Diving Around the Coast of Saudi Arabia
By: Nada Seet and Alaa Dahalwi
Sport in Saudi Arabia is a growing activity. In just a few years, diving took a huge leap going from a mostly fishing sport to a great site discovery. The narrow and rocky beaches lead straight into a beautiful underwater world. Many of the beaches on the west coast are still preserving aquatic life and coral reefs which are must see. Boat trips are becoming more popular as they expose the open Red Sea beauty. The Red Sea owes its name to its beautiful red corals and it is known for its vast and diverse ecosystem. There are wide varieties of virgin reefs with spectacular sizes, and there are numerous species of fish. Saudi Arabia is blessed by having the Red Sea on its borders. It is definitely a paradise for scuba divers! The visibility is sensational, especially with the late afternoon light, beautiful coral reefs, and some interesting wreck sites. The water temperature is mainly warm year long. The coolest months are December through March ranging in temperature between 28C to 23C and the highest in July, August, September, October +30C. So basically, you can dive year-round along Saudi Arabia’s coast.
Major Cities that attract most divers are Jeddah and Yanbu. These cities have the main diving areas that promise a fantastic dive, wrecks and an exceptional marine life.
Here are some Diving Sites Around the Coast of Saudi Arabia:
Ann Ann Wreck, Jeddah
A 2 hours drive from Jeddah on the 26-Mile-Reef, you will find the Ann Ann wreck. The biggest and most challenging wreck in Jeddah. It went down in 1977. The wreck stands upright facing East and holds a depth of approximately 32 m at the stern and 5 m by the bow which is firmly ploughed into the reef. It is a breathtaking visit with shellfish casually hanging on its huge rudder and massive propeller decorated with soft coral. The cargo rooms are empty and you can swing through visiting an electric room, a galley, and a captains room. However, the wreck is badly broken and only fit for experienced divers.
You may encounter in your dive some Blue-stripes snappers, blue spotted stingrays, tunas and, occasionally, white-tip sharks around this wreck.
The water above the wreck can have high swells so usually the boat
Jabal Al Lith, Jeddah
Astonishing crystal clear waters, bright colored corals, some moving and some static. Al Lith Island is absolutely a mesmerizing island in the costs of Jeddah. From the shallow turquoise water with white sands, to its beach to its bottom. It ranges in depth from 30 m to approximately 300 meters away from the island and the water color changes to cobalt blue. You can see many large fish, some seasonal whale sharks snorkeling by. The island itself is an experience of its own. From mountain ravines, caves tucked in the middle of the mountain, warm sands and spectacular view.
Cable Wreck, Jeddah
Originally known as the Staphonos. The construction materials carried on board when it sunk in 1978 were steel beams, cables, chain link fence and asbestos sheets, which gave the ship the name it is well known for today: The Cable Wreck. The bottom of the ship lays down on a 24 m depth and with great ambient light hitting from above, it naturally lights up the cargo and lets divers swim and navigate through easily. Also, forming a great life stock all over the wreck. On calm days, it’s greatly explored by all levels of divers. However, on more rough days it turns more for the advanced. A Guitar Shark lives near the bow and white tip sharks commonly seen out along the ledge. There is always a large school of Goat fish and Blue Striped Snappers hanging out at the mast.
The Farasan Banks, Jeddah, Al Lith
Diving in the Farasan Banks, is like diving your money’s worth and more. It is a place to brag about. It consists of thousands of small reefs and few small islands. The depth ranges from 10 m to a maximum depth that reaches up to 500 m, so It’s a great exploration for both Scuba and Technical divers of all levels. Many of these flats have sandy white, breathtaking bottoms. The Banks are well known for their diverse marine life and corals. The Gorgonian corals are 2 to 3 meters across and there are walls of black coral. You can expect to see on the reef wall some clown fish, snappers, moray eels, ghost pipefish, schools of big eye jacks, barracudas, tunas, .. and the list continues. You will have many shark encounters as well, white tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, silky sharks, and hammerhead sharks. A week in Farasan Banks will be worth your time.
Boiler Wreck, Jeddah
The man made Wreck, Boiler Wreck is considered a particular joy and one of the best dives is Jeddah. It lays in an area called Abu Madafi reef with various small neighbor wrecks. Most of these wrecks are so old that they got overgrown with corals that they became part of the environment and are very difficult to spot. Nonetheless, Boiler wreck is becoming one of these sites but you still can see part of the structure. The wreck itself is interesting because of the corals that have taken place and for the overall dive
profile of this location. There are three main things to see:
A wreck that is 18 m in depth covered in fabulous corals, a resident moray eel and other marine life around the ship. Little is left except for a small section of the stern and the two boilers for which it is named. As the ship most probably has been down for over 100 years. The ship is a great visit for open water divers and for the advanced for when it is time to ascend to shallower depth.
Advanced divers may be dropped in open water west of the wreck where they meet a wall that takes them 45 m below. In few moments, you will see large sea fans waving with the currents movements, black coral bushes home to small fish, and soft corals of pink and scarlet red. You may get the chance at any given dive to see sharks, manta rays, and large carnivorous fish like bonito, blue fin jacks and kingfish may pass along the wall.
Lastly, and after visiting the wreck moving forward to the bow that is lying in less than 3m you’ll find a complex system of caverns and gullies that cut through the reef, some in totally still water with sandy floors, others undulating and filled with boulders. It takes you in a tunnel leading through the coral to an open pool that is 5 M deep. The light show through the small openings from the top probably makes it the most photogenic site off Jeddah.
Miss Marie Wreck, Jeddah
It’s a wreck of a coaster that sunk stern first, leaving the bows. First thing that strikes you as you arrive is the fact that it is not just one wreck, but three, two with their bows exiting the water.
Because it’s a difficult wreck to reach, it is undamaged, the reef is full with life, has a good selection of corals and wealth of interesting gullies. Turtles, rays and occasional moray supplement the brightly colored fish that inhabit the shallows looming twenty meters or so above the reef above the sea. Occasionally visited by cruising silky sharks, hammerhead, lemon, reef, and tiger sharks. The combination of wreck and reef make a varied and interesting dive site and you will still want to go back for more.
Seven Sisters, Yanbu
If you are talking about the Seven Sisters then you’re talking about Hammerhead Sharks. The sisters area is a habitat for the Hammerheads for almost year long. Most of the dive sites in Yanbu are still untouched and a pleasant way to spend the day.
Marker No 39:
Tower light marker 39, a reef which is located in the southern part of the Seven Sisters chain. This beautiful dive site is full of hard and soft corals of all colors, in this area we dove with schools of Pickhandle Barracuda, Red Snapper, Squirrelfish of enormous size, and the many and varied smaller reef fishes.
Marker No 41:
Tower light marker 41, is a drop off dive with a very beautiful wall full of different colored corals, with schools of Red and Black Snapper racing from the top of the reef into the many lagoons dotted into the wall. Swimming in the current just off the wall are the Big Eye, Dog Tooth and Bonito Tuna.
Marker No 32:
Tower light marker 32, a soft coral reef. If you are planning a fun dive this is the reef for you, it is especially nice if you are an underwater photographer or movie maker. On this reef you will probably see Tiger Shark, Yellowfin Tuna, White Tip Reef Shark and Grey Reef Shark, the numerous different kinds of soft and hard coral make this site a dream.
This reef has one of the most beautiful dive sites in Yanbu. It has one of the only shallow anchorages in the sisters, allowing you to overnight in relative safety. The Galawa reef is a corral grotto on the Eastern side with a drop off to North and South the Grotto in 20 meters the Drop off going to 400 meters, schools of Barracuda, large Grouper and cruising the drop off many different species of Red Sea Sharks.