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Friday, April 03, 2015

Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks in North Sudan

This years dive trip brought me all the way to Sudan.

For an easier arrival we started our journey in Port Ghalib, Egypt, where we boarded the Royal Evolution. After a delay due to bad weather we were able to sail South the next day and do some diving on the way to our destination.

Fortunately, we were able to get permission to dive in Sudanese waters before officially arriving in Port Sudan. This gave us the opportunity to spend a day at Shaab Rumi where we encountered our first sharks of the trip. While others had already spotted Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks, I was always a bit too far away, but there were a couple of Grey Reef Sharks around to console me :).

 The first night dive took place at Sanganeb Wall, where we encountered a plethora of large nudibranches, such as Spanish Dancers, Large Pleurobranchus and Humped Halgerda.

The next day we had an early start with a 6am dive in order to get to Port Sudan in time for the immigration procedures. After a couple of hours in the harbor we were finally cleared to leave and continued onwards to the wreck of the Umbria. The Umbria was an Italian supply ship during the Second World War, which was sunk by the captain on purpose to prevent it from falling into Allied hands. The wreck is still in good condition and there are several places where penetrations are possible. The highlights are 3 Fiat 1100s, the engine room and lots of leftover ammunition.

The next day we returned back Northwards to Sanganeb reef where we visited the lighthouse, the only time we stepped on Sudanese soil, and then encountered enormous schools of Blackfin Barracuda and Bigeye Trevally.
 

At Shaab Rumi we visited the remains of Jacques Cousteau's Conshelf II project, where in 1963 several habitations were built in 10 meters depth, housing six oceanauts for 30 days. Besides some debris there is also a scooter shed and a large bell shaped housing, that might have been used for experiments or as a submarine garage.
 

After we had a look around in- and outside the buildings we continued along the wall where I discovered a group of Pyjama Slugs. Two of them were mating at the time!

 The following night dive had surprised again when I stumbled upon a tiny cuttlefish :)

And then it was finally time for me to see the Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks too. At Shaab Rumi's South Plateau we encountered first a single one swimming right past us, unfortunately I had my camera in macro mode at the time!!!, and then we encountered a small school of them.

Further North we stopped at Qita el Banna where we encountered a very curious Silky Shark. We were hanging out away from the reef looking around when he shot straight at us out of nowhere, a couple of meters away from us he stopped and kept swimming to and fro for about five minutes :)
The second dive would top this with a school of at least 11 Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks and a return visit by the Silky :).
Afternoon and evening dives were at Merlo reef where we spotted a couple of Flashlightfish lurking in the reef during the nightdive.
The last great shark dive was at Angarosh's South Plateau where a Scalloped Hammerhead Shark came very close to check me out at 40 meters depth!

On our continued way North we didn't spot any more sharks, but we did have a couple of nice encounters with Turtles and other fish.

The final highlight was at St John's back in Egypt when I caught a Red Sea Anemonefish with a Cleaner Shrimp.

Conclusion:
Diving in Sudan was very nice. The reefs were in very good shape and there was plenty of fish activity. We were a bit unlucky with the weather, there was almost no current which kept the large schools of Sharks at bay. Nevertheless I had a fantastic time.

During the 13 days on board the Royal Evolution I did 37 dives with an average maximum depth of 30 meters, with a maximum of 41.4 meters (that's where I encountered the Hammerhead Shark), spending 32.5 hours under water. Even though the conditions were relatively mild it is definitely advanced diving and can only be recommended to divers who have experience with strong currents.

More pictures can be found in these two web albums:
- Egypt 2015
- North Sudan 2015

If you want to know more about the different dives, you can check out my divelog for this trip.

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