Red Sea Reef Conservation
The official Egyptian attitude to conservation is strict and conservation of all that is in the Red Sea is encouraged. However when we were diving on the Elphinstone Reef on this trip, we came across a Dive Boat which had
moored itself directly onto the reef with a cable strung around a large coral block and it was obviously damaging the block. It used the fact that it (illegally) moored itself as a marketing tool saying divers dived directly onto the reef from this boat and all other boats ferried their divers in using ribs.
Fishing with dynamite is not unusual as you will read about below.
Although tourists divers are always told to reduce their use of plastic bottles, tin cans, paper, not touch the coral, etc they seem to have the view that what goes on under the sea cannot be seen.
A few years ago I did a dive trip following the classic “Northern Wrecks and Reefs” itinerary where we were underwater rubbish collectors. On every reef we went down with sacks and picked up all of the rubbish we could find on the reef and sent it to the surface for storage on the dive boat. The amount we collected was extraordinary.
Overnight we have repositioned to part of the Fury Shoals – El Malahi. The shoals continue to attract wrecks and just off
our moored position is the recent wreck of a
dive boat which somehow managed to find one of the reefs. Within a few years, this will have slipped below the surface and become another coral encrusted diving site.
During the night, we have gained a passenger – this small
bird was clearly exhausted and had alighted on the dive steps for a rest. It showed no fear as we climbed past it and was keen to eat as many biscuit crumbs as we gave it.
This reef is very nice on the South Eastern side and suffers from over fishing on the north eastern side – they fished with dynamite and hence that side of the reef has been blown into small pieces for the sake of a few fish.
The Grand Sea Serpent is moored roughly in the bottom of the dive map and the plan is to see the right hand side which consists of passageways, caves and tunnels with some larger open spaces and to ignore the left hand side. The dive site is fairly shallow (around 20m max) with sandy bottoms.
The scale of the reef wall is staggering – as a diver you feel truly small when approaching the reef.
The entrances to some of the caves and swim throughs are
small but once inside, there are a great variety of channels
and caves with shafts of sunlight streaming through during this early morning dive.
They lead to large canyons and equally large coral blocks.
As usual, staghorn coral is everywhere.
The blocks show how table coral seeks to gain maximum
sunlight by growing out horizontally from the side of the
block. Out in the open, is one of the largest shoals of
banner fish we have ever seen as well as Butterfly Fish in their usual pairs.
We find a Lemon Goby which generates excitement in the Dive Guides
excited by the small fish, corals and life which are found
underwater and we are directed to a small Nudibranc growing on some coral – a magnifying glass is produced to enable us to see it close up. This is the first time I have ever dived with someone who has their own magnifying glass.
Underneath the dive boat, it another large Napoleon keeping an eye on us and hoping for food.