Straits Of Tiran
The Straits of Tiran, situated at the beginning of the Gulf of Aqaba, is one of the best sites in the area. There are four coral reefs named after the 19th Century English cartographers who drew the first nautical map of this region: Jackson Reef, Woodhouse Reef, Thomas Reef and Gordon Reef.
Typically there are strong currents that attract Barracuda, Jackfish, Tuna and Sharks, but the actual reefs are gardens filled with coloured fish.
In line with the Strait of Tiran, the Gulf of Aqaba reduces its width of approximately 19.3 kilometres to 3.9 kilometres. The depth of 1,270 metres goes up to only 71 metres in Grafton Passage (for ships going northwards) and 250 metres in Enterprise Passage (for ships going south).
Jackson Reef is the most northerly reef in Tiran and is known for the wreck, partially demolished in 1996, of the Cypriot merchant ship Lara that sank here in December 1981. Diving here usually begins on the southern side, which is sheltered from the waves and wind, and there is some fixed mooring line. The reef on the southern side in the shallows is cut with sandy splits, and then descends steeply to the sandy seabed at 45m where you can see some Garden eels. Going westwards, you will see some gorgonians and a splendid red sea anemone at 28m. This is followed by a plateau that connects to Woodhouse reef by a saddle. The southwest corner where numerous fire corals can be seen, is subject to current which can be extremely violent, if conditions are right, you can make drift dive on the eastern part of the reef. Here, about 15m down, is a sandy ledge that sinks into the blue to the north. It is quite easy to spot turtles and large pelagic fish in this zone. Whitetip reef sharks, Grey reef sharks and Scalloped hammerhead are especially common at this point from July to September, as well as regular sightings of them on the northern side of the reef, out in the blue from the wreck of the Lara.
This dive site used to have a wreck called Kormoran that sunk in 1984, she was laying in the shallow less than 12m. But now there is only some remaining are left and most of the part are not there anymore. Here still you can enjoy numerous coral garden surrounded by Sohal surgeonfish and yellow goatfish. But you only allow diving here in a very calm sea condition.
The western side of Tiran Island is bordered by a madreporic formation standing over a splendid coral lagoon with an average depth of 10-12m, and known by scuba diver as Laguna reef. A transverse hard coral wall divides the lagoon into two parts – North and South Laguna – both of which are marked by a beacon. South Laguna, the larger of the two is the best mooring point in the region and offers safe shelter form any unfavorable sea conditions. The outer side of Laguna reef is an interesting site. This area strongly influenced by tidal currents which will determine the southerly or northerly direction of your dives, which should b made preferably in the afternoon. South of south beacon is a wide plateau with large table corals that narrows gradually in a northward direction, becoming a steep wall rich in reef fauna that swims among numerous species of hard and soft coral and some gorgonians. Near north Laguna there is another plateau with many table and fire corals.
Woodhouse reef is narrow and long and thus offers no shelter at all to boats and has no fixed moorings, therefore only you can make drift dive at this reef. The most interesting part of the reef is the northern half to the eastern side, with a canyon that opens out at about 30m and runs parallel to the main axis of the reef until it reaches a sandy ledge. The sandy ledge then widens northwards to a14m, leading to the saddle that connect to Jackson reef. It is quite easy to see jackfish, sea turtles, sharks and a great many corals, both hard and soft, including some colonies of black coral that are at about 22-26m. It is advisable to end your dive before the saddle, especially when the sea is choppy.
The lack of mooring points makes drift diving necessary. The southern corner of the reef is the classic starting point which continues along the eastern side where the wall, rich in multicolored coral, descends to a sandy plateau that begins at about 25m and has a slight incline. Here on the wall you can see large Alcyonarians, impressive gorgonians, whip corals, black corals and other Antipatharians with their characteristic spiral shape. After passing a double line of gorgonians, at 35m a splendid and extremely deep canyon opens out, running parallel to the reef and crossed by three impressive arches. At the eastern corner of the reef you may come upon a very strong current. If you can get pass this point, you can go around the entire reef.
This will allow you to explore the northern wall, which has some nice shelters and splits, and the western one you will see many crevices and caves, and a wealth of fauna consisting of sea turtles, reef fish and pelagic.
Gordon reef is known and easily identified by the wreck of Loullia which ran aground on the northern end in 1981. There is fixed mooring on the southern side and a wide and rather shallow plateau that fan out, make this dive site safer than the preceding ones. Starts off from the mooring point and winds in an easterly direction and then northwards along the eastern side of the reef. Halfway along this side you can see many metal drums scattered at 10-20m. From here you can either double back to the starting point or make a drift dive and proceed north; in this case you will come across a rather small sandy plateau on which some Garden eels live. The opportunity to observe various species of corals, small nudibranchs and with bit of luck, Whitetip reef sharks, Hammerhead sharks and spotted eagleray.