'Wrecks and Reefs of the Red Sea' is a well-trodden itinerary offered by many Red Sea liveaboards. As a wreck diver, this is one of my favorite journeys, not least because it packs so much variety into a weeks' worth of diving.
Each day offers several new wrecks, some have been there for over 150 years while others sank very recently. The biggest wreck, and also the most famous, is the SS Thistlegorm (more about her in a minute). By the end of the trip, you will have explored wrecks of all shapes and sizes, in good and bad condition, and with some unusual cargo still in situ. Often departing from Hurghada in Egypt, the most popular route heads north and then east, often as far as the Straits of Tiran before returning to Hurghada to complete a 7-night trip.
While wrecks may be the focus of the trip, don't let this detract from the stunning reef scapes and breathtaking drop-offs that Red Sea diving is so well known for. A plethora of marine life awaits, with healthy corals and plenty of small fish and critters to keep you entertained.
Here are my favorite Red Sea wrecks:
1. SS Thistlegorm
An iconic wreck, and the highlight of any Red Sea dive trip, the SS Thisltegorm was a British military supply ship carrying ammunition and stores to Alexandria during WWII. She was bombed and sunk in the very northern Red Sea, just west of Sharm el-sheik. The wreck is fascinating to explore, in part because of her history, but also because she is in reasonably good condition. Other than the obvious bomb damage that split her hull in two, the remainder of the ship is largely intact, with easy access to the bridge, accommodation, and cargo holds. Divers can discover piles of shells and other ammunition, military jeeps and motorbikes, and even a consignment of rubber boots! She lies at a depth of 52 to 105 ft and can be fully explored in three or four dives.
Significant degradation of the ship's superstructure has occurred over the past few years where countless liveaboard and day boats have attached mooring lines in the often brisk currents. Things can get pretty busy during peak times, especially during the day, so I would suggest visiting on a liveaboard to make the most of quieter early morning or night dives.
The Carnatic may not boast the same impressive credentials as the Thistlegorm, however, it is the oldest, and perhaps the most interesting, of the northern Sha'ab Abu Nuhas wrecks that lie close to the shipping route for the Suez Canal. A cargo and passenger steamer en route to India, she sank in 1869 with a precious cargo of wine, copper, and gold. She settled on the seabed in two sections tucked close into the nearby reef, and while much of the wooden decking and hull has rotted away, the steel beams still hold strong like the ribs of a huge whale.
Quite safe to explore, and a great introduction for novice wreck divers, the Carnatic has a mysterious quality, perhaps because the marine life appears to have encroached so much as to have absorbed the structure into the reef. Inside, divers can still find broken wine bottles, remnants of the original cargo. The Carnatic lies at a maximum depth of 91 feet at the propeller, which is a great place to start the dive.
Check out other great liveaboards for beginners.
3. Yolanda Reef
The Yolanda was a 243-foot Cypriot cargo ship that ran aground in 1980 on Ras Muhammad reef. She originally came to rest at around 100 feet until a storm in 1985 washed her further down the reef to a depth of 660 feet. Despite not being able to explore the ship itself, her cargo of porcelain bathroom fittings is still accessible, spread along the reef she originally foundered on. The dive along Yolanda Reef is unique, a stunning, wide, and sloping terrace littered with toilets, sinks, baths, and various other pieces of pipework and plumbing fittings.
Currents can be strong here, and the dive is fairly deep, so it is not ideal for inexperienced divers.
Read more about the best shipwrecks in the world.
4. Giannis D
Sank in 1983, the 3,000-tonne container ship, Giannis D, had just transited the Suez Canal when she ran aground on Sh'ad Abu Nuhas, settling on the seabed within 15 minutes of the initial incident. This is now one of the most interesting wrecks to explore in the Red Sea, with some excellent penetration opportunities and great light for photography if you bring your underwater camera. The bridge, cabins, and engine room are all fascinating to explore, and divers can visit several times and still discover something new on each dive.
Sitting at a depth of between 20 and 98 feet, the Giannis D is easily accessible but requires experience to explore the interior. There are also plenty of exit points allowing light into all but the deepest parts of the interior.
View some great tips fro improving your uw photography.