Ras Mohammed National Park
At the southernmost point of the Sinai Peninsula, where the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba meet, lies Ras Mohammed National Park. Since its establishment in 1983, this protected area has become a safe haven for a wide variety of marine life. Over 1000 species of fish and 200 species of coral can be found here.
Having once been overfished to the brink of collapse, this ecosystem has made an incredible recovery! Visitors to the park would never suspect that this area was once home to trawlers, long liners, and even dynamite fishing. Now home to a plethora of oceanic life, this protected area is proof that conservation efforts can make a difference. Visitors to the park can expect to find a variety of marine environments including fringing reef, wrecks, walls, mangroves, and even some caves and swim throughs.
The nearby offshore islands of Tiran and Sanafir offer stunning scenery both above and below water as well. The best part is that the park is easily accessible by a one hour boat trip from nearby Sharm el Sheikh.
What to expect ?
Thanks to its confluence of waters and lack of pollution, Ras Muhammad sets the perfect stage for every species found in the Red Sea:
Divers flock here specifically to see large pelagics such as hammerheads, tuna, reef sharks, whale sharks, and manta rays. Other commonly sighted larger species include napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, and giant morays. On almost every dive, large shoals are present out in the blue. These frequently consist of jacks, snapper, and barracuda.
For those who have seen their fair share of the "big stuff" the reefs here still have plenty to offer. Macro life can be found in great abundance, especially in the shallows. The stunning variety of hard and soft corals hide a multitude of gobies, blennies, and nudibranchs. The vertical walls along deeper dive sites are also an excellent place to spot smaller cleaning fish and shrimp. And, the sandy patches and channels found in most dive sites host stonefish, flatheads, flounder, and pipehorses. Photographers can discover shallow areas with outstanding lighting at most dive sites, specifically in the afternoon.
More adventurous and experienced divers can get their kicks exploring the Thistlegorm wreck, known for its in tact status and potentially strong currents. This dive site does extend beyond 30 meters, and the wreck should not be penetrated unless divers are comfortable and well oriented to the ship. The Thistlegorm still holds much of her original cargo, including all sorts of vehicles as well as military weaponry.
If this is not enough to satisfy wreck enthusiasts, a trip to Dunraven wreck will seal the deal. This wooden wreck is slightly more shallow and in less ideal condition. However, its unique cavelike appearance makes for outstanding photographs. Stonefish and scorpionfish can be found in abundance here, as well as large schools of glassfish. The nearby Komoran wreck is suitable for novices, and makes an incredible first impression as a large part of the stern is still visible above the water.
Conditions in the park vary from crystal clear and calm to raging currents and low visibility.
Some of the circular reefs around Tiran can be dived on the outside, where very strong currents are often present. These exciting drift dives on Thomas, Jackson, Woodhouse, and Gordon reefs provide an adrenaline rush for those seeking a bit of excitement on their holiday. Big currents typically mean big fish. These are among the best spots to find a hammerhead or a manta cruising in the blue. They also offer divers a chance to cover very large areas of reef in a single dive.
Excellent buoyancy control and proper weighting are absolutely vital in these conditions, and experience diving in a current is recommended. Fortunately, these dive sites also contain shallow coral gardens around their back sides. Currents here are typically mild, and quite suitable for beginners. Try to see both in a single dive for the best of both worlds!
For those who like to go deep, the vertical walls around Shark reef and Yolanda reef are ideal. The walls themselves are covered with a wide variety of soft corals and fans with scattered sand falls. The numerous outcroppings of rock here create small caves and overhangs perfect for spotting big lionfish. These slow moving and elaborate fish make for great photographs, but divers should be advised that their spines are highly venomous. This area also houses the remains of the Yolanda wreck, and her cargo of plumbing fixtures. The most notable area includes a graveyard of toilets! The back side of this reef houses a sheltered reef with plenty of light, and little to no current. The "saddle" between these areas feels a bit like a canyon, and makes for a fun and easy swim through.
There has never been a better time to visit Ras Muhammad. Though the area is quite safe for travel, the tourist crowds have yet to return. If you are looking for something a little bit different for your next diving holiday, the area is highly recommended. With fewer divers on the reef, encounters with a vast array of marine life are almost guaranteed. And, with sites catered to every skill level there is sure to be something for everyone in this lovely marine park.
@ This article above is written by Jessica Merrill (PADI Instructor #351781), please give respect to her copyright!
This article is not allowed to be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Jessica Merrill.