Best Diving in Sudan

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Have you ever seen a documentary movie “Le Monde Sans Soleil” which brought Oscar to the father of Scuba diving Jacques Cousteau in 1964 for his incredible experiments of underwater living and studies of sharks? If not yet, then you might be thrilled to know that it is possible to see this “world without the sun” with your own eyes in the waters of Sudan.

The marine life is still as unspoiled as it used to be during Monsieur Cousteau’s time. You can pay tribute to him by visiting Precontinent II Wreck. There are also 2 wrecks which are included in the list of Top Wrecks of the World: Umbria and Toyota Wreck.

Many diving destinations, especially in the Deep South of the country, still remain rarely visited or even undiscovered. Each dive gives you an opportunity to come across at least one of the 6 shark species, Hammerhead Shark and Silky Shark being the most common.

Location

The Republic of Sudan is the third biggest country on the African continent. Egypt is one of its neighbors from the northern part. The eastern side stretches for 853km (530mi) along the Red Sea.

Port Sudan is the main portal to the Red Sea and it is located 20km (12mi) away from the Port Sudan New International Airport. The other international airport is located in the capital, Khartoum. The most convenient way to arrive in Port Sudan’s airport is to fly either from Dubai or from Cairo.

For security reasons, most of the divers choose liveaboards leaving from Port Sudan to explore this area of the Red Sea. Some of the boats also leave from the Egyptian Port Ghalib which is located 5km (3mi) from Marsa Alam International Airport.

It is possible to enter Sudan using a ferry from Egypt or Saudi Arabia, though it is a less recommended route.

You should note that a visa is needed to enter Sudan. The easiest way to get it is to arrange a visa via your diving operator. Please note that there should be no Israel visa or stamps in your passport, otherwise you will not be allowed to enter the country.

Please note that it is not allowed to import any alcohol to Sudan. Taking pictures or making a video of harbors, bridges, and military facilities is prohibited.

It is recommended to have US Dollars and Euro in cash as you will not be able to get cash at any bank in Port Sudan. Cash is needed for the payment of an entry permit fee and Sudanese taxes. Banknotes must be new or in good condition. Sudanese taxes are usually paid in Port Sudan or on the liveaboard.

Diving Review

The unstable political situation above the water which keeps tourists away from Sudan results in breathtaking underwater explorations. You get the best of visibility; untouched reefs; and sea creatures that still are hardly familiar with human beings.

The dive sites start close to the Port of Sudan, including the most famous Umbria and Toyota wrecks. This is the central zone of diving area. These spots are often usually used for check dives before travelling further on a liveaboard.

If you head to the northern part of Sudan, you will encounter such diving destinations as Angarosh, Mesharifa, Quita el-Banna, Abington, and Merlo Reef. The reefs are surrounded by deep waters and they are rarely visited. Mesharifa is famous for Manta Rays in June and October.

The area to the south from Port Sudan is known as Suakin Archipelago. Shaab Ambar, Jumna, Turtle Island, Pinnacle, Logan, and Keary are fantastic dive sites where you can enjoy Turtles, Manta, Eagle Ray, not to mention Sharks, the main consumers in the marine food chain.

If you manage to go to the Deep South of Sudan bordering with the waters of Eritrean, you can become a pioneer of one of the new dive sites. Dahrat Abid, Dahrat Qab, Darraka Island, and Habili Lore are just a few discovered destinations. The latter is famous as a kingdom of Silky Sharks.

You should note that there are many spots among deep waters. You need to closely monitor your depth as there are no decompression chambers in Sudan. The nearest chambers are located in Marsa Alam (Egypt). The only liveaboard in Sudan with a recompression chamber aboard is the Don Questo.

Best Dive Sites Overview

SS Umbria Wreck

She used to be a 155m (508ft.) long cargo and passenger’s vessel. SS Umbria belonged to Italy in 1940. She was traveling from Port Sudan to Eritrea trying to carry about 8600 tons of weapons aboard to support Germany as World War II had just started.  When British representatives were about to occupy the vessel, Italians sank the boat and all the cargo.

Now the wreck is included into the list of Top Wrecks of the World. She lies between 5-35m (16-114ft.) which makes it a perfect dive with no current; good visibility; plenty of hard and soft corals and marine life. The starboard propeller is a favorite background for underwater pictures as well as the remainings of cars and bottles of wine. The wreck is explosively impressive especially taking into consideration the dangerous detonators and aerial bombs still buried under the sea.

Blue Belt  (Toyota) Wreck

Blue Belt (also known as Blue Bell) used to be a 103m (337ft.) long cargo vessel belonging to Saudi Arabia. She was travelling from Jeddah to Port Sudan with a cargo of Toyota vehicles and spare parts. But either due to a mistake in the navigation or because of the bad weather she hit the reef and sank in 1977.

You should be prepared for a deep dive as the shallowest part is located at 21m (68ft.) while the stern lies at 83m (272ft.). Visibility is usually very good here, thus allowing for fabulous pictures of the marine inhabitants in front of wheels, steering wheels, and other parts of cars and trucks.  Snappers, Groupers, Trevallies, and Whitetip Reef Sharks will not hesitate to be part of the composition on your image.

Shaab Rumi  & Precontinent II Wreck

If there are heritage sites under the water, then Shaab Rumi is definitely the one. Its roots go back to the 1960s when the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau performed his unique marine project in Sudan’s waters to prove the possibility of living under the water. He and his team built an underwater village consisting of the Starfish House, the Submersible Cabin, the hangar called “Sea Urchin”, the Tool Shed for underwater equipment and scooters and shark cages spread between the depths of 30-50m (98-164ft.). Upon the completion of the experiment the hangar, the Shed and sharks cages remained to form artificial reefs.

The wrecks are located at the depth of 8-15m (26-49ft.) on the plateau in the form of a balcony overlooking the drop-offs. Probably being accustomed to feeding in this area sharks often visit Shaab Rumi. It is common to see Barracudas, Bumphead Parrotfish, Napoleons, Sweetlips, Snappers, and Jacks accompanied by Grey Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, and Whitetip Reef Sharks.

Angarosh Reef

This dive site is located in the northern part of Sudan diving area. The reef starts at 10m (32ft.) with a plateau at the depth of 25m (82ft.) and another one at 45m (147ft.) followed by the drop-off into the deep waters. Currents around the reef attract lots of fish and pelagic chased by the sharks. Angarosh Reef indeed has the right to be called “Mother of Sharks” in Arabic as the chances of seeing schools of Hammerhead Sharks sometimes reaching more than 50 at one time, Grey Reef Sharks, and Whitetip Reef Sharks are very high. Barracudas, Tunas, Groupers and occasional Tiger Shark and Manta Ray will be a perfect complement to this picturesque dive.

Sanganeb Reef

Sanganeb Reef is part of the Sanganeb National Marine Park. It preserves one of the healthiest Red Sea’s underwater ecosystems including some rare and endangered species. Coral gardens will fascinate you with Gorgonia, Anemones, Clams and plenty of reef inhabitants like Nudibranch, Anthias, Longnose Hawkfish, Lionfish, Bluespotted Stingray, and of course pelagic like Jacks, schools of Barracuda, Bumpheaf Parrotfish, and Napoleon. It is common to meet Turtle, Whitetip Reef Shark, Grey Reef Shark, and Hammerhead Sharks in the deeper area. There are several dive spots around the reef with average depths between 5-35m (16-114ft.). The reef is also famous for the lighthouse built by British colonial authorities. It is possible to take a closer look at it during the surface interval between the dives.

Habili Lory

This is one of the dive sites located near Dahrat Qab Island in the Deep South of Sudan. Habili Lory (“Home of Lorenzo (Lory)”), as well as most of other dive spots in this area, were discovered not long ago and they can be visited only when the weather is good.

Habili Lory is famous for a great variety of white, pale pink, yellow soft corals, huge Sea Fans, Table Corals, and Staghorn Corals. The reef starts at 5m (16ft.) followed by a plateau at 26m (85ft.) and a drop-off. Another great attraction of this dive site is Silky Sharks from time to time accompanied by Silvertip Shark, Grey Reef Shark, and Hammerhead Shark. Even Tiger Shark and Whale Shark were spotted several times at this Reef.

Best Dive Season

The best dive season lasts between October and July. Usually, liveaboards cease their operation between the middle of July and September as well as in January when most of them are on maintenance. It is common that dive safaris to the Deep South take place between April and June when the sea is calm.

The best visibility can be encountered in February-May. In average it stays between 25-30m (82-98ft.).

If you are looking for some particular species than it might be good to know that December-July is the best time to see Hammerhead Sharks. October is the Manta season, especially at Mesharifa Reef.

Dive Conditions

Generally, diving is made from liveaboards which operate only during the best diving season. Corals are located close to the surface that is why boats do not operate in bad weather and big waves to avoid crashing on the reefs.

The lowest water temperature can be encountered in December-February, when it stays between 23-26°C (73-78°F). So it is usually recommended to dive in 5mm wetsuit during this period. During April-July the sea gets as warm as 30°C (86°F), thus, 3mm wetsuit might be the best choice.

Currents in northern and central areas of Sudan are usually weak or medium. However, diving destinations in the Deep South are more exposed to strong currents.

Marine Life

Sudan marine life is a real treasury of species of the Red Sea. It gives shelter to big pelagic and predators that try to escape from the crowded northern part of the Red Sea.

You can encounter 6 species of sharks in Sudan: Grey Reef Shark, Whitetip Reef Sharks, Hammerhead Shark, Silky Shark, Silvertip Shark, and Tiger Shark. Sometimes it is possible to watch really big schools of Hammerheads. Another harmless representative of shark’s family, Whale Shark, can also be met in the area from time to time. Rays are often represented by Manta, Eagle Ray, and Bluespotted Stingray.  Turtles and Dolphins can be spotted in different areas of Sudan.

Corals are healthy and they hardly suffer from anchoring due to the low boat traffic in the area. The number of coral species is estimated around 400. Among them, you can enjoy beautifully colored soft corals, Anemones, Sea Fans, Staghorn Corals, and Table Corals. Giant clams of various colors can be found almost at any dive site.

The most common fish is Barracuda, Jacks, Tuna, Snappers, Napoleon, Groupers, Bumphead Parrotfish, Trevally, and Mackerel.

Land Accommodation

Land accommodation in Sudan is not recommended due to security reasons. If needed to spend a night before or after your liveaboard trip you’d better choose 5-star Coral Port Sudan Hotel or Sudan Red Sea Resort.

Coral Port Sudan Hotel

This 5-star Hotel is located in Port Sudan 4.5km (2.8mi) from the airport. The guests can be accommodated in Standard and Deluxe Rooms; Junior, Executive, and Presidential Suites. The facilities of the Hotel include a pool, a gym, and a restaurant. You can ask for a shuttle bus transfer to and from the airport.

Sudan Red Sea Resort

This is the first beachfront Eco Camp Resort in Sudan. It can be found 22km (13mi) to the north from Port Sudan. The reef is located right next to the Resort.

Sudan Red Sea Resort is also the only land-based diving operator is Sudan. Accommodation is possible in one of the bungalows with private entrances. Though the design is minimalistic, you will find a bedroom, a lounge area, and a bathroom in each bungalow. There is a restaurant on the territory of the hotel and a Bedouin tent to take some tea and coffee.

The dive center offers daily diving serviced by a 14m (45ft) long boat. You can visit the nearby Shub Rumi, Sanganeb as well as Umbria and Toyota wrecks.

Liveaboard

Liveaboard is the best option to get acquainted with the underwater world of Sudan. It is recommended due to safety reasons. Liveaboard also provides the possibility to reach some of the most southern destinations and little-known dive spots.

Sudan is supposed to be a destination for advanced divers because of the abysses and long boat trips. You need to travel about 386km (240mi) to get to some of the Deep South sites.

Usually, boat operators require the divers to have at least AOWD level and 50 logged dives for diving in the northern and the central parts of Sudan. If you wish to travel further to the South you need to have a deep diver specialty and 100 logged dives.

Generally, a liveaboard package in Sudan includes accommodation, full board, transfers and assistance in Port Sudan, non-alcoholic beverages, and unlimited diving (depending on weather conditions).

M/Y Andromeda

This is a 40m (131ft.) long 5-star liveaboard. She was custom-made to serve the diving purposes. She can accommodate up to 26 guests in 1 Honeymoon Suite, 2 Queen-bed Cabins, and 10 Twin bed Cabins. All cabins are rather spacious with en-suite bathrooms, A/C, and complementary towels. Guests can relax on the 4 decks including a 100 m² (1076ft²) sundeck. There are a European Salon lounge and an Arabian café offering Arabic music and shisha aboard. Diving is performed from 3 Zodiacs attached to the boat.

Cassiopeia

She is a twin sister of M/Y Andromeda also providing 5-star liveaboard services. Guests can choose from 1 Honeymoon Suite, 4 Queen-bed Cabins, and 8 Twin bed Cabins. Cassiopeia also features a huge sundeck, a spacious lounge, and an Arabian cafe with shisha aboard.

The Don Questo

This is the only 33m (108ft.) long liveaboard in Sudan with a recompression chamber aboard. The Don Questo used to be an oceanographic research boat owned by Italians. Later it was re-designed into a liveaboard, however, the recompression chamber remained which makes this boat unique in the region.

Guests can be accommodated in 7 Double Cabins and 1 Triple Cabin. 5 toilets and 4 showers need to be shared between the guests. The boat features a recreational room, a dining room, and an upper sun deck. The diving deck has a hydraulic platform which makes transfers between the boat and 2 Zodiacs very comfortable. Another unique feature of this liveaboard is a diver search and location security system.

The liveaboard provides both recreational and scientific diving itineraries in all the areas of Sudan. Most of the diving destinations in the Deep South were discovered on this boat.

MV Royal Evolution

MV Royal Evolution is a 39m (127ft.) long liveaboard. She was one of the first vessels to provide itineraries from Port Ghalib in the southern Egypt. You can choose an accommodation in one of the 10 Twin Cabins or 2 Double Main Deck Cabins. Each Cabin features en-suite shower, A/C, and a music system. There is a big sun deck and a dive deck equipped with Nitrox and Photo editing facilities.

The itinerary usually covers the southern Egyptian dive sites as well as northern and central dive sites in Sudan during the 15-day trip.

M/Y Dolce Vita

M/Y Dolce Vita is a 38m (124ft.) long liveaboard. You can choose between 6 Twin Cabins on the lower deck, 2 Twin Cabins on the main deck, and 2 Double Cabins on the upper deck. Each Cabin has its own shower and toilet. The liveaboard also features a large sun deck, a dive deck, a salon, and a living room.

MY Voyager

She is a 40m (131ft.) long luxury liveaboard being part of Scuba Adventure Fleet. MY Voyager usually departs from Port Sudan. She can accommodate up to 25 guests in 1 Suite, 2 Double Bed Cabins, 1 Triple Cabin, 1 Bunk Bed Cabin, and 7 Deluxe Double Cabins. All cabins have en-suite bathrooms; complimentary towels and bathrobes are provided for the comfort of the guests. The meals are served on the buffet basis together with free non-alcoholic beverages.

Other Activities For Non-Divers

Port Island of Suakin

Due to security reasons, there are not many places which are recommended for visiting before or after your diving trip. Port Island of Suakin is one of these few spots. It used to be the main ancient port in Sudan located 50km (31mi) to the north from Port Sudan. For some time, it was the richest port in the area where all buildings were made of corals decorated with stone and wood coverings. However, as soon as slave trading disappeared, the port became useless. Now you can visit the ruins of this medieval luxury place.

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