Egyptian Red Sea And Samples Life In Soma Bay

Lawson Wood returns to the Egyptian Red Sea and samples life in Soma Bay, one of several new resorts which has become established in recent years.

Some 45 years after I first visited the Red Sea, my love for that region has never diminished.  That first frisson of excitement came at 20,000ft when we were starting to descend and flew over the Red Sea mountains of Upper Egypt and could see the shores of the Red Sea beckoning.  The route of the Thomas Cook airbus to Hurghada took us directly over Ras Abu Soma, which was to be the destination of our dive resort

Our host for the week was Breakers at Soma Bay, the only dedicated diving and kite-surfing resort in the Middle East. The diving part of the resort is owned and operated by Orca Dive Clubs, which has the latest equipment, multi-lingual staff and a great house reef opposite the dive centre, Over 100km north of Marsa Alam, a number of the sites between Sharm and Marsa Alam were really only accessible by liveaboard dive boats in the past, but now Panorama Reef, the wreck of the Salem Express and a number of other sites around Safaga and the Soma Bay headland are easily reached.

Salem Express
Salem Express

Once the dive shop paperwork was completed, there is a week’s chart on the wall with full or half-day dive boats, RIB dives and space to plan your shore diving off the house reef. Just put your name down for whatever boat trip that you want and always make sure to remove your name if you change your mind.

The House Reef is reached along a 420-metre pier with two platforms and plenty of ladders to aid entry and exit – transport is provided by converted electric golf carts to transport you, your buddy and all the dive gear and camera equipment.  This style of diving, of course, allows you and your buddy to spend extended time in the water.

The following is just a small example of the superb diving to be found along this stretch of coastline, far from the madding crowd.

The House Reef

By far, this is probably the most-dived and there are countless ‘ferry’ trips up and down the pier every day with divers and their gear, notably those early morning dives and early evening dives when the juxtaposition of daytime critters and night time denizens share the reef.

Cleaning stations are doing a roaring trade and both predators and prey line up to be cleaned of parasites with no thought of ‘breaking the rules’. Dolphins come into the pier area too and are seen regularly. This is a steeply sloping reef predominated by small hard corals that drops to around 18m before dropping steeply and even vertically in many places.

The more-vertical sections have large black coral trees which hide small schools of glassfish and hatchetfish. Curiously, there are many large bigeye snapper out in the open when they are usually well secreted away under overhangs. There are a few huge stonefish on this reef, one hiding under the sand, but the other is so well overgrown with algae it is virtually invisible amid the corals and algae beds.

Once you get to the 30m range you will find the lyretail angelfish (Genicanthus caudovittatus), where both male and female have completely different colours.

Panorama Reef

I first dived Panorama Reef back in 1985 when working on the Lady Jenny V, principally to seek shelter one night, and found that this large circular reef with its two shallow platforms was so good that we stayed the next day too and explored all around the reef as the sun moved around and illuminated the soft coral gardens and gorgonian forests. AdvertisementsAdvertisements