Southern Red Sea Exploration.

So finally on dry land and I am back in the office where I find some time to reflect and evaluate upon the “exploration trip” that my colleague Shaun and myself had recently undertaken.

I use the term “exploration” for lack of better terminology, but I feel an explanation is in order as “exploration” also is not really the correct word!   The term “Exploration” would suggest to the reader that we were finding new dive locations, new reef systems, when simply this was not the case. We were in fact visiting very well know reef areas but the “exploration” part was specific to the depth that we were diving and the area of the reef we were diving.

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During my very first years working in Egypt I had the pleasure and opportunity to visit most dive locations within the Egyptian side of the Red Sea, from as far north as the straights of Tiran down the southern reef systems of Elba which lie on the Sudanese border and everything and anything in between. These were the days where as a safari guide you were not “fixed” to any single route, you were moved around from boat to boat, route to route each week. What this created was a generation of safari guides which a huge expanse of diving knowledge and experience of the entire Red Sea. Sometimes I miss those days, now however, I don’t think the husband would be so happy with me being out at sea for 6 weeks each time!

Anyway, I am becoming side tracked….

So, I found myself back in the southern area of the Red Sea, of which the purpose of the trip was to “explore” each of the dive sites between the depths of 40m – 80m. Currently, there are no companies who offer specific technical diving trips to this area, OK, there are a few boats where they could cater for the odd deco dive but nobody is looking specifically at these dives sites though the eyes of the diver who would like to go that bit deeper. We had to find out why. Is it because there is nothing of interest below 40m in this area? Is it because the potential stronger currents pose a safety hazard to divers during decompression? Or is it lack of knowledge of the area? Or is there simply no demand. We at Tekstreme Diving wanted to try and answer these questions….

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The reef systems in the southern Red Sea are absolutely stunning in the shallow water and believe me this continues though to depth, actually, I would say even better in terms of quality of coral growth. As an example, the size and abundance of the Gorgonia fan corals that we were witnessing between 50m – 85m were mind-blowing. You need to trust me when I say it was like diving untouched reefs, reefs where no diver’s fin had accidentally clipped the coral and snapped off an entire branch, no damaged hard corals about from natural processes, this is what we were experiencing. It was amazing. You can see that not many divers are visiting these depths and the currents provide such a rich supply of nutrients that the soft corals especially can flourish.

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A particularly favourite of mine is a narrow tower of a reef, the local turn for it would be a “Habili”. This particular Habili looks like nothing on the surface but is simply one the reefs which is the most rich in life, its an aquarium for all creatures great and small. This cone shaped reef gets wider as you get deeper and provides marine life, colour and excitement all the way down to around 75m. We actually spent most of our dive at 50m watching as grey reef sharks smoothly cruised in and out unfazed by us as we were still and quiet. The world of having no bubbles on a rebreather comes into its own and the pelagics come closer to check us out. There is a potential for much current on these reefs but as these reef systems rise all he way to the surface you will always have a reference to swim alongside as you fulfil your decompression obligations. Plus, we will always have zodiacs to support us from the surface so if any divers find themselves away from the reef they will always be tracked and collected.

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Within the southern area there are also some wrecks. One in particular is sat at a maximum depth of 50m, this wreck attracts a huge array of marine life and has a great atmosphere. It’s at a nice depth to enjoy a longer bottom time having a scrape around and exploring the wreck in its entirety. There is also another more historic wreck, which is not greater in depth than 30m, but makes a great afternoon dive. Do dive it well it would still require some decompression due to its size so for sure a great feature of the area.

There is talk of another larger wreck within this approximate area but deeper which we aim to do a more specific search for on our next trip to this area. I am always a bit dubious when it comes to listening to tales of sunken wrecks as most of the time it turns out to be nothing, but when I have now had information from a few different sources all talking about a similar location, it certainly gets my attention.

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Moving a little bit further north there are some reefs that sit on the edge of a deep-water trench with walls dropping vertically down depths. These reefs are fed by a stong consistent currents that suppy the goodness for the corals to flourish. It’s on these reefs as you descend through the depth ranges the types and colours of corals here is changing quite dramatically. The colours of the soft corals are not restricted to the shallow waters they can be found through 50, 60, and 70m. Whip corals, black corals and Gorgonians’ in substantial volumes and sizes can be found at depth. Some of these reefs over the years have taken their toll on safari boats and the wrecks that are left behind may not have an exciting history but, what you find is that over time they have created a mini ecosystem and they attract a wide variety of marine life around the outside and inside. For sure it makes a nice feature of the dive.

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Of course we can’t be visiting the southern area without a stop at Elphinestone reef. This particular site needs no further exploration from us, this is one dive site that is already included in some of our other existing technical safari trips, but I include it here for those who have never had the opportunity to dive the reef. This finger long reef has dramatic plunging walls to the east and west, with plateaus on the north and south. You can dive to 100m all the way around this reef if you wanted to! Typically, we dive the northern plateau to any depth between 40 – 100m with eyes peeled with the to aim to find either Grey Reef sharks off the tip of the plateau or Hammerhead sharks. Its an area that gets a great current feed and so very nutrient rich. The colours of soft corals across the plateau are some of the best to be found in this area. As an alternative dive to the north, the reef has provided for us a natural landscape feature in the shape of an archway. Running directly under the southern plateau, this natural feature allows you pass from one side of the reef to the other. You can swim through this archway anywhere between 48m – 60m. It is also on this southern side of the reef where you have chance to find the Oceanic White Tip reef sharks patrolling the shallow waters.

Summary

As much as we have had a great week of diving and the exploration of the area at depth has begun there is a great deal more for us to do and hopefully more wrecks and natural features to be found. With the information that we now have, we have put together an itinerary for next year that will return to the sites that we have just visited but will also build in more time for further exploration. This means, for the divers on trip next year, will be just like us and exploring these areas for the first time. Is there a demand for this type of diving, this type of exploration, I absolutely believe the answer is yes.

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“Exploration is really the essence of human spirit”

Frank Boreman

Trip Details

Dates = 14/08/16 – 21/08/16

Vessel = Emperor Asmaa

Price = 999 euros

Contact info@tekstremediving.com for details on the trip and how to reserve your place.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Techical Diving

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Tekstreme “The Tour”.

Did you know, that one of the most common questions that I get asked when guests are enquiring to me about Tekstreme and wanting to do some diving with us is, “Are Tekstreme located in other countries?” To date, I have had to reply that the answer is no.

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Tekstreme have, since establishment, concentrated their time offering technical services throughout Egypt. As a technical company we are one of the largest in Egypt with operations, through the facilities of Emperor Divers, in Sharm El Shiekh, El Gouna and Marsa Alam plus offering multiple specific technical safaris throughout the year. I guess personally for me, before taking Tekstreme to other destinations I want to be sure that we have the right attitude, approach, business plan, commitment, audience and of course the desire. Right now I believe we can easily tick all of those boxes. However, these things are not to be rushed. Much research needs to be done on destinations, availability, profitability, demand etc etc. We see in our industry too many technical operations opening up around the world yet one year later they close their doors. As a reputable technical diving company we need to ensure that if we take on such a project outside of Egypt that our customers can be assured that we will be there to stay.

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Now don’t get too excited, this blog is not Tekstreme announcing a new location, not quite yet, but what we are doing in the meantime is to take Tekstreme “On Tour”. Beginning in 2016 we are going to be offering technical diving trips to multiple other locations outside of Egypt. This way, our customers who want to have the benefit of diving multiple locations, but staying with Tekstreme are going to be very happy. Tekstreme will be organising diving trips including accommodation in various European destinations to begin with, before expanding to worldwide destinations. We will only be using the facilities of highly reputable dive centres in each location who we know will maintain high standards that our customers demand. On each trip one of our highly trained technical team members will be there with our customers to ensure that our high standards are kept and of course to offer technical courses on each trip.

For each trip, we are keeping them quite exclusive, small groups only. We plan to take a maximum of around 8 – 10 divers on each trip. For us, it has always been about quality, not quantity and this philosophy will not change. We want to have a more intimate group of divers that we can care for on a personal level, rather than a conveyer belt of divers!

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For us, these are really exciting times and we cant wait to take kick start Tekstreme “The Tour”, we hope that we are going to see many of our technical diver friends come and join us and make this the best technical tour ever.

Cat Braun

Tekstreme Diving Manager

info@tekstremediving.com

SSI, Mares and an interesting end to the year.

Can anybody explain to me where the last 4 months have gone as I cant! One minute I am teaching courses in 30 degrees water looking forward to the world cup football to begin and the next thing I know Christmas decorations are up and we need to use the heater at night time!

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The second part of the year for me has been quite exciting. I guess one of the things that stands out the most for me is to receive an email from technical instructor Paul Toomer requesting a meeting somewhere on the out skirts of London. As it happens I happened to be heading to UK and so agreed to meet him. All I knew was he wanted to try and sell me his new product some thing called “SSI TXR”. In all honesty I was not so excited about this, why would I be, its just another training agency looking to increase its numbers and how can they achieve that by trying to recruit Tekstreme who is one of the largest technical training companies in Egypt. Makes sense really! What I was not prepared for was to be shown the new materials that he had written. Now you may think what is so special about another technical diving manual? Well, it seems as though these people in SSI have recognised the digital era that we are in and designed manuals specifically for viewing on tablets, Ipads etc . My husband has taught me, and is continuing to teach me about the wonderful world of digital technology and so of course it immediately got my attention. The layout was clear, the text informative but not overbearing and the structure of the manual was progressive and an easy read. But lets face it, there is more to a training agency than just the manual, now for the important stuff… the courses.

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There are not so many different ways that technical courses can be done, ultimately you start off shallow and you end up deep. You start of with one tank and further down the line you end up with 6 tanks! What was a key factor for me was how can we as the instructor teach the course. This was what was enlightening. We “as the instructors” were actually allowed / given the opportunity to use our judgment and experience to enhance the teaching process. Ultimately there are a set of standards that the agency wants us to adhere to, but within those we had the scope to vary training depending on conditions and the level of students. Paul was very passionate about this range of technical courses and it was nice to spend time with a fellow instructor who is actively looking to continue to improve our industry.

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Moving forward a couple of months in the year was when we heard some strange news. SSI were being brought by Mares. This immediately concerned me. Since the meeting in London I had spent a lot of time with the guys from SSI helping to organise staff crossovers, creating SSI events to increase awareness of SSI recreational and technical courses, helping them out on the SSI stand at the dive show for a few examples. A lot of time and effort had gone into this partnership and then they simply sold themselves out! You can’t help but think that it is just for the money and now SSI wont care! No sooner had these rumours began that Karim Salah who is responsible for SSI recreational training in Egypt spoke to me to reassure that my concerns were not needed and that this move was going to a positive feature. This move by Mares and SSI is probably the most innovative and unique partnership in the diving industry. Towards the latter part of the year SSI and Mares announced that they would host meetings / events around Egypt to bring everybody up to speed. Once again I was dubious but attended the meeting to hear things as they say “from the horses mouth!”.

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Robert Stoss opened the meeting. Robert is one of the founders of SSI along with Guido Waetzig and admirably has a level of energy and passion that makes you want to listen and spend more time around him. For sure this guy is not done with the diving industry yet! By far the opposite, he is driving the digital revolution of training forward, helping us as the service provider be able to provide to our customers with greater ease. Secondly, we were introduced to Dusan Runjajic. Dusan, or Dusko as he is more well known is one of the top dogs within Mares and is a man with equal to, if not even more drive than Robert about his products and the new venture. An engineer by trade he has truly made his mark with Mares. Mares has become a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and distribution of state of the art diving equipment. The constant investment in innovation, patient research in the field of manufacturing materials and processes, combined with the expertise of the staff and professional approach gives Mares its leading position. Mares actually makes up part of the larger “Head” group. “Head” Company is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of branded sporting goods serving the skiing, tennis, swimming and diving markets.

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Dusko then outlined for us the relationship between Head, Mares and SSI. Now, normally through presentations like this I tend to switch off after a period of time, as you tend to hear the same things over and over about how good their product is above everybody elses. But this was not the case, I found myself 2 hours later still eagerly listening. These guys from Mares have actually designed a range of equipment for the dive centres to make our lives easier! The presentation was good and the recreational equipment is great but what about my greatest passion, tech diving, tech equipment?!

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I had some time in between this event in Egypt and the DEMA dive show in America to have a think about a few things. The passion, drive and energy from all these people that I had met at SSI and Mares was astounding and I only knew that I wanted to be more involved. It was a breath of fresh air to find in todays diving industry a group of people with similar future ideas not only about business (which of course is fundamental) but about moving the industry forward in unique ways. The product line by Mares currently does not have a well known reputation in the technical diving world but what I can say is that I personally and Tekstreme will be helping in whatever way we can to test new products and aid the development of Mares technical diving equipment. We will be continually teaching SSI technical courses to show case the new products as they emerge and to increase awareness of the brand in the technical arena.

All I can say is watch this space…..

Many thanks to Guido, Robert, Dusko, Adam, Karim, and Tarek for all of what they have done for us in 2014 and we really look forward to 2015.

Note 1 – Paul Toomer is no longer with SSI. His role in SSI has been taken over by Adam Wood who is a gifted and professional technical instructor and who has already shown his commitment and will continue to drive SSI TXR where Paul left off.

Note 2 – Part of my blog with the description of Head and Mares has come directly from their presentation! I don’t claim that these are my words 🙂

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Brother Islands & Safaga Red Sea Technical safari.

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So the dates have now been released and back by popular demand….

 

Tekstreme will be offering a fully equipped technical safari to include the Brother islands from the 6th June – 13th June 2014Image

The itinerary (weather dependant) should include:

 

Panarama Reef in Safaga

The stunning walls of Small Brother Island

The Wreck of the Numidia on Big Brother Island

The Wreck of the Aida on Big Brother Island

The Wreck of the Salam Express in Safaga

The Wreck of the Gulf Fleet in Hurghada

The Wreck of Colona V in Hurghada

 

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There will be only 16 places available, and these spaces are available for all levels of technical diver. Trimix certification is not  a requirement but would be of benfit. All levels of technical courses and Gas Blending courses can all be run on board.

The boat will be the Gold boat “Superior” from Emperor Divers. Check out http://www.emperordivers.com/liveaboards-fleet-superior.php for more details and specifications of the boat

For a more information on how to join our summer time technical safari contact me directly at tekstreme@emperordivers.com

The price for the trip is only 1172 euros.

This price includes:

7 nights accommodation

Food and soft drinks on board

All Marine Park fees & Fuel surcharges

Transfers to and from the airport

Twin set hire or CCR tank hire

2 x Decompression / Bailout tanks

All Oxygen fills for CCR

Dont hesitate to book yourself and join us on some of the greatest tech dives in the Red Sea.

Cat & the Tekstreme Team

Brothers Technical Expedition

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Basic Information

 

  • Port of Departure = Hurghada
  • Port of Return = Marsa Alam
  • Boat = Emperor Elite
  • Level of technical diver = All levels welcome
  • Courses Available = CCR and OC on request
  • Number of dives = minimum 8, / maximum 13
  • Number of technical divers = 16 divers
  • Recreational divers welcome on request (subject to conditions)

 

 

Included in the price

 

  • 7 nights accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • Marine Park Fees
  • Fuel surcharges
  • All food and soft drinks on board
  • Wine with evening dinner
  • Twin set hire
  • CCR tank hire
  • 2 x Decompression tank(s) hire with rigging
  • 2 x Bailout tank(s) hire with rigging
  • Twin set air gas fills
  • CCR oxygen fills
  • CCR air fills
  • Emergency Surface marker buoy hire

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Wreck Dives

 

  • El Mina @ Hurghada
  • Salem Express @ Safaga
  • Numidia @ Big Brother
  • Aida @ Big Brother

 

Reef Dives

 

  • Big Brother
  • Small Brother
  • Elphinestone @ Marsa Alam
  • Gota Abu Ramada @ Hurghada

 

 

(Please note dive sites are subject change due to weather conditions and level of technical divers on board. Please also note that night dives are not permitted at the Brother Islands)

 

Email us for more details on how you can fill the final few places

Brother Islands technical expedition – 05/07/2013 – 11/07/2013

Tekstreme@emperordivers.com

Our Top ten technical diving sites in the Red Sea

There are many dive sites within the Red Sea that are suitable for technical diving. Each of the sites having their own very unique and distinctive features and highlights.  Every diver has his or her own preference and opinion which combines to make them decide which are their favourite technical diving sites and we here at Tekstreme are no different. As a team we have put together 10 of our favourite technical diving sites from Egypt in the Red Sea. Please note they are in no particular order.

 

1. Elphinestone Archway @ Marsa Alam by Cat BraunImage

 

Situated off the coast of Marsa Alam lies the reef of Elphinestone. This finger long reef stretches from slightly off north to south with a plateau at both ends. Lying underneath the southern plateau is a wide passageway known as the “Arch” which you can swim through between the depths of 45m and 60m. Surrounding the entrance and exit is a mass of various soft corals, large gorgonian fan corals and whip corals. This dive site is well known for its currents hence the abundance of coral and marine life that brings the reef to life. As a result of the currents it is also the home to various pelagics. It is a well-known site for seeing Oceanic White Tip Reef Sharks, especially around the southern plateau. Hammerhead sharks are more frequently spotted on the northern tip but definitely not unknown to also frequent the southern edges of the plateau at depth.

 

 

2. Wreck of the Lara @ Sharm El Shiekh by Steve ParryImage

 

The Lara is a 137.5 metre long former cargo ship that ran aground on Jackson Reef in 1982. Originally intact and sitting atop the reef, she was salvaged in the mid-90s resulting in sections of the ship being allowed to be submerged.

 Today her remains lie against the reef immediately to the west of the surface-based remains. Descending next to the surfaced-based wreckage and swimming ‘reef left’, descend to 45m. There you will start to see her ghostly remains appear from the gloom. The remains start at 48m with her mast and sections that probably included workshops. Her bulkheads were removed during salvage allowing you to swim in and around this section. Laying on its starboard side you will then see her stern section with an impressively large propeller still attached at a depth of around 55m. Her superstructure and other sections lie at deeper depths.

This dive is very weather dependent as the wreck lies against the most northerly, and therefore exposed, side of Jackson Reef. For me this is why the dive is one of the best; it is a dive that many divers take years of failed attempts to complete and so as you enjoy the dive you have the privileged feeling of knowing you’re seeing a wreck only very few have enjoyed!

 

 

3. The Blue Hole @ Dahab by Steve ParryImage

 

One of the most famous technical dive sites in the Red Sea, the Blue Hole is a giant sinkhole in the reef-plate that drops directly down to 110m.

Starting the dive from the small wooden jetty, make your descent and turn ‘half-left’. As you descend to 50m there you will see the reason everyone want to dive this impressive site. A huge archway in the wall of the hole appears in front of you. Beautifully lit up by the sunshine on the outside of the hole, the archway seems like a massive cathedral window. Beware of dropping to deep though as you gaze into the light; this dive is best done as a trimix dive for this reason!

Swim through the arch, enjoying some healthy black gorgonians attached to the roof of the arch and come out onto the outside. From there turn ‘reef right’ and start your deco. From approximately 20m you will find a very colourful coral garden, culminating in a lip at 6m serving as the entrance back into the hole. From the lip, swim back into the hole whilst completing your deco and finish the dive back where you started.

 

 

4. The Canyon @ Dahab by Duncan SpenceleyImage

 

Situated a short drive to the north of Dahab Town, “The Canyon” is a popular dive site with both recreational and technical divers alike. Once your kit is prepared the first step is to walk your stage tanks out into the shallow, shore entry point. Open heeled fins and boots are highly recommended. You enter the site into a long narrow lagoon in the reef that is clearly visible from the surface and about 4-5m deep. Swim slowly to the end of this lagoon and you will see a dip in the perimeter that is about 2.5m deep. Exit the lagoon here. You will see directly in front of you a prominent pinnacle that starts at around 10m and tops out at around 6m. Remember this pinnacle as it marks the location of the lagoon for your exit! The seabed gently slopes and is a mixture of sand and coral out crops. Facing out from the pinnacle turn to face approx. 10 0’clock and swim out in this direction sticking to about 10-12m. The bottom will gently fall away from you. The entrance to the canyon is at around 22m. So when the bottom gets this deep, hang a left until a black opening appears in the seabed. It can take 5-10 mins to reach depending on the current. On reaching the entrance (you will usually see thin bubble trails coming out of the sand unless you are the 1st group in) scan the entrance for other divers. If the canyon is blocked just hang out @ 10m till they are clear. You descend into a large bowl that bottoms out at around 26m. Swim in the direction of the shore and the bowl narrows and looks like it ends. At this point look up and see the light filtering down through the ‘Fishbowl’ and hatchet fish and cave sweepers dancing in the shadows. You used to be able to exit through this passage vi the Fishbowl which took you up to 12m but the structure is now unstable and as a result this exit is closed to diver. Having had a little look there turn 180 deg and descend the slope further into the canyon. The passage narrows and deepens and wiggles down toward the deeper water. Be careful of your depth as it does slope fairly quickly and as the passage lies on a slope it can be quite disorientating. Towards the base of this passage at around 44m there is a small opening that can be used to exit to the open water, or you can carry on through a small narrowing and enter a smaller chamber at around 50m. At the end of this chamber is another opening to the open water. Pop out here and you will be on the reef wall / drop off. From here you can either enter the canyon and exit the way you came in swim back over the top of the canyon following the ribbon like crack back towards the reef wall or for the deeper qualified continue down into a depression and visit Neptune’s Chair at 65m or even Neptune’s caves at 75m.  When entering the ascent phase of the dive, follow the canyon up to the fringing reef wall; keep the reef on the right and deco out according to schedule. Keep an eye out for the pinnacle! If you continue slightly past the pinnacle you will see a pristine sandy slope that shallows to 3m, ideal if you are into lazy deco! Exit back out through the lagoon keeping an eye out for sea moths.

 

 

5. Yolanda Plateau @ Sharm El Shiekh by Duncan SpenceleyImage

 

Shark and Yolanda Reef is one of the most popular dive site for all divers in Sharm El Sheikh and as a result can be quite busy. If you want to guarantee some alone time on this popular site then what better way than to visit the Yolanda Plateau which is out of reach to most divers visiting the area. The dive site requires a blue water 70m descent so make sure you are comfortable with that!!! Once kitted, the boat is positioned between Yolanda Reef and Satellite reef and then moved approx. 100-150m out into the sea. And away you go. Descend fairly quickly as there can be strong currents to blow you off course. On reaching 70m, if you still just see blue, swim north until the plateau looms in front / below you. The tip of the plateau is around 98m and the plateau is marked with a large gouge marking the path the Yolanda took to its final resting place past sub 160m. Gaze down into the blackness and convince yourself you can make out some portion of the wreck below… Then follow the plateau up as is shallows keeping an eye out for cameras, dive computers etc. dropped by other clumsy divers! There are 4 containers on the plateau for you to explore and a section of mast. As you reach the reef wall and start ascent you will see more debris including toilets complete with lids! At around 45m is a anchor with a net around it; often you will find a big moray eel here. Continue up following the scar and it will lead you up to what the recreational divers see. At 26m view the stacks of bathtubs and on your journey up to 9m take in more toilets, rolls of linoleum, a BMW, and hand-sinks. All are encrusted with coral and full of marine life. Continue round the back of Yolanda reef and visit the beautiful shallow coral garden as you deco out. At the end of your dive move to the front of Yolanda reef and exit back to the boat.

 

 

6. Wreck of Gulf Fleet @ Hurghada by Cat BraunImage

 

Towards the north end of the Hurghada dive sites you will find the reef of Shaabrugh Umm Gammar. Located on the north east side of the reef you will find the wreck of a cable layer that was part of the Gulf Fleet. The ship hit the reef and then slid down the eastern reef wall to its current position where it got wedged on a hard coral mound. The wreck is lying pointing downwards with the stern section being the shallowest point at 85m, then angled down towards the bow section at around 100m. The wreck is completely in tact will minimal structural damage.  Due to the topography of the reef side it is possible to swim under the keel towards the box at around 105m. The visibility in the area is normally very good with natural light still penetrating down to this depth and so you can clearly see wreck without the essential need for torches. The wreck also does not receive large currents and so exploration is a relatively simple process. As the wreck is lying on the reef once you have finished exploring you then get a nice swim during your decompression of the reef side until eventually arriving at the southern end where your boat is normally moored.

 

 

7. Wreck of Numidia @ Brother Islands by Cat BraunImage

 

Situated towards the middle of the Red Sea you will find two islands that make up what we call the Brother islands; Big Brother and Little Brother. Small Brother is completely uninhabited but Big Brother provides accommodation for a small team of Egyptian workers who man the lighthouse, act as an outpost and sell Brother Island T Shirts! It is on Big Brother Island where you will find the wreck of the Numidia. The British cargo ship was a relatively large vessel at 137.4m long, 16.7m wide and had a draught of 9.2m. The Numidia struck the northern most tip of the reef due to a navigational error. The strong currents in this area combined with the winds that can be experienced in the Red Sea makes this dive suitable for a more experienced diver. The wreck can only dived by zodiac drop with your main boat being moored up on the more sheltered southern end to the reef. Once you roll into the water from the zodiac you will see the wreck directly beneath you starting at its shallowest point of around 10m, however, it is critical to make a swift decent to get shelter from the currents that can blow you off the wreck and potentially on top of the reef. Once you are down and have protection from the current you can follow the structure of the wreck to your planned maximum depth. The Wreck is sat up right alongside the reef with the bow section, all be it slightly broken up at the shallowest point at around 10m, and the stern section coming to rest at around 80m which is the deepest point. The first thing that most people will comment on is the absolute color that now adorns this vessel. Hard Corals and Soft Corals have colonized this ship in a manner making it amongst one of the most beautiful shipwrecks in the world. The railings, masts, lifeboat davits, windlasses and deck winches are all still in place – having become part of a living Reef of such vibrancy that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that this is a “wreck dive!” The wooden decking has gone and the cargo was salvaged. This, however, provides a great opportunity to investigate a large ship at whatever depth suits the personal requirement. Forward of the central bridge are two cavernous cargo holds with ventilation hatches along the starboard side. The decks are now a square pattern of steel in between which is the lower half of the forward mast. As you make your way up the wreck you will ultimately end up back at the eastern reef wall of the island ready to begin your deco. Head with the reef more commonly on the left hand side and don’t forget to keep an eye out in the blue. Multiple varieties of pelagics can be found on this Island.

 

8. Small Giftun @ Hurghada by Cat BraunImage

 

The Marine Park of Hurghada is made up of the two Giftun Islands; Big Giftun and Small Giftun. It is on Small Giftun Island that you will find one of the most popular drift dives in the area so titled “Small Giftun Drift”. You may come across this dive site by a few other names which could include; “The Police Station”, aptly named as there is a patrol outpost in the area, or “Gorgonia Gardens” due to the amount of Gorgonian fan corals that can be found on the site. The eastern wall of the island is where you begin you dive and it is a wall dropping to depths below150m, however, the best depth for the dive is between 60 – 70m. You will find yourself drifting along through a beautiful  green soft coral forest with long whip corals and Gorgonian fan corals along the way. With a bit of local knowledge you will also be able to time your ascent to swim through a narrow crack in the reef, commonly referred to as “The Giftun Archway”. You would make your entrance at around 47m and exit at 43m. The current in the area can be strong hence so much soft coral growth even at depth. Hurghada diving is not renowned for Pelagic’s but it is not unheard of to see a Thresher Shark who has made his home within this area cruising by.

 

 

9. Thomas Canyon @ Sharm El Shiekh by Chris ArmstrongImage

 

Situated in the straits of Tiran are 4 reefs stretching from North to South. The second reef from the south is Thomas reef. Halfway along this reef on the eastern side is a deep underwater fissure, what we commonly refer to as “Thomas Canyon”. The canyon is approximately 80m in length. It begins at a depth of 35m and gradually gets deeper.  At the shallowest point it is quite narrow and drops to a sand base at approximately 42m. As we proceed down through the Canyon you will see there are 3 Arches above you created by falling boulders. The first arch is at 42m; the second is at 50m and the third and final arch at 52m. To the right hand side and deeper at 62m is a short tunnel swim-through which exits between 66-69m. After passing the arches the canyon widens and can easily accommodate two divers side by side. Towards the northern end, the shallowest part of the canyon is 50m with the deepest at 90m under a rocky overhang.

 

This is an ideal site for all levels of technical diver and as there is no current in the canyon which makes for a relaxing dive although usually there will be current upon exit to ascend the wall for deco obligations. There is an abundance of marine life on the main reef wall and its common to see tuna, fusiliers and blue fin trevally patrolling by.

 

 

10. Wreck of Rosalie Muller @ Gobal by Cat BraunImage

 

 

The ship of the Rosalie Moller was 108.2m long. She was ideal for collier duties and was making a significant contribution by transporting anything up to 4,500 tons of best Welsh coal to whichever port the Royal Navy demanded. In July 1941, The Rosalie Moller entered the Red Sea and, on reaching the Gulf of Suez, was assigned “Safe Anchorage H”.  Late at night on 5th October 1941, two twin-engine Heinkels crossed the north Egyptian coast heading southeast in search of a prize. They attacked and sank the Thistlegorm at 0130 hrs 6th October 1941, detonating much of her ammunition. In so doing, the night sky was briefly illuminated revealing more vessels at anchor. 48 hours later, on the night of 7th October 1941, the Rosalie was hit and went down.

 

The Rosalie Moller now stands upright on the seabed. As you make you way down the shot line to the wreck you will notice that the visibility within this area is not as clear as most outside reefs. Instead of this being a negative comment it is actually meant as a positive as it gives the wreck a nice almost eerie atmosphere to it. There are normally two permanent mooring lines on this wreck but they do have a tendency to move around the wreck, so don’t always expect to find them where they were on your last diving trip! The first thing you may see as you approach the wreck was the forward mast, with the masthead lamp in place at 17m. Below this, the Bows are at 39m and the starboard anchor is deployed with the chain running down to the seabed at 47m and then out of sight. The cargo hatches are gone, revealing the full cargo of Best Welsh still in place. Pots and pans still hang in the Galley where they are now concreted to the walls above a large stove. Although the wooden decks have rotted away, all the portholes are still in place. Aft of the Bridge, the funnel is still standing – with only the slightest list to port. You will clearly see the major damage to made to the ship by the bomb, its like it has torn a hole out of the side of the ship and upper decking. The thing that I like the most about this wreck is the fact that it is has not been dived as much as its sister ship the Thistlegorm, and because of the fact that’s it is slightly deeper it means that it is not suitable for the novice diver, again keeping numbers of divers down. As a direct result of these factors the marine life is superb. You must descend through an upper deck area walled with glass fish and cave sweepers, big Tunas are patrolling the masts above your head, multiple peppered moray eels have made their homes along the path ways along with the thousands of tube works, nudi-branches and flat worms.  For me this is a wreck that combines history and marine life, and as it lies only at maximum 47 meters you can have a super long dive on the wreck without too much deco.

 

 

If you would like to dive Elphinestone Archway or the wreck of the Numidia we will be running a technical expedition to the Brother Islands departing from Hurghada on the 5th July 2013. Email us for more details on how you can join that trip.

 

Many thanks to Charles Hood and Duncan Spenceley for some excellent photos.

 

charleshood.com

redseasnapper.com

 

Tekstreme@emeprordivers.com

 

Tekstreme Team 

Who is the leading PADI TecRec dive centre in Egypt……Tekstreme Diving is!

The new year could not have got off to a better start than to receive a phone call from Reto Moser, the PADI regional manager for Egypt, to inform us that Tekstreme had the most PADI TecRec certifications in Egypt in 2012. What an awesome achievement. This  achievement is only possible due to great team of PADI TecRec Instructors that we have here at Tekstreme. The technical manager of Sinai Chris Armstrong, along with Duncan Spenceley and Steve Parry continue to provide thorough, safe, fun packed PADI TecRec courses which keeps our customers returning back to us. Now we would not be able to offer this level of service if it was not for the fantastic work of Emperor Divers. From the very first email reservation enquiries, to the quality of the dive centres, the boats, the transfers etc it makes for a complete high quality package.

 

award

 

If you would have come to Tekstreme four years ago you would have struggled to find any reference to PADI technical diving courses,  so what has changed? Why are these courses now so popular?

 

The PADI TecRec debuted in 2000 with the launch of its Tec Deep Diver and Tec Trimix Diver Programmes.  Although TecRec is not the first tec diving program (cave diver training has been around for decades), it repeatedly receives accolades for its merits. TecRec courses are integrated into an instructionally valid, seamless course flow that takes you from beginning tec diver to one qualified to the outer reaches of sport diving using different gas mixes. Each level introduces you to new gear, planning and procedures appropriate to extend your diving limits.

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The Tec Deep Diver course is a nine day course and successful candidates upon completion would be certified to make decompression dives with the use of two eanx decompression gases for accelerated deco to a maximum depth of 50m. As much as the course was designed very progressively, it was very intensive and for some students proved to be too big a jump in a single course. If students could not achieve the performance requirements by the end of their holiday they would not have any certification to go home with. Of course referral forms were readily available for continuation of training in the future. Also, from the holiday makers side, it was often not possible for them to complete the Tec deep diver course in its entirety if they only had a single week holiday and so the numbers of students enrolling in these courses were relatively low. Similarly, the Trimix Diver course was also a nine day course with successful students being certified to 80m using the full range of trimix gases available. Both courses were perhaps not as user friendly as they could be due to the durations and intensity. Maybe partly for these reasons potential technical students were looking elsewhere to other technical training agencies that had more bite size courses and as a technical diving centre we were obliged to offer the other agencies to satisfy the customer. (Can I make a note at this point that I personally teach through PADI, TDI (technical diving international) and BSAC (British Sub aqua club) and actually enjoy teaching through all three agencies equally. This article is not meant to put other agencies down, far from it, this is an article to simply examine the growth of PADI TecRec)

 

 

PADI responded well to the challenges that were presented against their technical courses and sought to rectify this problem; hence the breakdown of the Tec Deep Diver course and the Tec Trimix diver course. The Tec Diver course is now an integrated sequence of three sub-courses: Tec 40Tec 45 and Tec 50.  You can complete them continuously, or you can complete each level separately with a time span between them.  This gives you learning efficiency, instructional integrity and schedule flexibility. The Tec trimix course is also now an integrated sequence of two courses; the Trimix 65 and the The Trimix diver. Similar to the Tec Deep diver you can complete them continuously or you can complete each level on its own.  With these crucial changes PADI had created a much more use friendly sequence of courses that had a strcuture similar to other technical training agencies. Low and behold with a push on the marketing of these new courses the result was effective and immediate…the numbers of divers entering into the PADI technical training route was rapidly increasing.

 

tecrec-chart

 

 

Tekstreme recognized the effort that PADI had made and responded by reinforcing the marketing for these new courses and look where we are now! I personally feel that not only are the PADI courses very thorough in their content but the reading materials that accompany each course are the best in comparison to other training agencies. Now yes, I do admit that PADI do love their multiple acronyms which some people are not a fan of, and yes, the manual does have a lots and lots of pretty colorful pictures, but from my experience as an instructor I can only report that these are beneficial to the learning curve of the student not detrimental. The manual is idiot prove, how can that be a bad thing!  The other bonus is that the Tec Deep Manual was designed for the complete Tec Deep Diver course and so the result of this is, is that you only need one manual for the Tec 40, 45 and 50. I do think that in the future that this may change and that PADI will break the manual into three parts to go in partnership with the three sub courses, but for now you get the all in one.

 

PADI have taken some criticism by many over their technical courses. Some people would categorize PADI as only a holidaymaker recreational agency and what place do they have in the technical diving world, but slowly this stigma is being overcome and PADI are standing up tall and defending their courses, as they rightly should.

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It has been a pleasure to join PADI on their journey of technical diving development and we can only hope that it continues to grow in the future.

 

If you are interested in any of the PADI TecRec Courses then you can click on the following link http://www.tekstremediving.com/tecrec-courses.php or email to us directly at tekstreme@emperordivers.com.

 

Cat Braun – Tekstreme Technical Diving Manager

Tekstreme Party Night

The 1st of October proved to be a memorable day and even more of a memorable night. Why was it so significant? Well, it marked the day where Cat Parfitt and Bence Szentklaray took over Tekstreme Diving. What began as just an idea to have a few celebratory drinks together turned into a much larger Tekstreme party night!

The “Friends Bar”, a recent addition to the new marina in Hurghada, was decked out Techy style with tanks, equipment and helium balloons inviting everybody in. Even the drinks took on the theme with specialized Tekstreme cocktails and shots.

Cat says, “It was a great pleasure to see our guests, all of our friends and colleagues from many businesses in the local Hurghada area coming to support our new adventure. We are very grateful to everybody for all of your help and support”.

To see for yourself the party night, check out the latest photo additions on the Tekstreme Facebook Group.

time for speeches

New deep wreck in Hurghada, Red Sea

By Paul Vinten 

The number of technical divers discovering the wonders of the Egyptian Red Sea is on the steady increase with the availability of support now for both open and closed circuit divers. The numerous deep reefs around Hurghada, Sharm and Dahab provide a multitude of sites for visiting ‘tekkies’, but it is nearly always the wrecks which get the adrenaline of a deep diver pumping.  Around the daily diving area of Hurghada there are 5 well known wrecks from 32-110m, not including those at Abu Nuhas reef, to offer a dive for all technical abilities, but a lesser known, and by far the biggest wreck in Hurghada, has just been located and dived by the team from Tekstreme Diving at Emperor Divers.  The ship is that of the ferry, Al Qamar Al Saudi Al Misri which translates as ‘The Saudi Egyptian Moon’ and lies in a depth of 83 metres rising to 64 at the shallowest point so providing a superb trimix dive just one and a half hour’s sailing from the main port of Hurghada. 

The Al Qamar Al Saudi Al Misri

Launched in 1970 as the Trekroner, the vessel was 124.85 metres in length with a beam of 19.31 metres and a gross tonnage of 7697.  It changed its name in 1971 to the Dana Corona when it moved from Copenhagen to the Mediterranean, and then in 1979 changed again to the Dana Sirena.  Finally in 1983 it made the move to Egypt when it was bought by the Al Sabah Maritime Services Co. Ltd. of Jeddah who renamed it the Al Qamar Al Saudi II, then in 1988 it made it’s final move to Alexandria to the Khaled Ali Fouda shipping company who named it the Al Qamar Al Saudi and then one year later changed it again to the Al Qamar Al Saudi Al Misri.

It was a very large roll-on roll-off ferry capable of carrying up to 718 passengers and 120 cars at speeds of up to 21 knots and in its final days was used on the route between the ports of Suez in Egypt and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

 

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The sinking

The ship was on a return journey from Jeddah back up to Suez carrying 527 passengers and a crew of 63 when late in the night of the 18th May 1994 a boiler explosion was reported to have caused an oil leak and fire in the engine room which then spread to the rest of the vessel.  Various offshore vessels and navy ships responded to the mayday call from the ferry over the radio as people began jumping into the sea and launching the lifeboats to escape the rapidly spreading flames.One of the closest rescue vessels was only 25 miles away when the distress call came.  The American destroyer, USS Briscoe, on its second Northern Red Sea deployment was captained by Cmdr. Andrew J. Pitts and he was quick to get to the scene of the disaster and launch his ship’s helicopter to begin pulling people from the burning ferry and out of the sea.  Following numerous stories of daring rescues and individual moments of heroism, 15 crew members of the Briscoe were awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Medal.The Al Qamar Al Saudi Al Misri eventually sank the following morning on the 19th May 1994 with 8 confirmed dead, 13 missing and over 50 people injured.  

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Finding the wreck

With the popularity of technical diving in the Egyptian Red Sea on the rapid increase, there are always people trying to locate new sites, in particular wrecks, to provide greater attractions to the area.  When Aaron Bruce, Tekstreme manager in Sharm el Sheikh passed me some information about a ferry close to Hurghada including a ship’s name, the hunt was on!  I spent some time researching the vessel, including obtaining the ships plans so as to provide as much background as possible before actually looking for its location.  From the information we had and talking with various boat crews and captains, we had an area to search in no time and everybody we talked to knew the name Al Qamar Al Saudi and so we were very positive about locating the wreck given enough time.  Although an initial search proved fruitless, we were not disheartened, and on returning close to the original search area with some new information, it was only just under 3 hours of running a search pattern before a large shape appeared on the echo sounder which, up till then had been showing a flat sandy bottom of between 78 and 83 metres.  There was no doubt about it – we had found a very large wreck!Several more runs over the site to plot dimensions and depths revealed an object over 100 metres in length and rising from the 83 metre seabed to a minimum depth of 64 metres.  The smiles and excitement on the boat were becoming infectious! 

Diving the Al Qamar

The following morning, with spirits running high, we returned to the location of the wreck.  With our two KISS closed circuit rebreather units prepared the night before and carrying a trimix diluent along with two open circuit emergency bailout tanks each, we were ready for an exploration of the site.  A shot line was dropped next to the wreck on to the seabed and we began our descent.  As we descended, the visibility reduced quite quickly and we thought we were in for a disappointing dive, but by the time we reached 60 metres, it cleared up again and we could clearly see the stern of the wreck, lying on its starboard side, appearing out of the gloom. 

stern-view-from-shot-line.jpg

After reaching the clear sandy seabed, the ambient light gave us the most amazing view of the stern with its twin propellers towering above us.  We took a moment to compose ourselves and attach a line from the shot to the wreck for our return, and then began our exploration.It was at this point that the value of having, and studying, the deck plans prior to the dive proved to be invaluable, especially with such depths limiting available bottom time.  As we swam round to the aft deck the swimming pool came into view and beyond it the entrance into the restaurant and bar areas.  Due to the cause of the sinking we had no plans to conduct any serious penetration on this dive with the idea more to get information on the state of the wreck and its condition in the water following the explosion, fire and 13 years of submersion in order to pave the way for future explorations. 

The damage to the superstructure became more and more evident the closer we got to the midships area where the engine room was situated.  The very uppermost level of the ship had fallen off the vessel on to the seabed, as had the main part of the funnel, presumably from the intense fire weakening the structure to a point where it could no longer support itself as the ship rolled on to its side and hit the seabed.  As a result of the explosion, access could be easily gained into the engine room area through the deck where it had been ripped apart.  Looking down to the seabed, a single lifeboat could be seen crushed under part of the wreckage, but apart from that all the lifeboat davits around the wreck were empty testifying to the fact that so many people escaped the sinking without injury.

As we came to the bridge section, the top level containing the control station was also lying on the seabed next to the main vessel, but the lounge and bar situated at the front of the second deck to offer passengers a view over the bows was still intact with the seating.  A compass binnacle was still in place on the port side bridge wing surrounded by a multitude of fish life.  Across the bow deck the foredeck hatch was fully open, a curious thing which was also seen in an image of the Al Qamar Al Saudi I obtained from when it was still afloat.  A huge spare propeller was still lashed to the port side deck and it was from here that we ascended up to the port side hull to begin the long swim back towards the stern.

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All over the wreck, fan corals & fish life could be found with shoals of big eyes and the occasional grouper lurking in the shadows looking on at the unexpected intrusion of their home.  The coral growth covered most of the outer surfaces of the wreck with the majority of the railings and superstructure having become inhabited in some way and small fan corals adorning the upper side of the hull.As we swam along the shallowest side of the wreck, it gave us a real idea of the enormity of the vessel with the hull seeming to stretch on forever in all directions.  Ropes still holding the block and tackle lay across the hull from the deployment of the port side lifeboats, and looking down into the ship through the various doorways & portholes, everything still seemed more or less completely intact, barring some obvious signs of fire damage.  Returning to the stern, any doubt of the wrecks identity was instantly dispelled as the raised lettering could clearly be read announcing the ships name in both English and Arabic.  Then it was a chance for one last look at the propellers and rudders before returning to the shot line and that long ascent back to the surface.

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After a relatively short 25 minutes spent on the wreck, we managed to get away with only 75 minutes of decompression and ascent time, a fact which was made only made possible due to the big advantages of the closed circuit rebreather on such dives. It did, however,  give us time to reflect on the dive as we crept up the line, with both Aaron and myself smiling away and thinking about our return to the wreck – the next time with a camera and a plan to fully explore the wreck, but not forgetting the fact that there were fatalities during the sinking. 

Less than a week later, we were returning to the site with the rest of the Tekstreme team from Hurghada and Sharm and, armed with cameras; we were trying to document and gather as much information about the wreck as possible in its current state.  We managed to take images of most of the wreck, but as we quickly found out, even with six divers working together, a wreck of this size and in this depth of water requires several dives to explore it in its entirety.  

So as Hurghada increased its number of wrecks available to the visiting technical diver by one, the search was already being planned by the Tekstreme Team for at least two more deep wrecks in the area.The Hurghada region really is a wreck diver’s heaven with rusting metal at all diveable depths and in some of the best diving conditions in the world.

For more information on diving the Al Qamar wreck, contact Paul Vinten by e-mailing paul@tekstremediving.com or visit the website at www.tekstremediving.com