Beside the ever popular Dahab Blue Hole dive site, Egypt offers divers chambers of caverns encrusted in impressive coral in the lesser visited southern part of Egypt, a fine setting for an easy introduction to cavern diving and a chance to escape the crowds of divers that frequent the more popular dive sites of Egypt.
The vast reef systems of Fury Shoals and St. John’s are located off the coast of southern Egypt between Ras Banas and Northern Sudan (just 16 miles from the Sudanese border). The caves here are actually deep cuts in the reef where divers can explore capacious swim-throughs, galleys and canyons while at the same time enjoying some of the most impressive hard coral scenery anywhere in the world.
The Sha’ab Claude dive site at Ras Banas, is one such impressive site with a large labyrinth of swim throughs, huge Porite corals and featuring a resident napoleon and often visited by White Tip reef sharks. This shallow dive of around 15m lets you leisurely explore the reef and interlinking passages with heavy black coral growth on the walls as you watch blue-spotted stingrays patrol the ivory-white sand on the bottom. Shafts of light stream down from holes in the cavern roof and cut through the blue water creating a stunning shimmering effect, perfect for underwater photography.
Further south at St John’s lying just outside the reef, there’s a coral labyrinth known as Umm Khararim or otherwise known as just The Caves. The name translates as ‘mother of the tunnels’, and that’s exactly what you get – a whole reef system with a maze of tunnels, closed and semi-closed chambers linked with coral passageways some of which are sufficiently wide for a couple of divers to swim alongside each other while others lead to dead ends. The maximum depth at this site is a shallow 18 meters. Keep a close eye out for scorpionfish hidden on the walls amongst the dense coral formations. The Gota Kebir is another massive reef, famous for its tunnels and south plateau. Here you can spot jacks and barracudas as well the occasional manta. The tunnels are ideal for novice cave divers.
Cavern diving in these southern reefs of Egypt is a year round opportunity and a great to explore some new, un-dived reefs and un-crowded reefs. The caverns are defined by a potent stillness unlike the high energy open-water currents that rule the popular dive sites of the North around Dahab and Sharm El Sheikh, which make them an absolute joy to dive!