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Scuba Diving in Marsa Alam, the Red Sea
Dive Site: Elphinstone Reef
Location: Marsa Alam
Description: Offshore Reef
Depth: 20-40 metres + (60-120 feet)
Visibility: 20-30 metres (60-100 feet)
This reef is excellent for shark encounters, I have seen whitetips, hammerheads, grey reef sharks, thresher sharks and of course what Elphinstone is famous for longimanous! oceanic whitetips. I have seen 4 on one dive here but no other sharks not surprisingly. The north tip ranges from about 22m and goes down in steps to about 42m, good for sharks early morning although the current can make it hard to stay for more than a few minutes. Watch your air here. My dive guide buddy Hamish who now works for Freedom Divers in Leeds had his fin nibbled by an oceanic here. The south tip has an archway at 55m but this is for tekkies only. Both ends have good corals however what you're here for is the big stuff. There are several dive centres that do this now as a day trip including Emperor Divers and Pioneer Divers who are based at the Kaharama Hotel. They use day boats and RIBS respectively.
Ian Higgins, Dive Guide
Elphinstone is one of the more famous reefs dived out of Marsa Galib or Marsa Alam or on southbound liveaboards. Today is January 3rd 2007 and as I write this I'm sitting on the Emperor liveaboard "Asmaa" at Elphinstone having just returned from what was a very good dive. That is until I returned to discover that the entire group of divers have just dived with a whale shark in 10 metres of water on the northern part of the east reef wall. In fact the only two divers who didn't see the whale shark were my buddy Abdul and I. Grrrrrrrrr... Oh well, I guess that's one of the things that makes diving so special - you never know what you're going to see [deep sigh].
Anyway, back to the dive site. Essentially a large sliver of reef around 180m long by 20m wide, Elphinstone sits in very deep water. With a plateau at the south end beginning at 20m and running down in an "arrowhead" formation to 35m at its southern most point and another plateau at the north end this reef is always an excellent dive (even when you don't see the whale shark). The current here is somewhat unusual in that it normally runs from south to north, so the best option is to enter the water from your boat (or zodiac / RIB) on the south plateau. Morning dives are best made by heading up the east side and afternoon dives up the west side. This takes maximum advantage of the position of the sun and therefore the light on the reef. You can then arrange to be picked up by your boat, or zodiac / RIB on the north end of the reef.
The south plateau is a good place to look for silky sharks, white-tip sharks and grey reef sharks. Shoals of black snapper tend to stay closer to the reef wall and whilst the sharks and large lone barracuda skulk further out cruising effortlessly in the current. Oceanic white-tip sharks also tend to be frequent visitors. These open water sharks are true pelagic and if you are lucky enough to see them, encounters can be extremely close. They have a tendency to be very curious of divers and from time to time "bump" or "nose" divers, especially near the surface. Quite an experience!! The upper 15m of the reef is teeming with life. Purple and pink soft corals adorn the upper plateaus and along both the east and west walls the drop offs are vertical. Large gorgonian fan corals favour the 20-30m depth range, arcing gracefully in the current. All manner of marine life inhabits this reef - jacks, tuna and trevallie patrol, whilst blue lunar fusiliers glint in the blue water. Then of course there is always the chance you may see a whale shark!!!
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
This dive site is one of my best dives in Egypt. I have special memories when I dived there for the first time and it was my first time to meet sharks. I have got a good video of sharks, I can't forget when one of them swam between my legs.
Youssef | 23/2/2010
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