Because of Egypt’s accessibility and proximity to Europe, the Red Sea suffers from over exposure. Many of the reefs are showing signs of too many annual visitors. Therefore, it has become increasingly important to explore new dive sites in order to relieve the pressure put on those around Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh. This search has resulted in the discovery of several diveable wrecks in and around Ras Gharib. Today, these historically interesting wrecks are frequented by liveaboards with divers who are eager to explore virgin dive sites.
Currently, four major wrecks have been mapped in the region, but dive masters believe there are many more. Of those already discovered, the SS Scalar is the most famous. This Shell Oil tanker was sunk by German war planes while it was anchored in oil production area. Today, the bow and the stern are at a bright 30-38 feet (10-12 meters). The ship’s three boilers are still visible in the aft compartment. In addition, divers of all levels will also enjoy exploration of the SS Turkia, the MV Aboudy, and the MS Bakr. The SS Turkia and the MS Bakr both met their fate at the hand of warplanes while the MV Aboudy sank in a violent storm. All of these wrecks sit above 60 feet (18 meters).
For those interested in a winter escape, diving in Ras Gharib is year-round. This part of Egypt experiences warm winters and very hot summers. However water temperatures can vary significantly in the Gulf of Suez. Expect the warmest water temperatures to occur in August with an average of 82°F (28°C). The coolest water temperatures are recorded in February (72°F/22°C) when a 5mm wetsuit may be necessary to dive comfortably. Visibility is generally more than 60 feet (20 meters).
Technical and new divers alike will love the wrecks of Ras Gharib. They certainly offer an accessible alternative to the busy reefs of the Red Sea.
When to go
Rain and temperature
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What to see
As of yet, Ras Gharib has not been fully explored by scuba divers. Because of this it is hard to know what marine life is commonly seen, but it can be reasoned that the area’s fauna is similar to Hurghada and El Gouna. The few dive reports we’ve seen seem to confirm this theory.
Divers can expect a few soft corals that have grown on the area’s wrecks. These play host to plenty of reef fish including napoleon fish, humphead wrasse and trumpetfish.
Lucky divers might be rewarded with a turtle, leopard shark, reef shark or even a hammerhead at the more exposed sites. Barracuda, tuna and mackerel can occasionally be seen patrolling the wrecks and stonefish, mothfish and lionfish stalk their prey among the underwater growth. On the smallest side of things, nudibranchs and pipefish are plentiful.
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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings
Ras Gharib (Ghareb), located within the Red Sea Governorate, is the second largest Egyptian city in the Red Sea state. It is also the most important oil production area in Egypt. Geographically, it is located 93 miles (150km) north of Hurghada and sits on the Gulf of Suez. Immediately to the north, one will find Zaafarana and to the south, Wadi Dara.
Ras Gharib is a relatively new city. It got its start when French designer Gostave Eiffel built a lighthouse for the area in 1871. Shortly thereafter, the town was named ‘Ghareb’ after the region’s 1750 meter mountain of the same name. In 1932, the first residents moved in with the foundation of the Anglo-Egyptian Oil Company, a branch of Royal Dutch Shell, and the very first oil field. Over the years, the area was a strategic battle ground in quite a few wars, including World War II and the Yom Kippur War and several of the region’s wrecks are the result of malicious bombings. Today, the oil company is the Egyptian National Petroleum Company, but the town remains mainly an oil production area.
This town has not yet been touched by tourism. Most visitors to the area arrive to climb Jebel Gharib and divers tend to never touch land, instead preferring to travel via liveaboard. This will all soon change. Currently, a massive resort area is being built in Zaafarana, which will completely change the area, both on land and under the water. The Zafarana Beach Resort will host the normal tourist attractions as well as a complete dive center, bringing resources for enjoying an area that currently features tons of accessible dive sites without proper infrastructure. Come by liveaboard now before the crowds show up or wait for the wonderful resort to open in the next few years. The choice is yours. Either way, be sure to include Ras Gharib on your diving bucket list.
As most of the diving around Ras Gharib is completed by liveaboard, it’s likely that you won’t have much time to spend in the town itself. If you do find yourself around Ras Gharib, there is not yet a lot of tourist infrastructure. Most visitors arrive for the sole purpose of climbing Jebel Gharib (1757m) which is certainly an adventure.
While it is not yet completely developed, the Zafarana Beach Resort will be a great place for divers to base themselves. Here, all the necessary tourist amenities will be available including a beautiful beach, swimming pools and tennis courts. There will also be a dive shop for easy access to local wrecks.
Most diving in Ras Gharib is completed by live aboard with boats departing from Hughada or Sharm el-Sheikh, both of which host international airports. For independent travelers wishing to make their own way to Ras Gharib, the closest airports are Hurghada International Airport and Cairo International Airport. Either city would require about a three to five hour bus journey or private transfer to Ras Gharib.