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Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: The Blue Hole / the Bells
Location: North Dahab, 28°34.367N; 34°32.207E
Description: Reef / shore dive / drop-off
Depth: 200 metres + (600 feet)
Visibility: 30 - 40 metres (100 - 130 feet)
An excellent dive for fans of the deep blue. The Bells is a natural small hole at 30m in a sheer wall that drops off to 800m+. You descend straight down along side the wall and dive round the hole (upside down and looking out is best) and pop out into the blue. Blue is all you can see looking out to sea with the wall to your back. Look out for sharks and manta rays. Gradually ascending up to 15m is where all the reef life is, the usual fishes and corals. To exit from the shore you need to swim over the blue hole (again, looking for bigger life) against some fierce currents.
A fairly energetic dive, so watch your air if doing this as a shore dive, surface finning is tiring in the strong currents in this area.
Jenny Pickles, BSAC Dive Leader
The Blue Hole is one of Dahab's most famous dive sites. Located about thirty minutes jeep ride from Dahab, it is accessible from shore with entry into the blue water just a few metres from the rocky shoreline. Bedouin type facilities surround the main entry / exit points, with toilets, seating, food and drinks available. Whilst entry into the Blue Hole pool is one option, quite a nice alternative is to make a short walk to the north, along the rocky coastal path and enter through a gap in the shoreline rocks. This is done one diver at a time. Divers can then drop down an enclosed chimney in the reef exiting at 30 metres or so onto the sheer wall. The reef is near vertical at this point and as you head south (right shoulder to the reef) you'll come around an outcrop which makes for some fantastic silhouette photographs looking up towards the sunlight. The reef wall is home to lots of clownfish anemones and the blue backdrop makes a great viewing point for trevallies, jacks, barracuda and possibly white-tip and grey reef sharks.
As you travel south and ascend you will come to a colourful hard coral slope at around 10 metres, which leads up and over at 6 metres into the blue hole pool. It is best to spend most of the dive on the outside of the reef as the inside pool has little in the way of coral. Use your safety stop to either swim across the pool or around the edge (left shoulder to reef) until you reach the small wooden jetty and exit. Currents can be strong, usually north to south, on the outside of the reef so the northern entry point is often a good option, then drifting down to the pool with the current. Take care not to miss your exit, although if this does happen simply find a safe exit further down the shoreline and be prepared for a walk in full kit.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
I dived there in September 2005, it's only worth diving if you start at The Bells. Pass the entrance of the pool 50 - 100 metres if you have enough air, not too much current on the part of the wall where the coral is still ok. For the rest of the dive the coral has been very, very damaged. The Blue Hole is completely dead, killed by the numerous snorkelling day trips. Not worth it if you don't start the dive by the Bells
The Bells to the Blue Hole is a classic dive with a stunning drop off at the start. Entry here can be a little daunting, particularly if there is a swell as there is only a small gash in the rock to enter the water by. I've dived this site more than a dozen times and find the best way in is to jump in sans fins and put them on once in the water. Descend head first once oriented for the best views on the way down through the archway. Watch your depth as the drop off is abyssal. The rest of the dive follows the outside of the Blue Hole along the coral wall as others have described.
I've also dived the Blue Hole site by entering the Blue Hole, crossing out over the saddle and following the coral wall round the right hand side - i.e. the opposite side to the approach from the Bells. This is particularly good for those who haven't dived the Blue Hole before as it kind of gets you into the whole thing gradually. As a first dive on the Blue Hole it's not bad and then of course you get to do the Bells later which is really good.
So, far I haven't encountered any strong currents in or around this site - maybe I've been really lucky to date?
Ian Brown, PADI Rescue Diver
At the Blue Hole, a cavernous hole approximately 25m across plunges from the reef table down to unfathomable depths. 'The Arch' starts at around 56m with the base of the arch at around 120 metres, it connects the Blue Hole to the open ocean. The abyss Blue Hole and Arch is beyond the limits of recreational diving. Enter the water from the beach, marked "easy entrance". Cross the hole and leave it through the exit at 7m. The Blue Hole itself hardly offers any coral growth but there is plenty on the external wall. Descend there to your chosen depth. Make sure you stick to a depth well within your ability! On your way back up, search for the rare red anemone in 10m depth. In recent years The Blue Hole has earned itself a bad reputation. Many have died there testing their limits beneath the deep archway. The cliffs around the bay bear their epitaphs. The danger of the Blue Hole is that it has no bottom. To make a mistake here can have serious consequences, with no second chances. People trying to discover their limits only find them when they have gone too far.
The Bells is formed where a deep groove cuts into the reef top just north of the Blue Hole at Dahab. Being so close to the Blue Hole it is often overlooked, in favour of its big brother. However for the less macho diver it makes a beautiful dive at around 20m. The groove of the Bells breaches the reef table. A clear blue pool is formed where the dive starts. You descend through a chimney, exiting at 27m on a ledge that opens to the cobalt sea. The open water here is some of the clearest, deepest blue you will see. The drop-off is completely vertical, and the underwater landscape is breathtaking. Drift along the wall where attractive cavelets and overhangs with a rich growth of black coral enhance the drop off. Look left into the blue and you may catch sight of a turtle or reef shark. There are many anemones along this wall and the resident clownfish are more laid back than their Sharm counterparts. At night this reef comes to life: like many others in Dahab, it is home to Spanish dancers which are beautiful to watch in motion. By staying shallow towards the end of the dive you can enter the Blue Hole at around 5m and exit the water there.
I dived this site a week ago and although it is a great place to dive, DO NOT take any risks, extra care is needed. A Russian man died whilst we were there and as yet I haven't seen it in the news. I don't think it's public knowledge the amount of accidents that happen here. According to locals it happens regularly. There are many plaques / gravestones on the rocks in memory of divers who have died there, which in itself is a bit scary. We only did a shallow dive and unless you are a tech diver do not even think about attempting the arch.
Georgie, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
Wonderful - like all Dahab dives. Loads of great diving, I just got back. Bells is amazing as is the Blue Hole. Saw the free divers, trumpetfish surfing my bubbles were cool. Still see too many divers touching the coral though. Saw a tech diver doing his deco stops with 5 tanks and two dive computers. Who was that diver?
The Blue Hole has claimed many lives and there are plaques along the shore line in memory of the divers lost. The seabed at the entrance to the arch is at 106m but then it drops off to over 1000m of inky blue on the open ocean side. Divers are warned not to search too long in the seabed around the arch as there are dead bodies and lots of scuba equipment lying around from the poor soles who attempted the dive without the proper training or equipment. At that depth a normal 12ltr cylinder will provide only 9mins of life giving gas.
The dive has several aspects that make it special. The Blue Hole itself is a very unusual bit of sea water. Venturing out into the middle and dropping to 50m it is very easy to become disorientated from sensory depravation. The water appears milky and the area is permanently in shade so it's a twilight blue. Some people can't cope with it and most stick within visual range of the walls.
The entrance to the arch can be dived at 50m but to get the spectacle you need to drop to 80m and stay a little back. It's quite a site, like the entrance to some gothic tomb. When you enter the arch and look backwards the blue hole is black and foreboding. Many air divers have succumbed to the effects of narcosis on this dive and I feel sure it was at that moment where they looked back the way they came and it looked so dead.
Shortly after this you round a corner and the welcoming blue of the open ocean is ahead. I remember clearly my heart lifting as soon as I saw it. At the exit to the arch the seabed slopes quickly then drops to the abyss. You expect to see monster sea creatures down there but it just fades away to black. Looking back at the arch the visibility gives you a stunning perspective of the depth. From 100m you look up what appears to be a mountain of coral. This sensation of depth just doesn't happen on wreck dives as there is no point of reference.
The wall its self is quite beautiful. The corals from 60 metres down are untouched and above this they are still in excellent condition. Looking up from 50m you can see divers in the shallows and the sunlight makes the coral shimmer and dance. Turning away from the sanctuary of the reef wall it is just blue. You could be in the vacuum of space. The water is clear in January with little or no plankton to give visual solidity to the view. The water in front of you and below you just thickens to the most intense blue and finally to black. It's a memorable dive and it has an impact on every one who carries it out.
Just wanted to correct a bit of info lads, the arch is at 55m and most of the divers who died are the pretty well qualified ones. Blue Hole is a safe spot to dive if you know your limits and you ain't pushing it too far which is sadly what most of the divers dont do. As for the Bells and why it's called this, it is formed where a deep groove cuts into the reef as you might all know already and while entering your tank hits the corals making a metalic sound similar to a bell.
Snorkelled at this site last week, (July 2007) as a competent swimmer was fascinated by the coral walls. Warning: the current outside the reef was very strong and it was very tiring to get back. For a long time you were swimming against the current and got nowhere. Also very crowded with queues to get in, lots of jeeps etc causing traffic jams.
It is amazing to watch the freedivers go down to 60 metres, they seem alien in their tight suits and big fin.
The most beautiful place to dive in the world, but you must respect the diving.
Yasser Emira, PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
One of the best dives in this area of the Red Sea. In two minds if I was going to do it as the time was near for me to go home. But what a lingering dive... the descent through the Bells and then the amazing wall dive to the Blue Hole. The head stones before the entrance a somber reminder of the realities of our sport. 5 stars.
Mike Marchant, PADI Advanced Open Water
Just back from a memorable stay in Dahab (Sep '08). To clarify the name of the Bells. If you keep looking to the wall and not out in the blue you will see two rocks which look like churchbells at around the 30 mtr mark. It has nothing to do with clanging tanks! The arch is awesome.
Theo van Eeden (PADI Instructor/ IANTD Tech Diver)
I am 15 an have just come back from Egypt, I went to Dahab on the basis that no one made me dive the Blue Hole because I really hated the thought of it and because of all the stories I've heard about it. I dived the Canyon in the morning and the dive guide twisted my arm into doing the Blue Hole and I have to say it's the most amazing and fascinating dive I have ever done in my life! Not many people can say that their 27th dive was at the Blue Hole
The Blue Hole is literally a hole in the reef that is around 56 metres wide and its max depth is from 90 to 120 metres. On the southern side of the site, there is a saddle (eroded lip) located at 7 metres. The most important feature of the Blue Hole is the archway, which is located at 56 metres and exits into the bottomless open sea. Inexperienced recreational divers may deal with this dive as an ordinary cave dive. One could just think it's pretty simple; drop to 56 metres, cross the arch, then ascend to the saddle at 7 metres and re-enter the Blue Hole. Unfortunately this is not true.
Here's what you should take into consideration: first of all, you have to correctly locate the arch. The arch is not directly below the saddle. It is on the eastern side of the site not the southern one. You should drop down at the correct place because the reef curves around and you many not be able to see the arch. Searching for the arch at depth is not a brilliant idea. One way to locate the arch is to drop down to 30 metres at the western side of the Blue Hole where you'll find a sandy gully. Following this sandy gully will finally lead you to the arch, but at 75 metres - not a brilliant idea either. A blue glow becomes visible at 52 metres. This is not the proper depth to cross the arch at. You have to descend another 4 - 5 metres to seamlessly cross the arch because the roof is actually located at 55 metres. Now you're trying to cross this 26 metre long, 25 metre wide hole. If you're not 100% sure of your buoyancy at depth, don't do it. If you can't cross these 26 metres in a horizontal path, you'll either hit the arch's roof or go much deeper than you should. Depending on sea conditions, you may experience poor visibility and poor light conditions so take a torch with you.
Now the most dangerous part, the strong downwards currents that could be experienced at the exit of the arch. More fining means more gas consumption and more stress. Returning back means exactly the same plus more decompression. Make an if - then scenario and follow it. For example:
- If I consume more than 20% of my gas before locating the arch, I won't enter
- If I face strong downwards currents, I won't panic and I'll alter my fining (dolphin kicks instead of frog or flutter, for example) to safely cross the arch.
Now that you have crossed the arch, you need to do several mandatory decompression stops. You need to be sure of your capability of carrying over controlled stops. It is highly advisable to plan the dive using computer software before execution. Write your plan on a slate and use a dive computer as well. Never attempt doing this dive without a dive computer. Finally, risk doesn't kill, stubbornness does. Don't attempt it unless you know you're capable of doing it.
Copy From Insttructor Asser Salama.
Abd El Rahman El Mekkawi, PADI Divemaster | 06/03/09
Just come back from Dahab. Blue Hole by the Bells is just amazing. When you exit from the Bells in the big blue.... many fish and hopefully a turtle!
Jean-Christian Lamborelle PADI AOWD | 24/08/09
The Bells and Blue Hole were wonderful! I dived there today for the first time, but will go back there after two days just to expierence it again. Together with the Canyon dive these are the best so far! Thanks to Big Blue Divers Dahab.
Luc | 23/11/2009
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