This is probably The Red Sea’s most-famous single dive site. It’s popular for the huge amount and great diversity of marine life that divers can encounter here. This is the main and best place in The Red Sea to dive with several species of sharks, including the Oceanic Whitetip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus). You might think that to encounter pelagics like this at such an unspoilt reef that the dive site is in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it’s located just 9km. from the coast, making it reachable by daytrip diving boats from the Marsa Alam area.
The reef is made up of several plateaus that drop down towards the north and south to 60 metres or deeper. On the east & west sides of the dive site, there are vertical walls that are covered in hard & soft corals and teeming with marine life. The top of the plateau almost reaches the surface, with its centre coming to within one metre at low tide. The reef's average width is 60 metres and it's 300+ metres from north to south. Surrounding water that is reachable by divers is slightly deeper at the southern end. Open Water divers can still see plenty here without diving deeper than their 18-metre maximum, but it's important to be experienced in diving in a current. The currents here can be strong, and they normally go north to south or vice versa. But at times they can vary, and sometimes even change during the dive. Remember that currents are vital to any marine ecosystem, and especially so here at Elphinstone Reef. The surrounding deep water and daily currents ensure that there's plenty of food for the resident marine life, which of course attracts larger fish.
Although most divers come here in the hope of diving with sharks, there's so much more to see around the reef. Also, it's worth noting that some of the more-exciting shark species are shy of divers, or only seen early or late in the day or at depth. This means that to truly enjoy diving at Elphinstone Reef, a liveaboard diving safari is much better than a day trip. Liveaboards can moor up overnight and enable you to jump in at sunrise or sunset. Another benefit of this is that there will be no day trip boats at these times.
With its centre nearly touching the surface, the top of the reef descends down in steps or plateaus to the north and the south. At some points, the top is up to 100 metres wide. Towards the south, there's a tunnel or cave that connects the eastern and western walls. Although 10 metres in diameter, this is too deep and dangerous for recreational divers to attempt. Proper training is necessary for anyone wanting to pass through. This includes everyone in the group having the training, experience and plenty of air before entry.
Due to the size of Elphinstone Reef, it's easy to spend all day here on a Red Sea diving liveaboard. 3 or 4 dives is still not enough to explore the whole reef properly. The best way is to dive the southern area early in the morning, followed by the north for the second dive. The day's third dive can be on the wall on one side of the reef, and if you have time for a fourth dive, that can be on the other side of the reef or on top of the plateaus. The currents will normally dictate the order of your dives, plus the entry points and dive plans. Night diving is not normally done at Elphinstone Reef due to the currents and its explosed location.
Whether you are after macro species, large pelagics, reef fish or something different, you will enjoy diving at Elphinstone Reef.
Because Elphinstone is not far out to sea, it's possible to visit all year round. The better months are when the sea and weather are warmer, which is from March to October. However Oceanic Whitetip Sharks usually visit during the final three months of the year.
The dive site is a huge submerged plateau 9km out at sea. Its top nearly breaks the water's surface and is covered in healthy corals, and its sides are near-vertical walls.
The reef is located quite near to the coast, considering what a fatastic dive site it is. Just 26km north of Marsa Alam and 9km out to sea, the dive site is easily reachable by day trip and liveaboard boats.
You can dive at Elphinstone Reef by day trip from Marsa Alam or on a liveaboard diving safari. If you go on a day trip, expect the dive site to be busy in the high season. But liveaboards can enjoy early-morning and early-evening dives, without the day-trip crowds.
Elphinstone Reef has plenty of areas that are shallow enough for Open Water Divers to enjoy. However, currents can be strong at times, so it's not a dive site that is suitable for new or inexperienced divers.
Marine life at Elphinstone Reef is diverse, abundant and exciting! Lots of sharks of various species visit here, and these include Oceanic Whitetips, Hammerheads and even Tiger Sharks! The currents and surrounding deep water ensure resident reef life has plenty of food, and pelagics visit often.
Elphinstone Reef is one of The Red Sea's best dive sites, and for good reason. It's easy to get to, can be dived all year round, and has lots to see at all depths. During the high-season months it can get busy during the day, but the dive site is huge, and it's easy for groups to spread out at different depths at any given time. Currents can be strong, but they're necessary to bring and feed all the marine life here.