This saga of the most beautiful dive sites in the Egyptian Red Sea continues with the description of another flagship location off the coast: The Brother's Islands, which will delight lovers of reef and pelagic watercolors. But the wealth of the seabed is matched only ... the difficulty of dives! Follow me on this wild legendary site, lost somewhere in the middle of the Red Sea.
Al Akhawein - "The two brothers", in Egyptian, or "Brothers", in English - are two islets that have arisen from the bottom of the Red Sea 84 km from the coast and parallel to it, in front of the fishing town of Quseir. Like Daedalus Reef, “the two brothers” are underwater mountains that grew in the middle of the Red Sea thanks to a volcanic resurgence caused by the subduction of the Arabian and African continental plates, on the Rift Fault. Easily accessible from Hurghada, Safaga or Marsa Ghalep, it is during “BDE” (Brother's island, Daedalus reef, Elphinstone), “Nord-Brothers” or simply “Brothers” cruises that you can get there.
The Brothers are no longer to present! As the supreme dive site for pelagics for more than twenty years, divers travel there constantly from March to December in all weathers. Each season, his specialty! Big Brother houses a lighthouse of 31 m high of English origin. It was built in 1883, then renovated in 1993. In the beginning it was only equipped with a kerosene lamp and a complex lens system. Then it was automated. There are four soldiers and an engineer.
Small Brother is covered only with small mounds of stones, which to superstitious sailors would correspond to burials. Legend or reality, it is forbidden to climb there.
The two islands are spaced about a nautical mile apart. They come together by 400m background.
The Big Brother Island measures 300 m long approximately. A reef flat around the entire island and extends about fifty meters to the north. A drop-off overhangs the North, East and West slopes with a coral plateau to the South. Two wrecks lie on these drop-offs. One on the northern tip, Numidia, and the other, the Aida II, on the north-west slope.
DIVING ON BIG BROTHER
- The South plateau
Generally, dive boats are moored between the lighthouse pontoon and the southern tip of the platier. The diver then immerses reef on his left hand and he descends gradually along the drop to reach the plateau, towards 30 m background. Be wary of the current that sometimes cuts in two, from north-east to south west or vice versa. On this plateau, between 30 and 45 m are laid three coral balls on which there are cleaning stations, these specific territories where wrestlers cleans the main role deworming pelagic fish and others.
The main attraction of this dive is the encounter with the pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus). This shark is said to be hygienic, because it has a permanent need to be cleaned before leaving to hunt. Indeed, it is thanks to his silver dress that he hypnotizes the schools of sardines or fusiliers by turning around them. Once the fish ball is compact, it hits it with its long tail and only has to gobble up these stunned prey. There are six different ones - of sex and size - that roam between the two islands.
Gray reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhinchos) can also be found on patrol along the plateau and the wall. After having explored the plateau, it will be necessary to turn around at 100 bars or during the first stages. It will take the reef on your right to return to the boat. The drop is lined with alcyonnaires, very often animated fish flutes, big napoleons, barracudas and tuna crossing in the blue.
- The Numidia
The weather conditions must be optimal to offer this dive. Indeed, the wreck is placed on the northern tip of the island where the waves break. When the wind is strong and the surf is important, it is dangerous to immerse it because the flat does not flush the surface of the reef but falls by ten meters of bottom. We must immerse ourselves in negative buoyancy, the vest completely emptied, so as not to get caught by the swell on the flat! In addition, if the current is violent, divers can easily be carried away in the blue. The Numidia is a diving that deserves!
This English cargo ship 130 m long and 6 400 barrels struck the North of the island in 1901. It is now vertically between 10 and 84 m. The front of the boat has been destroyed by the waves over time, but the rear remains in good condition. The middle part is damaged but splendid as it is full of life! Immediately after your immersion, join the wreck to the 15 m to avoid the surf. There, stupefied, it is sometimes difficult for you to realize that you are on the top of the boat so there are concretionary parts. Your itinerary will depend on the current. In the blue, schools of tuna, trevallies, barracudas, gray reef sharks hovering. If there is swell, it is recommended not to walk in the wreck for fear of getting hurt by hitting the scrap. Otherwise you can enter by 38 m in the engine block and then go up along the internal infrastructures, to 20 m.
The corridors, impressive with their davits, are also covered with alcyonarians of all colors animated by the incessant broom of the anthias. Take the reef on your left, if possible, depending on the current. Sometimes you have to press the fins a few meters to pass the tip and then drift quietly towards the Aida II, an Egyptian troop carrier that sank in 1957 and you fly a few minutes later.
The Aida is much more damaged and deep - its top is 30 m - than the Numidia, but it does not have enough interest to earn it diving for it alone. Around 15 m above the wreck, you will be able to contemplate the engines which are still posed on the plateau, in the middle of the acroporas. Further on, you will take out your parachute in 50 bars to surface at 30, before the zodiacs come to pick you up.
- The Southeast Drift
Depending on the success of your dives on Big Brother, you can also try a drifter along the East Slope. A few minutes from the boat, the diver is dropped a little before the middle of the island, in negative immersion if it is possible, because of the waves. By taking the reef on your right, you will drift along the wall, which is beautiful, covered with life, with its mixture of gorgonians, alcyonarians and coral fauna of all kinds.
Be sure to always take a look at the blue to avoid any possible passage of pelagic fish. At the end of the day, for example, yellowfin tunas crisscross these waters ... A few tens of minutes later, you will reach the southern plateau. If your decor and your conso allow you, redo a passage above the cleaning stations, you never know! Return to the boat area after one hour of diving.
The island of Small Brother is much smaller than its big brother. It measures a hundred meters hardly. A very long submerged platier extends to the north of the island for a hundred meters and overlooks a small coral tip 45 m lower. There is a drop on the east, west and south slopes.
SMALL BROTHER DIVES
- The northern tip
As for the wreck of Numidia, the weather conditions must be optimal for this dive. A quick immersion vacuum vest up to 15 m deep is mandatory to avoid being dragged by the waves and swell on the flat. Once on the north wall, go down on the 35 m above the step on which there is a cleaning station. With luck, it is possible to encounter gray sharks hovering, fox sharks or solitary hammerhead sharks. Raising your head, you will see the barracudas facing the current and the tuna and trevallies walk side by side. As you turn back to the wall, the wall seems to move, so it is full of life. A colony of butterflyfishes from the Indian Ocean lives there. Take the reef right hand depending on the current and return quietly along the wall. At the end of the dive, you will fly over a forest of gorgonians, before reaching the mooring lines of your boat.
- Falling West
The drop point is the same as for the North Point. In the same way, stay on the march as long as you can to cross pelagic. Then take the reef on your left and drift towards the boat. The wall is more rugged than in the East, with overhangs and crevices. The way back is often shorter than going east.
- The gorgonian forest
At the end of the day, the current often breaks on the south-eastern part of Small Brother. At this point between 17 and over 50 m deep, is a huge forest of gorgonians. Take the reef on your right. On your way, it is possible to cross gray reef shark, fox shark and sometimes even an oceanic shark under the boat. Very nice contrast, simple and effortless, to finish a busy day.
SEE ON THE BROTHER'S:
An extraordinary pelagic and benthic diversity! These two sites are known worldwide for their pelagic fauna, starting with sharks. There are very few places in the world where you can dive with pelagic fox sharks. Brother's are part of it! There are no less than a dozen different gray sharks, some solitary hammerhead sharks and, with luck, oceanic sharks. Some mantas also stay there a few months, between June and September. Dogtooth tunas, yellowfin tunas, barracudas, jacks, napoleons, moray eels, scorpionidae, there are everywhere and for all tastes! Between giant sea fans and alcyonarians of all colors, coral lovers will not be disappointed either.
- Accessibility: By cruise only. Departing from Sharm El Sheik, after a long journey south, from Hurghada, Safaga or Marsa Galep, on the Golden Triangle (BDE), Brothers, Nord-Brothers and Brothers-Sud cruise circuits.
- Diving level: A level 2 confirmed with about fifty dives (or PA40) or Advanced Open water diver with the Deep Dive specialty. Be familiar with the use of your dive computer, especially when entering the landings. Know your equipment perfectly.
- Difficulty of the dives: The dives in the north of the islands require total autonomy even if you are supervised by guides who know the site. Know your equipment perfectly and have a trusted partner. Take into account three very important factors, air autonomy, orientation, decompression, which are essential for diving safety. Watch out for strong rip currents or downdrafts, as well as excursions into the blue. Sometimes it is a good idea to cancel dives for the safety of the divers. A diving parachute with a reel is recommended in the event of offshore drift, given the depth.
- Taxes: All the Egyptian islands belong to the Army. You will therefore have to pay a marine tax of around one hundred euros to be able to dive on these offshore sites - either included in the price of your stay, or to be paid on site.
- Shopping: In addition to your underwater souvenirs, you can bring back one or more T-shirts for 10 € from your stay that you will only find on site, exclusively!
- Best periods: The Brothers are open all season, from March to December. The fish that you may come across underwater will depend on the time of the season. Back when there were still plenty of oceanic sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus), the optimal time was October and November. But in recent years, they have become rarer. The gray reef sharks and thresher sharks, sedentary, are present all year round.
Steven Surina is a diving instructor in the Red Sea. In this capacity, for a decade, he has accompanied cruises along the Egyptian, Sudanese and Eritrean coasts. He worked in partnership with the Italian publishing house “Magenes Editoriale” on the project of a collection of dive sites all over the Egyptian Red Sea as an author and illustrator. He wrote a dissertation on the behavior of oceanic sharks in 2008 and distributed interactive booklets on the protection and preservation of sharks to Egyptian schools.
He participates with Dr Erich Ritter in a series of seminars. At the end of these months of work and joint experience with the Shark School Eric Ritter, he launched his own conferences in 2009. This is how he created, in 2010, Shark Education which offers shark diving trips whose objective is to help them get to know and understand them better.