“So what’s your favorite dive site?” asked a freshly scuba addicted student yesterday.
“Ummm… That’s a really hard question!” I’d replied.
He looked puzzled, “Why?”
Why indeed. I am a PADI Instructor, as are many of you. I am sure you get asked about your favorite dive site all of the time too – don’t you? What is your answer? How do you choose? How is it possible to remember every amazing experience underwater and then pick only one? It is almost always impossible. Diving is incredible in so many ways. You can enjoy a wreck dive as much as a wildlife dive, but we love them each for very different reasons.
So I thought I would write about my top 3 dive sites in this three-part blog series. Surely I can narrow it down to 3!
Dive Site 1: Million Hope Wreck
Location: Nabq Sharm El Sheikh
Length: 130 meters
Depth: 0-30 meters
This wreck has it all. It’s huge, it’s in shallow water, it’s covered in coral and teeming with life. This wreck is rarely dived due to its proximity to the shore line, and notoriously choppy waters make it hard to get there. However, if you are lucky enough to dive it you will be in for a real treat. It took me three trips to Egypt and many attempts by RIB before we had the right conditions to dive the Million Hope Wreck!
Why I love it…
Some of the ship is still visible above the surface but the majority is underwater. The shallow depth makes this wreck one of the most colourful and vibrant wrecks that I have ever seen. The traffic of fish was thick and the nudibranch were out in force. Beautiful.
It’s a big wreck! It is possible to get round it in one dive, although the use of nitrox to extend bottom time will make it a lot easier. This wreck sank in 1996 whilst heading for Cyprus. It was carrying fertilizer high in phosphates; the cargo had to be removed following an algae bloom, but there is still lots to see. The cranes that lie on the bottom create overhangs and there is even a Caterpillar crane at 22 meters; a bizarre addition to the dive that’s covered in colourful soft corals. The rotten seat and flooded controls are contrasted by the many scorpion, lion and glassfish that have made their home there.
White broccoli coral hangs from the ship’s stern but unfortunately the prop and rudder have been removed, leaving a void that the coral struggles to fill. It is one of the places on this ship that makes you feel very, very small! The hull is covered by enormous fire sponges and pajama slugs, as well as there being numerous starfish and pipefish clinging to it. There is a rotary telephone and a toilet seat in the sand surrounded by raspberry coral. There are penetration points everywhere; crew quarters, illuminated by various portholes; a work room complete with spanners on wall hooks, and where a piece of cloth still tied around an old radiator reminds us that this was a working ship.
You can also see the two boilers and twin six-cylinder engines before going up to make your safety stop. My “safety stop” lasted for more than 15 minutes! It was so beautiful between 3 and 5 meters that I could have stayed there forever. The Million hope is a photographer’s dream – so full of natural light. The contrast of this huge rusty beast next to the multi-colored coral is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, watch this space for Part 2 next week!
Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa.