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The Red Sea is one of the top diving destinations in the world. With it’s crystal clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life, it has long been a diver's paradise. However, the southern region of the Egyptian Red Sea near the Sudanese border, often referred to as the Deep South, offers a unique and captivating experience for diving enthusiasts who want to reach places not many divers get to see. The only way to explore this remote and pristine area is by embarking on a liveaboard adventure.

There are plenty of liveaboards diving the Egyptian Red Sea, where three main routes stand out from the rest. The first route, explores the northern reefs and wrecks. A tour that will take divers to some of the most interesting sunken ships in the world such as the SS Thistlegorm or the Salem Express and also enjoy reefs like the Brother Islands.


A second popular route, usually referred to as The Golden Triangle, will take divers to the top shark sighting spots. Exploring the reefs of Elphinstone, Brother Islands, Daedalus and the Fury Shoals. Diving this route can almost guarantee shark sightings any time of the year.


Departing from southern ports such as Port Galib or Marsa Alam, you will find the liveaboards heading do the Deep South. The Fury Shoals, Rocky Island, Zabargad and St. John’s Reef are the main stops for this route. In the Deep South Red Sea, liveaboards offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore some of the most remote and untouched dive sites in the region.

Exploring the Deep South aboard the Hammerhead I

On a sunny day in June we headed to the Marsa Alam dock and got onboard the Hammerhead I. We were picked up on shore by one of their zodiacs and taken to the ship by a friendly seaman. As we approached, our excitement grew bigger. We could see the ship standing out while some crewmen finalized the preparations. Our plan was to stay there for the first night as we met the crew and the rest of the divers and set course to Rocky Island, the furthest point of our trip, in the morning.

The following day we set sail into the Deep South. The ocean was calm, but we knew the forecast foresaw a windy journey. Our first two stops were Shaab Marsa Alam and Shaab Sharm. These were, as it is accustomed, our check out dives. The offshore tablemount reefs could be seen from the deck, water was crystal clear and the ocean was holding its strength for later. Even though some dive operations reach these sites through daily boats, there was no crowd around us and we were able to enjoy it’s magnificent structures teeming with life.


Once the diving day was over, we prepared for an overnight sail towards Fouls Bay, to Rocky and Zabargard Islands. As the wind started picking up, we got ready for a rough night. The two uninhabited islands stand out secluded. Located approximately 60 kilometers east of St. John's reef, the islands of Rocky and Zabargad offer a unique blend of thrilling adventures and serene beauty. The remote location ensures that these dive sites are less crowded compared to more popular destinations, allowing divers to fully immerse themselves in the underwater wonders without disturbances.

On one hand, Rocky Island boasts dramatic cliffs rising from the azure waters. Particularly renowned for its encounters with pelagic species, divers may come face to face with big schools of fish, Reef Sharks and occasionally, Oceanic White Tips and Hammerhead sharks. However, divers should not take their eyes of the wall as corals, nudibranches, Napoleon Wrasses and colorful Angelfish, Puffers and other reef fish will be swimming up and down the structure. This island is also famous for its seasonal strong currents, which bring waters rich in nutrients, attracting a wide array of marine life.

On the other hand, also known as St. John’s Island (not to be confused with St John’s Reef!), Zabargad emerges as a big tectonic island. It was discovered by Greeks and became popular as a topaz gemstone extraction spot, and therefore it’s name. Nowadays, Zabargad is used by the Egyptian Army as a training camp. This is where we did our first night dive.


Even though it neighbors with Rocky, Zabargad offers its own unique allure. Docking in front of a white sandy beach, our dives were brimming with adventure. This crescent-shaped island is surrounded by a coral reef overflowing with life. It’s underwater topography includes drop-offs, caves, and swim throughs that provide divers with thrilling exploration opportunities.


Nightdiving in Zabargad offers a thrilling experience. Cracks, channels and caves get full of crustaceans and nudibranches seeking food. Life changes entirely and witnessing the gentle drop off becomes hypnotizing.

After multiple dives on Rocky and Zabargad, the Hammerhead I headed towards St. John’s Reef. The region's healthy and vibrant coral reefs are a testament to the Red Sea's biodiversity, making St. John's Reef a paradise for marine enthusiasts. St. John’s Reef unfolds as a long succession of untouched atolls and tablemount structures. It boasts an array of dive sites, each with its own unique topography and marine life. Divers can explore dramatic drop-offs, coral gardens, pinnacles, intricate coral mazes, caves and swim through systems. St. John’s Reef is no doubt one of the healthiest reefs in the world known to man and it made our trip.


Our six sites were Big Gota, Small Gota, Umm Khararim, Sataya South (where we also did a night dive), Shaab Molahy and Shaab Claude. Each one different and overflowing with life. For the trip through St. John’s Reef, the ship would dock, dive and set sail once again after the dive was over. This way it guaranteed divers to visit the highest number of sites as possible.

Once St. John’s was behind us, on the way back to Marsa Alam, we stopped for a night dive at Siyal. Night diving in here was a very good experience. Even though most liveaboards coming from southern routes use this site to moor overnight before heading back to port, it gave us the opportunity to do some macro hunting.


The following morning we set course towards port, stopping for a dive on the west edge of Shaab Sharm, a dive site we had done on the way out and Habili Ghadir, a beautiful atoll near Marsa Alam.


Our experience aboard the Hammerhead I was over after seven days and nineteen dives from departure. As experienced divers searching for adventure and remote diving, the Deep South itinerary did not disappoint us. On the contrary, we realized we had had the opportunity to dive in some of the healthiest coral gardens in the world. Thank you HAMMERHEAD I and CREW for this unforgettable experience!

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