Finding yourself in Sharm el-Sheik and looking for some more advanced diving than what the house reefs in Na’ama Bay can offer? Look to the Strait of Tiran!
The Strait of Tiran is a narrow gap of water, 13 km across. It’s at the very bottom of the Bay of Aqaba, between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and right of Sharm el-Sheik.
It gets its name from Tiran Island, of Egypt’s Sinai shore, and the Strait of Tiran is the body of water between the island and the mainland.
If offers deep water, wall diving, and the chance of spotting big pelagic game such as hammerhead sharks. The main dive sites congregate around four reefs, Gordon Reef, Thomas Reef, Woodhouse Reef, and Jackson Reef.
Getting to the dive sites of Tiran
The dive sites are reached either by day boats from Sharm el-Sheik, or on liveaboards. From Sharm el-Sheik it is a fifteen to twenty minute boat ride to any of the reefs. Dives is often done using a RIB or similar small dive boat, as currents can be prevalent.
Two of the reefs are easily recognized by the fact that they both have a wreck sitting on top of them. The Lara on Jackson Reef and the Loulia, also known as the Lovila, on Gordon Reef.
The reefs in the Strait of Tiran
The northernmost reef, Jackson Reef, has the highest likelihood for shark sightings.
Off the north tip, there is a good chance of spotting schooling hammerhead sharks. Chances are best if you swim a bit away from the reef, into the blue. Though this should be only be attempted by experienced divers who are comfortable with buoyancy and navigation.
All along the sides of the reef, plenty of corals are guaranteed to keep divers occupied, as are the large schools of trevalleys, fusiliers, and antiochs that inhabit this reef and the other.
Woodhouse Reef is the longest of the four, but very narrow, and sits parallel to the strait, making it very susceptible to currents. Because of this, it lends itself well to drift dives along either side of the reef, but one of the lesser dived reefs in the strait. It also features a plateau on its eastern side, at about 30 meters.
Thomas Reef is most noticeable for the canyon that lies on its eastern side, starting on a plateau on around 30 meters, and descending to at least 65 meters. Needless to say, for recreational divers, it is important to only descend into the shallower part of the canyon. And maintaining a maximum depth of 40 meters, provided you have adequate training.
Technical divers can ascend deeper, depending on dive training and gas mix.
Gordon Reef offers both wall diving and a substantial plateau that lends itself well to both day and night diving. It features a dramatic drop-off, with good chances of seeing large pelagic marine life, such as eagle rays, various sharks, mantas, and even an occasional whale shark. The drop-off can have a powerful down-current, which pulls you not just off the reef and into the blue, but also downwards. Making this somewhat risky so approach the drop-off with caution.
The shallow part of the plateau makes for great night diving, with large populations of lionfish and large moray eels often seen here.
Precautions when diving here
As mentioned before, the Strait of Tiran is a small mouth between two large bodies of water, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Making it susceptible to strong northern or southern currents.
With the reefs, it is often possible to find at least some lee from the current, but generally, divers who venture out here should be prepared and comfortable with currents.
As the reefs are all boat dives, any diver that is inadvertently swept off the reefs can be picked up again. But as the strait is also a very busy trade route, a number of large transport ships make their way up and down, making it risky to drift into their path. So make sure to bring a DSMB and that you are comfortable using it.
With the close proximity to Sharm el-Sheik, the Strait of Tiran offers some of the northern Red Sea’s most exciting, varied, and easily accessed diving. Overall is one of the best dive sites in the Red Sea.