MP South Classic (Zabargad/Rocky Island/St. Johns)
- Zabargad - Rocky Island - St. Johns
- After arrival in Hurghada or Marsa Alam, transfer to the ship in Port Ghaleb, dinner and departure the next morning.
- Already in the afternoon we head directly south to Zabargad and Rocky Island, the southernmost islands in the Egyptian Red Sea. Countless soft and hard corals await the divers here in the deep south.
- We continue to St.John's, a mixture of the best the Red Sea has to offer. Colorful coral gardens with schools of fish, breathtaking drop-offs, reefs with cave passages, some wrecks and, not to forget, the spectacular night dives.
- On the way back up north we will visit the sites of Sataya, Malahi, Abu Diab, Shaab Maksur, Shaab Claudia, Abu Galawa and Gota Sharm, so that there is enough variety! Also here you can expect shark encounters with great regularity.
- On the way back to the mainland there is another highlight with the Elphinstone Reef! The northern tip offers the best conditions to meet some hammerhead sharks on an "early morning" dive.
Expect to see
From Marsa Alam the boat goes about one and a half hours north to Elphinstone Reef! The reef top of Elphinstone Reef lies at a depth of between one and three meters, depending on the water level. Strong surface currents and lots of boat traffic make snorkeling here impossible.
Divers, however, can dive right into a challenging treat! The reef is known for its exceptional biodiversity and, of course, sightings of large fish. In the north we dive on a sloping plateau from 18 to 40 meters and in the south on the underwater terraces. The west and east walls drop off steeply into the depths. The Elphinstone reef has a total length of about 600 meters and a width of 70 meters.
In large numbers we can see hard and soft corals in all colors. In addition, there are turtles, moray eels, loceanic white tip sharks, hammerhead sharks and pretty much everything that the Red Sea has to offer.
The lagoon is formed from a dried up river (wadi) and with a diameter of 150m between 5 and 45m deep. You can still see the wadi in the middle as a channel that rises to the north and south. In the north there is a plateau whose edges drop from 14 to over 40m.
The north side is characterized by boulders where you can find ghost pipefish, long-jawed makerels, glassfish and crocodile fish, but of course also as many different coral species. They reach from the reef edge partly down to 20m and are covered with life.
This is the southernmost reef of St. John's and offers plenty of variety. The reef has an extension of 150m by 70m. Hidden on the main reef is the small cave system. It is easy to dive and there is no danger of getting lost. The entrance is located on a small plateau at 9m depth.
In the outer area, the plateau extends another 60m to the south. Here there are carpet anemones and harlequin crabs that live together symbiotically. At another spot lives a hammerhead shark. To the west, numerous coral structures rise from a mixture of soft and hard corals. In between them, giant moray eels and napoleon wrasse are always hiding. Two ergs reach from 20m depth to 9m below the surface. Towards the east there is a very nice garden of mountain corals in all colors.
Due to the turbulence at the Ergs it is a challenging dive site in stronger currents. Also, the morning current can push you into the open water.
Shaab Marsa Alam
Shaab Marsa Alam is 350m to 400m long and shaped like an inverted L. In the north it starts with 50m width and expands to 80m until the beginning of the lagoon in the middle. Then it continues on the east side with a width of 10 to 20m like a barrier to the south.
There are some real sights: In the lower part of the lagoon, west of the barrier, at a depth of 12 to 15m, there are two coral blocks - a large one of 1 by 20m and a smaller one of 6 by 6m. They stretch from the northeast to the southwest and are so intergrown that they look like a reef of their own. They are nicely overgrown with hard and soft corals in the upper part. There is a small cavern system to explore.
In the northeast you can still find the remains of a sunken safari boat. Here you will encounter crocodile fish, moray eels and schools of snappers.
To the north and west there is another beautiful coral garden. Both contain cleaning stations, are dotted with sandy areas and are home to garden eels, schools of barbels, snappers and other reef fish. You can find moray eels, octopus, snails and cheeky nemos. Both sites are easiest to access by Zodiac. The way back to the boat is doable, in any case you make it in sight of the safari boat to be picked up by the Zodiac.
Shaab Sharm/Gota Sharm
Gota Sharm has a length of 250m, a width of 100m and runs in a wedge shape from west to east. There are plateaus at both ends. The rest consists of steep walls that reach more than 100m into the depth. The plateaus are 20m (close to the main reef) to 35m deep (in the outer area). The current usually comes from the northwest in the morning and from the north at noon. Despite this predictability, you should pay attention to it, because it can get very strong and you run the risk of being blown off the plateau.
On the eastern plateau you can find the longnosehawkfish in a gorgonian, lionfish under table corals, barracudas, reef sharks, schooling fish and two cleaning stations: one in the middle of the plateau for young tuna, the other, by a large block on the south side, for surgeonfish.
On the east plateau, the current can cause turbulence that makes diving difficult.
The western plateau is narrower than the eastern one and there is also a cleaning station here. On its northern side the current usually meets Gota Sharm. So a good place for big fish like the hammerhead shark. Pretty much opposite, on the south side, manta rays have been spotted, but it is more likely to encounter reef sharks, mackerels, tuna and barracuda.
Sataya Gota Soraya
"Soraya" means "small". This tells us that we are on the sister reef of the larger Sataya Gota Kebir. The water depth in the area to be dived is 20 to 25 meters. The reef has a length of 250m and a width of about 70m. The boat usually moors in a small lagoon in the southeast of the reef. However, depending on the current, there is also the possibility to moor the boat in the southwest at a notch of the reef. The Sataya area almost always has current from the north.
The mooring in the southeast, in the lagoon, is also one of the most beautiful places to dive in the midday. Very few people dive here and you get the impression that you are entering the water shortly after the coral garden is formed.
The most common diving tours, due to the current from the north, start with the Zodiac of course in the north. Then one has the free choice whether one dives left or right hand side. Here you can practice navigation and you have a dive of about 60 to 70 minutes in each direction. There is also a small path in the north through a cave into a lagoon. This is covered with mountain corals. The whole area is full of huge mountain corals, large table corals, leather corals and soft corals. There are a lot of juvenile fish, large schools of snappers, bigeyes and barbels. You can also find snails, as well as dolphins and young reef sharks.
There is another coral garden in the northwestern area, behind a sandy road. It consists of old and new coral formations and slopes down to 40m in the north.
Shaab Claude is about 150m long and 60m wide with a maximum depth of 24m. Boats usually anchor in the south, because there is the cave entrance in 10m depth. Also most of the fish can be found in the southern part of the reef. Here live e.g. batfish, triggerfish, bannerfish, barbels and snappers. Also big napoleon wrasse are not rare.
Often a current from the north makes diving on the west side above the coral garden difficult or impossible. After a bumpy ride by Zodiac to the channel and the anemone colonies, you will be rewarded with a nice drift dive on the east or west side.
Paradise Reef is connected to Cave Reef in the north by several blocks and has an extension of about 250m by 80m. Around the southern area a drop-off edge falls well over 50m.
To the west, coming from the north, a very nice mountain coral garden extends southward into an abstract erg landscape. These coral towers with a height of 3 to 12m are abstract formations with sometimes threatening appearing gradients.
You can find bumphead parrotfish in the east and eagle rays and reef sharks in the west.
In the south lies one of the entrances to a small cave system. It is recognizable by a cluster of anemones. The cave consists of two large rooms and is partially open in the upper part, which allows the sunlight to penetrate well. In the cave you can find a large number of different snails.
The two lagoons are a real paradise. On the sandy surface gobies and pipefish cavort. Towards the east there is a coral that has grown from the top to the bottom and stops only 30cm above the ground. Behind it begins a colorful coral garden.
Habili Jaffar has a diameter of 15m by 8m at the top. It has two plateau-like reef noses. One starts at 18m and ripples north much more than 50m before plunging in a diagonal sand and rubble slope. The other starts at 15m and runs almost due south, then drops steadily to 45m before fully disappearing into the depths after a small overhang.
Barracudas, snappers, trompet fish, banner fish and angel fish cavort in this reef. Gray, whitetip reef and silky sharks also drop by and at certain times an oceanic whitetip or manta ray may be seen.
The coral growth ranges from leather corals to soft corals in all shades of mint, fire corals and staghorn corals, sporadically in the depths also fan corals.
The reef top is excellent for the end of the dive. There is always current and wave action, but also a lot of fish.
However, the reef can only be approached in good weather, because the reef top is only just under water and therefore a big wave can easily build up. When this is the case, entry and exit becomes difficult or even impossible.
If you see Umm Aruk on the surface, it is hard to believe that this reef has an extension of 200 by 250m. In the south, from the craggy reef edge, an abrasion edge stretches down to 20m. East of it, two mighty boulders rise to the surface.Behind them stretches a bizarre picture of two dozen coral towers, 6 to 9m high and 2 to 4m in diameter, where corals and fish fight over the best spots. If you want to see banner and lemon butterfly fish in large numbers, you should definitely dive the north side. In the sloping lagoon like grooves you will often encounter juvenile whitetip reef sharks.
On the west side there are more astonishing boulders. Behind them, numerous ergs shooting up like mushrooms. Between them live, well protected, eagle rays and gardeneels.
The current is unstable and can come from all directions. However, due to the swirls between the blocks, we can use that to our advantage.
This reef is the most northeastern of the central area of St.John's. It is a steep wall reef that lies between 0 and 4m under water, depending on the season. The reef edge is riddled with grooves, notches and overhangs everywhere. Everywhere you can see beautiful and abundant growth of soft and hard corals as well as very large gorgonians and black corals. Besides the big fan corals you can surely see the favorite of all divers, the longnose hawkfish.
In width Habili Ali measures 20 to 25m from north to south, in length from east to west 150 to 200m. In the south it slopes 10 to 15m and then turns into a narrow plateau. The east and west sides drop well over 40m.
Unfortunately, the reef can not always be approached, because the reef top is so close to the water that even with a small outer wave quite decent breakers can form.
Since Habili Ali is an outer reef, the current can be from weak to very strong and come from all directions. A current test is therefore essential.
St.Johns Gota Soraya
The reef reaches well over 100m in depth and has a chimney in the south at 9m water depth, which is covered with black coral.
The west side is a wall with deep notches and bulges. There you will find a block that seems to have grown out of the reef, reaching from 22m to 9m below the surface. In the depth a few gray reef sharks pass by from time to time.
In the north, St. John`s Gota Soraya has a reef spur after a steep wall of 15m, which runs down with a slope well over 70m. It is covered all over with gorgonians and delicate sea whips as well as huge soft coral fields. Gray-black snappers and reef sharks are common there.
On the east side you will find schools of snappers and barbels in the wide niches. Often you also get a manta ray visit, because there the current meets the reef.
St. Johns Gota Kebir
St. John`s Gota Kebir is 250m long and 120m wide. The north ends in a drop-off that drops to 35m in places and opens into a small ledge before plunging further into the depths. The west side drops to 20 to 25m with overhangs and deep notches, then with a slight slope into the outer area where it disappears into the depths. On the east, the wall drops 20 to 30m and then turns into an overhang. The northern part falls directly into the depth. On the way there are huge gorgonians with a diameter of 3 to 4m.
The southern side is covered with coral fields. The reef wall there runs vertically down to the second plateau at 55m depth. On the plateau you can watch manta rays, gray reef sharks and hammerhead sharks as they make their moves. On the west and east side, behind the plateau at 9m, there are caves. Both run almost identically in an exciting large diameter circular path. However, please watch out for things that can fall down due to your exhaled air.
It is 350 to 400m long and has three plateaus, one of them - untypical for an outer reef - on the west side. The currents are similar to Elphinstone, as both reefs have almost exactly the same orientation.
The south plateau actually consists of two levels. The first ranges from 18 to 35m, the second from 35 to 42m. Both have a length of 50 to 60m and a width of 40m. At the end, the reef descends steeply to 80m, then continues into a slope to 120m before disappearing fully into the depths.
The west side has something special, because bordered by a coral garden and a block at the end there is a small lagoon in the middle of the plateau, which is very nicely embedded with a depth of 13-16m and a width of 20m. Here lie some pieces from an old safari boat that hit the reef after 14 days in service. The riggings were thrown overboard and the hull was taken to the shipyard for reconstruction. Meanwhile the reef has grown very nicely around the wreckage.
The eastern area is a drop off and to the north there is another plateau at a depth of 20 to 37 meters where there are smaller mounds and a coral garden. Here, as everywhere on this reef, downward currents can occur. At the northernmost point there are two more rocky pinnacles separated from the reef by an 8m deep gap.
Dahra Wadi Gimal
With a width of 350m and a length of just over 3km, Dahra Wadi Gimal is an elongated reef that runs out over several blocks in the north into almost independent reefs. It is well suited for overnight stays and is 5 minutes away from Shelaniat. In the south you have a narrow plateau at a depth between 5 and 14m with several small coral blocks from 1 to 2m high - excellent for a night dive. The plateau has a width of 30m before it goes over several steps into the channel towards Wadi Gimal Island. Here you can see one of the largest parrotfish species, the bumphead parrotfish.
On the eastern side, separated by a coral outcrop, are coral towers 9 to 12m high and 2 to 3m in diameter. They have purple soft corals mixed with hard corals in the upper part. This is an ideal area for glassfish, lionfish, giant sea cucumbers and sole.
Towards the east you will come across a huge labyrinth of all kinds of corals.It has an impressive height of 10-15m and consists of table corals with partly 4m diameter, ship-sized mountain corals as well as huge lettuce corals. Must see!
Shaab Malahi has a length of 100m and a width of 60m. The depth varies from 22m to 6m in the inner area. Only on the east side after about 50m there is a drop-off edge.
The reef is a maze of boulders that enclose the area in an almost circular fashion. Some of them rise 16 to 20m steeply and in the upper area an overhang has formed.
The labyrinth of blocks is most relaxed to dive with a guide, moreover, the diving depth varies often and sometimes extremely, so that the ears have to give maximum performance here.
Shaab Malahi gives you the opportunity to observe the formation of reefs, because due to the weather this reef is always in motion. Here you should watch out for falling objects in the overgrown corridors and caves.
Behind and below the boat is a sandy area that hosts some nice big boulders at about 20 meters depth, running far to the south. To its southeast are two blocks that look like they are connected to table coral. Here and a little further north there are schools of banner fish. But there is a lot to discover in this area in general.
Zabargad has two shipwrecks to offer, both in the sport diver friendly area. On the east side, between 1 - 24 meters deep, you will find a wreck 70 meters long and about 10 meters wide, the name and history of which have long been the subject of speculation. It is assumed that it is a Russian motor freighter that sought the protection of the island after a collision or explosion on board and sank there - the damage in the stern area would speak for this. The vegetation of the wreck suggests a sinking period in the 1950s to -60s.
On the southeast side, there are many cave passages in the upper reef area where, if you are lucky, you can find nudibranchs and turbellaria. On the west side of Zabargad, besides beautiful hard coral gardens, you can dive the remains of the safari ship "Neptuna", which sank here in 1981. On the sandy bottom at a depth of 24 meters you can find evidence of the sinking: a generator, several suitcases, a radar unit and a diving tank. However, there is no trace of the wreck of the ship. Since the reef is only slowly steepening at this point, the safari boat cannot have slipped any further into the depths, so it must be lying somewhere nearby. Presumably, at that time, when the stern was already submerged, it drifted a little further, while the mentioned objects fell overboard. The wreck of the "Neptuna" could not be located until today and thus remains one of those mysteries with which the Red Sea can still come up with.
Safari boats usually seek shelter to anchor on the south side of the island - behind a large lagoon. Around the lagoon, which is about 10-12 meters deep, it descends steeply to depths of over 50 meters. You can reach the inside of the lagoon through numerous passages through the rock that rises around the lagoon and is lush with colorful soft corals.
The island has an extension of 300m by 80m and has a fringing reef all around.
The south side of the reef consists of overhangs and half caves where very often white tip reef sharks sleep. Even more, the east and west are real Shark Points, because here the sharks are in a current that comes from the north and also brings in huge schools of sardines and their predator, the tunas.
The north, on the other hand, is a deeply indented steep wall with ledges and overhangs. Here one sometimes encounters dolphins.
Around Rocky Island again marine park rules apply and due to various currents it is a very challenging reef.
ATTENTION: The tour description is only a suggestion. Which dive sites are dived on the tour depends on many factors, including wind and weather.
After arrival in Hurghada or Marsa Alam, transfer to the boat in Port Ghalib,
Check in, dinner and spending the first night onboard in the marina.
Departure in the morning.
Familiarization of the boat,
Diving, safety and equipment briefing.
Dive at Abu Dabab and Gota Marsa Alam
Dives at Rocky Island and Zabargad
Night dive at Umm Aruk.
Gota Soraya St. Johns
St. Johns Caves
Night dive at Sataya south
Abu Galawa Soraya
Night dive at Sheleniat
Dive at Elphinstone reef and Marsa Shona
Return to the port.
For safety reasons you should not dive 24 hours before your flight home.
Breakfast and check out no later than 10 am.
Transfer to the airport or hotel.