I still remember my young days in Sharm El Sheikh when we used to accompany tourists by Zodiacs & Speed boats to the shores of Tiran Island, where we enjoyed snorkeling, bird watching, meditating, soft sandy beaches, water skiing, etc. and this was the best trip I ever guided at that time for the beauty of the location.
That has stopped on 2013 I think, when the multimedia was crazily negotiating whether Tiran is Egyptian or Saudi Arabian and that has got me to dig into more knowledge about the island to find this out:
Firstly, we have to differentiate between the Island of Tiran & its straits, The 80 KM Island is the most important logistical spots with-in the Red Sea, as it is controlling the access between the Red Sea & Gulf of Aqaba, that is why Saudi Arabia has collaborated with Egypt during the war against Israel occupation of Sinai by offering the control of the Island of Tiran to the Egyptian authorities on 1967 to control the access from the Red Sea.
A few years ago, Saudi Arabia has claimed the island back and the Egyptian authorities have agreed based on peaceful treaties in the region to make a safe delivery with the existence of UN troops securing the Island and the neighbors’ interests.
So now the most interesting part for us is the straits of Tiran which is a water path located on the west of the Island & the east of Sharm El Sheikh where ships navigate their way to & from the ports of Aqaba in Jordan & Eilat in Israel. Within the straits allocated few heavenly diving spots with unique marine diversity such as Jackson Reef (Internationally recommended diving destination) – Woodhouse – Thomas Canyon / Reef – Gordon Reef – Kormoran Reef – & more
Good to mention that there are a fair amount of shipwrecks in the area – and the most famous ones are located on top of the reefs due to high waves in some seasons that cause navigational errors. such as (Lara – Loulia & Kormoran wrecks)
- Gordon Reef: is known and easily identified by the wreck of Loulia which ran aground on the northern end in September 1981. Most boats operating in Sharm are usually mooring on the southern side that is sheltered from waves. However, our boats used to be dedicated to serving divers which gave us the option of drifting eats to the west. This allows divers to see more marine life and untouched corals.
- GORDON SOUTH: Famous for the Shark pool that only experienced divers in the area can track as it lies in an area affected by strong currents and reachable by a long swim from the mooring spot. We are able to spot reef sharks if we follow the right shark spotting techniques and planning.
Also, the crazy round and about drift would be phenomenal if you have a good orientation, as one minute of not following the right techniques would throw you to the Blue where you can face downward currents. But the beauty of its reefs and marine life would make your soul shine if you do it properly.
- GORDON EAST: Famous for its crystal blue 30 M+ visibility with eagle rays usually being spotted at far distances, old thrown metal containers which are now homes for much marine life like Nudi branches and giant morays, the north directed current that will always keep you beside the wall, soft corals, turtles, and big huge Tuna schools during the summer.
- Thomas Canyon: Most famous Classic diving spot around the straits of Tiran. You will jump from the boat around 30 South from the Canyon and drift past huge gorgonian coral where the Canyon appears at a depth of 32 meters. It will always attract you to go inside, but be careful because if you don’t have a deep diver specialty then you shouldn’t go deeper than 30 m. However, watching it from above is breathtaking.
The best way to do it as a recreational deep & nitrox diver is by Nitrox 28%, to get the ability to spend up to 15 minutes bottom time on the depth of 40 m.
- Jackson: Jackson reef is the most northerly reef in Tiran. It is identified by Lara wreck which sank in 1981 due to failing navigation systems. Most boat operations moor to the Southern side of the reef due to its sheltered conditions from the waves. But we would say that this part isn’t our favorite side to dive in a place like Jackson. Here are our favorite 2 dive plans:
– Shark pool: located in the Northern side of the reef where the Lara wreck is located, it is quite a dark dive when you drop down to 40 meters and below where you will pass by the wreckage of Lara until you find the bow lying vertically at 45 meters to 57 meters depth.
Moving a bit from the wreck towards the east would expose a deep plateau where hammerheads usually show up during the summer as the elders used to say, but now are mainly spotted on sunrise or sunset in deep waters by getting away from the reef into the Blue.
This dive is available for advanced divers with 50+ dives and is preferred to be done by zodiacs that go out from Nabq bay or Safari boats. As for daily boats, it requires special sea conditions.
– Ras Gom`a: Located on the western side of the Jackson, it can easily be described as the ultimate underwater paradise. It is a sloping plateau connected to a saddle with strong currents that will lead you to the Woodhouse reef where soft corals are covering all over. And we would say that your eyes would be overwhelmed by the amount of marine life around you.
Following the drift will take you over a wall to the North of the reef, close enough to Lara wreck.
- Cormoran reef: The name came after the Cormoran ship sank in Aug 1984 due to a navigational error. It is easy to find the wreck as it will appear if you follow the drift wall from west to east. It is not to be penetrated as it is almost broken, but the reef around the area is colorful, soft, and endless. This makes the area home for green turtles and reef sharks
The best time to dive is by the end of the day when the water is calmer and visibility is better which makes zodiacs the best options as daily boats would consider it a far area to reach