1Big Blue                                                                      2 Roots Reef site

This was my second exploration into the Red Sea via Roots Red Sea (Pharoah Diving), arranged via our Diving Officer, Martin Davies and Ali Mayor and it sure did not disappoint! A fabulous combination of ‘Live a board’ on Big Blue (BB) and Shore Diving on the House Reef at Roots.

There were ten of us from SSAC on the Dive Safari on BB with 8 of us shore diving at Roots for a day before and then three days after prior to our 24hours break before flying.

The Dive Safari started and ended in Hurghada and we travelled North and included the Straits of Tiran, Ras Muhammad (see below for further detail).

Hans and Nico from the Netherlands were the only other divers on BB, and so the boat was exceptionally roomy. Most had their own cabin and the dive deck was spacious. Nico was there to make a promotional video and so SSAC became bit players in the film! Everyone onboard jelled well even down to the staff, who once they had got to know us, became mischievous and we found ourselves extremely relaxed and pleasant week onboard.

So, if you are thinking about it, but not sure what it all entails, then below will hopefully give you a feel of what a safari is about – we were extremely lucky and had an exception to the rule of four consecutive days with four dives each day (3 dives during the day with a night dive at 2000), most unusual, most enjoyable but very tiring too!

Whilst onboard your life is run ‘by the bell’ – literally! Up around 0600 to complete final dive kit checks (nitrox etc.), then up to the outside lounge area for tea/coffee and a few biscuits/bread sticks and greet your fellow divers if you are so inclined or need to wake up a bit more. First Bell sounds 0630, that’s your call to conduct your gas check (if not already done) and then to make your way into the briefing room for the Dive Brief by Mustafa the Dive Guide.






3 Dive deck on BB

Once briefed, get ready and kit up and either step off the back of BB or board one of their two RHIB’s by 0700 and ably assisted by the staff, even down to getting you into your suit. Dive complete then either back to BB or one of the RHIB’s, quick rinse via the aft diving deck showers, de-kit again with assistance from the staff and get your cylinder ready for a refill, then it’s a race to get to the wet room for a much needed wee! Suits and cozy’s hung up to dry and then back in to dry clothes and complete the relevant dive logs (BB and SSAC), Second Bell sounds and in for breakfast. After breakfast, Mustafa notifies us when the next brief is due and then everyone chills, write up dives, sort photo’s, sunbathe or whatever you wish to do.

BB may now move to another dive site, or she stays put. Then Third Bell sounds once the cylinders have been filled and we are near to the time of our next dive brief, then the whole sequence starts again – Bell, Brief, Dive, Bell, Eat, Bell, Brief, Dive, Bell, Eat, Bell, Brief, Dive, Bell, Eat and so on until the day is complete. When night diving a light snack is served i.e., hot pastries, pizza etc., and yes you guessed it, announced by the ‘Bell’ and then on completion of the night dive you eat around 2130ish. Day complete, have a beer or what ever spirits you have brought with you, chill for a spell or head off to bed for the next early start!

Our weather was reasonable, it is the wind really that governs the diving as it effects whether the boats can safely moor up on the reefs etc.

Having completed 20 dives in 6 days (for those that part took in them all, your choice) we returned to Hurghada. Some of group stayed with their original buddies, but as we had a newbie to Egypt and recently qualified Sports Diver, a few of us changed buddies so she could not only gain experience from other divers, but to also progress from 30m deep to 40m deep, which she achieved eagerly and confidently and clocked up many ‘firsts’ in the process. It was a great pleasure for some of us to take her for these firsts.

Much of the diving was led by Mustafa, but on occasion we were left to our own devises, these dives were much more relaxed and enabled us to dawdle and explore this magical world.

Safari completed, we embarked a minibus and headed back down to Roots dropping off one of our group to their hotel enroute. Refreshing cold fruit juice consumed we headed to our rooms.

Next morning, the eight of us staying at Roots wander across to the dive center and check our kit (it is moved via numbered crates from BB to Roots, so you don’t have to keep lugging it around with you) and then due to strong winds the house reef is unsafe to dive so the staff arrange for us to minibus North up the coast for two dives. Next day the wind has abated, and we can wander across to the House Reef and dive when we want and as many times as we feel – so easy and again assisted by the staff but not quite so attentive as those on BB!

The House Reef has three areas to dive, North side, South side with a nice wall and the Sea Grass beds – in all we managed 10 dives in 3.5 days, one of which was a night dive – fantastic!

Overall, a really great 10 days of diving, great company with lots of banter and knowledge and so much life to see, I clocked up 29 dives out of the 30 offered and got a lot more wildlife ticked off in my guidebook. In case your interest is piqued, I have listed each dive below and given an idea of what we experienced on each dive:






4 Kitted ready to go.






5 Roots Red Sea compound

DAY 01: Dive 1 SHORE DIVE – GASUS SORAYA (North Reef) Too windy for House Reef

Kitted up on beach after 40min bus ride – check dive.

Disappointing dive due to a lot of plastic in the water, highlights - plenty of Moray,

Turtle, Spotted Ray and Starfish.

Dive 2 (South Reef)

Surface swam for 30m to avoid the murk, highlights – Dory Snapper, Yellowfin Goatfish,

Scorpion, Wrasse, Goby and Dascylius.






6 Kitting up on beach for first check dive.






PM Moved onboard BB at Hurghada





Check dive and DSMB proved by each diver.

Reef dive inc. small wreck and cave at 6m entered off BB. Lots of life and mating going

on, Damsels cleaning nest areas, - highlights - Moray, Blue Angel Fish.






7 Arabian or Blue Angelfish - Ed Rollins


Wreck of GIANNIS D a cargo carrier 100m long, stern 27m and bow 22m and in 2 pieces.

Entered from RHIB’s with negative buoyancy explored stern the bow. Highlights –

Scorpion Fish, Various Wrasse, Orangespine Unicorn Fish.




8 Giannis D wreck





9 Shortnose Unicornfish - Ed Rollins





Entered off BB – highlights – Glass Fish, Red Sea Fusiliers, Scalefin Anthias, Lion



Entered off RHIB and drifted North - highlights – Turtle, Anemone, Trigger fish.


Entered off BB picked up via RHIB – Unknown Wreck (Thor Guardian?) 31m Stern up on

reef. Highlights –Long nosed Hawkfish, Clams, Wrasse, Squirrel, Arabian Surgeon fish.





10 Arabian Surgeonfish - Ed Rollins


Dive 4 GORDON REEF - Night Dive

Entered off BB – highlights – Corals, Lion, Black Spotted Sole, Puffer, Forsters Hawkfish,






Figure 11 Unknown wreck Thor Guardian?



Entered off RHIB swam from one reef to the next – highlight Turtles, Masked Puffer,

Blue Trigger, Lizard, Butterfly fish and excellent corals.

Dive 2 MV MILLION HOPE 180m long

Entered off RHIB onto Caterpillar Crane on seabed then swam up on to the wreck and

swam inside. Highlights – Stone fish, Crocodile fish, Rabbit fish.





12 Crocodile Fish - Ed Rollins



Entered off RHIB – highlights – fantastic coral gardens, Golden Pilot Jack, Trigger,

Unicorn, Trevally, Puffer, Moral Eel, Parrot and Wrasse fish.


Entered off BB, current running and used mooring lines to find stern section and then

moved forward before ascending mooring line and guideline back to BB. Busy dive with

other groups. Highlights – Scorpion fish.


13 Loggerhead Turtle - Ed Rollins




Entered off BB – highlights – touring the holds and inside passageways, all the

Equipment in the holds.


Entered off BB – highlights – touring the outside of the wreck from stern to bow, anti-

aircraft guns, train tenders, Crocodile Fish, lots of shoaling fish.


Entered off RHIB – started at stern and moved toward the bow section then off over the

Reef and back around to the wreck – very flattened and widely dispersed. Highlights –

Emperor Angel, Red Backed Butterfly, Damsels fish.




14 Carina wreck



Entered off BB – used mooring line as guide – another busy dive sight but plenty to

see and fair amount of current – highlights – 3 types of Lionfish, feeding corals and

Moray Eels.





15 Clearfin Lionfish - Ed Rollins


DAY 06: Dive 1 SMALL GUBAL ISLAND – Reef and Wreck

Entered off BB – swam NE towards headland and then back and onto The Barge

wreck – highlights – Octopus, Dusky Rabbit, Damsels, Anemone, Coronet, Anthias etc.






16 Anemone Fish - Ed Rollins


Dive 2 UMM GAMMAR – Reef and Cave

Entered off RHIB exited BB – Highlights – Stonefish, Arabian Boxfish.


Entered off BB – highlights – Pinnacles, Moray Eels, Crocodile, Tang, Schooling

Bannerfish, Nudibranch.


17 Giant Moray Eel - Ed Rollins

Dive 4 SMALL GIFTON ISLAND – Night dive – Reef

Entered off BB – highlights – huge amount of Moray Eels some free swimming,

Slipper Lobster, Fan worms, Fuzzy Filefish, Urchins, Feather Starfish.






18 Coming up from night dive.



Entered off RHIB exited BB – highlights – Lots of Moray Eels, Nudibranch, Yellow

Boxfish, Shoals Blue Striped Grunt, Common Big Eye and Napoleon Wrasse.






19 Pyjama Nudibranch - Ed Rollins



Entered off RHIB – followed mooring line to the sweeper and then moved across

to the wreck of a fishing boat before going back to the minesweeper. Highlights –

Gilded Pipefish.






20 Dive boats moored up. 21 Mustafa and BB staff







22 Table Coral - Ed Rollins


DAY 08: Dive 1 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (North) – Shore dive

Strong current on the way in – highlights – absolutely loads, Vermiculate Wrasse,


Dive 2 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (South) – Shore dive

Highlights – Scorpion, Stone, Red Sea Rabbit fish, Marlinspike Auger, Fan Worms,





23 Stonefish - Ed Rollins


DAY 09: Dive 1 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (South & North) – Shore dive

Highlights – Madonna statue, Cow fish, Humbug Dascyllas, Flounder.

Dive 2 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (South) – Shore dive

Highlights – Spiny Balloon fish, Walkman.




24 Walkman displaying - Ed Rollins


Dive 3 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (North & South) – Night Shore Dive

Highlights – Hermit Crabs, Spotted Ray, Soft Coral Squat Lobster, Scorpion, Stone,

Baby Hooded Cuttlefish, Anemone Hermit Crab, Spanish Dancer, Shrimp, Toxic Leather

Sea Urchin.






25 Spanish Dancer - Ed Rollins





26 Anemone Hermit Crab (night dive).



DAY 10: Dive 1 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (North & South) – Shore Dive

Highlights – Scorpion, Stone, Peppered Moral Eel, Moray Eel, Harlequin Filefish, Yellow

Saddle Goatfish.

Dive 2 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (Seagrass & South) – Shore Dive

Highlights – Double Ended Pipefish, Gobies, Octopus working his way back across the

Sea grass bed to his lair in the reef, Razor fish.






27 Everyone’s favorite Octopus.



Dive 3 ROOTS HOUSE REEF (Seagrass, North & South) – Shore Dive

Highlights – Sea Moths, Gobies and Magnus Shrimp Gobies, White tailed Squirrel, White

Edged Soldier, Anemone fish, Blue Spotted Shield Slug.






28 Magnus Shrimp goby.






29 Blue Spotted Ray - Ed Rollins






30 Anthias and other fish, typical reef scene - Ed Rollins






31 Regal Angelfish - Ed Rollins


32 Anemone Fish - Ed Rollins



Overall, I found diving as a group of four worked really well with more eyes to spot and a larger area can be covered, especially when two of the four snapping away with cameras.


Without Ali Mayor’s expertise and sharp eyes, I would never have found the elusive Sea Moths, so I am extremely grateful for her to take me over to where she had last seen them and then pointing them out – brilliant dive. And the group overall showed excellent teamwork and took time out from their dive to point something interesting out to the rest and some cracking photos were taken.






33 Taken on our last dive at Roots.




Sian “My favorite part of the trip was getting to push my experience underwater and ticking off a

35m and 40m dive, feeling confidence with my progression.”

“Favourite memory was seeing the Turtles.”


Iain “Surviving cycle ride with Jim!! Octopus across the sand and being able to spot things. My

highlight was Thistlegorm and the Polar Bear” ask one of our group, they’ll explain.


Edward “Most memorable was the Moray Eels on the night dive hurtling down towards me.”


Jim “My highlight was Thor Guardian, unknown wreck, and the fantastic wrecks and taking Sian

down to her 40m dive.”


Doug “My highlight, has to be the Octopus.”


John “Apart from all the misdemeanors, has to be the Octopus on the House Reef.”


Ali I love the house reef at Roots – Lots of marine life, like meeting up with old friends and making

some new. The best way to relax in my humble opinion.


Martin “Highlight has to be mystery wreck Carina, which maybe is not the Carina?”







BOAT FEES £176 (Marine Park Fees,nitrox) $200

TIPS Crew £40 / $50

TIP Guide £16 / $20


ROOTS ACCOM £423 (4 nights’ accommodation soft all-inclusive INC Deco chamber (optional donation), Night Dive, 15lt cylinder hire for use on BB


TOTAL £1495 = £149 Per day for 11 nights (30 dives)


Additionally – Air Fare which was £413 inc. 23kg hold bag and a small Cabin Bag.




5mm Wetsuit, 3mm hood and boots/booties (no gloves as they are frowned upon, as it encourages divers to touch!)

Rash suit (if desired)

Mask, Fins and Snorkel

Regulators/Demand Valve

Computer &/or watch


DSMB & Reel (is a must as each diver must prove they can deploy one)

Weight Belt (empty, traditional weight belts are available but pouch belts, if you have one, are much more versatile)

Torch + spare and batteries (if you can) don’t forget your charger!

Dive log (with adequate spare pages!)

Spares – we worked as a team, and each took different spares.


Clothes – little required really as you spend a lot of time in your swimmers (2/3 pairs are best so you can put dry on each time you dive). Lightweight tops and shorts for the daytime and something a bit warmer for the cooler evening is recommended. BB do provide Robes and towels. I took some lightweight jogging bottoms, long sleeved shirt and a fleece. Don’t forget the sunhat and sunscreen etc. I included a water bottle and rehydration tablets (you normally get a free water bottle on BB which is yours to keep, but they all the same so having your own assists with identification, as well as during travel. A few pills and potions are always recommended for those ‘just in case’ moments, though BB had a well-stocked first aide area.


Hand luggage – Paperwork, regulators/DV, Torches with batteries boxed separately and Dive Computer. If you take a camera, then it and its attached equipment is best carried in hand luggage.






34 Typical underwater scene - Ed Rollins



I hope you enjoyed this small view into the Red Sea and look forward to seeing you there.


Inga Webster

Boat Officer