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Scuba Diving in the Red Sea
Dive Site: Sha'ab Umm Usk
Location: 27°35.130N; 33°52.270E
Description: Reef / night dive
Depth: 9 metres (30 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
A popular night mooring spot with the safari boats. You are most likely to be diving Sha'ab Umm Usk as a night dive due to it's safe overnight mooring in its lagoon. It is a horseshoe shaped reef with the open ends of the horseshoe pointing south.
My advice with most night dives in the Red Sea is to stay small. Don't try and cover large distances. This site is unlikely to be affected by current. I have seen Spanish dancers here on many night dives, and shoals of lunar fusiliers around dusk come in close to the reef for shelter. The normal clearfin lionfish should be out hunting and there is also a healthy population of featherstars. This site is best dived in around six metres of water and if you spend the night here whilst heading north then you are likely to be heading for the wrecks of Abu Nuhas in the morning, or even waiting to cross the Straights of Gubal and dive the S.S Thistlegorm. Either way you are in for a great set of dives, so a gentle night dive at Sha'ab Umm Usk the evening before is just the ticket.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
Sha'ab Umm Usk has changed little in 10 years of diving it. The day dive can be quite good moving along the sand bed, peppered with coral heads, with the wall on the left. Usually the boat is moored in the lagoon entrance and the depth under the boat can be around 25m. On day dives you quite often see several large Napoleon wrasse and large clams are dotted around. As dolphins quite often play in the lagoon these are sometimes encountered as well.
During the day the best return to the boat is shallow at around 6-8m, so the swim hits the corner. Here a profusion of soft teddy bear corals are draped over the walls. This wall comes alive at night. The night dive starts from the lagoon, across old coral on the sand until the wall is encountered. Usually the dive starts on the corner which is turned and the reef is on the right, return is reciprocal. It is advisable not to venture too far along the wall as current can be encountered going out.
The coral heads off the wall are fantastic at night with a dense mass of deep red teddy bear corals. Look closely for the white ghost crabs. Shrimps eyes can be seen everywhere, and many small crabs. Many blennies, sleeping parrotfish, hermit and anemone crabs abound. Numerous scorpionfih are about, as are lionfish in places. The sand areas around hold stonefish - yes they are there - it's excellent camoflauge country for them. On return, going back to the corals at 6-8m, these present a wonderous sight with polyps full out feeding. Yellow anthazoa are out feedng their tentacles very delicate. The profusion, richness and colours of the teddy corals is stunning, with lilac, oranges, reds, and pinks.
Every time I dive this site I look out for a particular gorgonian fan covered in soft teddy bear corals, which rests at the wall base in 10m. Navigation back to the boat is reasonably easy from the corner providing you've taken a compass bearing.
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