Diving Elphinstone Reef
5 June 2020
The Red Sea has some of the best diving in the world - including the fabulous Elphinstone, in Egypt, whose dives are detailed here. Elphinstone is one of my favourite dive sites.
Elphinstone is 6.5 nautical miles from the shore. You reach it by boat, either a liveaboard or on a day trip from Marsa Alam. It is better to do it from a liveaboard because you get longer on it, and the dive guides generally let you go deeper.
Elphinstone is 300 metres long with sheer sides, and runs from North to South. At the middle it is just 1 m deep, but the walls drop steeply down to the depths. The current here can be very strong, which is good as it means plenty of fish life. The currents are most often north to south, but are variable and can change even during your dive. Visibility is usually around 20 m.
The reef top is one of the few places that you can see Oceanic Whitetip sharks in shallow water (another is the Bahamas). They are curious animals and will come to look at divers. Elphinstone also features many very beautiful corals. If that isn't enough look out for its resident hawksbill turtle and the bottlenose dolphins that might whizz past above your head and hammerhead sharks out in the blue.
"Manta, Hammer Heads, Oceanic White Tip Reef Shark, Napoleon Fish, Sea Turtle
Anders Delén, 7 February 2019
"All cover of soft coral. hammerhead, grey reef sharks, longimanus sharks, huge napoleon and tuna...50 m gorgonia and 56 cave passing the all the reef....topppp
Leonardo, Italy, 3 September 2012
"Elphinstone is a fantastic drift dive. Large shoals of tuna and a turtle were the highlight of the dives. Excellent and exhilerating.
Steve Ivell, 2009
"Great dive but can be frightening in strong current."
"After ten minutes one big manta was coming from east of the reef: spectacular
Two pinacles are on the north side of Elphinstone, the first at 42 m. You then swim back along a series of plateaus at diminishing depths (see the picture to the right). Look out for sharks, especially Oceanic White Tips which are somethimes seen here along with their pilot fish. Other things to see inlcude barracuda, emperor angel fish, zebra angel fish, hoards of anthias, beautiful soft corals, big groupers, giant morays and shoals of suez fusiliers.
"We dived the north in early July and at 34 m saw a 3.5m Tiger shark! Breath taking!
Martyn Slater, 2009
Tiger shark by Albert Kok, CC BY-SA 3.0
The plateaus of the south features a garden of soft corals, and look carefully for the colourful nudibranchs here. Sharks lurk at the tip. You can swim down the west side of the reef, and back up the east.
At the south end of Elphinstone is an archway. It's deep - 65 m - and contains a rock looking very like a sarcophagus.
Divers at the Sarcophagus Archway on Elphinstone by Tim Nicholson
"Arch was awesome done it twice...the rock is really like a sarcophagus. You can get through at around 55 m.
The east side is a great drop-off with huge gorgonia and yet more soft corals. There is some damage at the southern tip though. This can make a good, gentle (depending on the current obviously) drift dive. Large maori (napoleon) wrasse may escort you.
The west is less steep and slightly sandier than the East. Again, huge gorgonia and corals. There are lots of overhangs and small caves. Titan triggerfish patrol and squirrel fish inhabit the overhangs. At around 15 m are many siderea grisea eels. A lovely dive with the possibility of seeing turtles.
Elphinstone Liveaboards - Compare prices online. Book now & pay later.
Luxury liveaboard with space for up to 20 divers. Visits The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone.
English, Arabic and German spoken. Two dive professionals. Seven and eleven night trips.
Offer seven and ten day Egyptian diving cruises. From the Red Sea Aggressor II liveaboard you can swim among hammerheads, dolphins and abundant reef fish.
Topside, an attentive crew of 12 is on hand to attend to up to 20 guests.
- Marsa Alam - Diving Guide and Logbook
- by Julien Stein, Travelling Diver
For £12.50 you get a guide-come-logbook for the Red Sea area around Marsa Alam, Egypt. The format is loose sheets designed to fit into a diving logbook binder. Includes Elphinstone. Read our review.
Available from Amazon.co.uk
- Coral Reef Guide Red Sea
- by Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers, Collins, 384 Pages, Paperback
Coral Reef Guide Red Sea covers all common species of underwater life of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, you are likely to see while diving or snorkelling. Each species is illustrated with a full-colour photograph and the text gives details of range and characteristic behaviour. A map of good dive sites appears on the inside front cover. Includes jellyfish, corals, nudibranchs, starfish, sea urchins, fishes and turtles. An excellent sea life guide which I always take to the Red Sea
- Red Sea Map
- Road map and chart of all the major dive sites in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Eritrea and Djibouti.
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