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Sudan’s Red Sea coast is one of the best SCUBA diving destinations in the world- with amazing coral formations and underwater marine life, unforgettable shipwrecks, big schools of fish, and some of the healthiest shark and ray populations globally. Diving pioneers like Jacques Cousteau (Calypso) and Hans Hass made their names here more than 60 years ago. With a wide range of sites to explore, SCUBA diving or snorkeling is a must do activity while visiting Sudan Marine National Parks.
Sudan has several excellent diving sites in some of the most unexplored areas across the Red Sea. Famous dives like the Umbria Wreck, Toyota Wreck and Cousteau’s Conshelf II are quite simply some of the most remarkable and unforgettable sites to explore.
The Sanganeb coral reef is truly a beautiful site to dive or snorkel. The reef rises from depths of 800m, the outer drop-offs boast caves and gullies, and one of the richest displays of soft coral in the Red Sea. The reef is recognized for its high levels of biodiversity. Large schools of barracuda, jacks and snappers are regularly seen and in the depths, hammerhead sharks. The famous grey stone British-built lighthouse is situated on the reef where visitors can climb to the top and overlook the remarkable coral reef.
Pfaiffer is located in the very far north of Dungonab Bay and Mukkawar Island National Park. This is a triangular-shaped reef situated offshore from the mainland coast of the Rawaya Peninsula in waters between 100 and 200 m deep. Reaching 3 and 4 m below the sea surface, Pfaiffer is a submerged reef, with an abundance of corals, pelagic fish, sharks and hammerhead sharks.
This remote reef is one of the popular dive sites in Dungonab Bay and Mukkawar Island National Park. There is the opportunity to see hammerheads, tiger, silvertips and grey reef sharks as well as schooling of barracuda.
Angarosh means the “Mother of Sharks” in the local language and is appropriately named because of the number of sharks found in the area. Angarosh is located within Dungonab Bay and Mukkawar Island National Park. The top of the reef lies 10m beneath the water surface and is made up of two plateaus, the shallower plateau going down to 25m, and another plateau going down to 45m. The site is most famous for its remarkable manta rays, however hammerheads, tiger, silvertips and grey reef sharks are commonly seen as well as schooling of barracuda.
Merlot is a beautiful reef located south west of Angarosh. The corals are healthy and sharks and sometimes mantas can be seen here. There is also a small wreck on the northwest side of the reef.
Sha’ab Rumi, one of the most extraordinary and famous coral barriers lies 48 kilometers north of Port Sudan. The annular reef is one of the most popular destinations in Sudan for shark diving. Gray reef sharks, whitetip sharks, silky sharks and the globally threatened hammerhead sharks are almost always present at the dives in Sha’ab Rumi.
Sha’ab Rumi is also popular among the global diving community because of the underwater remnants of Jacques Cousteau’s 1963 Conshelf II experiment where he filmed the movie “World without the sun”. He and his team conducted their underwater experiments here and today the Precontinent II provides a glimpse into the lives of those who existed and carried out experiments of marine life underwater in futuristic-looking structures. The cages used for studying sharks still lie where they did in Cousteau’s time.
At present Sha’ab Rumi does not have any protective legislation or status even though it represents the most important historical dive site in Sudan and will be integral to the future growth of Sudan’s dive tourism sector.
Since Port Sudan used to be one of the most important ports in the world, there are numerous exciting wrecks waiting to be discovered. Two significant shipwrecks are present within and not very far from Sanganeb Atoll Marine National Park. The first is of a coastal dhow that struck the outer reef over 20 years ago and the other is of a luxury yacht that sank in the lagoon after years of neglect. The luxury yacht, ‘The White Elephant’ was once owned by Elizabeth Taylor.
The Blue Belt was a Saudi Arabian general cargo vessel that sunk on December 2, 1977, after collision with the reef in Sha’ab Suedi, about 75km north of Port Sudan. This cargo was carrying with it 190 Toyota vehicles when she sunk, which is why the wreck is often called “Toyota Wreck”.The wreck lies upside down on an incline from 20m to a maximum of about 36m with vehicles scattered all around the slope, making it a very unique dive. You can dive around the trucks and cars which have become encrusted with corals.
The “Umbria” is one of the best preserved wrecks in the Red Sea and considered one of the most famous sunken ships in the world. Lying in the shelter of Wingate Reef, just outside Port Sudan and largely unaffected by currents and tides, it is within easy reach of Port Sudan harbor.
This Italian war supply vessel was built in 1912 in Hamburg and sank in 1940 when enroute to Eritrea, still loaded with a huge cargo of bombs and weaponry. Shallow enough for snorkelers and with plenty of light and good visibility, entering most of the ship is easy. The hull itself is completely intact, heavily encrusted with marine life and has access internally and externally along its entire length.
The diving season in Sudan runs from September to June, as July and August are extremely hot. It can get very windy in November and December, so while this is the season for hammerhead sharks, expect rougher conditions.
There are between 10 to 13 dive boats that offer dive tours in Sudan, some of which are run by owners who have made Sudan home for more than 20 years. There are a number of tour operators that can organize your entire trip, including travel and visas. Each of the boats offer a number of different itineraries, which include routes with dives to the north or south of Port Sudan. The northern routes tours typically include dives in both Sanganeb Atoll Marine National Park and Dungonab Bay-Mukkawar National Park.
Sudan may not be a high profile tourist destination, but SCUBA diving tourism is on the rise. Currently, about 5000 divers come to Sudan every year. Given the reputation of the quality of Sudan’s Red Sea water and its diving sites, tourism will increase in the following years. To manage this expected influx, it is critical to promote responsible diving while preserving the dive sites. Diving, while like any tourist activity, is not free of impacts on marine environments, in these regards we must have a particular concern for sensitive habitats. Repeated anchoring by boats on reefs can damage the reef. Divers who do not have good control over their buoyancy or swim too close to the reef can also break the fragile corals. Besides these direct impacts, the construction and the operation of hotels in inappropriate sites may cause the death of entire reefs because of the sedimentation or organic pollution or chemical effluents.