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DIVE SITES PART #1

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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 23 dive sites, 21 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.

 

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 frog and scorpian fish 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. 

FIRST BAY

FirstBay 750

Max Depth 30m | Beginner to Advanced | Reef

Split into two sections, north and south, this is the first dive in the confines of the Marine Park. There is an easy beach entry to reach the fire corals on the shallow fringing reef at eight metres which slopes down to 15m. There is an assortment of life to be seen to the depth of 18m including table corals, parrot fish, cornet fish and glass fish. There is a good spot for tech diving if you swim further out from this site. 

 

KING ABDULLAH REEF

 

blue spotted ray shutterstock 263297513 1Blue-spotted ray

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 as they are packed with parrot fish and schooling fusiliers.   

 

BLACK ROCK 

snowflake moraySnowflake moray eel

Max Depth 30m | Intermediate to Advanced | Reef 

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

RAINBOW REEF

RainbowReef 750

Max Depth 30m | Beginner to Advanced | Reef 

Accessed from the Black Coral or Cedar Pride entry points, this dive site offers a sloping sandy swim to a coral wall which starts at six metres, and is in the shape of a rainbow. The wall eventually flattens out to a blanket at 30m. Many people prefer to dive this site at night to see a different variety of marine life that comes alive, feeding, in the later hours. Feather tailed starfish, lobsters and Spanish dancers come out for divers to see.   

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 crows 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 the wreck on the starboard side is as shallow as ten metres, 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.

 

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 the realm of most divers, but tekkies will enjoy the challenge of working their way from 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 glass fish that seek refuge from predators amid the wreckage. 

 

TARMAC FIVE 

TarmacFive 750

Max Depth 27m | Intermediate to Advanced | Wreck

Not far from the Cedar Pride you will find this deliberately sunk barge which used to be the only diveable wreck in Aqaba. Sunk in 1996, it landed on part of an old fishing boat wreck which had been underwater since the 70's. Although the wreck is nothing special it is home to a good volume of marine life which includes blue spotted stingrays, frogfish and inside the wreck is full of banded coral shrimp.  

 

JAPANESE GARDEN

Max Depth 30m | Beginner to Advanced | Reef  

There is 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 an eelgrass bed at around five metres, that is famed for its snowflake morays. Weaving your way past fire corals and schools of damsel fish and sergent 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 moray.   

GORGON 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 butterfly fish flutter around and a resident turtle is usually in attendance. 

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