Egypt sits on the bucket lists of many a shipwreck diving enthusiast, and for a few very good reasons. The Red Sea is legendary for its rough waters, fierce storms, as well as its maze of reefs and submerged islands. This combination makes the Red Sea off of Egypts coasts one of the great graveyards of antique and modern ships.
The Red Sea is littered with the remains of ships, past and present, making your options practically endless when it comes to diving shipwrecks. However, not everyone can spend months in Egypt sailing from one wreck to another.
Here are a list of the 5 best shipwrecks off the coast of Egypt that you must see if you are limited on time.
The magnificent Thistlegorm is THE most famous shipwreck dive in all of Egypt, and for good reason. This wreck is located off the coast of Shaab-Ali. What makes it so special is the cargo that the Thistlegorm carried on the day it sank. The ship is a veritable underwater World War II museum.
The relics onboard are unmatched by any other ship in the world, and include weapons, trucks, armored cars built on Rolls Royce Chassis, motorcycles, trailers, vehicle spares, aircraft and aircraft parts, radios, and even boots.
The fatal blow to the Thistlegorm is one that happened rapidly and with no warning, therefore leaving no time to save the cargo, and barely enough time for the crew to save themselves.
The Thistlegorm was safely anchored in the Suez Canal, awaiting clearance for passage when German intelligence derived that there was a large ship, supposedly carrying British troops to North Africa anchored there. A troop of Heinkel He 111’s had recently mastered the skill of night flying, and were based in Crete which is within fairly easy distance to the reported ship.
At 2250 hours, on October 5th, 1941 two of the twin-engine Heinkels headed out to sea in search of this rumored ship. Just as they were on the point of returning unsuccessful, one of the pilots spotted the Thistlegorm. The pilot came in low over the sea and approached the bow of the Thistlegorm, dropping two bombs right over her bridge.
The damage is extensive, and can still be seen by divers sometimes left wondering what in the world they are looking at when faced with the peeled steel. The ship remained in her watery grave, filled with the precious cargo, undisturbed. That is, until the early 1950’s when Jacques Cousteau discovered her whereabouts. He removed a motorcycle, the captain’s safe, and the ship’s bell. Then left, refusing to reveal where the shipwreck was located.
The ship remained undiscovered off Egypt’s coast until the early 90’s, when some divers happened upon the Thistlegorm by mistake, rediscovering one of the world’s best and most diveable shipwrecks. Unfortunately, many divers have followed in the example set by Cousteau and have stolen many valuable relics from the ship, some destroying cars and other vehicles to get to them.
However, even with the decline of this ship by the very result of her popular status, it remains for now the MOST spectacular shipwreck in Egypt, and is a must see for any diver.
The Aida is located off of the Brother’s Islands, which is part of the “Marine Parks” system, and a therefore takes a little planning and forethought. The “Marine Parks” is accessible by boat, an added expense which must be paid in cash before departure, and the Parks can also be closed on fairly short notice.
That being said, the hassle is worth it, for the Aida is one of the most spectacular dives Egypt’s coasts have to offer. The bit of extra legwork also insures that it won’t be crowded as you explore this most fascinating shipwreck. The Brothers are also known for their shark population and strong currents, which attract a myriad of beautiful fish.
The Aida has a great history behind it. On the 15th of September 1957, the Captain of the Ada was on a mission to exchange military personnel on Big Brothers Island. Storms were raging and the wind and waves were wreaking havoc on the sea. Despite the threat, the captain decided to go ahead. Almost immediately after departure from port, the Ada began to sink and the Captain had to abandon his ship.
This shipwreck has something for just about every diver, even the advanced. The ship remains largely intact, except the woodwork, of course, and after over 45 years underwater, has become part of the reef that it struck all those years ago.
Because of this, the coral is incredibly abundant, especially in the shallower parts of the dive. The diver can witness amazing bursts of color and life all around, including very large grouper, tuna, and Vanikoro Sweepers.
The Aida has a reputation for being one of Egypt’s very best unspoiled shipwrecks. It’s worth taking on the extra time and expense.
The Numidia http://www.aquatours.com/wrecks/numidia.htm
Close to the Aida off the reef of The Brothers Islands, lies the Numidia. It is on a very steep slope at the base of Big Brother. In fact, part of it is too deep to be considered safe, but the expert diver might be tempted.
The Numidia left Liverpool under the command of Mr. John Craig on July 16th, 1901 carrying around 7,000 tons of cargo and a crew of 97. Three days later, In the early hours of the 19th July, 1901, the Numidia was passing by Shadwan Island around 19:00 hrs. Right before dawn, the Island of Big Brother came in to view.
The Captain decided to change course. He thought he would take the ship over one mile to anchor at the west of the Island. At about 2:10am the ship ran aground on Big Brothers Island north of the lighthouse. The captain and crew spent two intense hours of trying to dislodge from the rocks. Finally the engines were stopped. All hope was lost and the Numidia was taking on lots of water. The crew had no choice but to abandon their ship.
Most of the cargo was removed in the next seven weeks before the Numidia sank, but many everyday items are still where they were left when the ship sank, such as the pots and pans that still rest in the galley.
The fishlife and coral on this shipwreck are just as impressive as that on the neighboring Aida. Most of the wooden flooring has been obliterated by marine worms, which allows lots of light for great visibility as you explore many of the sections of this ship, like the fascinating engine room with many gauges still intact.
The Kingston http://www.touregypt.net/vdc/Thesarah.htm
The Kingston is one of the most well-preserved and easily accessible shipwrecks off the coasts of Egypt. It is located on Shag Rock on the Sinai Peninsula, and despite clear evidence of portholes and other “souvenirs” being pillaged, this is a really great wreck for diving. The weight of its coal cargo keeps the ship together and allows it to stay upright, even in the strong currents.
The Kingston, formerly known as the “Sarah H.” when it was discovered in the early 90’s, has a story of bad judgement to blame for her demise. The Kingston, sailing under the command of Captain Cousins, cleared Suez Canal on February 20th, 1881. Cousins did not trust his crew and decided to remain in charge of the ship for the entire length of the Straits of Suez himself.
The captain did not sleep and obsessively double-checked every tiny detail of navigation. He did manage to navigate the Kingston through some very treacherous waters. However, when the Kingston was nearing the open Red Sea and, Cousins felt that the immediate dangers were now over and that he could relax, even though it was dark. He gave instructions to the First Mate and quickly went to sleep in his cabin.
He had been awake for almost 2 days at that point, but he wouldn’t rest long. In the early morning hours, on February 22nd, the Kingston struck Shag Rock. For two long days, captain and crew fought to keep the Kingston afloat, but it became a lost cause. Everyone was able to evacuate to lifeboats where they were found only two hours later, after the ship sank.
What makes this dive stand out, aside from its remarkable condition, is its proximity to some really incredible hard coral reef coastline, which provides a beautiful backdrop and which has also covered the shipwreck and attracted tons of colorful fish life.
The Zingara http://www.touregypt.net/vdc/Zingara.htm
The Zingara is a rare find, in that it hasn’t been heavily looted to my knowledge, and though she was severely damaged in the wreck, most everything is clearly visible and still in order. This wreck is also still somewhat shallow, even part of the stern still breaks the surface of the ocean.
A more recent shipwreck, the Zingara, set sail from the Aqaba, Jordan on August 21st, 1984. Only the next day, she ran aground at Laguna Reef at high speed, neatly separating top from bottom, and was declared a total loss.
The split of top from bottom provides remarkably clear views right into the inner workings of the Zingara. Railings and bollards are still in place on the upper deck, as are the ships rudder and propeller.
This shipwreck is absolutely covered in beautiful hard coral in all their glory, which also surround the wreck. The sea life here cannot be beat, as many incredible species of fish have been reported here in great number, even several species of turtle.
A great dive for shipwreck enthusiasts, as well as sea life lovers. One of many great dives that can be found off the coasts of Egypt. If only we all had months to spend there…
These are only a handful of the fantastic shipwreck dives in the Red Sea. Please comment below to share your favorites!