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Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: Sha'abrur Umm Gamar
Location: 27°21'55"N; 34°54'55"E
Depth: 40 metres (131 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
This is a small island reef with a steeply dropping wall and a wreck of a barge at 45 metres. The wreck is not very interesting, but the dive is good with more life towards the end including sweepers and glassfish. There is the possibility of seeing some larger fish such as tuna here too.
I haven't actually dived the Colona but did Umm Gammar this year as a pleasure dive. Bits of the wreck from the barge are about in about 20 meters of water. The reef itself I thought was a bit poor but as I only did one dive on it, however I will leave my opinion open until I have dived it at least once more. Carless Reef I thought was much better despite reading about it being bad due to crown of thorns which was eight years ago now.
Ian Higgins, PADI Assistant Instructor
Dive Site: Colona IV - Sha'abrur Umm Gamar
Depth: 66 metres (217 feet)
The Arabic translation of this dive site is “Part of Mother of the Moon”.
Umm is Arabic for Mother and Gamar means Moon. Sha’ab means part of. There
is a dive site to the north of Sha’abrur Umm Gamar called Umm Gamar and
therefore this reef forms part of that reef chain.
The dive site itself is one of my favourites in North Hurghada due to its diversity.
It is basically shaped like a giant teardrop with the top of the droplet pointing
north. It has a 16m sand plateau on the inside (SW side) where the boats moor
for the less experienced diver, where you can dive do an “out-and-back”
dive along the reef wall. This plateau drops away as you head around to the SE
sloping down to 35m and then dropping away to 83m (if you were to head due south
off the southern end). For the more experienced diver (or during a south wind,
when the day boats can moor on the Northern tip) get either your dive boat tender
or the dive boat itself to drop you to the NE of the northern tip and drift in
onto the deep East wall. Your boat can then head back to the SW side and you’ll
enjoy a 45-55 minute “one-way” dive. There are rarely currents here,
despite its more remote location, but if you are lucky this might be a drift dive.
The wall at the north tip drops very quickly down to 84m and then banks up to
a 71m (15-20m wide) sand ledge. However there is a slightly less wide ledge or
step down, at around the 30m mark, so this makes a good reference point for the
start depth of your dive. Don’t stay too deep too long as the boat will
be a healthy 45-55 minute swim away (if there is no current) and the top of the
reef is far prettier from 10m up. Make sure you pay good attention to the blue
as well as the reef – there is a fair chance of seeing small white-tips
and barracuda (this is most likely as you start to turn SW around the large bottom
end of the teardrop shaped reef). Also at this point there is some wreckage from
an Egyptian Navy Barge at around the 30 - 35m mark. If you elected to do an “out-and-back”
dive from the SW side moored boats then you are more likely to be at this wreckage
depth nearer the start of your dive, rather than shallower if you’ve done
the “one way” dive option. Either way, this is a totally smashed up
boat with only a few parts of the engine visible and a few large cube shaped drums
on the edge of the reef, so if you are viewing this from say the 10m mark on the
way to your boat you won’t be missing anything. Back in the early 1990’s
the large south end of the reef used to be home to literally dozens of giant moray
eels (mostly located around the 20m mark). Last time I dived this reef, which
was several times in 2002 they were notably and sadly missing, but keep your eyes
open as these graceful, soft creatures used to often free-swim here. One of the
great things about this reef, whether you do the “out-and-back” dive
or the “one-way” dive is that at the latter part of your dive you
will be shallow whilst heading west along the south wall. I’d highly recommend
getting shallow about halfway through your dive and by shallow I mean 6m or less.
There are small tunnels into the reef at around 3m which most divers miss and
the reef is covered in orange cornthias making for some lovely reefscape pictures
and pictures facing up towards the sea surface.
A much lesser known fact is that there are two wrecks located on Sha’abrur
Umm Gamar and the second is almost completely intact, although this does seem
to be becoming more common knowledge. I originally read a dive magazine article
back in the autumn of 1995 (see above), whilst I was guiding day dive boats in
Hurghada. It simply stated in the news section that the Colona IV (one of Rudi
Kneips small safari boats, and one of the fist dive vessels to operate in the
area) had hit a reef in rough weather and sunk in 78m of water on one of Hurghadas
North reefs with no loss of life, but a total loss in terms of the boat. This
intrigued me and whilst no information seemed readily available between dive Centers
back then (I did make a series of enquiries) I set about trying to find it. A
process of elimination, using my knowledge of the deeper areas of the North reefs
and the fact that Hurghada has only 3 north reefs which fitted the bill meant
I actually didn’t need to do many dives, before s stroke of luck came my
way. By using admiralty charts alongside my knowledge of the deeper dives and
how the reef walls fall away, I pinpointed half a dozen strategic positions, which
with good viz (once you hit 50m in the Red Sea the viz opens up to well in excess
of 30m) should give me a chance of discovery. My first few dives yielded no results,
and to be honest I was relying far more on luck than anything else and as things
turned out it came my way. Whilst moored on the SW tip of Sha’abrur Umm
Gamar in October 1995 I overhead a conversation on a boat moored next to mine.
Another dive guide was complaining bitterly about a diver who had flouted her
30m depth rule and gone much deeper. She was telling of how he must have been
“narced off his head” as he claimed to have seen a wreck. Well, as
you can imagine my ears pricked up at the sound of that and I casually made enquiries
as to their exact dive location. The very next chance I got, which was 24th October
1995, I dived that site and after 7 minutes bottom time the Colona IV came into
sight. She lies on her starboard side in exactly 66m of water (not 78m as the
news article had suggested). The first time I dived her she had only been down
a matter of weeks and there is a great photo of me (attached to this article)
at the stern with the boats name clearly visible. This photo was taken by my buddy
using a Nik V. Back then the name was clearly visible and the white paint work
was hardly blemished. The boat was virtually intact and it was even possible to
enter her cabins by squeezing past the fridge which had fallen into the stairway.
She had obviously already been dived (I assume by Rudi Kneip’s dive Center,
who must have removed personal possessions and dive equipment). Had there been
any equipment on the boat I would not have removed it. I have a strict policy
when it comes to removing anything from anywhere – I never do it! I went
on to dive the Colona IV a number of times and last dived her in November 2002.
She has aged as expected and you can no longer read the name on her stern, making
her a mystery to the first time diver or discoverer. She is still a young wreck
though with little coral on her. Her depth has kept her safe from the general
diving community and will continue to do so. This is not a dive to be underestimated.
It may be blue water, with little current, but it is deep! The Colona IV is only
about 22m in length so knowing her location and exactly where to drop in is a
necessity to allow enough bottom time. Whilst I have not released her location
here and am not in any way suggesting any but the most experienced divers, using
appropriate equipment and gas mixes, should attempt to dive her, I am willing
to give more information if you would like to contact dive site directory
with questions. She makes for an eerie sight as she starts to loom out of the
deep at 50m.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
We tried to find wreck of Colona IV as mentioned by article at dive site directory. We have succeeded on first attempt. We have contributed photos of this wreck as our thanks for information leading to our succesful attempt to find this wreck. There can still be recognized rest of sign Colona IV. It is still in good condition and useable for diving. Decompression is possible to spend drifting to south part of reef where boat are usually moored.
I dived Colona IV late 2008. A great dive! Here is some video. Sorry, the VO is in Russian only...
Vadim Malysh | 23/09/09
Sad! I've done many hours of paintjob on that boat in -92.
A. W. | 25/11/09
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