This itinerary concentrates on the most popular Sudanese dive sites and is the perfect itinerary for divers who would like a change from the Egyptian Red Sea and are also looking for a bit of adventure. Famed for its pristine coral reefs, abundant marine life and historic sites, Sudan is a real untouched underwater paradise.
QUALIFICATION NEEDED: Due to diving conditions and remote location, divers must be a PADI Advanced diver or equivalent with a minimum of 50 logged dives to join this safari.
Why join this itinerary?
Due to a history in difficult access, there are very few liveaboards operating in this region; meaning that dive sites have remained beautifully pristine and divers are able to explore them in practical solitude.
Sudan is well known for a rich diversity of marine life; not only are the coral reefs untouched, you can also see huge numbers of schooling fish along with moray eels and sea turtles to name just a few. Large pelagics such as hammerheads, reef sharks and mantas are also common. Aside from the abundance of stunning marine life, the Sudanese waters are also home to the WW2 wreck 'The Umbria' and Cousteau's Conshelf II making Sudan the perfect destination for any diver looking for a real adventure.
WINGATE REEF & THE 'UMBRIA' WRECK: This reef lies right in front of Port Sudan harbour and can be reached within 15 minutes. This massive reef offers a few dive sites which would be excellent for a "check dive", but its main attraction lies sheltered at its core: the wreck of the "Umbria". The wreck is one of these jewels you rarely dive and is considered one of the top 10 wrecks in the world. You could call it the "Thistlegorm of Sudan" but the comparison stops there. This Italian cargo ship, on its way to the actual Eritrea, was stopped by the British authorities, which were controlling Sudan at that time, in 1940. Its cargo mainly consisted of ammunition, detonators, bombs and construction materials and was supposed to be delivered to the Italian troops stationed in the horn of Africa. This was troubled time and, when its captain heard first that Italy had declared war, he decided to organize a "rescue exercise". Little to say that he and the crew had sabotaged their own boat to avoid the cargo falling into enemy's hands. The wreck now lies on its side at a maximum of 36m and a minimum of 3m and is completely intact (Thanks Captain!). One dive allows you to explore it entirely, but it would be a shame to stop there. The holds are easily penetrated and the cargo (from ammunition to cars, passing by good Italian bottle of wines) is still there to be explored.
SHAAB RUMI & 'CONSHELF II': If you come to Sudan, this is a reef on your "to-dive" list!
Lying north of Port Sudan, the reef offers a sheltered lagoon for mooring at its centre, plateaus at its tips and sheer drop-offs on its side: a perfect combination!
On the plateaus, healthy and colourful corals are setting up the scene for schools of jackfish, snappers, trevallies, anthias and other species and numerous sharks can be seen patrolling around. On the South plateaus it is very common to see schooling hammerheads!
Shaab Rumi also is a special place for the history of scuba diving and scientific deep-water oceanography. It was on its west side that Jacques Cousteau and his team set up an underwater village to study the effects of long term underwater stays of a diver once he was fully saturated with all the gases in his body. The experiment might sound crazy nowadays, but in 1963, no data existed and this successful operation paved the way for the conquest and exploration of deep waters.
The remains of this expedition, called 'Précontinent II' (Conshelf II in English), can still be seen some 40 years later. Nature has taken back its rights, but divers are still able to see the coral-covered remains of the village: the hangar which used to store a bathyscape and looks like an urchin, shark cages, sheds for tools and abandoned structures elements left behind.
SANGANEB: This very large reef lies 1h30 north of Port Sudan and is easily identified by its British-built lighthouse. Between dives, the lighthouse attendees will welcome you and from the top, you will have an impressive view of the whole reef with a large sheltered lagoon in its centre. Due to its size, it offers several dive sites and you can easily spend a full day on that reef without getting bored. Grey reef sharks are a very common sight, both on the North & South plateaus, and, with luck, other larger pelagics, such as hammerheads or silky sharks, might show up. Another likely attraction is to snorkel in the lagoon with a pod of dolphins.
SHAAB SUADI & THE BLUE BELT WRECK: This reef is the host of the other big wreck of Sudan: the Blue Belt (sometimes called the Blue Bell), better known by its nickname: the Toyota wreck.
This cargo ship sinking, in 1977, is a bit of a mystery as nobody understands why it was sailing so close to shore. It now lies completely upside down against the reef slope and the size of the wreck is already very impressive, but the most interesting part of the dive, though, does not lie within the wreck but in its surroundings: the Toyota cars. In an effort to salvage the ship, the cargo was tossed overboard to light the whole structure. It is now the highlight of the dives to see the pick-ups, tires and spare parts covered with corals and it makes for some interesting photographic opportunities.
Thanks to (Dray Van Beeck
Mike North for providing the underwater images featured.