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Top Dives | Aqaba

Pretty reefs that offer a good mix of marine life combined with easy diving and fewer crowds have made Aqaba a popular destination for those who want to see a different part of the Red Sea. The fantastic wrecks are a bonus


Aqaba has 234dive sites, 22 of them lie within the boundaries of the Marine Park and each one of them has its special feature and unique character. They can only be truly appreciated by putting on your diving gear and losing yourself in the warm, enticing waters of Aqaba’s unique coastline.

Initiatives taken by the Aqaba Marine park (AMP) and the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS), as well as the efforts of the dive centres and the divers themselves, are helping to ensure its future.

The AMP was established to conserve and manage the natural near-shore marine environment of the Aqaba south coast region. This region extends for 7km along the coast and on the marine side extends to either the 70m bathymetric contour line or to 350m westward from the mean high water mark.

The AMP is playing a major role in helping to preserve Aqaba’s corals, reefs and the marine life in general of Aqaba’s near-shore environment, as well as promoting awareness of their importance. The park has a shell museum, an interpretation room for children, and a library dedicated to works on the marine environment and conservation. It also has public beaches with associated facilities such as a restaurant and gift shop.

JREDS was established in 1994 with the aim of helping to protect Aqaba’s marine life and conserve its biodiversity. It has carried out a number of projects including conducting a baseline survey for the coral reef; monitoring the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, which has potential to damage the reef; helping to reintroduce native turtles to the Red Sea; and running regular underwater clean-up programmes.

If you want an early introduction to the startling, the beautiful and the rare varieties of fish that await you on a dive, you can visit the Aquarium at the Marine Sciences Station. Located 10km south of Aqaba, the Aquarium is open Sunday to Thursday from 08:00 am to 04:00 pm and on Friday, Saturday and official holidays from 08:00 am to 05:00 pm.

 


Cedar Pride Wreck 

Max Depth 28m  |  Beginner to Advanced  |  Wreck 

Arguably Jordan's top dive, the Cedar Pride is the wreck of a Lebanese freighter that in 1985 was deliberately sunk as an artificial reef at the request of King Abdullah II. The wreck lies on its port side, bridging two reefs and is well colonised by hard and soft corals. Highlights include the crow's nest, which is easy to find – just follow the photographers who will be competing to capture the best snaps of this coral-covered feature. The top of wreck on the starboard side is as shallow as 10m, so it makes a good option for groups of mixed abilities. Expect to see snapper, lionfish, and a good smattering of reef fish. Barracuda are often seen here and even Napoleon wrasse put in the odd appearance. 

 


C130 HERCULES WRECK

Max Depth 18m  |  Beginner to Intermediate  |  Wreck 

The C-130 'Hercules' transport aircraft was sunk in November 2017 as an artificial reef and it is a fun, attractive and easily accessible dive. Sunk in less than 18m of water, close to shore and not far from the Tank (see below), the Hercules is also an excellent wreck to snorkel, with the tip of the giant tail fin rising to just below the surface. The exterior is a beginner level dive in almost every respect and although caution must be applied while penetrating any sunken wreck, the aircraft has had all of its doors removed and the cavernous interior makes for easy and atmospheric swim-throughs.  

 


Taiyong Wreck 

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Max Depth 57m  |  Technical  |  Wreck 

This large crane barge scuttled in 1999 sits at a maximum depth of 57m on its starboard side and is close to the popular Japanese Garden site. Its considerable depth puts it outside of the realm of most divers, but tekkies will enjoy the challenge of working their way from the top of the wreck at 35m to its maximum depth of 57m. Tyres and winches can be seen along the superstructure and the crane is clothed in black corals and gorgonian fans. Schools of fusiliers are a common sight as are balls of glassfish that seek refuge from predators amid the wreckage.

 


 

The Tank wreck 

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Max Depth 6m  |  Beginner  |  Wreck 

This M42 anti-aircraft vehicle is another artificial reef project. It was sunk in 1999 by the Jordanian Royal Ecological Diving Society. The wreck is known as 'The Tank' and its shallow depth makes it a fantastic site for novices and even snorkellers. It's also easy to access at only 20m from the shore. The largely intact structure makes it a visual treat, and attracts plenty of reef fish. Several moray eels have also made homes in the wreckage.  

 


 

Eel Garden 

Max Depth 30m  |  Beginner to Intermediate  |  Pinnacle 

There is a profusion of garden eels in the seagrass at this site which is easily approached from shore. Scorpionfish and lionfish are often seen in the grass and eels cover the sandy slope where rare black corals grow in abundance. A pinnacle at 7m provides the greatest interest, with its resident giant moray who is well served at this cleaning station by banded boxer shrimp. Anthias and other reef fish make this a beautiful scene.


 

Gorgone 1 

 

Max Depth 15m / Beginner / Pinnacle 

Famous for the two large gorgonian fan corals after which it is named, divers reach this shallow site through a small passageway in the reef. Keep your eyes on the reef for shrimps and morays before reaching the large cabbage coral at the end of the passage, you can then make your way to the fan corals or head for three pinnacles that are home to a variety of reef fish and invertebrates. Angel and butterflyfish flutter around and a resident turtle is usually in attendance.

 


 

King Abdullah Reef 

Max Depth 30m  |  Beginner  |  Reef 

Named after Jordan's ruler King Abdullah II, who has done so much to champion scuba diving in Jordan, this site is one of Aqaba's most popular dive spots. Divers weave their way through the fringing reef and can then take a circular route to either the right or left. Fan corals, sponges and a school of pennant fish line the route, and torpedo and blue-spotted rays are often on show. A number of pinnacles at the end of the dive provide a great way to finish the dive as they are packed with parrotfish and schooling fusiliers.

 


 

Kiwi Reef 

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Max Depth 24m  |  Beginner to Intermediate  |  Reef

A must for underwater photographers, Kiwi Reef is one of those sites where you need to slow down, take your time and let the action unfold in front of you. The site is made up of lots of small pinnacles at around 20m which are reached via a short swim over seagrass beds. Pick your spot and take in the many varieties of moray eels – including yellow-mouthed and peppered – and enjoy the schooling damselfish and large emperor fish circling the pinnacles. It's a great place for macro fans too, as nudibranchs and Christmas tree worms abound.  

 


 

Japanese Garden 

Max Depth 30m   |  Beginner to Advanced  |  Reef 

There's a good chance of seeing white-tip reef sharks on what has become one of Aqaba's signature dives, which is popular with divers of all levels. A gully through the reef leads to a eelgrass bed at around 5m, that is famed for its snowflake morays. Weaving your way past fire corals and schools of damselfish and sergeant majors, head over the black coral at a depth of 20m and keep an eye out in the blue for any pelagic visitors. There's also the opportunity to see gorgonian fans, hawksbill turtles and several species of morays.

 


 

Power Station 

Max Depth 30m  |   Intermediate to Advanced   |  Reef wall

This wall dive three or so miles south of Aqaba is only accessed by boat. The reef drops to a sandy area before sloping some 20m down and then dropping off a further 200m. The wall is very attractive with plenty of rich coral cover including fans. There are lots of morays poking out of hidey-holes in the wall, and frogfish and scorpionfish are likely to be seen. Make sure you keep an eye on the blue for larger visitors, and expect to see napoleon wrasse, turtles and rays.  

 


 

Black Rock

Max Depth 30m  |  Intermediate to Advanced  |  Reef

A mixed-level dive, that's great for turtle lovers - you'll be in hawksbill heaven. The site is often used for advanced diving training. There several pinnacles and a good mix of hard and soft corals, including large cabbage coral and clumps of black coral at between 14 and 30m. The current can be up to 1 knot at the deeper parts of the dive, but you can slow things down by making your way back to the sandy area at about 10m where you'll see snowflake and grey moray eels. 

 

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