SS Thistlegorm, the best-preserved shipwreck in history

SS Thistlegorm,
the best-preserved shipwreck in history

 The remains of the Thistlegorm wreck have become a place of pilgrimage for all divers in the world. Shipwreck lovers from all over the world can’t help but travel to the Egyptian Red Sea again and again to visit this submerged wonder.

A series of wonderful coincidences and circumstances turned its remains into a perfect place for any type of diver. This is why the Thistlegorm is, today, one of the best wrecks for recreational diving worldwide.

The Thistlegorm wreck, a bit of history:

During World War II, Axis troops occupied the Mediterranean. German U-boats awaited convoys of supply ships at the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar and planes patrolled from the southern Italian islands looking for prey to attack. The only safe way to resupply Allied troops in North Africa was to go around the African continent and enter the Red Sea.

Both the supply of material and that of troops were carried out using this alternative route.

The SS Thistlegorm leaves the port of Glasgow on June 2, 1941, in the direction of Alexandria, and after several weeks of a long journey, she manages to reach the Egyptian waters of the Red Sea safe and sound.
But not everything was going to be a bed of roses for our protagonist… another allied ship traveling the same route had collided, a few days before, with a submerged mine at the entrance to the Suez Canal, preventing the passage of the other convoys.

The Captain of the SS Thistlegorm, William Ellis, is ordered to anchor his ship in one of the safe zones established for this type of situation at the Egyptian Red Sea, the safe zone in the lagoon of Shaab Ali, in front of the Sinai Peninsula.

Built-in North East England in 1940 and sunk by German bomber aircraft in the Red Sea in 1941

A stroke of bad luck:

Meanwhile, the Germans had not ceased in their efforts to cut off enemy supply. His spies had reported that the largest cruiser in the British fleet, the Queen Mary, was headed with thousands of soldiers to North Africa, following the same route as the SS Thistlegorm. A great trophy for any of the German pilots eager for recognition and honors for which they had decided to lighten their planes, load fewer bombs and more fuel, and thus extend the range of their patrols.

On the night of October 6, 1941, 2 Heinkel He 111 bombers on patrol in the area looking for the Queen Mary, spotted the lights of a ship and decided to drop their bombs, one of them entering the ammunition hold of the Thistlegorm and sinking it in a few minutes together with 9 of his crew.

Shipwrecks attract divers and it is probably due to the mystery behind the sinking of an artifact that was made to float and navigate. If we add a tragedy and some historical problems, it has all the ingredients to become a good dive site that will attract many divers.

The SS Thistlegorm dive site:

After almost 10 years of resting under the sea, an expedition led by Commander Jacques Cousteau investigated the wreck, after interviewing some fishermen in the area, and obtained the approximate position of the sinking site.

Today, the SS Thistlegorm dive site is so popular that you cannot say that you have been to the northern Red Sea and not dived on it. The Blue Force fleet has many cruise routes in the area that include a visit to the wreck.

The boat is 32 m deep on a sandy bottom near the reef. The shallowest parts of the wreck are between 16 and 18 m deep. The dive is not difficult, but it should not be considered a beginner’s site, because some of the most iconic and interesting sections of the wreck are below deck, in the holds, which means diving under the roof. The still recognizable motorcycles and trucks are some of the most impressive sights on this site. We have seen many images of them but seeing them in person is unforgettable. Life on the wreck is abundant with many lionfish filling the shaded parts of the wreck. Large crocodile fish are easily seen on deck. Visibility is good depending on the season, ranging between 18 and 30 m.

 

The cargo, a submerged museum:

The ease of access to its holds, the possibility of going from one to another while observing its content and its variety have turned this shipwreck into a submerged museum about the Second World War.

When you go down to the ship and see it from the outside you can see the crew cannons, a locomotive, the destruction of the bombs, and the Bren Gun Carrier tanks supporting the infantry, they are belly up showing their chains. From there we can begin to introduce ourselves between the lines of trucks and motorcycles and reach the warehouse of rifles and aircraft parts such as wings that are still preserved. In warehouse number two we will find more trucks and see BSA M20 motorcycles assigned to Field Marshal Auchinleck, who was in charge of the British troops fighting Rommel. The G3L was designed specifically to be used in the desert and the Norton 16H.

We can also see Bedford MW and OY trucks, built for supplying troops. The Morris Commercial CS8 for artillery transport, the large Ford WOT 2 and 3, and the Tilling Stevens TS19.

 

When and how to dive the SS Thistlegorm wreck?

For more than 25 years, all our routes in the Sinai area spend a day diving into the SS Thistlegorm wreck. Normally you arrive in the afternoon when the rest of the boats return to the port and take the opportunity to dive at sunset and another at night.

The next morning we dive again to explore the ship again so that no area is left unvisited.

From March to January you can dive into this place, just check the availability of the routes on our website.

would you like to go there?

Visit our Red Sea section
available

You can share it !!

Sudan, the ancient Red Sea

The Wild Red Sea:
Diving Expedition in Sudan

Diving in Sudan

From all over the world, more and more divers are coming to the Red Sea to discover this underwater paradise. The vast majority choose Egypt as their main destination because it offers a wide variety of dive sites, suitable for all levels of diving, where one can travel all year round at a great price. But there is another Red Sea, one that has been nearly kept in a time capsule, practically intact, unexplored, and retaining a sense of adventure like 30 years ago. We’re talking about diving in Sudan—the wild Red Sea!

When traveling to a place full of history, who hasn’t stopped to think about what it might have been like many years ago—trying to imagine each age, every change, and interaction, and their effects on the present day? This is what I describe when someone asks me about how is the scuba diving in Sudan.

Umbria wreck from the air with Blue Force 3

On board the Blue Force Fleet vessel that operates two months diving in Sudan,  you can also discover and enjoy from just 5 meters deep the spectacular 155-meter-long shipwreck loaded with hundreds of tons of intact weapons and much more. Come and find out the exciting story of this mythical shipwreck. 

Sudan. History of a young country

Sudan was the largest country in Africa until 2011. After long years of conflict, it was divided into North Sudan and South Sudan. North Sudan, which is officially known as the Republic of Sudan, has 853km of coastline along the Red Sea. For the past 25 years, it has been immersed in internal struggles, civil rivalries, and ethnic conflicts, which have completely impeded tourism and infrastructure development. 

For many years, divers have wanted to dive in Sudan, but because there was no reliable operation of flights and boats, there were drawbacks to planning a trip to the country. Since 2016, some airlines have made it easier to fly to Port Sudan where divers can embark on liveaboards.

Shark diving in Sudan

Diving in Sudan, reef grey shark

Due to weather conditions, Sudan has a relatively short dive season. Temperatures during the summer are very high, both above and below the waves—often reaching 30°C underwater. The high temperatures prompt large pelagics such as sharks to the range at deeper depths, out of reach of recreational divers. This is why the season with the best conditions for shark sightings is limited to the months with the lowest water temperatures —January to May—when the water reaches 24 to 26°C.

In addition to sharks, the other great dive attraction diving in Sudan is its spectacular reefs, with extensive colonies of various corals, extending from the depths up to the surface. These reefs are found in the open sea, far from the coast, so they are ideal places for marine life to shelter from predators, which, in turn, go to these places in search of prey. It is a perfect formula: a scenario of trophic equilibrium at the Red Sea, which guarantees encounters with large groups of fish of different species and their natural predators. Together with the nearly nonexistent commercial exploitation of these places, these reefs truly are an underwater paradise.

Bumphead parrot fish in Sanganeb reef

 

Sudan Central and North

The Central and North route is the classic and best-known route. It includes the central reefs and the upper part of the southern Red Sea. Here, one can dive into the impressive wreck of the Italian ship SS Umbria. It is one of the best WWII wrecks for diving at the Red Sea that can even be visited by snorkelers. Resting at a shallow depth, it is full of ammunition and war supplies.

In addition, divers get the opportunity to dive on the remains of the underwater laboratory Precontinent II, in Shaab Rumi, which Jacques-Yves Cousteau built in 1963. It comprises a set of submerged structures in which eight people can live continuously for up to a month, at a depth of about 10m, in an attempt to prove the viability of human life under the sea.

The rest of the dives on the Central and North route diving at Sudan are usually carried out on the northern most reefs of the Shaab Rumi Reef. These dive sites are full of life, large shoals of fish, incredibly hard and soft corals, and, of course, the ubiquitous sharks. It is difficult to describe the amount of life one can see on these dives—you have to be here to understand it.

 

Diving in Sudan today…

Sadly, in the last two years, from the beginning of 2019, with the Covid and the detentions by the army of members of Sudan’s government… we decided to stop diving in Sudan.

Internet, mobile phone networks, and parts of the landline network have been disrupted.

The regular airlines flying to Port Sudan canceled their operations two years ago so there is not an easy and safe way to arrive at our boat.

As an expert and Premium liveaboard diving operator, we stay working in Egyptdiving in the Red Sea with our liveaboard boats.

 

Would you like to be there?
CHECK OUR LAST RED SEA OFFERS
available

You can share it !!

Covid-19 Information

Last Covid 19 Information

Stay INFORMED

Latest news from Maldives:

The Maldives is opening its border and lifting the travel restrictions starting from July 15, 2020,

Check the imuga website for more information

Latest news from Egypt:

Updated entry requirements. Covid-19 entry restrictions removed as of 17 June 2022. All arrivals no longer need to complete any tests or show proof of vaccination.

Travelers coming back to their countries must know their local regulations on their arrivals and arrange everything in advance before boarding the back flights

Book Blue Force Fleet with CONFIDENCE AND FLEXIBILITY

Given the uncertainty for world tourism and diving trips, we would like to offer you a trustworthy product and very flexible conditions for when travel is possible.

For this, we propose special contracting and cancellation conditions for those passengers who may be affected by COVID-19 for Blue Force cruises in the Maldives and Egypt in 2022.

Diving in Maldives - tiger shark

Shark Diving

Shark Diving
Danger or misunderstanding

by Gádor Muntaner

Mysterious animals

Anyone who is in love with the underwater world is fascinated by its great biodiversity, its explosion of colors and its mysteries. As scuba divers, we always have the desire to know more about the great and unknown Ocean. And it is common that, at some point, an animal that generates controversial feelings within us catches our attention: the shark.

Shark Diving. Danger or misunderstanding?

We were all impressed by Spielberg’s Jaws movies a few decades ago. And today, we live in the age of visual technology, of multi-dimensional images, of movies that look like reality. It is common for sharks to be the subject of science fiction, fear and horror stories, as it’s a large marine predator. However, the reality is very far from that concept.

A freediver diving with a whale shark by night

Diving with sharks. The Species

Sharks are cartilaginous fish (they have a cartilage skeleton instead of bones) that are more than 400 million years old, which means that they have outlived many other life forms on Earth. There are around 400 different shark species in the world.

All pictures has been taken at the Maldives and the Red Sea

Is it dangerous to dive with them?

Sharks are apex predators. However, this is only true in the marine environment. Everything that does not naturally belong to the ocean doesn’t belong to shark’s menu either. That is why human is not part of the diet of any shark species. The few and unlikely accidents that do happen are due to confusion or exploratory bites made by sharks. Despite this, many more people die from other animals such as cows, horses, jellyfish, mosquitoes … and even from taking selfies! You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be bitten by a shark!
Underwater photographer diving with longimanus

The coexistence between humans and them is possible and, of course, diving with sharks too! Nobody forgets their first shark dive. It is one of the most exciting and fascinating dives in the life of a diver. It is in that first contact, when we realize that we have been mistaken until then: sharks are as fascinating as they are misunderstood. What we feel when diving with them is not fear or terror, but rather admiration and a lot of peace, along with a small and pleasant dose of adrenaline, for witnessing such a masterpiece of nature.

Diving with sharks is safe. Nurse sharks in shallow water
Respect, admiration and knowledge
Divulgation and education the new generations about sharks
Divulgation is the key for the new generations

Shark diving destinations

There are various destinations in the world to dive with sharks. Undoubtedly, two of the best places to enjoy these special encounters are the Maldives and the Red Sea. Both destinations are very complete, since they offer much more diversity of marine life in addition to sharks.

In the Maldives, it is almost impossible to finish a dive without having seen a shark! White-tipped, black-tipped, gray, leopard, whale sharks… these are just some of the species that we can find diving around the islands. And if what we want is a trip focused on sharks, the South route will give us lots of them!

Last February, on one of the trips on the Blue Force One, we had a week full of shark surprises: a night with 11 whale sharks, several dives in channels full of reef sharks, and an exceptional day in Alimatha, where the nurse sharks formed a huge group, with hundreds of them flying over our heads!

The Red Sea is also home to a great diversity of sharks, being the southern routes like BDE or EBS the ones that offer more possibilities to dive with them. The big star, in this case, is the well-known oceanic whitetip shark, also called Longimanus. The South of the Egyptian Red Sea and Sudan are, without a doubt, the best place in the world to dive with this peculiar species. It is a very active and curious shark, that will bring unforgettable encounters in the most crystalline and blue water we can imagine!

Recommendations for diving with sharks

To be comfortable when diving with sharks, it is recommended to have good control of our underwater skills, in order to dedicate ourselves to enjoying the encounter. As with any predator, we have to show respect and delicacy in the interaction. Also, it is important to respect the diving partner system and the union of the entire group, in order to avoid accidents. Keeping eye contact with the most active sharks is also a good recommendation to avoid unexpected approaches of species such as the longimanus shark. In general, any certified diver can enjoy shark diving. Destinations like the Maldives and the Red Sea offer us options for all levels and requirements.

If you have been lucky to dive with these wonderful animals, for sure you will have fallen in love with them for life, and you will want to see them again and again.

Have you already lived the experience? Come dive with us among sharks!

Bahía de Hanifaru desde el aire

Hanifaru Bay. The Manta’s Kingdom

Hanifaru Bay
The Manta's Kingdom

One manta ray, two manta rays, three manta rays, … and so and so counting up to six, seven, or eight together in a single dive site is common on a trip to the Maldives. But when the count starts to hit forty or fifty and it’s literally impossible to keep calculating the exact number of manta rays swimming in all directions, you can only be in one place: Hanifaru Bay.

What secret does Hanifaru Bay hide?

Bahía de Hanifaru desde el aire

Hanifaru Bay, in the Maldives, is a unique place in the world, the shape of the bay and certain ocean currents that converge for a short period of time, favor the concentration of huge amounts of plankton and this allows us to contemplate one of the largest agglomerations of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) with an average size of 2-3 m. only surpassed by the giant oceanic manta (Mobula birostris) that can reach more than 5m. of wingspan

Logically, after the discovery of the place by a scientific team, in a few years, Hanifaru Bay became one of the main attractions of the north of Maldives, not only because of the huge amount of mantas that at some times can be observed but also by a growing number of whale sharks that also take advantage of the large amounts of food in the form of plankton found here. To avoid a more than likely overcrowding, in 2011 UNESCO declared Baa Atoll, and especially Hanifaru Bay, a Biosphere Reserve.

Subsequently, the government of the archipelago established strict regulations and supported scientific projects that are still being developed here and in other areas of the Maldives related to this species. Time has shown the success of such measures with the progressive increase in the number of specimens sighted.

Mantas comiendo plancton desde el aire en Hanifaru

Diving in Hanifaru Bay?

Only snorkeling is allowed to swim with these giants in the famous bay. Divers and bubbles would clearly affect the behavior and feeding in a continuous movement of the mantas. Not forgetting that after a few minutes in the water one realizes that scuba diving would not be the best option to enjoy the spectacle that takes place so close to the surface.

From the beginning, the liveaboard cruises do not freely access the area of the atoll where the mantas feed, trying to avoid disturbing the animals and avoid the decrease of specimens in the area, in addition to paying a fee to contribute to the maintenance of the reserve. Visitors, before accessing the water, must attend to the detailed instructions provided by the Manta Trust team and the reserve rangers on how to act at all times, in limited groups, and under the supervision of a certified local guide. Although it may seem somewhat restrictive, shortly thereafter and without any effort, the mantas always end up swimming close, even very close, to anyone who respects their space and their way of eating, either collectively “in a row” or individually performing loopings incessantly.

Swim with Mantas logo

We are happy to be a “Manta Trust Responsible Tourism Operator” working with the Manta Trust Organization with their program “Swim with Mantas

How should I behave?

You have to be calm and observe the route that the mantas make uninterruptedly along the canal. The comings and goings are constant, so even in a short time, you can come to recognize some individuals with unmistakable marks such as spots or even bites, some of them healed but others also recent.

Some tips to enjoy the experience:
Do not chase the mantas and let them get used / close
Flashes and video lights are not allowed, but their use would not be useful either.
Always stay close to the surface and enjoy such a wonderful spectacle as one more spectator.

Mantas comiendo frente a los buceadores

And scuba diving in Baa Atoll?

Although the main restrictions are established for Hanifaru Bay, in the other areas of Baa Atoll diving is allowed. So many congregations of individuals feeding in the bay explain a large number of sightings by divers outside the atoll, not only of mantas but also, with a bit of luck, of whale sharks. In the area there are no great diving spots or those with a special interest, so a day is usually spent in the area to be able to enjoy other atolls.

When and how to travel to Hanifaru?

The “official” season in Hanifaru is from May to November, although the largest congregations of mantas usually occur between the months of July and October. Ideally, choose a route combining the best of the central atolls and a visit to the Baa atoll, further north of the well-known central atolls.

Our recommendation is the Manta Expedition, a route that visits the North Male atolls, visiting the first manta cleaning stations and the famous Fish Factory, Baa Atoll, where we will dive in the Dharavandhoo area, next to the Hanifaru Bay (UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), where we will try to enjoy the mantas while snorkeling, to continue with Rasdhoo Atoll, where pelagic fish await us, Ari Atoll where we will dive with mantas at night and some of the most spectacular thilas, and as a final touch the Vaavu Atoll with its famous and unique dive with the nurse sharks on the island of Alimathaa.

Would you like to be there?
Visit our Maldives website
Available