Shipwreck Diving in the Red Sea, Jeddah
Saudi Arabia's Red Sea
The Red Sea is a popular diving destination, partly due to its uniform temperature with depth and its good visibility of up to 151 feet (46 m). Most important of all, it is rich with marine life. The most popular destination is Egypt's as accessibility is better. But you should give Saudi Arabia's Red Sea a try - it is less crowded and cheaper.
The Red Sea is rich in history and has no shortage of mysteries. Navigation errors in its shallow waters, severe weather conditions, and equipment failures have littered the Red Sea with wrecks.
These wrecks have been lying undisturbed for decades, attracting marine creatures that give new life to these fallen giants.
If diving is your recreational activity, and you are tired of fishing or diving among the coral reefs, you may want to try shipwreck diving.
There are several of these wrecks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with plenty of choices. If you are keen to explore these mangled remains try the following sites which are the more accessible and popular sites in Jeddah.
The Staphonos, which sunk in 1978, carried with it construction materials consisting of steel beams, cable, chain link fence, and asbestos sheets.
The Staphonos Wreck, now known as Cable Wreck, is located northwest of Two Tower Reef (Abu Tayr reef) and rests on its left (port) side on coral sand.
Although it lies 79 feet (24m) deep, there is sufficient ambient light from above to naturally light the wreck without having to explore with artificial lights.
The top of the wreck is accessible at 56 feet (17m). Although small, it is fairly intact. If the currents are not severe, swimming around it is relatively easy. You will find hundreds of fish taking refuge in the bow of the ship, between mooring ropes, scattered cargo pipes, and cables.
On calm days, this wreck is easily accessible to divers of all experience levels, but when the current is strong, it becomes an advanced dive.
The most photographed parts of the wreck are the ship’s mast and stern section, so you may want to bring your camera when you do the cable wreck dive.
Ann Ann Wreck
The Ann Ann wreck is two hours from Jeddah on the 26-Mile Reef. It is the largest and most challenging shipwreck and therefore appropriate for intermediate to advanced divers.
The wreck stands upright facing east with its bow firmly plowed into the reef. The stern section is spectacular to visit with its huge rudder ornamented with shellfish and enormous propeller decorated with soft coral. The wreck sits at the bottom at a depth of 30m. Here you may see blue-striped snappers, blue-spotted stingrays, dogtooth tunas, and, occasionally, white-tip sharks.
The rear section of the wreck, resting at 46 feet (14m), is still full of winches and machinery often frequented by goatfish, broom tailed filefish, coral groupers, and the territorial Sohal surgeonfish. Despite its obvious size, the wreck is badly broken up, so exercise caution.
Chicken Wreck, named for its cargo of frozen chicken, is one of the favorite diving spots near Jeddah.
This wreck is suitable for novice divers; since it is sandwiched between adjacent reefs, the current remains calm all year round. The deepest point of this dive site is 72 feet (22m), at the stern of the wreck. The front (the bow) is pointing towards the reef and the ship is resting on its port side. The rail of the ship is not damaged and decorated with hard coral.
There is plenty of pixie hawkfish and some pipefish swimming around on the flank facing the surface.
Marble Wreck is a shallow-water wreck suitable for novice divers. It sits at 18m at its deepest point and it is possible to cruise around at 26-40 feet (8-12m) depth.
The Red Sea has had a devastating effect on this wreck, quite literally ripping it apart. The left (port) sections have completely collapsed scattering marble everywhere. You will find lionfish guarding the rear close to a ladder decorated with coral. Pay attention to the masts, which are often adorned with oysters and Acropora coral.
As you might have guessed, Marble Wreck got its name from the marble cargo that it carried. Some still refer to it as the Abu Saba Wreck.
These shipwrecks are beautiful to look at, but they are dangerous, so buoyancy control is crucial to avoid damaging the decaying wreck or yourself.
Your scuba tank will get lighter during your dive, so make sure you have an easy descent. If you struggle to get down, then you will be working hard to stay down. Making a safety stop may be difficult if you are too buoyant.
Safe Wreck Diving
When you go shipwreck diving, for your own safety, take note of the following:
- Watch out for fishing lines, which pose an entanglement risk.
- Avoid swimming into or under the wrecks. They are aging and you don't know when they might collapse.
- Be up-to-date with your tetanus vaccinations as sharp edges on wrecks are usually rusty.
- Never touch the wrecks, since many wrecks are covered with fire sponges, hydroids, shellfish, and broken edges of parts.
- Please respect these wrecks and do not remove any items or parts from them.
- Also, for your safety, do not attempt wreck penetration, as it is a high-risk activity that requires specialized equipment, training, and supervision.
- Please use existing mooring ropes to moor at the dive site, rather than dropping anchors on the wrecks. Anchoring on wrecks is harmful to marine life and to the wreck. If you use a charter boat, please advise your boat operator accordingly.
Dive Shops in Jeddah
1. Blue Reef Divers
Located behind Danube supermarket, off Tahlia Street. GPS: N21°32.756', E39°09.810'
Sat-Wed 9am-11pm Thu-Fri 7am-11pm
Tel: +966-2-6606368 Fax: +966-2-6602064
2. Blue Reef Divers Branch
Durrat Al-Arous , about 50km north of Jeddah
Sat-Wed 9am-11pm. Thurs & Fri 7.30am-11pm
Tel: +966-2-6181777 Fax: +966-2-6181778
3. Desert Sea Divers
North Obhur road (Creek) near Rose Village Compound, after the big mosque. GPS: N21°43.685', E39°06.449'
Sat-Wed: 10am-8pm Thurs & Fri: 7am-8pm (closed on Monday)
Tel: +966-2-6561807 Fax: +966-2-6561288 www.desertseadivers.com
4. Dream Divers
King Road, next to Auto Mall
Sat-Thurs: 9am-11pm Fri: 6pm-11pm
Tel: +966-2-2150019 Fax: +966-2-6644892 www.alahlam-marina.com
5. Al-Khorayef Yamaha Marines Equipment
King Road, next to Auto Mall
Sat-Wed:8am-12.30pm, 5.30pm-9pm Thurs: 8am-1.30pm Closed on Fri
6. Red Sea Divers
Opposite Danube, off Tahlia Street GPS: N21°32.743', E39°09.727'
Sat-Wed: 9am-11pm Thurs& Fri: 7.30am-11pm
Tel: +966-2-6606368 Fax: +966-2-6602064
7. The Arab Circumnavigator
Behind Danube supermarket, off Tahlia Street. GPS: N21°32.790', E39°09.802
All week 9am-10pm
Tel: +966-2-6651304 Fax: +966-2-6608224
When is the Best Time to Dive?
Summer is the worst month to visit or go diving in Jeddah. It is hot, sweltering, and arid. The temperature averages about 100°F (38°C) for June, July, and August. If you do swim or dive during these months, it is like entering a huge warm bathtub. Late afternoon diving is better as the weather and the water is cooler.
The best time of year to dive in Jeddah is from early November to late April.
Dive Resorts in Jeddah
There are several Dive Resorts around Jeddah and below are some that you can check out:
- Ahlam Resort Tel: +966-2-2886242
- Dive Village Tel: +966-2-6561980
- Durrat Al-Arous Tel: +966-2-6180000
- Nakheel/Ghulam Beach Resort Tel: +966-2-2342266
- Red Sea Resort Tel: +966-2-6562199
Marinas in Jeddah
Marinas in Jeddah are:
- Al-Ahlam Marina Tel: +966-2-2886242
- Al-Nakheel Village Tel: +966-2-6562101
- Red Sea Marina Tel: +966-2-2340117
Other Diving Sites in Saudi Arabia
If you are tired of the diving sites in Jeddah then try Yanbu, about 200 miles (322 km) north of Jeddah. You can also try Al Lith Island (Jabal Al Lith)132 miles (212 km) south of Jeddah or Farasan Island off the coast of the city if Jazan, which is 487 miles (783 km) also south of Jeddah.
Your Vote on Shipwreck Diving
If You Get a Chance to Go Scuba Diving, Would You Do a Shipwreck Dive?
Every dive is optional. Every ascent is mandatory.
Diving isn't dangerous. Drowning is what's dangerous.
It's always better to be up here wishing you were down there than be down there wishing you were up here.
Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself.
Diving in Jeddah
Red Sea diving near Jeddah does not attract as many divers as Red Sea diving in Egypt. At Jeddah, you will not be fighting the crowds and you will have more enjoyable diving experience.
The main obstacle is the difficulty of getting a visa to visit Saudi Arabia. There is no such thing as a tourist visa in Saudi Arabia. You either come on a pilgrimage visa or get a job and enter with a work visa. Many expatriates take up diving and do it on most weekends.
UPDATE: Saudi Arabia has started issuing a tourist visa and you can apply online here. You can also check if your country is eligible for this eVisa application.
But Jeddah has so much to offer. If you get a chance to visit Saudi Arabia, come to Jeddah and enjoy the diving, fishing and many other water activities in its Red Sea. If you are tired of the sea and the sun, then you should go to Abha, Saudi's mountain resort, which enjoys mild weather throughout the year.
All photos are used with permission from Peter Telkins (Flickr profile name Peter Tee) and Adam Ward (Flickr profile name wardsabroad). You can see more of their works at their respective Flickr pages. Special thanks to both Peter and Adam for sharing and giving me permission to use their photos for this article.
Ann Ann Shipwreck Dive
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2012 Mazlan