Brother, Daedalus Reef & Elphinstone
Egypt’s offshore islands were declared natural protectorates in 1983, which granted them marine park status. Amongst these islands are the now legendary Brother Islands, or El Akhawein as they are called in Egyptian.
Big Brother Island lies about 1 km to the north of its smaller sibling. Characterised by an impressive healthy fish population, it is dominated by tiny anthias, glassfish and sweepers. All are resident on or around a fringing reef that plunges steeply away on all sides. The walls are densely covered by huge gorgonians and colourful soft corals.
Numerous sharks are attracted to the south east point of Big Brother. Grey and white tip reef sharks, hammerheads and the more ominous oceanic white tips are commonly spotted. Make a dawn dive here and you could be lucky enough to see thresher sharks, particularly in autumn and winter which are rarely seen elsewhere by divers.
Big Brother is also home to 2 Red Sea wrecks, lying quite close by one another off the north east point of the island, near the lighthouse. The Numidia is also known as the Railway Wreck due to the 2 locomotive wheels that she was carrying as cargo and now lie in the shallows. She met her end in 1901 when bound for India on only her second voyage. This was a 130m long British wooden cargo ship that ran aground. The bow is broken up and lies in only 8m of water.
Soft corals have claimed the Numidia as their own now and decorate the entire remaining metal framework, bringing the ship back to life for Red Sea scuba divers, this time in the form of a vibrant and colourful living reef. You can follow the hull and a series of masts down to greater depth, but the ship’s stern lies in 90m and well beyond recreational diving limits, so even though you might be able to see it, it would be wise to not follow your enthusiasm.
The Aida was a 75m transport supply ship that came off last during a head-to-head with Big Brother and sank in 1957. Her bow rests at 30m and the stern lies at 60m and deeper, where large groupers lurk. The picturesque wreck has been claimed by the reef and is completely covered in soft and hard corals and a haven for all manner of marine creatures that you’ll see when diving in the Red Sea. There are various ways to dive Big Brother and if this site is on your liveaboard itinerary then you will probably visit it at least 3 times. A common entry point is on top of the Aida wreck from which you make your way along the length of the island with the sloping reef on your left. Look out to the blue for sharks, barracuda and Napolean wrasses.
Little Brother Island is shaped like a rain drop, falling from the North West to south east. Deep walls surround the island on all sides except the northern point, where the reef slopes very slowly away from the island before dropping to a deep plateau at 40m. This plateau is one of the best places in the Red Sea for diving with sharks. Silvertips and grey reef sharks frequent the area and great hammerheads sometimes rise from the deep for a quick inspection before descending into the deep blue once again.
On the eastern and western walls, it’s not about size but about quality. Surrounded by sheer walls covered with black corals, mammoth gorgonian fans with exceptionally dense hard and soft corals covering the spectrum of colours, it’s easy to miss all the beauty as your view is obscured by schools of fish so plentiful that it often blocks out the light.
The current on both these walls tends to run from north to south, so you are likely to end a dive on either wall at the southern plateau. This is a wide ledge some 20m or more deep. Schools of barracuda often circle here, and dogtooth tuna and reef sharks are often prowling close by.
Daedalus Reef is a remote outpost of a reef, less than a kilometre wide and marked by a lighthouse, some 80 km offshore from Marsa Alam. Its isolation means it is not frequently visited and this, together with its marine park status, means its reefs are in mint condition and it’s one of the best scuba dives in the Red Sea. As with the comparable Brothers, strong currents tend to run from north to south along the steep walls of this outcrop and winds can cause surface swells and waves to lash the reef. However, the incredible action below the surface can make the challenging conditions seem all worth it.
Diving at the north point of Daedalus can be the toughest when strong currents are running since the currents tend to split here. But it’s these same conditions that almost gaurantee you some predator action, so find yourself an eddy in the currents, hide out and wait. Hammerhead sharks frequent the area, particularly in the summer months, as do other large pelagic fish such as trevally and tuna.
Due to the Earth’s rotation around the Sun (or is that the Sun around the Earth?!), its best to dive the eastern wall in the morning and the western wall in the afternoon. Again, both walls make drift dives to the southern point. Both walls are thickly overgrown with fans and soft corals but its the western wall that has more variety. A deep ledge at 30m provides homes for anemones and their hosts, endemic Red Sea dottybacks, moray eels and large pore hard coral formations. At the southern point of Daedalus Reef, keep an eye out for a special appearance from thresher sharks.
Elphinestone Reef The Reef of Elphinstone, a truly legendary reef, is one of the most beautiful reefs in the Red Sea, with its north and south plateau, and the walls covered with soft corals, black corals, wire corals and gorgonians.