Ras Mohammed - General Area
Ras Mohammed, or Rasmo as it's locally known, is a broad peninsula projecting seawards from the tip of the Sinai. It is composed of areas of low-lying desert, high, soaring cliffs and mangrove creeks. Its geographical location ensures permanent strong currents wash the coast year round. In the summer the nutrient-rich water is at its warmest and the reef becomes a magnet to schools of pelagic fish: barracuda, snapper, jackfish and batfish arrive in their tens of thousands, closely followed by their predators, silky, sandbar, oceanic whitetip and blacktip sharks, hammerheads and dolphins. Nowhere in the Red Sea, except perhaps in the Suakin Islands of Sudan, do fish congregate in such profusion. This activity centres about Shark and Yolande Reefs, with a substantial spillover to neighbouring Shark Observatory, Jackfish Alley and Ras Za'atar.
These currents, however, can be confusing and, at times, scary. The dive can become a human game of snakes and ladders. The ladders are horizontal currents that help the diver on their way to the finish. On the other hand, snakes, in the form of down currents, are always ready to drag them off course. Fortunately, local divemasters are old hands at this game and, by sticking to their heels, you can play your way easily across the board.
The dive starts on the wall of Shark Reef, where the currents split and diverge. An immense school of snapper mark this point. Stacked tightly between the surface and the infinite depths, they ride where the current is least ferocious. Gliding amongst them and looking up, you will see that they form a tube to avoid your exhaled bubbles. The sun pours down this scaly tunnel, this barrel of tails and fins.
Turning and heading west, we are swept towards the Saddle and it is here, if at all, that down currents are encountered. Water pouring out of the lagoon is forced down and under the prevailing current. It is easily recognised by the fish trapped within, standing upright, tails frantically pumping, fighting against the stream. Down currents are a phenomenon of the reef wall and can be avoided by simply skirting through the blue.
Having crossed the saddle among multitudes of jacks, queenfish, pompano and batfish, we reach the Yolande plateau. What appears to be a mountain rising from the blue turns out , upon closer inspection, to be a mass of barracuda, solid and apparently impenetrable. As we approach, they part, open up and enclose us in their throng. But we are not the only beings they make way for: the men in grey suits are jealously watching from the background -blacktip sharks, silkies and sandbars.
Nine times out of ten this is where the dive ends: chomping through your air to surface with these dark, spectral shapes lurking beneath your feet.
The wreckage of the Yolande also deserves a visit. The reef is named after a freighter that collided with it during the Seventies, rested a while, then sank to its present position, at 200m, during a storm. Several containers, a mangled BMW and a cargo of sinks, toilets and bidets have been left on the plateau. It's a popular photo- stop: divers pose on the toilets for the camera, usually unaware of the fire corals encrusting the rims. Those wearing shortie wetsuits soon find out. You may see them heading back up sporting lurid welts across their thighs. You may also spot their divemaster -the one with a mask half-flooded from laughter.