The reefs in the Straits of Tiran feature walls, gardens, drifts and the chance to spot sharks – all within easy reach of Sharm
The Straits of Tiran is a favourite destination for day boats of both divers and snorkellers, and it occasionally features on liveaboard routes too. Around ten miles north of Na’ama Bay in Sharm El Sheikh, the reefs are named after four cartographers who first mapped them – Jackson, Woodhouse, Gordon and Thomas. The diving here is known for its fast currents, colourful soft corals and the occasional sighting of pelagic fish.
The reefs lie between the Sinai Peninsula and Tiran Island, which form a bottleneck at the base of the Gulf of Aqaba. The currents here can be strong and the area between Jackson and Woodhouse reefs has earned the nickname of ‘the washing machine’ because the currents can come from all directions.
Thomas is the smallest of the four reefs, but also has some of the strongest currents. If the currents are slow, it’s possible to circumnavigate it in a single dive. If not, the eastern side of the reef is the more popular dive site, starting from the southern end and drifting north.
The reef starts at around 1m deep and drops steeply down to 28m, where there’s a sandy plateau with some particularly large and spectacular gorgonian fan corals – some up to 8m wide. Look carefully and you might spot longnose hawkfish among the sprawling fans.
At the end of this plateau, there’s a deep canyon crossed by three arches – it’s one for more experienced divers only though, as it starts at 35m and heads down to more than 50m. Thomas is the most colourful of the reefs in the straits – the soft corals, in deep purples, yellows and creams, are particularly healthy and numerous.
On my dive here, the current picked up as we approached the northern end of the reef, running faster and faster and carrying me and my buddy along like a rollercoaster. All we could do was relax and enjoy the ride.
At the corner of the reef, the current dropped and we were left in an almost eerie calm on its northern side. Heading back the way we came was out of the question, and as we were unable to explore the western side of the reef because the current was flowing strongly on that side too, we finished our dive here