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sharks at Brothers Islands

Trip with Activtour: The sharks at Brothers Islands

The sharks at Brothers Islands

With this entry, together with ActivTour we begin a series of tales about trips full of action and emotions such as shark diving. The first text will be about the sharks at Brothers Islands playing the main part, and all this during Egypt diving at a safari on the Red Sea. Here you will find where to dive in Egypt, all about Brothers Islands and specificity of Egypt diving especially shark diving.

Let us begin right from the start – so, what is actually a diving safari? This is an alternative to a stay in a hotel or at a camp. This means a whole week of staying on the board of a floating boat, frequently seasickness and being ‘sentenced’ to the same group of people. However, diving among virgin reefs can make up for any inconveniences suffered during the cruise. As reported by Anna Sołoducha-Bućko:

Right after we arrived from Poland and embarked on the boat, Alicja (our guide) took us for a walk around New Marina. Despite the charms of the place and the sounds of Arabian music that encouraged to dance, we couldn’t wait for diving which was supposed to take place the following day. Finally, the cruise date arrived. The colourful buildings of Hurghada were disappearing in the distance with every second as Dreams (our boat) was sailing through the Red Sea waters. A wake-up call, professional and precise briefing, with a map and photos displayed on the TV screen, in Polish, English and Russian – for another group of divers from Ukraine that we had the pleasure to spend the time with on the boat, equipment adjustment and then… jump into the water! It’s hard to descibe how great it is to dive after months of waiting. There were, however, some ‘attractions’… yes, seasickness can get you even under water… one of ‘us’ caught it, but luckily everything ended well. The rules of behaviour in such situations are discussed at the course, so for us it was a revision, in fact. After diving, there was time for sunbathing, reading books and integration. At that point the boat set sail to Brothers Islands. 

We moored in the Big Brother area in the middle of the night, when my stomach was already feeling upset… it was swinging all the way. Brothers are two rocky islands in the middle of nowhere, emerging out of the blue. They are situated about 8 hours of sailing from the land and are considered to be among the best diving spots in the world. Two residues of volcanic cones look extremely mysterious. Most of them – Big Brother – can already be seen from far away thanks to the lantern on the island, which was built by the British at the end of the 19th century. Little Brother is located about 1 km to the south. Thanks to the local rotary and ingoing currents, Brothers Islands gained widespread fame in the world of divers, because apart from the impressive system of rugged rocks covered with corals, divers are attracted by numerous shoals of fish and large predators, including shark populations. The islands are actually an ideal bait for pelagic species, which was the best thing about diving. Interestingly, Big Brother was ranked 9th among 50 best diving locations in the world in 2012. In my opinion, it was fully deserved.

The first diving at Brothers Islands, and we already saw a thresher! A shark whose unique feature is its extremely long tail part that makes up 1/3 of the entire body length. The shark uses the tail to sandbag other fish and obtains food in this way. Fortunately, we did not become the shark’s victims, but I will never forget the sight of its wiggly tail! There was no end to our joy. Nearly every time we would swim into the whole shoals of colourful fish. Morays, rockfish, stonefish, lionfish, clownfish, Napoleon fish… lots of Napoleon fish! It’s impossible to enumerate all species of fish that we saw underwater. At times the current would change during diving, other times it brought us above the reef, giving us the opportunity to hang in the depth if for a short while. It wasn’t easy. Keeping close to the reef was mandatory. Steep rocks, dropoffs – simply beautiful. And the depth underneath us… Diving at Brothers also means diving on shipwrecks. The first shipwreck we saw was Aida – a 75-metre long ship that sank in 1957. It docked at the harbor with supplies for the Egyptian lighthouse staff, despite the bad weather and storm. When Aida arrived with a change of soldiers, the vessel hull hit the reef due to the huge waves and the ship began to sink almost instantly. Fortunately, the entire crew (several dozen soldiers) managed to leave the sinking ship safely. In the meantime, the vessel moved slightly to the north of the island, finally settling on a steep reef slope. Although the shipwreck is not huge, it is beautifully overgrown by soft and hard corals, and there are tunas, sea basses and coney fish lurking in the nooks… The other shipwreck lying on the slopes of Big Brother is Numidia. The 140-metre long ship sank in 1901 when the officer on call appointed by the captain droped off on the bridge. Numidia leans against the reef wall and gives the opportunity to swim through its interior. We discovered new areas of the ship one after another using flashlights. The shipwreck ends at the depth of approximately 80 metres, which is already unavailable for recreational divers. Corals, shoal of fish, grey reef sharks. Amazing!

We dived 3 times a day, jumping into the water either from the zodiac or directly from the boat. We would always a good laugh as we put on the equipment and entered the water. During the meals (which were absolutely wonderful for me), of course the group from Kiev offered us some homemade alcohol (but only after diving), as well as pork fat, dark bread, red-beet-and-horseradish sauce and horseradish. Apart from that, our invaluable chef treated us with fish, prawns and different types of meat (even camel). In the meantime Jacek, one of the safari participants, celebrated his birthday. Surely there was a small party with toasts, real birthday cake (!) and great dinner. There were presents, wishes and a lot of laughter. On the birthday eve, we threw a dancing party on the upper deck – with music from the loudspeakers and body moving in the middle of the sea, with shining stars and lighthouses on Big Brother…

We also visited the island itself. After the third dive on that day, without wetsuits or jackets, we sailed the zodiac to Big Brother – in the light of the setting sun and waves crashing against the rocky cost, it looked like from the movie ‘King of Devil’s Island’.  We walked all around the island and up the several dozens of stairs leading to the top of the lighthouse. The view was incredible.

After spending two days at the Big Brother diving sites, we set sail towards its smaller version.  And what we saw were smooth hammerheads! Under the water, among the universal silence, I was only waiting for the shaker sign from our guide Sayed, who probably sensed the sharks through his skin. One sound and a whole griup of them began to shake their fins like crazy towards the side indicated by our guide. The hammerheads swam up quite close to us. I could see every detail of their bodies, including the widely spaced eyes. That was an invaluable experience! Although the sharp walls and beautiful reef (snails!) made the diving a great pleasure, it was the sharks that were the biggest highlight there.

One day before the end we dived 4 times, leaving the mysterious Brothers Islands behind us… Brothers have their own rights – the sea currents are so strong that diving at night is out of question. On the other hand, we made use of the absence of currents once we got to Safaga. During the morning dive, Salem Express was already waiting for us. It was a passenger ferry that sank in 1991 because of the captain’s error. Salem hit the reef, puncturing a hole in the bow section as a result. In a couple of minutes the ferry leaned on the right side and settled at the bottom, with approximately 1,000 people onboard… mainly pilgrims coming back from Mecca. On the day when we dived there, there was no sunshine, and the shipwreck looked even more depressing. Lying at the depth of 16-32 metres, it is a mass grave for many human beings. When it comes to diving, we saw the screws, suitcases, radios, irons… very emotional stuff. Swimming inside makes the image of the shipwreck complete. When you swim above the reef or ‘S’ emblem, you have the feeling as if the time stopped… Diving there makes you reflect and calm down for a moment…

The last day of diving was pure madness! There were turtles, octopuses, stingrays, morays in the Hurghada area… We jumped into the water in full sunshine, wearing wetsuits, pants and… bathrobes – that was our ritual practised at the end of the cruise.

Later, drying out onboard, I recalled the most beautiul moments of the entire safari. Dreams sailed forwards with grace, the waves were crashing against the bow, the wind tangled up my hair, and I saw dolphins in the distance. There was freedom in the air and I felt salty water all over my skin. After spending 7 days onboard, I was rocking without thinking to the rhythm of the sea waves. They say that diving safary is not for everyone. It is clearly for me, though…

Anna Sołoducha,

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