Hammerheads, grey reef sharks and whatnot

And here is what happened during another amazing week! Our last safari this season departed from Port Sudan with Andromeda last week. Right away we met up with grey reef sharks above the south plateau at Shaab Rumi and we counted about 15-20 hammerheads here and at Angarosh as well. We saw an eagle ray at Qita el Bana and we ran into ghost needlefish at Umbria.

Tour date: May 19-26, 2012
Itinerary: Sudan-North
Air temperature: 35-40 °C
Water temperature: 28-29 °C
Visibility: 20-30 m

Thankfully the group arrived in time, at around 11 o’clock at night and boarded Andromeda. The next day our check dives were at Shaab Suedi. Monday started with 15 hammerheads off the bat at Angarosh. Because the waters have already started to get warmer, the sharks have begun moving further south. Nonetheless, we were able to dive with hammerheads during our second dive as well. Our third dive was at one of Shambaia’s reefs.

We ran into an eagle ray at Qita el Bana the following day. Then we went on to Blue Belt and the Precontinent but sadly visibility was not as good as last week. The currents were barely noticeable but this did not bother a few sizeable grey reef sharks who were stationed above the south plateau. The other group noticed a larger school of hammerheads in the distance at about 50-60 metres but even from 40 metres only their shady silhouettes were visible.

Shaab Rumi bid us farewell in style the following morning – a school of 20 hammerheads spent some time with us along with mackerels as you can see from the video here. At Sanganeb a giant school of barracudas circled above us. Visibility was good enough to be able to watch from the outer coral wall the ever-changing circular shapes they were taking on. Our night dive and our 2 dives the following day were at the wreck of Umbria.

A peculiar little creature was snapped by the cameras while diving at Umbria. This little fish is called the ghost needlefish. It mainly lives in Indonesia and it is rare to see in the Red Sea. We saw only a couple of them at wreck of Umbria. They are the Harlequin ghost needlefish (Solenostomus paradoxus). The maximum length is 12cm and they can hide easily among the corals. They can often be seen hanging upside down. Can it be that Umbria proves to be exciting not only to wreck divers but to the lovers of the macro world as well?

Our colleague Daniel Selmeczi was onboard Andromeda this week again and we thank him for this week’s photographic materials.

Hammerheads and a scooter in Sudan

We have always known that the best diving is in Sudan, as this is the region in the Red Sea that is the richest in marine species but this past week had surpassed all our expectations. We have never seen so many things all at once! Hammerheads and grey reef sharks, dolphins and pilot whales!

Tour date: May 12-19, 2012
Itinerary: Sudan-North
Air temperature: 35°C
Water temperature: 28-29°C
Visibility: 40-60m

The group arrived onboard Andromeda luckily in time, at around 10 o’clock at night, so there was no trouble with the early morning start Sunday. We followed our usual route towards Shaab Suedi, already in the company of dolphins. We did the check dive at Shaab Suedi and the second and night dives at Gota Shambaia.

There were 2 dives at Angarosh Monday morning, the first of which was with a great school of hammerheads. Then we were on to Merlo Reef where curious sharks swarmed among lush marine life, and later continued on to Gota Shambaia.

The following morning we went for our first dive at Qita el Banna. Its walls drop steep in the deep with large coral beds and lots of sharks and other fish frequenting the place. We dove with a lonely hammerhead. Then it was Blue Belt at Shaab Suedi, where the most interesting sight is the 2,545-tonn wreck of the Blue Belt freighter. That afternoon and night we dove at Shaab Rumi’s Precontinent. We have not had such good visibility at this site probably this whole season.

Our Wednesday was spent at Shaab Rumi, as usual, in the company of burly fish and the usual great number of sharks. We met up with great schools of hammerheads and grey reef sharks along with giant humphead parrotfish in relatively weak currents, for a change.

One of the guests brought a scooter along which proved to be great entertainment for the team during the week. They were flying, playing train under the water as you can see in the video here.

There was one more dive at Shaab Rumi Thursday morning where again, an amazing size and group of hammerheads passed by us. Then came Sanganeb’s giant atoll’s north and south side, which lies 30km northeast of Port Sudan. On the north we ran into a 30-member hammerhead group, while on the south about 100 titan triggerfish laid, making this a spectacular but very careful dive. Our night dive and last day was spent at the wreck of Umbria with excellent visibility among rich marine life.

This week our colleague Daniel Selmeczi was also onboard Andromeda, so this week the images are courtesy of him.

The romantic side of Sudan

Last week the Sudanese Red Sea showed its most romantic side. Divers were able to experience some rare excitements. Scores of dates with hammerhead and grey reef sharks, a breathtaking encounter with a manta, the company of a turtle and we can go on. This is the only place on Earth where we can dive with these amazing animals together week after week and all divers visiting Sudan are awed by their sight.

Tour date: May 5 -12, 2012
Itinerary: Sudan-North
Air temperature: 35 °C
Water temperature: 27-28 °C
Visibility: 20 m

The group arrived onboard Andromeda at 10 o’clock Sunday morning, so we were able to start our first dive only in the afternoon, giving everybody some well deserved rest before the check dive.

Monday morning we started the first dive at Blue Belt, better known as the Toyota wreck. Our first meeting with a giant manta was on our second dive, at Qita El Bana, the video of which we have included here for you. The third dive was on the South side of Merlot with hammerhead sharks and a turtle. Our night dive was at Gota Shambaia.

On our morning dive Tuesday at Angarosh we saw a few hammerhead and grey reef sharks. Then we continued on to Shaab Rumi of which everybody – having seen the plenty of great footage these past weeks – had very high expectations. The day’s third dive was at the Precontinent where Cousteau proved in 1963 that divers are able to live underwater for long periods of time. The documentary of this – which probably every diver visiting Sudan has seen – is a world classic to this day. At the entrance of Shaab Rumi we discovered the eerie remains of the research station, lying on the shallow plateau. We missed our night dive because of the strong currents.

Shaab Rumi met us with very strong South currents on Wednesday morning but thanks to this, also with lots of sharks too. The huge range of the reef’s unparalleled marine life was waiting for us this week too as always… unfortunately with some poorer visibility due to the currents.

Our first dive on Thursday was still at Shaab Rumi. Although the currents weakened a bit, nonetheless we met up with a school of 20 hammerheads and uncountable grey reef sharks. Eager fish lovers were able to discover all of the Red Sea’s fish species along the walls of this dive site alone. Our second and third dives were at Sanganeb with hammerheads and a huge school of barracudas. We anchored for the night at Umbria.

The last dives on Friday were at the wreck of Umbria. This was a romantic week in every aspect. We have been sailing virtually all alone along the Sudanese reefs these past weeks. We are only able to experience such rich sights and such peaceful dives at these dive sites in the Red Sea.

Perfect shark statistics

Turtle escort, small caves, drift dives and surprise! – this week again perfect shark statistics! The guests took over the kitchen on the last night of the tour and invited the crew to a scrumptious dinner.

Tour date: April 28 – May 5, 2012
Itinerary: Sudan-North
Air temperature: 30-35 °C
Water temperature: 27 °C
Visibility: 20m

The group arrived onboard Andromeda relatively early, at 1:30 Sunday morning. We followed the usual route for our check dive the same morning. Our first dive was at Shaab Suedi Fasma, followed by Gota Shambaia.

Monday morning Angarosh was waiting for us, where in the big blue at 35 metres we saw the first bigger school of hammerheads. The water came to life, flashes and cameras started to work. The second dive here was almost the mirror image of the first one. Then we somersaulted out of the zodiacs at the southern side of Merlot for a nice, cinema-like dive. We difted by beautiful tiny caves being escorted by a curious turtle. The rays of sunshine shimmering through from above mesmorised us all. Our night dive was at Shambaia Reef.

On Tuesday the south winds picked up, so we turned back. Our morning dive at Quita el Banna was made perfect by the sight of another group of hammerheads, surprisingly. Then came Shaan Suedi and Blue Belt, or better known as the Toyota wreck. Under the water it becomes clear why the name. There are numerous Toyota cars and parts scattered around the sea bed. It would be no use removing the cars from the water as the Blue Belt cargo ship sank in the 1970s, so these cars would be quite useless these days on the roads. The deepest point of the wreck is at 90 metres. The beauty of the dive was just enhanced by the gorgeous soft corals.

Then came Shaab Rumi and Cousteau’s Precontinent – the dive site with the hundred faces but with quite a bit of current this time. There were things from over 40 years ago that Cousteau and his team had used, underwater scooter garage, their underwater quarters and the shark cages. Because of the strong currents, the night dive was cancelled.

On Thursday at Shaab Rumi the currents made the team sweat but thanks to numerous grey reef sharks, nobody was bothered by it above the plateau. Some of the divers in better condition and with more stamina, swam out into the blue to see about 50 hammerheads cruising by.

Friday morning was spent at Shaab Rumi with hammerheads and grey reef sharks then we were off to Sanganeb. Visibility was not the best because of the currents, so we continued on to Umbria after the first dive to dive this wonderful reef which you can see in our video shot this week.

Reporting from Sudan 6.

Can you get bored of seeing sharks for 2 weeks straight? Seeing them on every one of your dives? One shark is not a shark, say the more experienced divers, but 30-50 sharks on every dive… Now that is real Sudanese diving Paradise!

Tour date: April 14-28, 2012
Itinerary: Sudan North-South 2-week safari
Air temperature: 30-33 °C
Water temperature: 27 °C
Visibility: 20-40 metres

This season’s only 2-week diving safari ended last week. The team has posed us a big challenge as they are a cohesive, well-travelled group looking for true adventures who have travelled half the world but we were able to show them our best onboard and underwater during these 2 weeks in Sudan.

The divers boarded Andromeda at 6:30 in the morning, so the check-dive was delayed and we headed straight South, so everybody had a chance to rest a bit before the first dive. Jumna was the most spectacular from among the Southern sites but Logan, Pinnacolo and Ambar were equally amazing however the large fish were not really present at these sites this time. After a few days in the South, we stopped at Umbria and while the team was diving, the boat got loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables and water.

The next day we started our dives at Sanganeb and we saw a few grey reef sharks but the real show began the following day at Shaab Rumi. There were no dives where we did not see hammerheads and not just one or two but 30-50 of them at a time! After spending a few days at Shaab Rumi we continued on North. Where we were supposed to see sharks, we did see sharks and plenty of them!

On our way back at Qita el Banna, a dive site that is not really known for hammerheads, we were still able to see them. Shaab Rumi outdid itself as even during the late afternoon dives hammerheads were stationed there.

Our last day was at Sanganeb North – and to repeat the earlier –, with plenty of hammerheads crowning this dive too. This 2-week team did not have anything to complain about as this was one of our tours richest in big fish this season.

So far…

Thank you Eva M. Nemethne for the photos!

Reporting from Sudan 5.

Last week we were off again to roam the wonderful northern reefs of the Red Sea’s Sudan region. We invite you to an exciting boating during which you will see what we saw, where we were, where we drifted… Posseidon was generous again as there was plenty to see and plenty of currents and our weekly harvest was quite diverse and rich in sharks!

Tour date: April 7 – 14, 2012
Destination: Sudan-North
Air temperature: 30-33 °C
Water temperature: 25-26 °C
Visibility: 20-30 m

The guests arrived at around 1 o’clock in the morning on Sunday and boarded Andromeda. We quietly left the harbour of Port Sudan early in the morning and headed for Shaab Suedi. The day was bright and the sun scorching which enabled us to sail all the way to Gota Shamaia following the check dive.

We did the first 2 dives on Monday at Angarosh in hair-raising currents. But we were able to catch the sight of a hammerhead and a couple of grey reef sharks too with our hair blowing in the current. We can say that pretty much the whole diving week was quite sporty like this along with some underwater flying but as you will see, all in all it was worth it. J We continued our exercises at Gota Shambia the same day.

We started our Tuesday at Angarosh in even tougher currents than the day before, not even being able to swim out towards the deeper plateau. The second dive was at Quita El Banna which was kind of like watching a movie in a current. We easily drifted motionless over the reef watching the show. The third dive was at Shaab Rumi’s Precontinent.

On Wednesday we jumped into the water over Shaab Rumi’s south plateau where the currents put us to the test once again but by the fourth day we got the hang of it J and reached the end of the plateau. And voila! Countless grey reef and hammerhead sharks awaited the sweaty team. There were some who fell behind while taking in the sight of the first sharks but most of us reached our goal and we could not get enough of the huge schools of sharks.

For the second dive at Shaab Rumi’s south plateau we trained beforehand onboard because we expected even stronger currents this time but we were able to dive with lots of sharks again. During the third dive we had it easy. We drifted weightless with the currents from Precontinent towards north. Our night dive was in a lagoon.

Our early morning dive on the fifth day was not without any difficulties but aside from the promising sight of pelagics, our underwater hair-raising speeding journey was exciting on its own. We saw plenty of hammerheads and reef sharks. For the second dive we jumped in at the southern part of Sanganeb as the wind was picking up. We drifted from the east to the west with the strong currents and our third dive was at the south plateau with some hammerheads and grey reef sharks. Night dive was at Umbria.

Exploring a bigger wreck can be a challenge for even experienced divers. Thankfully we were able to roam around the wreck of Umbria in calmer conditions for our last 2 dives. These were kind of warm-down dives after the week’s challenges.

This past week in Sudan can be really described as a training camp where we had to fight and struggle if we wanted to see anything but in the end everybody got to see what they expected to see in Sudan.

Due to the lack of video footage this week, we are sharing with you our best videos. And our next report will be 1 week later as we are having a 2-week adventure tour at the moment.

Reporting from Sudan 3.

The underwater world in Sudan this past week was full of excitement and adventure, to say the least! There were plenty to see and lots of surprises! The weather was also co-operating this week and we were able to adhere to our original itinerary. The guests arrived onboard at 4:30 Saturday morning and after getting all unpacked and settled, we were getting ready to start our trip.

Tour date: March 24-31, 2012
Itinerary: Sudan-North
Air temperature: 26-28C
Water temperature: 24C
Visibility: 20-30m

Check dive was at the usual Shaab Suedi site, thankfully in calm waters. Taking advantage of the great weather, we were off to Gota Shambaia after the dive, to get closer to the dive sites further North. The second dive was in the afternoon at Shambaia. On the way there a live dolphin show caught the attention of the divers which you can see in the video here.

The following morning we started at Angarosh where, to our delight, we met up with 10-15 hammerheads and a school of grey reef sharks right away. After the second dive, the following dive in the afternoon and the night dive was at Merlo Reef where we were able to marvel in the grey reef sharks hunting in the area.

On the third day at Angarosh we ran into hammerheads again then at Qita el Banna we met a manta as well. Our dive at Precontinent was at dusk.

Shaab Rumi’s South plateau provided the site for our next dive on the fourth day early in the morning where again about 20 hammerheads welcomed the group. During the second dive 20 grey reef sharks and of course, the hammerheads were circling around us. Night dive was at Precontinent.

On the fifth day we saw the usual hammerhead clan on the South plateau of Shaab Rumi then we did 2 dives at Sanganeb. This time instead of sharks we swam with schools of barracuda and jackfish so large that they made up for the lack of sharks. At the end of the day, the night dive was at the wreck of Umbria.

The final 2 dives on the sixth day were at Umbria which was again breathtaking!

The attached video is a testament to all the great things we saw this week! We have had a fantastic week and every dive has brought us unexpected surprises. The smile has remained on the faces of the group throughout the week.

Reporting from Sudan 2.

Sunday, 4 o’clock in the morning. The group arrived on the boat. The same morning Andromeda sailed out towards Shaab Suedi in windy and choppy conditions.

Date: March 17-24, 2012
Destination: Sudan North
Air temperatures: 28-33C
Water temperatures: 24-26C

At 11 o’clock in the morning the briefing took place and after detailed and complete instructions, we started our first dive at Shaab Suedi then the second dive in the early afternoon. The Sudan coral reefs along the shores are home to a swarming marine life, so already during the check dive we had the chance to be awed by the sight.

The second day began at Shaab Rumi. This is the cherry on the cake for divers with its irresistible underwater bustling and the ever present large fish species. If diving had its own Mecca, Shaab Rumi would be it.

The reef proved itself once again. Already on the first dive a large school of hammerheads showed up on the south plateau. And while we were swimming towards the southern part of the plateau, we met up with grey reef sharks too on the reef’s south-eastern part. We stayed by the reef for the next 3 days. Whether for luck or for the weather, we were able to meet at least half a dozen grey reef sharks every day above the plateau along with hammerheads stationed in the area.

Above the reef hundreds of barracudas entertained the group in the pristine coral world. In the mornings the humphead parrotfish showed their presence. On occasion we were able to see 20-30 of them! And at one time we could clearly hear 2 males fighting somewhere in the distance. Even the windy weather did not hinder visibility. We were able to monitor the fish in the distance of 30-40 metres.

In 1963 Shaab Rumi became home for Cousteau’s legendary underwater experiments which tried to find out whether man can stay underwater for days at a time. Divers were able to retrace the steps of these unforgettable experiments. Today only the hangar of the flying saucer, some cages and tool sheds remain on the sea bottom. Seeing them helped divers imagine the lives and memories of those who had been the first to brave the underwater world.

The buildings have long been overgrown by corals but despite this, nothing has really changed. There is still an abundant marine life here and we were able to see plenty of species that live near the reefs and in the open seas. Mackerels and snapperfish are still present in large numbers.

Sanganeb: Grey reef shark visible right at the drop-off, smaller grey reef sharks on the plateau along with hundreds of barracudas and jackfish that welcomed the divers here. The second dive, although several hours later, pretty much brought the same experience, making this a very satisfying experience. Photographers and videographers were sharing their photos and videos happily after the dives.

Umbria: Again, Andromeda was the only liveaboard in the area, so there were no worries about sharing the 60-year-old wreck with any other divers. The night dive and the 2 daily dives the next day were also a great success. We managed to cover all the nooks and crannies of the boat, starting with the Fiat cars, through the pizza ovens all the way to the bombs and wine bottles.

This was our second week. Stay tuned…

Reporting from Sudan

This season we are keeping a safari log about every diving safari onboard M/Y Andromeda in Sudan. We will tell you what we saw, where we went and all kids of interesting information to get your Mondays started and to give you a chance to read our stories and to marvel in the gorgeous underwater photos.

Here is our first week’s report:

M/Y Andromeda arrived in Port Sudan in the beginning of March. She did not have to wait too long in the harbour as within three days the first diving group arrived from Cairo and the boat had been filled with life again. And a few hours later, she departed for her first voyage towards Shaab Suedi, the usual spot for our check dives.

There were a couple more dives in the afternoon and at night at Gurna Reef which is a quiet, quaint reef, a perfect start to the promisingly exciting Shaab Rumi where the group descended the following morning.

Shaab Rumi did not disappoint, as usual. Sizeable grey reef sharks added to the excitement of every dive and in the early mornings the hammerheads also showed up. The only thing missing was the humphead parrotfish but the “big fish” made of for it. The afternoon and night dives were at the Precontinent – Cousteau’s famous underwater headquarters.

On the third day we headed for Sanganeb – which now we can say – was the most beautiful dive of the first safari tour!

The Sanganeb South plateau is a completely healthy and splendidly colourful reef. The dives were made unforgettable by schools of jackfish, barracudas and reef sharks. Seeing them 1-2 metre close was an amazing sight! Right after the dive the boat continued South in the direction of Shaab Anbar. The night was spent in the lagoon and a dive at dusk was the warm-up for the adventure-filled day that followed. Dives were at the north-eastern side of the reef and in the end, divers were even witnesses to a turtle couple fighting which was so engaging that they even forgot to take pictures of the whole event. J

After sunrise it was time for the Jumna reef, two dives, both with hammerheads. On the first dive there were only a few of them but on the second dive – everybody was blown away! An actual hammerhead curtain with at least 50 sharks passed right before the divers…

Too quickly but the week was coming to an end the direction was the harbour. The last night dive and the last two daily dives were at Umbria. Luckily Andromeda was the only boat at the wreck, so divers were able to discover her every corner undisturbed.

This is it for now from the first week. To be continued…

My favourite dive sites

My favourite dive sites where I would travel again

I have travelled to many places and dived in various seas and oceans of the world in the past ten years. I got to thinking during the last minutes of a fantastic dive on my latest trip about the most memorable dives and most lasting experiences of my life.

The sites and countries began to run through my head: Costa Rica, Egypt, Sudan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa and lots of other unique and fascinating locations. I am frequently asked during conversations where it is best to dive or what the best dive site are but I have never been able to fully answer these questions as each place is different.

In general, every minute spent under water amazes and fascinates me. I am taken aback by the silence and beauty of the sea. Every dive is made up of the spectacle of various marine life and undescribable shapes and colours, you just have to watch and wait and the sea will show itself. I could mention any visibility or a sandy, muddy slope seemingly devoid of life where after a few minutes of careful observation, millions of eyes would stare from the sand at the trained eye and suddenly, the dive site often described as dull, would come to life.

I always think of the divers who constantly want to dive at new places. They just keep swimming as if wanting to overcome a great distance, only to complain at the end of the dive of not having seen anything when in actuality, they could have been witnesses to a biodiversity not found anywhere on land. Sometimes I also just swim around and watch and only in the last minutes of the dive would a wonder present itself to me that I have never seen and this is what makes every dive exciting.

So, based on this, I cannot really make any order of preference since any of the sites could be the best or the most interesting. I would rather it is a kind of a log book of the most memorable moments in the past ten years:

The best dive sites ever:

Costa Rica, Cocos: Alcyon


Malaysia, Sipadan: Barracuda point


French Polynesia, Fakarava: South pass


Sudan, Shaab Rumi: South plateau


Indonesia, Raja Ampat: Manta point


Bahamas: Tiger beach


Egypt: Elphinstone

Photographed and written by Daniel Selmeczi