The Barge is one of the smallest wrecks in the North Red Sea but it’s not just an empty shell…
This is the start of a series of dive site reviews from my recent red sea trip. I had recently completed my Advanced Open Water, and although had been diving abroad, had never visited the Red Sea. I had completed less than 50 dives in total prior to this trip.
Today I will focus on the dive site called The Barge. It isn’t the most famous for its history, as quite frankly it’s so old that experts are not sure of its background. With the first of the series, I wanted to show you that even on the most unassuming of dive sites, in the North Red Sea the diving can be incredible where ever you are.
Getting to the Barge
We headed over to Small Gubal which is a sheltered dive site in the Gulf of Suez. On the way over we had to cross a shipping lane which was a rough crossing, to say the least. We turned the corner and arrived at the dive site. It just hits you how incredible this next dive is going to be. From topside, we came around the corner of the smaller of the two islands (small and big Gubal) we could see a large lagoon to our right.
We watched the captain and his crew moor up to the shotline. After such a rough crossing to arrive in such a tranquil place safe and sound, you really could see how good the team were at their jobs. The water was so clear it looked like a tropical island.
The bell rings and we head down to a briefing for “The Barge”. This is a wreck that has very little distinctive features on it and is so old it’s hard to tell where it originated from or what it’s the reason was for setting sail, or even for sinking, but they believe it could be as old as the 1600’s.
This dive was a wreck dive, but we were told to look out for the lagoon swim through,and awesome drift, some HUGE brain coral and George, the resident Moral eel. George must be big, if he’s been named, right!?
Into the drink
As the boat was moored up directly above the wreck, we had the perfect opportunity to practice our negative entry. So we ran through our buddy checks, let the air completely out of our BCD’s, held our mask and Reg in place and took the Giant Stride off the back of the boat and into the water. Found the shot line and descended immediately down to the wreck.
We started this peaceful dive by looking around the outside of the Barge, which no word of a lie is a shell of the hull. It was covered in soft and hard coral and little schools of fish.
My buddy and I went on this dive unguided and kept the wreck to our right and looking in all of the nooks and crannies in the hunt for George and the family. The rest of the group decided to look for them on the inner side of the barge. I think because of the group (we’ll blame them) George and the gang were nowhere to be seen.
Our guide signalled that George and the family had probably headed out for the day. We decided to leave the wreck behind and swim up to the lagoon. You head directly north from the Bow of the barge, where, in the distance, you could see a huge Brain coral. It was hard to miss. We shallowed up to 5m and swam around the back of it, where we saw a gap in the reef, a test for my buoyancy control.
As we reached the lagoon, the sand was perfectly flat, and the colours of coral were amazing. We saw a handful of Nudi’s and a small family of three clown fish playing in a sea anemone. It was like something off the front cover of a magazine.
As we took in the beautiful surroundings the “C” shaped lagoon had come to an end. We exited through another shallow valley to the right and followed the main reef on our left. We could feel the current picking up so stopped finning and drifted along with the fish. This quickly became a slow yet great drift dive as there were bumps we had to drift over or around. All the time watching the coral garden and its fishlife on our left, It was a nice easy dive even with a slight current, I was really enjoying it.
Is that George?
The current changed a couple of times and we had gone back and forth but each time getting further along the coral garden. Eventually we came to a point where we saw this huge Moray eel. His head was around the size of a rugby ball, and his body was as thick as my leg, which as a Bootcamp instructor isn’t particularly small.
He was weaving in and out of the rock face and coral garden. His body seemed to fill all of the gaps in the rocks nearby. We could see a smaller moray just to the side of him, my word we’d found George on our travels. Not just that, we had found the whole family! They weren’t hiding in the barge at all, they’d taken a trip down the road, and were waiting for those of us who could reach the far side of the dive site.
Time to head back
I don’t know if it was because we were finning against the changing current to keep an eye on the family of morays. Maybe because we wanted to investigate the local coral garden more. But I was down to 60 bar and had to pop the SMB and head to the surface. We made our safety stop and amended to a waiting rib above. We climbed back in and headed back home to the Whirlwind Liveaboard.
The barge looked like a tame dive without much history but it quickly became one of my favourite dives of the Northern Red Sea Trip. It had some incredible coral and life, with a fab swim through, a wreck, a lagoon and even a drift. The perfect way to start my afternoon. Oh and we were the only pair to meet George and the family, who was massive! A cool relaxing dive! Well worth it.
I wanted this to be the first in the series because it shows how amazing the diving can be. I’ll admit I thought it’d be less exciting as there wasn’t any solid history about the barge, but it was so much more than that. Add this to your list if heading up to the North Red Sea.
Here is a plug for the trip I was on: