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Scuba Diving in Safaga, the Red Sea
Dive Site: Arba Erg
Description: Pinnacle dive / night dive
Depth: 1 - 16 metres (3 - 52 feet)
Visibility: 15 metres (50 feet)
Arba Erg, also sometimes known as Tobia Arba, is an area of seven pinnacles rising up steeply from the seafloor to nearly break the surface. There are four main pinnacles to swim around (arba meaning four in Arabic); the other three are a bit more of a swim.
The dive site is an excellent one with a lot of variety of fish life, some good healthy coral and even a bit of soft coral. A nice, gentle pace will take you effortlessly between the four main ergs to explore their overhangs and caverns and the fish living within them. We saw puffers, big coral groupers, octopus, lots of lionfish, batfish, blue scale emperors and much more.
The night dive that we did here was excellent. We entered the water just before sunset, which allowed our eyes to adjust to the dimming light meaning we didn't have to rely on torches. Again we saw a lot of lionfish patrolling the reef and some big silver fish in a massive shoal following us between the ergs. A small grey moray peered up at us from under its coral boulder. The highlight of the dive was watching a free swimming giant moray cruising through a gap in one of the pinnacles and on up the side of it. He was large even for a giant moray and must have been about 6 foot long.
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Arba'a (or Arba' for short) means "four" in Arabic. Erg is a coral head or small reef piece; therefore by definition this dive site is called Four Reef Pieces. Whilst there are four main ergs here (one split under the surface, making it appear as two) there is also a further erg within easy swimming distance directly east making this translation a little, well, Egyptian. Also referred to as Tobia Arba' after nearby Tobia Island (this should be TŻbya Arba'a which is the incorrect spelling of nearby GezÓret "TŻbya" - TŻbya Island) and yet further referred to as "The Seven Pinnacles" (you do the maths) this site has nearly as many names as it does ergs.
The bases of the ergs are at around 10m with the seafloor sloping gently away to the south where the boats normally moor. There are permanent moorings roped into the top of 3 of the ergs so a 350 to 360 degree bearing once in the water from the back of your dive boat should take you to one of the main ergs. Underwater the 4 main ergs are visible from each other making navigation pretty easy. This site is ideal for night diving when navigation can be a little more challenging, although with a decent torch the ergs can still be easily located from one another. If you do be come disoriented or separated from the ergs the relatively shallow conditions make it easy to surface and regain your position, taking care to check for any boat traffic (although after dark this is unlikely). Whether diving at day or night there is lots to see on this dive. Plenty of antheas, chromis, angelfish, butterflyfish and damselfish densely populate the ergs. Blue spotted rays are the norm and large blue-scale emperorfish hang out on the small coral formations which litter the sea floor between the ergs and around the perimeter. Clearfin lionfish are common and become much more active after dark. Ideal for novice divers and a good night diving spot there is rarely any current here and if present it is likely to run gently from the northeast towards the southwest.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
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