Strait of Tiran Dive Sites

The Straits of Tiran are the narrow sea passages, about 13 km wide, between the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas which separate the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea. It is named after Tiran Island located at its inflow, on which the Multinational Force and Observers has an observation post to monitor the compliance of Egypt in maintaining freedom of navigation of the straits as provided under the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

The Tiran dive area is found in the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba and is made up of four main reefs that form the top of an underwater bridge. These reefs, named after British cartographers (Jackson, Woodhouse, Thomas, Gordon), are world-famous for their extraordinary diversity of corals and strong south westerly currents make them home to much large pelagic fish.

On the same level with the Strait of Tiran, the Gulf of Aqaba passes from an average width of 20 to 4 kilometers (12 to 2.5 miles), while the floor ranges from a depth of 1,270 meters (4,166 feet) to only 71 meters (233 feet). This particular configuration of the strait reduces deep water exchange between the Gulf of Aqaba and the rest of the Red Sea, causing an increase in salinity and temperature. On the other hand, it gives rise to an increase in the speed of the tidal currents and the average height of the waves. The peculiar topographical arrangement of these reefs and the presence of prevailing winds coming from the north, which are stronger in the morning and calmer in the afternoon, means their western and northern sides (or outside) are much more exposed to the action of the waves than the eastern and southern ones, which are inside and sheltered.

The strong currents characterizing the Strait of Tiran transport great quantities of plankton and other nutrient material every day, thus supplying a great deal of food to the corals and hence to the reef fish, which in turn are eaten by the large pelagic predators such as barracudas, jacks, tunas, and above all sharks, which are always present in this zone. Consequently, SCUBA divers in the waters of Tiran are sure to see not only an infinite number of corals but also rich fish life.

Woodhouse Reef

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry Penguin Entry
Pick Up RIB pickup
Extra SMBs

Look for

  • Octopus
  • Nudibranchs
  • Anemonefish
  • Fusiliers
  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Turtles

Lying between Jackson and Thomas reefs, Woodhouse is a long narrow reef running at an angle from northeast to southwest. From its shallow reef top, the reef drops at a sharp angle on all sides; although it is less than vertical throughout the reef's length, the angle steepens still further beyond 25 meters (82 feet). Woodhouse is generally dived as a drift along the reef's eastern side.

Coral cover is excellent throughout the reef. With dense growth allover, there are a few sandy patches at depths of around 20 meters (66 feet). Pelagic fish like big tunas and schools of jacks visit the reef. Snappers, surgeons, and unicorns also school here, along with thousands of other reef fish.

Thomas Reef

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry Penguin Entry
Pick Up RIB pickup
Extra SMBs

Look for

  • Turtles
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Long Nose Hawkfish
  • Whip Corals
  • Black Corals
  • Octopus
  • Snapper
  • Antics
  • Tuna

This is a steep sloping reef that includes some plateau sections and a very deep canyon running along the reef's southern section. It is the smallest of the four main Tiran reefs, and its position in the chain leaves it exposed to some vigorous currents.

The reef's upper section is a riot of color, encompassing some of the finest soft coral growth in the Sinai region. Fish life is also rich, with the greatest concentration in the shallows. Groupers grow to great size, and many varieties congregate along the reef face, including boxfish and pufferfish.

After passing a double line of gorgonians, at 35 meters (115 feet) a splendid and extremely deep canyon opens out, running parallel to the reef and crossed by three impressive arches. The western wall of the reef has many crevices and caves, and a wealth of fauna including turtles, reef fish, and pelagics.

Gordon Reef

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry Penguin Entry
Pick Up RIB pickup
Extra SMBs

Look for

  • Octopus
  • Nudibranchs
  • Anemonefish
  • Fusiliers
  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Turtles

Like Jackson to the north, this reef is marked by the wreck of a large commercial freighter at the southern end of the reef. There is also a light beacon to keep other ships off the reef. A permanent mooring point lies just offshore near the light.

Gordon Reef encompasses a wide, oval sloping patchy plateau that extends to the south and east of the shallow circular reeftop. The reef composition is quite varied, with patchy sections, sand beds, and full-fledged coral gardens. At the center of the reef slope, a shark bowl dips to 24 meters (80 feet). A variety of shark species can be seen sleeping on the sandy bottom.

This site boasts a very good range of corals, with lots of branching varieties. All of the corals are well preserved in densely grown patches that often show a remarkable mix of different species.

Fish life is not the most profuse in Tiran, but there are some notable surprises including a huge moray eel with a body as thick as a small diver's waist. Triggerfish abound while surgeons and jacks swim in moderately large schools. Angels, parrotfish, and small wrasse are all present in good numbers. Large napoleon wrasse can often be seen along the reef.

Jackson Reef

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry Penguin Entry
Pick Up RIB pickup
Extra SMBs

Look for

  • Octopus
  • Nudibranchs
  • Anemonefish
  • Fusiliers
  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Turtles

On the northern edge of the reef, the wreck of a grounded freighter stands as a warning sign. Most of its hull has been salvaged for scrap, leaving only a skeletal hulk. A fixed mooring exists at the southern end of the reef. Dives begin from this point and proceed generally northward along the east side of the reef.

The steep-sided walls of Jackson Reef are among the finest in the Sinai region. The reef is densely grown with a real profusion of hard and soft corals, with special accents provided by luxuriant gorgonian fans and black corals.

Not surprisingly, fish life is excellent. The strong current brings plenty of nutrients for reef and schooling fish. Current and profile combine to tempt pelagics from the open water. Large schools of barracudas and jacks are common here, as are larger predators including several species of sharks. The smaller reef species on which these pelagic visitors feed are profuse.

South Laguna

Dive Brief

Dive Drift Dive
Max Depth 30m
Max Time 60mins
Current Medium to Strong
Entry RIB roll entry
Pick Up RIB pickup

Look for

  • Big Table Corals
  • Gorgonian Fans
  • Stingrays and Eaglerays
  • Moray Eels
  • Schools of Fusiliers
  • Nudibranchs

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