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Scuba Diving in Safaga, the Red Sea
Dive Site: Arpha Bank
Location: Safaga (26°45.32N; 34°02.22E)
Description: Offshore Reef
Depth: 25 - 200 metres + (80 - 655 feet)
Visibility: 25 - 30 metres (80 - 100 feet)
Arpha Bank is a large seamount rising from depths in excess of 200m to within 25m of the surface in the open ocean. Due to the lack of shelter for boat mooring, the exposure to rough surface conditions (for both the boat and divers in the water) and the reluctance of captains to locate the site, this area is almost never dived. This makes it all the more enticing. If you are lucky enough to get an adventurous captain who doesn't mind using his GPS and depth sounder and spending some time hooking the anchor then this place is well worth a visit for the more experienced diver. The above co-ordinates are ones I took and used in the early 1990's, when GPS tended not to be as accurate for the average handheld user. However we always managed to find an anchor spot in around 30m on the seamount using these coordinates and the bank is clearly marked on Admiralty Chart 3043 halfway between Geziret Safaga Island and Panorama Reef.
This is both a challenging and rewarding dive best attempted in very calm conditions. Underwater conditions can be tough as the area is often swept by strong currents which can make descent, ascent and returning to the shot after a dive demanding. The first time I tested this site for suitability for bringing more experienced groups of divers, the current was ripping past the seamount at 35m. Huge groups of tuna and bluebar trevally hung in the blue as the seamount loomed into sight. The acropora table coral on the upper mount reaches staggering proportions and soft coral bounds in the deeper water. On one dive here (in very calm conditions with no current) I saw by far the largest green sea turtle I've ever seen in the Red Sea.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor