Scuba Travel’s new recruit Jim, visits the Red Sea onboard Whirlwind on the Wrecks and Reefs itinerary.
It has been 10 long years since I last delved into the Red Sea diving scene and I thought It was long overdue that I got back.
After a super easy flight and transfer to the boat, I was meet by the crew of the Whirlwind. This is a superb vessel, tricked out with maximum diving in mind and staffed by the nicest bunch of lads I could have asked for. After being shown to my cabin, one of the largest I have ever been in (I’ve been stuffed into some right broom cupboards in my time), I was able to set up my gear ready for the next day’s diving to begin.
The dive deck itself has plenty of room for you to stow kit, have your wetsuit drying, cylinders filling and undies dry (never underestimate the bonus of a dry pants place!). The day was capped off by some fantastic food, a good taste of things to come, before settling in for a night on the waves. At sun up, the engines were fired and we steamed to our first location for our check in dive. The Wrecks and Reefs has officially started.
Our guide, Ahmed Gomaa, gave an informative briefing about what we were expecting to see and what the general route plan was, something repeated before every dive we did. After the compulsory weight check we went for an explore and I was immediately impressed with the variety of fish life and coral cover to see. I was so excited in fact that I blew through my air at a fairly rapid pace.
On our return we were greeted by our smiling crew with servings of hot chocolate. This happened after every dive and was always very welcome! The second dive was again full of brightly coloured reef fish, large tuna, monster morays and heaps of soft coral. We then returned to port to collect some more divers, a fairly rough return due to high winds. As possibly the world’s most seasick man, it was a difficult ride not without a good conversation or two with the deep blue. On a side not, while the longer crossings during the week were quite rough, during the time we were moored at our dive sites the waters were quite calm and easy for sleeping on.
After collecting some more divers, we spent the night in the marina before heading out for the reefs the next morning. Whilst the other divers were having their check dives, my gang went off on our own around the dolphin house. The site lived up to its name, as we were quickly met by a huge pod of dolphins that came up and swam with us as we bimbled along the reef. The next few dives were spent on the wreck of the barge at Gobal Island. One during the day and one at night, with lots of different things to see each time. Lots of scorpionfish, nudibranchs, shoals of fusiliers and coral cover of all shapes and sizes. Lionfish could be found under bits but came out to hunt in the torch light later on.
The next morning was spent drifting along at Bluff Point along with the Eagle rays before moving on to the stunning Ras Mohammed. Words cannot describe how beautiful the dives in the marine part are, with soft coral covering everywhere and brightly coloured fish of all shapes and sizes bob and swim with the current. Jackfish alley was the site chosen for us and it did not disappoint, with large jacks and tuna in the blue meaning we had to keep our heads on swivels.
We then moved on to the reefs around Tiran, jumping in on Jackson, Thompson and Gordon reefs over 5 dives. A highlight of the Wrecks and Reefs tour. The walls here were sweeping and beautiful, dropping well below the limit of my eyesight. The clear visibility and flowing current meant I really felt like I was flying (I’m not too proud to say I was singing the “Danger Zone” song in my head) and again the fish and coral life was incredible. We spent a few dives here before returning to Ras Mohammed for a dive on Shark and Yolanda reef which was where we saw the first turtle of the trip.
Next on the Wrecks and Reefs trip was the mighty Thistlegorm. We explored inside and out over 4 dives and the ship’s reputation is well deserved. The motorcycles, sidecars and trucks are fantastically preserved, with some of the decals on the sides of the fuel tanks being recognisable if you know what you are looking for (or are an anorak like me). The outside of the ship is also stunning and with Ahmed’s amazing briefing about the history of the ship it led to a truly awesome set of dives.
The next ones would have to work hard to beat Thistlegorm but they didn’t disappoint. The Chrisoula K and the Carnatic were the follow-up wrecks, both very different to Thistlegorm and each other but ace dives in their own right. The Carnatic is an older ship, much like diving a boat skeleton covered in marine life (although all the unrecovered gold eluded me) while the Chrisoula K is full of tiles. That might sound weird but where the tiles have fallen has led to a maze-like penetration through. The cabins and workshops were stunning, with machine tools left as if ready to be used (leading me to think that it was probably cleaner than my own workshop). We also did the Dunraven, a nice wreck covered in life with a great reef dive after. The Dunraven is a little more broken down so going inside isn’t really an option but it’s a stunner none the less.
That was it for me, as I had to fly on Saturday but the other divers did some more diving as they were flying a day later. Not bitter in the slightest, I would still sneak in when the hot chocolate appeared! We were then collected on arrival at the marina and taken to the airport for another very easy flight and transfer.
So what do you make of all this rambling? Simple. Go. Go on this trip. If you have never done the Red Sea, go on this trip and take all your mates. If you have done the Red Sea, go on this trip and take all your mates. I cannot recommend this enough and the next trip will have to work hard to top a Red Sea Wrecks and Reefs liveaboard.