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Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: Shadwan Island (Shaker Island) - north wall
Description: Reef / drift
Depth: 6 metres (20 feet) to very deep!
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
Shadw‚n, or Shaker Island as it's sometimes referred to, was pretty much never dived and certainly never featured as a recognised set of dive sites when I worked on safari boats in this area in the early to mid 1990's. At the time this seemed primarily due to the continued military presence on the island and apparent location of missile bases. Over the years it has played its part in several altercations between the Egyptians and Israelis. In Feb 1969 two Egyptian torpedo boats are reported to have been sunk during strikes on Egyptian troops on Shadw‚n Island (if you know the locations of these please let us know at dive site directory). By far the largest island on the south side of the Straights of Gubal it appears desolate and deserted to the passing dive boat. I was told numerous times, by various dive boat captains that vessels were required to maintain a distance of 2 miles and whilst I have no verification of this fact, I do have first had experience that the Island is by no means deserted.
During a return trip from nearby Abu Nuh‚s on a boat I didn't usually work from in 1995 we were travelling very close to the east side of the island. I had persuaded the captain to skirt the eastern reef which protrudes a large distance from the island shore itself and according to admiralty charts drops away on a reasonably shallow slope at first before plunging into the depths. Whilst trying to discern the rough reef layout from the surface we slowed considerably and then heard a large explosion from the shore. Several small pieces of lead shot then landed on the upper sundeck. Needless to say the Egyptian boat captain resumed a safe distance at some speed. I have no idea if we were actually fired upon or if this was a shot across our bows, but it certainly seemed that way at the time. It seems, of late, that restrictions have relaxed significantly so you may now get a chance to dive some of the reefs around the north east side of Shadw‚n - if you do then the North side is a fantastic near vertical deep wall.
In April 1996 I again found myself working on an unfamiliar dive boat - El Bourak. During a conversation with the very old and experienced captain - Abu Abu Gamal (translated from Arabic as "Grandfather or Father of Father Gamal) he actually suggested we go and dive a deep wall located on the north, north eastern side of the island. Not one to argue I immediately agreed. During a fairly lengthy boat ride from the reef of Abu Nuh‚s (where we had spent the night) down the north side of Shadw‚n we saw a group of grey pilot whales. Slightly further along the island we were joined by the largest pod of dolphins I have ever encountered - there were hundreds (although unfortunately they did not join us on our dive). We travelled about a third to halfway along the north side of the island and at times just a few metres from the shore, giving some quite unique views of the island at that time. So, finally, on April 4th 1996 at 10.40am, my group and I slipped into the dark blue water just metres from the shore of Shadw‚n Island. What greeted us below was a near vertical wall and interestingly the current was running from south to north (normally Red Sea currents in this area run north to south). Whilst not strong, the current was significant enough not to want to swim against, so we headed north with it. The upper reef was literally teeming with life in places - snappers, antheas and sweepers jostled for a place on the reef and large shoals of blue lunar fusiliers cruised past. We didn't see any of the larger species, such as jacks or barracuda, but I am sure they weren't far away and this seemed a prime spot for white-tip reef sharks and grey reef sharks. Huge gorgonian fan corals, some of the largest I have seen, were growing from the wall in large numbers. We finished what was a fantastic dive with a lone hawksbill turtle. If you do get a chance I'd highly recommend a dive here.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
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