Diving - The adventure continues!
Gulf of Aqaba, Jordan
The main purpose of our visit to Jordan was to visit archaeological sites, notably Petra, but also Jerash, Um Qais and others.
However, I always like to try and combine trips with an opportunity to dive, so we arranged to spend 3 days at the end of our tour in Aqaba on the very north of the Red Sea (in the narrow stretch known as the Gulf of Aqaba).
We stayed at the Movenpick Tala Bay hotel, which is a lovely 5 star hotel about 15-20 minutes drive out of Aqaba itself (and only around 5KM from the Saudi border).
Onsite at the hotel was a branch of Sinai Divers so, whilst I might have saved a bit of money shopping around the various dive centres in Aqaba, I plumped for convenience and used them.
On arrival, early Saturday afternoon, I popped into see them with my certifications and asked to do a dive. It was proposed I dive on Kiwi Reef, which is the house reef, directly off the hotel beach, which I was happy to do.
When I returned, I met Moe and we kitted up and headed into the water.
The first couple of hundred yards had a lot of sea grass and the odd coral outcrop, making it feel a bit like swimming through a flooded field, but as we descended, the sea grass cleared and the coral outcrops became bigger.
One notable feature of this reef is the large number of Eels and Moe had no trouble finding plenty in different sizes and colours for me to look at.
I’d forgotten to bring my camera for this dive, but it was certainly an excellent ‘house reef’ (little visited, it seems as it’s the most southerly reef from Aqaba and the other dive centres’ boats).
The dive went well, so next day Moe proposed we dive the ‘Cedar Pride’ wreck.
I’m always happy to dive a wreck and this, much like HMS Scylla or the Um El Faroud, was deliberately sunk to act as an artificial reef and diving attraction.
Descending to the 'Cedar Pride'
The ship is about 80M long and was a Lebanese freighter before becoming a reef.
We travelled to the wreck on the dive centre’s small hardboat and rolled in. From the surface the wreck was visible beneath us and we descended the shot line to the stern.
The Cedar Pride lies on her port side, so we swam alongside the deck, from the stern to the bow, passing the mast, now thick with coral growth. There were a fair number of fish visible around the wreck.
Mast of the 'Cedar Pride' alive with coral
Bow of the 'Cedar Pride'
Passing the bow, we swam over to the nearby Rainbow Reef and explored that for a while, before turning back and heading over to the wreck again.
Abundant life on Rainbow Reef
We swam into the open holds and along through them before popping out again at the superstructure and swimming back around to the stern and the rudder and propellor where we saw a Dogfish Puffer fish and some other, larger fish.
It would have been good to come back and look around inside.
After a bit more time on the wreck, we made our way back up the shotline, taking in a 3 minute safety stop.
Dogface Puffer on the 'Cedar Pride'
Couple of fish on the propellor of the 'Cedar Pride'
The Cedar Pride is a nice wreck, my only regret is that we didn’t return and explore the interior of the ship as I suspect that would be pretty interesting too.
A video of a couple of my dives in Aqaba
That afternoon, I returned and we dived the ‘Seven Sisters’. This is, unsurprisingly, 7 rock pinnacles, with lots of coral.
'Lunafish' shoals quite common in Aqaba
Large Puffer fish
There were plenty of fish around, including lots of Jacks (They seem to call them ‘Lunafish’), Lionfish, Pufferfish of various types (I think it was on this dive that we saw a Stonefish too).
We also visited a ‘Duster’ AFV sunk as an artificial reef, and working too, judging from the coral growing in the gun’s breech and huge number of fish inside.
I explore the Duster
Coral established around the guns
There was a tiny Pipefish here, too, Basically, a straightened out Seahorse.
The next day, we started the day with a dive at ‘Black Rock’ reef.
This reef drops off steeply and we descended down to around 30M (Moe said it’s around 50M to the bottom). There was lots of coral here, but fewer fish than on the previous dives .
Lizard Fish well camoflauged on Coral
Fan like worm pops out!
We did still see a very large Parrotfish and a big Boxfish.
There were also shoals of the blue Jacks again and a fair number of the usual reef fish.
My final dive was back on Kiwi Reef, the house reef.
As I’d not taken my camera the first time, I wasn’t too disappointed to dive this again and actually it turned out to be quite an interesting dive.
Small coral outcrops typical of Kiwi Reef
Moe found plenty of Eels (although, sadly, my photos of them were pretty poor on the whole), including one tiny purple and yellow one at around 25M.
One of the better Eel photos I got
For some reason, I seemed to use a lot of air on this dive and let Moe know that I was down to 80Bar when we were down around 28M. We swam back up and spotted a few more pipefish.
Lionfish on Kiwi Reef
On our 6M safety stop, I spotted a thin, but fairly sizable, green and yellow banded sea creature. Moe didn’t seem to spot it, but as I was pretty low on air by now I couldn’t swim off to investigate it, so snapped this shot (almost blind) from a distance.
Not a great photo, but you can see the Sea Snake!
When we got out, I described it as a ‘large Pipefish’, but Moe seemed baffled until I said “It almost looked like a snake”. “Oh yes”, he replied, “we have a sea snake here, I’ve seen him a few times!”.
It was a first for me, though, so I was pretty pleased to have spotted it.
Sinai Divers and Moe, who I dived with each dive, were great to dive with. Obviously I’m reasonably experienced and didn’t really require a lot of supervision, so it was really just like diving with someone who knew the area, but across the 5 dives, I certainly saw things I wouldn’t have seen on my own, Moe’s eye was good at finding critters I would have missed.
I probably wouldn’t recommend people travel to Aqaba just to dive, but there was certainly enough sites to see something different on each dive for a few dives and some, like the Cedar Pride, would certainly have stood a return visit.
Visibility was probably 20 or more metres at all times, not crystal clear like the open ocean in the Azores, but luxury for anyone used to UK diving!
As a bit of a bonus, added to the end of our excellent trip to Jordan, it was perfect for me, although Mandy found that opportunities to snorkel were very limited compared to Sharm El Sheikh, which we visited some years ago.
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