Diving Marsa Alam in the Red Sea

Elphinstone

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This is a cigar-shaped reef running north-south and over 400 metres in length, located in the southern Red Sea, close to Marsa Alam. It was named after Admiral George Elphinstone, a British naval commander who served in Egypt in the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century. Marked at the sea's surface by just a few small breakers, its healthy marine life and underwater landscapes make it one of the best Red Sea diving sites.

Diving in the Red Sea with oceanic white tip sharks - photo copyright of Oasis, Marsa Alam

The northern and southern tips of Elphinstone have 100m wide plateaus between 20-40m deep, covered with soft corals, huge gorgonians, sponges and sea whips. Diving at the Northern Plateau, it's best to drop in further to the north and drift onto the finger-shaped plateau. Here you'll find purple dendronephthya, brown soft corals and crowds of redtooth triggerfish, fluttering in the current. Giant trevally and great barracuda often hunt here and reef sharks are common. This is also location where you are most likely to spot hammerhead sharks at Elphinstone, although they remain a very elusive sighting.

As you swim closer to the shallows you'll join up with the wall covered in gorgonian fans and intricately carved with overhangs and cracks. This majestic underwater tapestry of Elphinstone is brightly coloured by purple and orange anthias, angelfish and emperors go about their daily business, and flutemouths move stealthily through the shallows.

No strangers to Elphinstone's Southern Plateau and frequently spotted are oceanic white tip sharks, seemingly always accompanied by pilot fish. These sharks seem curious of scuba divers and often return for a surprise second look. Oceanic whitetips are rare sightings elsewhere in the world so this fish, perhaps more than any other, has come to represent what's so special about diving in the southern Red Sea. Best time for an encounter: October until the end of December. Show more


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Elphinstone Reef Basics: Plateaus, wall diving and sharks
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 20 - 35m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface conditions: Generally Calm
Water temperature: 23 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate - advanced
Number of dive sites: 4
Diving season: All year round
Distance: 25 km north of Marsa Alam (1½ hrs), 230 km (14 hrs) south-east of Hurghada
Access: Liveaboards

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