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Scuba Diving in Sudan
Dive Site: The Umbria
Location: Wingate Reef, Port Sudan
Description: War supply ship
Length: 150 metres (500 feet)
Depth: 5 - 35 metres (15 - 115 feet)
Visibility: 10 - 15 metres (30 - 50 feet)
The Umbria was built in Hamburg in 1912 and started life as a freighter. On its final voyage in 1940, bound for Eritrea, it was in the hands of the Italians who were transporting over 350,000 bombs amongst other items. The British impounded the Umbria at Port Sudan as the Second World War was imminent and the Brits weren't about to let a boat pass them by who would be carrying weapons for the enemy. The Umbria was ordered to be handed over, but rather than let this happen the Italians scuttled their own ship. The Umbria sank complete with its cargo and should its bombs ever go off in the future, the ensuing tidal wave would engulf Port Sudan.
The Umbria is rumoured to be one of the best dives in the world and is at least part of the reason many people come to Sudan. Having dived it, I can see why - it is the perfect wreck dive. It's big enough to give you plenty to explore but small enough to cover in one dive. The depth it lies in means you get plenty of bottom time and there is plenty of easy penetration to be done. For those who want to, it is possible to get to the engine room, in the holds, the bakery and thoroughly explore the interior of the wreck. The cargo of fiat lagunas, wine bottles and munitions provide interest and the wreck is festooned with coral and fish life. Even just swimming the length of the wreck and observing the holds from a distance is an excellent experience.
Be sure to head around the stern of the wreck to the propeller, and there is a nice swim through underneath the large rudder, which is home to lots of snapper and some featherstars. On one of the gangways towards the collapsed funnel midships live some tiny cleaner shrimps, and if you put your fingers on the handrail they will come up and begin to 'clean' you, which is very entertaining. We did 3 dives on the Umbria whilst in Sudan; I could have happily done three more. It really does deserve its reputation as one of the world's best dives.
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