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Scuba Diving in Safaga, the Red Sea
Dive Site: M.V. Hatour
Location: Sha'ab Sheer, Safaga
Description: Offshore Reef
Depth: 25 - 200 metres + (80 - 655 feet)
Visibility: 25 - 30 metres (80 - 100 feet)
The Motor Vessel Hatour was a locally built, wooden construction, Egyptian liveaboard which sank in late November 2001 in just 16 metres of water. Located on the eastern end of Sha'ab Sheer (Hyndman Reef on Admiralty Charts), the vessel now lies slightly to the south between the main reef and the two large ergs which mark the most eastern part of this long reef.
Reportedly, this dive boat was meeting another vessel at Abu Kafan (located to the east) where she struck the south side of this reef and began taking water. With no alternative (due to the deep water surrounding Abu Kafan) she was put in tow and the convoy made for the nearest shallow water at Sha'ab Sheer, where passengers and crew were evacuated and she subsequently sank. Over the next few months in true Egyptian style everything of value was salvaged and scavenged from the easily accessible wreck. Today little more than a wooden hull remains recognisable by its shape and remaining features, such as the railings at the bow. Dive vessels often moor on the south side of Sha'ab Sheer for the night, taking advantage of the shelter. If your dive boat has a zodiac or RIB a good dive option is to head around to north side and the lovely hard coral garden at 14m. The coral here is the large boulder type which can be a little disorienting, however keeping the main reef to your right shoulder will ensure you reach the south side. There is rarely any current at this point on the reef so don't rely on this to aid your swim back.
The MV Hatour is easily visible from the reef (although visibility does tend to be poorer on the south side) and it is definitely worth a stop to investigate the remains. Also a popular night dive site this small wreck has added to the south side of the reef which has much less coral growth and marine life than the north. Heading out from your dive boat, investigate the first of the ergs making a circuit or two where there is some soft coral growth and a fair chance of Spanish dancers at night. The wreckage takes on a new perspective in the dark and a large resident moray eel seems to have made his home here.
Check out the pictures here on DSD from our recent trip in 2006, where another dive vessel had been grounded on the southern side of Sha'ab Sheer reef in what looked like very similar circumstances to the demise of the Hatour. The stranded boat was called MY Daedalus and despite the efforts of us and another dive boat we were unable to move her from the reef. These pictures were taken on August 27th 2006. Perhaps the Hatour has another dive wreck to keep her company already!
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor