the past but got beaten by the weather and other circumstances, but this time, with now flat calm seas, I knew we were going to get there! A long overnight sail against the wind had us arrive at about 0500 and then it was down to some serious deep sleep before waking for a day of diving.

Daedalus Reef, also known as Abu Kizan, is a pinnacle with a man-made island and lighthouse sitting atop. It can be found c.50 miles out to sea, due east of Marsa Alam and slap bang in between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Accessible only by liveaboard, this is a super-remote place and a protected marine park. This, combined with the flowing currents, make it incredibly populated and super-healthy.

Diving on the east side in the morning and the west side in the afternoon gives the very best light, and whilst we try to do this, all diving here is decided by the currents. The good news is, although no night dives are permitted, overnight stays are, and this means another day of diving is available! This was a no-brainer for us, the diving here is phenomenal.

Red Sea

As well as the now common abundance of incredible corals and reef inhabitants that we experienced on this trip, Daedalus is probably the best place in the Red Sea to see hammerhead sharks in big numbers, for they seem to school here. On this trip, we didn’t get to see schooling hammerheads, but we did get several individuals on each dive. We also saw another manta, plenty of trevally, a school of barracuda, a turtle or two and some of the healthiest corals ever. Other divers allegedly saw a whaleshark, but not us, sadly.

On top of that, the surface intervals here give you an opportunity to leave the safari boat and go on to the island, climb up the lighthouse where the views are amazing, and even buy a t-shirt from the ‘shop’ on the island.

I have dived the Red Sea for more than 15 years now, going at least twice a year, and that is a lot of diving. I love the amazing wrecks to the North, Rasmo and Tiran too, but honestly, for me, there is nothing like hitting these huge offshore reefs and experiencing their amazing offerings.

Red Sea

Thresher sharks? Mantas? Oceanic white tips? Hammerheads? Yes – and so much more – all in some of the healthiest and most beautiful coral environments there are.

Want to be blown away? Do this trip. Simply the Best works for me!

Our vessel for the week was the British-owned and operated Big Blue. At 42m, she is one of the larger boats in the fleet and sleeps up to 22 people, so there’s a lot of space on board. Smaller boats take more people, but we like space! We had twinset and sidemount divers with us, and no one was cramped on the dive deck. The food is great, and there is plenty of it; the crew are highly professional and fun, the air-conditioning works, and the cabins are plenty big enough. Beers are cheap, which helps, and mixers are free of charge should you bring some gin on board.

Big Blue does not mandate the number of dives you need to book a trip or set a minimum qualification other than Open Water (or equivalent), but what they do insist upon is that you have both a reel and SMB, and that you can use it properly. The check dive will involve everyone sending up an SMB, just to ensure a level of competence.

Red Sea

Key Facts :

  • Getting there : EasyJet flies from Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester direct to Hurghada in just 5 hours. We were greeted by staff airside with our visa which is a great service! Saved us from queueing to purchase our visa. Once we had baggage in hand we loaded up for a quick 15 minutes to the marina.
  • Air temperature : Varies from a low of 21°C in December January to 32°C in July August.
  • Water temperature : 24-28°C. A 3-5mm full suit will suit most in the summer months.
  • Visa requirement : for £30 we had a VIP visa service offered by Big Blue. We were met airside with our visa and avoided standing in the queue to purchase.
  • Health protocols : You do not need to show a COVID vaccination certificate or negative COVID test to enter Egypt. Health officials may screen you for COVID symptoms on arrival. They may also randomly select travellers for rapid antigen testing.
  • Currency : Egyptian pounds, Euros, British pounds are all accepted on board Big Blue.
  • Electricity : 220V with 2 prong sockets. An extension lead is always a good idea.
  • Internet and Wi-Fi : There is limited signal when out to sea. We did take along a dongle and purchased a sim card at the airport for £10 for 20G of data.

Red Sea

Price Guide: Expect from £1,650 per person with EasyJet flights based on two sharing a standard cabin for 7-night safari with NITROX included. Marine park and Port fees are also included but the Environmental tax of €70 will be collected on board. Bar bill and tips are extra.

Our Advice: If you haven’t been on Big Blue give it a try. It’s spacious and super comfortable and they have a relaxed attitude with an emphasis on diver safety. Half and full charters are available as well as individual spaces. We’d be happy to help your dive club charter a week!

Packing tips :

  • Reef friendly sunscreen : The sun can be fierce on the water so come prepared!
  • Reading material : Bring your Kindle loaded with a few books – remember wifi signal can be sketchy… or a few paperbacks… there’s a shelf in the salon for book sharing if you want to leave them behind.

And most importantly….

SMB and reel : and please make sure you know how to use it.

Red Sea

The Scuba Place designs and builds custom scuba diving holidays.  With personal knowledge and experience diving in many of our destinations, there is no one better to help build your dream dive holiday.  Come Dive with Us!

Call us at 020 3515 9955 or email at reservations@thescubaplace.co.uk

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Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Scubapro Luna 2 AI Dive Computer

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dive computer

In a video produced exclusively for Scubaverse, Jeff Goodman reviews the Luna 2 AI Dive Computer from Scubapro.

For more information about Scubapro products, visit www.scubapro.johnsonoutdoors.com.

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Dive the richest reefs in the world with the pioneers of Raja Ampat 

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raja ampat

Papua Diving Resorts are the pioneers of sustainable tourism and diving in Raja Ampat. Our award-winning resorts are PADI Five Star and were the first exclusive dive resorts in the heart of the Dampier Strait. Where lush jungle meets clear, warm waters and the richest reefs on earth, let yourself embrace an escape like no other. 

With over 30 years of operation in Raja Ampat and award-winning commitment to the people and environment of Papua, Papua Diving Resorts’ experience and impact are unrivalled. This makes us the natural choice for ocean enthusiasts.

Our founder, Max, has been diving and exploring Raja Ampat since 1990, discovering the dive sites the area is so famous for. Paying tribute to his family, Max named a few of the dive sites after his wife and children, including Melissa’s Garden and Mike’s Point, as well as coming up with quirky names like Chicken Reef and Sardine Reef because of his experiences while diving there for the first time.  

raja ampat

Papua Diving Resorts is also just a stone’s throw away from the famous Cape Kri, world record holder of most reef fish species counted on a single dive. In 2012, ichthyologist Dr. Gerry Allen counted 374 different reef fish species on a single dive at Cape Kri. In an interview, he said: 

“One of my favorite places to dive in Raja Ampat is Cape Kri near Sorido Resort… I didn’t even have to look for fish. They found me! The survey was the highest species count I’ve ever tallied on one dive, 374 distinct species in 90 minutes!” 

raja ampat

Our dedicated team will make sure you see the best of Raja Ampat as we take you on incredible trips to the Fam Islands, Mushroom Islands and Manta points, just an hour away from our resorts. Experience Raja Ampat’s super reefs in a whole new light by joining the fluorescent dive and blackwater dives around Kri Island. Or simply enjoy a relaxing sunset and night dive where you can be sure to see the elusive mandarin fish and famous walking shark. 

With Papua Diving Resorts, guests get the chance to experience the Last Paradise at the very first dive resort in the area. Here, qualified and experienced staff are committed to giving guests the best Raja Ampat has to offer through Papua Diving Resorts’ quality service, food, and excursions. 

OUR RESORTS 

Papua Diving Resorts provides two world-class options to stay on Kri Island: the more traditional Kri Eco Resort, and upscaled boutique Sorido Bay Resort.  

raja ampat

Sorido Bay Resort is our luxury boutique option 

Perfect for those who want a touch of luxury, Sorido Bay Resort is a collection of 9 charming bungalows with spacious rooms and ensuites, each with Wi-Fi, AC and fan and a veranda that overlooks a vibrant house reef. The private resort faces the Papuan sunrise, basking the island in a warm glow for a beautiful day in Indonesia’s Crown Jewel.

raja ampat

Indulge in community-style meals at the sea-view restaurant that overlooks the turquoise waters of the house reef and Sorido Blue Hole beyond. If you’re lucky, you might spot a pod of dolphins or even whales with your morning coffee or afternoon tea.  

raja ampat

Kri Eco Resort is where paradise meets sustainability 

Looking out over the dark blue waters of the Dampier Strait and distant mountain ranges, Kri Eco Resort is a cluster of authentic Papuan-style water bungalows built from locally sourced materials with 3 room types to choose from, two of which have communal bathrooms.

raja ampat

The 13 cottages come with Wi-Fi, electric fans for still nights, and direct access to Kri’s vibrant house reef. The over-water sun deck area faces the Papuan setting sun, creating the picture-perfect spot for bright orange sunsets. With a more in-touch-with-nature feel, Kri Eco Resort bungalows allow guests to fully enjoy the cool sea breeze and natural beauty paradise has to offer. 

raja ampat

Regardless of where you stay, you can be sure to experience the rich biodiversity of Raja Ampat. Enjoy looking down from our jetty into the crystal-clear waters of the house reef, where you can spot stingrays, blacktip reef sharks, moray eels and sea snakes, and if you’re lucky even some dolphins and dugongs swimming by.  

The resort grounds are also rich with land creatures such as monitor lizards, cuscus, even kingfisher birds and sea eagles. Embrace your adventurous side and take a kayak out to the sandbar that appears during low tide, or a hike through the jungles that sit between the two resorts.  

raja ampat

Wherever you choose to book with us, guests at Papua Diving Resorts can enjoy the community coming together on a shared passion, sharing stories with divers and adventurers alike during mealtimes and excursions.  

CONSERVATION 

By staying at Papua Diving Resorts, you become part of the effort to protect this beautiful yet fragile environment. From offering schooling and sustainable employment for indigenous people, to boosting shark populations, Papua Diving Resort’s aim is to leave this world better than we found it. 

Providing education and training to the local indigenous Papuan villagers is a part of our mission at Papua Diving Resorts, through which they can take the skills and knowledge and apply it to their livelihoods.

raja ampat

When Max arrived in Raja Ampat, he found a community that depended on shark and ray finning to provide for their families. To encourage a more sustainable approach to earning a living, Max employed and upskilled the locals through teaching them boatbuilding, woodworking and guiding guests to experience all that Paradise has to offer.  

Creating partnerships with locals in the nearby villages, Max sought to provide one-of-a-kind guest experiences to see and photograph the Red and Wilson Bird of Paradise, seen only in Raja Ampat. Aligned with our mission at Papua Diving Resorts to protect nature and empower the local people, a portion of our proceeds go back to these local partnerships. 

raja ampat

As leaders in conservation and pioneers of sustainable tourism and diving in Raja Ampat, Papua Diving Resorts offers guests an unforgettable opportunity to experience the best of Indonesia’s Crown Jewel. Located at the heart of the Dampier Strait, we invite you to explore the rich biodiversity of the area, both above and underwater. 

BOOK NOW 

Email: info@papua-diving.com  

Website: papua-diving.com  

Instagram: @papuadivingresorts  

Facebook: Papua Diving Resorts 

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