Wishing you a very happy Easter!

Finally the holiday is here, and also Cassiopeiasafari is going to take some time off to refresh and recharge our batteries. So, we want to take this occasion to wish you a happy Easter!

Ras Mohamed: Shark and Yolanda Reef

Location: Sinai
Description: reef/vertical walls/wreck
Depth: 10 – 40m

One of the most visited sites in the Red Sea – Ras Mohamed. It received National Park status in 1989 to protect its unique marine life. In the underwater coral gardens among giant corals swim grey sharks, barracudas, snapper fish, mackerel, tuna, morays coral fish and dozens if other school if fish. Thanks to the currents from Akaba Bay, large oceanic species also find food and shelter here.

There are many dives you can make here – all of which are drift dives – and they can be varied, depending on different factors. The most classic and most complete dive will allow you to visit not only Shark Reef, but the other two sites, Anemone City and Yolanda Reef, in one.

The dive begins northeast of Shark Reef on a line with a plateau commonly known as Anemone City, which lies at a depth of 12-20 m and just out like a large balcony  over the blue. After explore the Anemone City you must swim in the blue for a few minutes at a depths 20 m, which will lead you directly to Shark Reef, clearly recognizable by the unmistakeable profile of some gorgonians.

If you observe the blue you will easily spot schools of batfish, walls of jackfish, snappers and emperors and bluespine unicorn fish. After going a few dozen meters more, you will reach the sandy  and shallow saddle that connects Shark Reef and Yolanda Reef which silhouette takes shape right after a big gorgonian situated at a depth of 20 m and a second gorgonian at 14 m.

After having crossed this garden you will see – at a depths between 25 and 10 m – the remains of the cargo of Yolanda, a Cypriot merchant ship that sank here on the night if 1 – 2 April 1980 while on its way to Aqaba: containers, bathtubs, sanitary fixtures, wallpapers, cases of whiskey and even a BMW automobile that belonged to the ship captain.

 

15 weeks in Sudan

M/Y Andromeda reached Hurghada’s main marina yesterday in the early afternoon. She will go through a few days of customs checks, administration, some beautification and after a full paint job, she will continue her work in Egypt from the beginning of July. We have detailed the dock work on the boats in January… as if it was yesterday! So what has actually happened since then? You can read about it in this article!

The Sudan weeks were practically fully booked already by the end of last year and our optimism was only hampered by the Egyptian revolution at the end of January. After the situation had improved in Cairo, could we just start our work almost from scratch and we had to re-schedule bookings for 13 dates in Sudan. But in a short time, we were able to get back the bookings to almost where they had been originally.

The boat left Hurghada for Sudan a week later than planned, on Febuary 15, 2011, so we spent 15 weeks in all in Sudan out of which the boat worked 14 weeks straight and spent only 1 week in port.

Our last Sudan tour this season ended this past weekend. During these 14 weeks M/Y Andromeda welcomed 269 guests from 14 countries like Germany, Hungary, Finland, Holland, Italy, Russia, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Romania, Spain, the US, Poland, France and Japan.

The Icelandic eruption a couple of weeks ago (which happened almost a year to the date of the 2010 disastrous eruption) caused a minor scare again but thankfully this time it did not create any real havoc.

This season the boat completed 13 North tours and navigated to South only once. She sailed 6,700km in total during these 15 weeks. And what did the unparalleled Sudan waters hide this time? Besides hammerheads in unimaginable numbers, grey, tiger, oceanic and reef sharks, some manta adventures, not to mention the humphead parrot fish, schools of barracudas and Napoleon fish which have become a common site by now.

On the last day of the safari holiday, almost all divers visited Suakin, the once majestic port in the Red Sea. These days the uninhabited white ghost town is famous only for its once beautiful “coral brick” houses and their ruins.

We have had a successful 4 months of things to see and of satisfaction. We especially thank our partners, tour operators, tour organisers and all those divers who chose us this year for making their Sudan holidays come true.

Thank you for your trust, the plenty of pictures, comments, acknowledgement we received from you during the past weeks and months!

Our next shark adventure in Sudan starts again in February, 2012 and we look forward to seeing all diving schools, clubs, tour organisers and divers who did not have the chance to join us this year, or who would like to continue collecting even more Sudan diving memories!

If you book our 2012 tours by September 30, 2011, then you can enjoy our 2011 rates next season as well! Contact your diving instructor and tour operator for details!

Stop Shark Finning!

Please help to stop shark finning and keep sharks in the sea! Spread this message on the web!.

This Yemeni fishing boat has been spotted in the southern Egyptian Red Sea, de-finning sharks! Please report any sighting of this vessel immediately!

To read more about shark finning click here: http://cassiopeiasafari.com/stop-shark-finning/

Cruel reality of shark killings

The following story will expose the cruel reality of shark killings through the eyes of an underwater photographer.

Most of us have heard of shark fin soup. Sadly, the excessive consumption of this traditional dish from the Far East has become a worldwide problem these days and shark fishing is already present in almost all of the world’s seas. I have had the “opportunity” to meet some of these fishermen personally.

Every year in October and November longimanus appear near the reef of Elphinstone. I really like them, they are probably my favourite sharks. They awe me with their curiosity and impossibly long fins. In October of 2008 we were on a diving safari here and I was diving, looking for them when they suddenly appeared above the South plateau in waters a few metres deep. I spent a whole day with them and I was able to count six different species.

Two days later I travelled to Marsa Shagra which lies right across from Elphinstone, so we were able to sail to the reef every day. I anticipated and waited to experience the same encounters as in the past years but I was saddened because the news that awaited me were crushing: My “friends” were killed by fishermen. I could not believe my ears. During these two weeks, I was only able to observe two young specimens.

Later I travelled to Sudan and when the first night I was talking to dive guides about what had happened in Egypt, they sadly told me that two Yemeni fishing boats had been seized a few weeks earlier and they were filled with hundreds of shark fins! Understandably we were not too happy to sail out the following day.

A few days later I made a discovery dive at a reef where we usually do not dive. To my astonishment, I found a rope hundreds of metres long onto which wires were fixed with metre-long hooks, especially made for sharks. It took us hours to remove the trap. Some days later we met fishermen at sea who approached our boat to chat and to sell fish and as usual, we welcomed them with cold drinks.

Suddenly several things caught my eye. There were triangular shaped tools hanging from a rod and I saw the skeletal remains of a jaw on the roof. I asked to see it. It was of a tiger shark! It was easy to recognise the young specimen from the backward bent and triangular shaped teeth. The shark was about two – two and a half metres long, probably not yet mature. It was caught two weeks earlier nearby. I became terribly sad. I was not willing to make any photos and this time, there were no cold welcome drinks.

Some months passed and I travelled to the farthest point of Indonesia. At the end of the diving safari tour, we anchored at an island, far from civilisation. As I was walking on the beach, I discovered the maimed remains of a metre-long reef shark on a log, starting to decompose. I did not think the residents of the little village were cooking up shark fin soup every night!

Seeing this atrocity, I asked myself: Has the demand for shark fins reached even some of the world’s most remote and isolated areas? So it seems…

We were walking inside the airport in Jakarta when one of the stores caught my attention. At first I thought I was mistaken: There was a complete shark fins store at the airport! There were fins from small reef sharks to giant whale sharks, from a couple of dollars to thousands of dollars in price. Shark fin powder, fish meat in all kinds of form… It was all very heart-wrenching. Who would take home such presents from Indonesia…?

Millions of sharks are killed every year for their fins. They are caught and while still alive, their “valuable” fins are chopped off. Then the bodies of the sharks now deemed useless are thrown back into the water where the poor incapacitated sharks face their death at the bottom of the sea.

Where are the environmentalists and other protection agencies who call force-feeding geese for example an act of animal cruelty?! Then what do we call it when predators, that play an important role in the ecological balance of the seas, are slaughtered by humans only to make tasteless soup from them? I personally avoid and even boycott restaurants where they serve shark fin soup and I feel it is not too much to ask of all my fellow divers to do the same. I hope we can stop the killings and save one of the most perfect and for us, underwater photographers, the most amazing creatures in the world – the sharks.

Daniel Selmeczi

Sha’ab Rumi

This is the best dive place on earth and the best place for hammerheads in the Red Sea. During one dive there is a big chance to see 40-50 in front of you. Best season for hammerheads is from November till April. on the plateau also sits Jacques Cousteau’s shark observation cage. If you would like to READ MORE about the best dive place on earth click here…

Shark

 

Whale Sharks spotted

Yet more sharks in the Southern Red Sea… but this time the plankton eating kind! Whale Sharks have been spotted off the Brothers more than 3 times in October and November. To read more about scuba diving with whale shark at the Red Sea, click here…

Whale shark Red Sea