Elphinstone is a stretched-out coral reef that grew on the summit of an underwater mountain, located 15 nautical miles north of Marsa Alam, the famous resort of the southern Red Sea. The reef's top is flush with the surface, and the walls on the longer sides drop almost vertically to 60 metres. On the north and south corners, the walls give way to plateaus located at various depths, caves, and cracks. Elphinstone's exposure to currents, alongside the almost-perfect transparency of the water, allowed for the impressive growth of multi-coloured soft corals and an abundance of benthonic life. The reef is often visited by oceanic whitetip sharks, Carcharhinus Longimanus, and hammerheads. Divers typically explore the northern or southern corner, depending on the sea conditions and the currents – which can be challenging at times.
One of the most exciting dive destinations in the world is Elphinstone Reef, a place where many of the most exotic marine life gather in the bright, clear waters that attracts thousands of divers every year. The long, cigar-shaped reef lies in the southern part of the Red Sea and is actually names after British Admiral George Elphinstone who served in Egypt during the Napoleonic Wars.
Due to its location near the open sea, the reef itself is filled with plateaus and caves with constantly changing currents that make it a challenge even for the most experienced divers. The reef itself is built around a subterranean mountain that gets close, but does not quite reach the surface. The only indications that it exists on the surface are a few breakers.
The wide plateaus of the northern and southern end of the reef are covered in sponges, sea whips, soft corals and large gorgonians which are fan-shaped growths that are truly spectacular. Amid the colorful coral formations there are innumerable species of fish that live in and around the reef. There are red-toothed triggerfish, angelfish, anthias and emperors that swim about above while the flutemouths stay mostly in the shallow water area.
There are a number of dolphins and barracuda, but the real attraction is the sharks. In fact, two species of sharks have garnered quite a bit of attention in the region, the oceanic whitetip and the hammerhead. The ocean whitetip is a rare sight and one that draws in many divers. They are relatively easy to spot as well as the hammerhead due to its size and the fact that they are almost always accompanied by pilot fish.
Because of the location of the reef, divers can come face to face with the sharks that are for the most part safe because they have rarely attacked humans. However, the real danger to divers is not from the sharks, but from the swift currents which are constantly changing in unpredictable ways. In addition, there are plenty of reef shards and giant trevally which hunt the fishes of the area.
Dive Conditions & Recommendations:
There are numerous caves and underwater plateaus which offer a tremendous opportunity for experienced divers to enjoy. The reef itself is divided into the Northern and Southern Plateau along with the Eastern and Western Wall area, each of which offers spectacular diving opportunities from October to late December which is the best time of the year to visit.
However, the calm surface water hides the strong currents which flow underneath and make it tricky for all but the advanced and experienced diver to enjoy. The warm waters are certainly enjoyable to experience during this time of the year and the relative shallowness of the reefs means that divers can start enjoying spectacular sights from 15 to 100 feet under the surface.
The Elphinstone Reef is certainly one of the most stunning sights for any advanced scuba diver to experience. However, you will need to be wary of the changing currents and keep in sight of others at all times for maximum safety. For those who have the experience and can travel to the Elphinstone Reef, it is an amazing experience that will not be forgotten.
This text is for information purposes only. It has been written by members of the website and can be inaccurate. Always contact local professional divers before diving.