Sudan - The Shark Infested Waters!
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Sudan?! Why would you go to Sudan, what are you doing there? That’s what I got from most of my friends and family, when they heard I was there! Let’s get one thing straight, as I have experienced in the past with other destinations, you cannot trust everything you see online or from the media. I have experienced Sudan for myself and I can assure you I have never felt safer! The culture is very relaxed and the people will go to extreme measures to help you, without wanting nothing in return. There is no piracy at sea or any other sort of risk I was told I would face by most people!
Sudan is a difficult place to get to, travel wise and also with the paperwork required to enter the country. Nonetheless this didn’t put me off visiting. The easiest way to get to Port Sudan is flying from Dubai. I had the option of getting a flight from London or Madrid direct to Dubai. I decided to drive up from Gibraltar to Madrid and get the flight from there. My colleague drove to Malaga instead to get a connection flight to Madrid. It took me a total of 28 hours to reach Port Sudan.
Day one, we arrive at Port Sudan airport and we are met with the scorching heat of the desert. Temperatures here are at their low 30’s during the day and mid to low 20’s at night. I am used to this during the summer in Gibraltar, but it was a shock to my body, having to acclimatise straight from a cold winter in Gibraltar to a hot temperature coming out of the airplane. We were met by a Sudanese agent as we entered the old airport building, almost the same as our old Gibraltar airport, back in the days, but in a far worse condition. Everyone gave their passports to the Sudanese authorities and we went off to get our luggage, which was directly behind passport controls. As soon as the conveyer belt was turned on for the luggage to come out, this caused the whole airport to lose power and we were left in darkness. We all giggled and waited patiently for someone to sort the power outage out. Once the power was back on and we all retrieve our luggage, and we were met by our bus drivers outside. I was then told, my luggage was going on the roof of the bus … what???!!! Well apparently that’s how they transport the luggage here in Sudan! After a short 20 minute trip, we made it to the port, were our live-aboard boats were waiting. We had to get a Zodiac (Dingy) to reach our boat which was anchored a short distance away. I didn’t like the fact the boat was moored in the middle of the port/bay, as I had no freedom to get on and off the boat when I wanted. Anyways… we all did the paperwork and checked in. We were served dinner and had the rest of the evening off, ready for an early start the following morning for our first day of diving in Sudan!
Day two, the boat leaves the port early in the morning towards Wingate Reef. We arrive in just under an hour sailing at a slow speed. Here we do our check dive on the reef. The visibility was average, but much better to what I’m used to in Gibraltar. There’s not much to see on the reef, after all it was just used for a check dive. For our 2nd and 3rd dives that day, we moved our boat 100 metres west and moored on the wreck of the Umbria! The Umbria was been used by the Italian military during the 1940’s to transport artillery from Italy to other destinations. Sudan was under British rule in the 1940’s and had a large military presence in Port Sudan. Two British Naval vessels intercepted the Umbria as it sailed down the Red Sea close to Port Sudan. The British requested that she be moored at Wingate Reef whilst paperwork was undertaken. A few days later, Italy declared joining World War II. When the captain got word of this, he made the decision to make a rescue drill of the ship and sink the ship so the British could not get hold of its cargo. It was carrying over 360,000 Bombs, telephone lines, Italian Wine, 3 FIAT Cars and many types of artillery. Today she sits on the seabed, on her port side, still with all her cargo intact. The first dive on the Umbria was from the middle section through cargo holds 3, 2, 1 and onto her bow. The 2nd dive was to the engine room and holds 4 and 5. We also did her stern and propeller. What an amazing wreck!
Day three; after traveling throughout the night 75 nautical miles north, the crew moored our boat to Angarosh Reef in the early hours of the morning. Our wakeup call was at 6AM followed by a briefing and straight into the water. This time we went on Zodiacs (Dingy) to reach a platform on the reef, a short distance away, but due to some current, it was easier for us to be dropped off by Zodiac. On this first dive of the day, we saw at least 8 hammerhead sharks, a grey reef shark and 2 small oceanic white tips. They were about 10 to 20 metres away from us so I wasn’t able to get any decent photos. Our second dive was also on Anagarosh reef and again we saw all 3 types of sharks on this dive. This time the current had gone and we were able to swim a different direction on the reef. I managed to get a photo of an oceanic white tip shark, but it was still a bit far for my liking. After these two dives, we had lunch and sailed a short distance away to Merlo Reef. Here we explored the reef walls, so rich in marine life and healthy corals. Our final dive for the day was a night dive, also on Merlo Reef. I changed my lens to Macro and had a good exploration of the reef for small subjects, such as shrimps and nudibranchs.
Day four starts with an early morning dive at Merlo Reef, before we head of somewhere new. Here we see a hammerhead shark out in the blue, we then proceed to dive the pinnacle on the north side of this reef. The abundance of marine life and the healthy state of the corals here is unimaginable, it was breath-taking! For the rest of the day, we travel to Gota a Bana Reef, where we do our 2nd and 3rd dives followed by a night dive. It was amazing here! We had large groups of hammerhead sharks passing as by. Unfortunately a little too far for my camera to get a shot off them! On the reef itself there were many large 80-100kg Tunas circling us throughout the dives. What an amazing dive site! For the night dive, the plan was to dive the drop-off wall, to a maximum depth of 15 metres. Unfortunately I was having sinus problems so I could not equalize below 1 metre! Instead of aborting the dive, my buddy and I decided, to follow the reef wall at 1 metre. It was actually quite an interesting dive. We spent 45 minutes on the wall, photographing all sorts of tiny marine life, including crabs, lobsters and shrimps.
Day five; we wake up at 6AM after a long night traveling down south to the reef famous for Jacques Cousteau famous projects and film making. The shark infested waters of Sudan really comes to light here when we make our first dive at the south plateau of Sha’ab Rumi reef and find ourselves surrounded by Grey Reef Sharks, coming towards us from all directions! Wow what an amazing experience. Leaving the plateau, we go up to the reef wall were I am met by around 6 large bump-head parot fish, an another amazing experience. We repeat the same dive profile on the 2nd dive, and yet again we are left breath taken by the amount of Grey Reef Sharks everywhere! Again we end the dive on the reef wall, this time the bump-heads had left but we had an encounter with 4 baby Oceanic White Tip Sharks, sleeping in a hole as we ended the dive. The 3rd dive took us to Precontinent II on this reef, where Jacques Cousteau conducted his experiments, sending divers underwater to live for period of 30 days at a depth between 10 to 30 metres! The submarine shed, tool shed and shark cage are still there, as well as lots of metal lying around. The starfish house and deeper cabin are no longer there. It was a great experience been able to enter the submarine shed. That must have been the highlight of the dive. We also conducted a night dive at the Precontinent II. Again by the 4th dive this day, my suffering sinuses had given in again and I was eventually only able to get down to 6 metres, due to sinus equalization problems.
Day six and seven, the boat has now done the best dive sites of the north and head down to 2 reefs in the south. I skip the last seven dives due to sinus infection, and start a course of anti-biotics. Nonetheless I was not bothered the slightest, I had done all the north dive sites I came to do in Sudan. The final day we visit the amazing lighthouse at Sanganeb Reef. That afternoon we anchor back at Port Sudan. We get our passports back and go to explore the town. It was a nice experience. The next morning the Zodiacs come to pick our luggage up and we then head of to the airport.
I say bye to Port Sudan and it’s diving and now head off to Khartoum were I will enjoy a land excursion for two weeks!