The Red Sea is famous for its clear blue waters and colourful reefs. The Strait of Tiran is without a doubt the best example.
Just north of Sharm el-Sheikh lies the Island of Tiran, located at the entrance of the Strait of Tiran, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.
Between the island and the Sinai peninsula are four large reefs, Gordon, Thomas, Woodhouse and Jackson. In my opinion one of the most colourful and vibrant areas in the Red Sea.
Diving in Tiran
The reefs of Tiran can be easily reached from Sharm el-Sheikh, both by day boat as well as by liveaboard. I prefer to use a Liveaboard from Sharm as Tiran is only an hour from the Marina and you can start your week with a check dive in Gordon reef.
Compared to the Gulf of Suez, the Gulf of Aqaba is also very well protected. The diving takes place mainly on the south side of the reefs which are usually well sheltered from the waves. Therefore, even in windy conditions, you won’t miss the fantastic diving Tiran has to offer.
The closest reefs to Sharm is Gordon. Is marked by the remains of a cargo ship that crashed there in the early ’80s, The Louilla.
The reef has a shallow plateau on the south side that slopes gradually from 5 to about 30 meters. It is an excellent spot for check dives and night dives.
At around 25 meters on the south-west side of the plateau, you will see some spectacular sea fans. Try to spot the extremely well-camouflaged long-nose hawkfish, one of my favourite macro subjects.
Towards the centre of the plateau, you can find what is left of the cargo that of the Luoilla. Loads of barrels full of tar. Here you will notice a gentle current, you can turn around and get back to the starting point. Otherwise, let it take you to a beautiful coral garden on the south-east side of the reef.
Thomas reef is the smallest of the 4 reefs. It comes straight up from the depths and has some astonishing soft corals. It is not unusual to see large pelagics such as tuna, eagle rays and occasional grey reefs sharks.
The dive generally starts on the south-west corner. Right after you start the descent you will notice a deep plateau extending from the wall at about 25 meters. Soon after two massive groups of sea-fans will come into view. Try to spend some time around looking for hawkfish but always keep an eye in the blue. You, never know what can show up.
At this point, you can start to drift gently along wall encrusted with soft and hard corals. It is quite common to bump into a turtle having a snack or gently cruising along the reef.
Woodhouse is the longest reef in Tiran measuring about 1 km in length. When I dive here, I prefer to jump about two thirds from the western corner as the eastern section is by far the best in terms of corals and fish life.
The Northeast corner is connected to Jackson Reef by a relatively shallow saddle. Because of the general depth of the straight which exceeds 400 mt. the water will be forced between the 2 reefs creating a very strong whirlpool commonly called “The Washing Machine”. This brings loads of nutrients and the fish and coral life is incredible but you need to be careful as currents are strong and unpredictable.
The last reef is called Jackson. Like on Gordon reef, a ship crashed on the reef in the ’80s. There is not much left on top of the reef but the remains are a distinguishable landmark.
Jackson Reef is, in my opinion, the most vibrant reef in the Egyptian Red Sea. The density and colours of the corals are mind-blowing and the fish life buzzing around is mesmerizing. There are 3 distinctive dives on offer, the Southwest corner the Northeast corner and the back of the reef.
Jackson south corner
The most popular dive is the Southwest corner generally called Jackson south. It starts on the front of the reef where the boats normally mored up. Soft and hard coral cover the wall. Stay shallow and gently drift with the reef on your right side. soon you will see a huge lettuce coral, this is a famous landmark and the beginning of the coral garden. Thousands of orange anthias swill around the corals while clouds of red-tooth triggerfish and bannerfish hover in the blue just off the wall. Big sea-fans are home for longnose hawkfish and lionfish hover waiting for easy prey.
Hawksbill turtles are very common here and usually rest on the reef or feed on soft corals. Tuna and jacks patrol in the blue and morays and groupers live on the wall.
For me, this is one of my favourite dives, the fishlife is magnificent, the corals are vibrant and plentiful and there is always a chance to get a surprise visit by sharks or eagle rays.
Jackson north corner
The dive on the Northwest Side is a semi drift. You jump from the boat and let the gentle current carry you along the wall. When you are approaching the corner of the reef, the wall becomes a slope that drops into the blue. At this point, the current will pick up and you will fly over an incredible coral garden. This is an exhilarating drift that always has the potential to attract big pelagics.
Jackson back “Hammerheads”
The last dive on offer is the back of the reef. this is a dive with only one objective, hammerheads. During the summer months, the seas are calmer and boats can venture to the north side of the reef which is generally battered by the waves. The drop point is generally right by the wreckage of the Lara. from here you drop to around 30mt and swim into the blue, it is safe to keep an eye on the reef wall while you just wait for the sharks to come and investigate the group.
Here the reef is not very interesting and does not have the same corals as the south side. For this reason this dive is not normally offered unless the conditions are perfect.
The straight of Tiran is a normal stop on the popular Wreck and Reefs trips, however when the boat departs from Hurghada is at the furthest part and you won’t have enough time to explore all the incredible dives on offer. For this reason, Whirlwind is heading back to Sharm so you will have a better chance to dive and spend a good amount of time in one of the most beautiful areas of the red Sea.