El Mina Wreck
You don’t have to get away from it all to enjoy good diving. The El Mina wreck lies near one of the Red Sea’s biggest resorts
Hurghada was the Red Sea’s first diving destination. In the early 1980s, it was a nine-hour drive from Cairo, and there was just one hotel – the Sheraton, which was too expensive for divers.
As tourism has grown, the concern that dive sites close to the resort are being damaged or spoiled has increased too, leading to divers travelling further afield in search of quieter, more pristine sites. However, in recent years, mooring lines for boats have been installed and there is more awareness among divers of protecting the marine environment. Some think that this is too little, too late, but I found that there are some cracking dives within easy reach of Hurghada.
You can’t get much closer to the town than the wreck of El Mina. The name means ‘The Harbour’ in Arabic – so called because it lies in Hurghada Bay, just minutes from the marina. It is the wreck of a Soviet-designed minesweeper that was bombed by an Israeli plane in the 1960s.
The wreck lies on its port side. The rocky sea bed is 25m deep at the bow and 30m at the stern, where the mooring lines are tied, so it makes sense to start your dive at the stern and swim along the deck to the bow. The wreck is about 70m long, so you have plenty of time to cover the whole length of it, even at this depth.
The ship’s anti-aircraft guns and minesweeping equipment can still be seen around the deck, and divers have also found ammunition on the sea bed around the wreck. After passing the bridge, swim up over the bow and along the hull’s starboard side back towards the stern, where the deck of the ship has twisted towards the sea bed and your dive usually ends.
The bomb damage to the ship is obvious – there’s a large hole in the starboard side of the hull through which you can enter the wreck. Though the ship hasn’t attracted much marine life, the hull is beginning to be colonised by small hard corals and anemones and there is a huge school of glassfish inside the wreck –
their movement and translucence make them appear like a heat haze.
It’s possible to penetrate El Mina and swim down a central corridor to the cabins, although it’s dark and tight in places. It may not be the most beautiful wreck, but it provides a contrast to the reefs and is a popular ‘last dive’ for liveaboards.