Why Elphinstone is a must-see destination for shark diving lovers
by Jorge Mezcua on Jan 03, 2023
Elphinstone is one of the most exciting dive destinations in the world if you like to dive up close with the big guys of the ocean. This reef is the tip of a submarine mountain that receives currents loaded with food, giving life to the reef in the form of corals of different species. You know, the corals give shelter to small fish that call to the medium ones and after these come the big fish. Yes, those that push us to take a plane and jump on a boat.
The currents that Elphinstone receives also send sharks. Especially oceanic whitetip sharks, also known as longimanus shark. They have made Elphinstone a very more than desirable dive destination for shark diving enthusiasts.
Before you read on, you should know that diving in this Red Sea reef is only suitable for advanced divers. All liveaboard boats visiting the area ask for at least 50 dives in your logbook. Yes, in my opinion, that is too few. This is not because of the sharks. This is a destination with strong currents, with many drift dives, and depths of about 45 meters on the reef itself but going to over 300 outside the reef. Indeed, it is a very exciting dive destination for adrenaline diving lovers.
A lot to dive in a little space
Elphinstone reef is 300 meters long and only 20 to 40 meters wide, but with more than enough for 3 to 5 dives, all different, and with a lot to offer. Yes, mainly shark diving. This reef is usually visited in liveaboard routes in together with Brothers and Daedalus reef. For me, one of the best dive trips in the southern Red Sea.
The currents that the reef receives allow us to drift dive from the northern tip to the south, the most likely option for shark encounters, and a visibility of up to 20 meters. A unique spectacle in the Red Sea. Of course, always pay attention to the guide's indications. Going ahead and taking an outgoing current will take us out of the reef and we will have a very bad time.
Keep in mind that Elphinstone is not Galapagos or Cocos. You are not guaranteed to find sharks whenever you go. We have seen longimanus sharks, white tips and grey sharks, but we have colleagues who on their first trip have not encountered any. But we assure you they are there and they are very common.
Best time to dive in Elphinstone
The best time to dive in Elphinstone and find the sharks is definitely from the end of August to October. Then there is a very high chance of encountering them. If I have to recommend a time of the year to have almost 100% chance of finding them, October is definitely the best. Also because of how little crowded you will find it.
Whitetip sharks come very close to the surface, and can even be seen from the boat, as they can be sighted at a depth of less than 10 meters. It is important to know, if this is your first time at Elphinstone, that these sharks are very curious and it is not uncommon to get surprised when several appear suddenly. They can surround the group of divers and get really close. Closer than some divers would like. Cousteau already said that this was for him the most dangerous shark precisely because of its curiosity. It is worth reading this post about what to do and what not to do in the presence of sharks. Don't worry, in the liveaboard will give you precise instructions during the briefing and will tell you how to behave when they appear like what to do if you are on the bottom and what to do if you are on the surface when they appear.
Much more than just oceanic whitetip sharks
And what else can we find at Elphinstone? A dive trip to this reef can cost around 1.800 € on a good liveaboard and although diving with oceanic whitetip sharks will leave you with the feeling that it was worth it, there is more. Much more.
Hammerhead sharks are usually seen at the northern tip of the reef, facing blue. These sharks are usually at 60 meters deep, but in summer they come up to the surface and we will find them at around 20 to 30 meters. In Elphinstone they appear in groups, not very numerous, and also alone. You can also find silky sharks, black tips and even some whale sharks. And if you are as lucky as some divers were in 2009, even tiger sharks.
But there are even more: manta rays, giant barracudas, schools of jacks and black snappers, huge tunas, gigantic napoleon fish, moray eels of impressive size… Dives with two or three different species of turtles are also common, usually on the west side of the reef and even, we did not find them, dolphins in small groups.
It goes without saying that in addition to the coral-laden walls we find many colorful reef fish such as lionfish, clownfish, angelfish or anthias, sheltering in gorgonians and different species of soft and hard corals.
So, if you are crazy about shark diving and you are not yet familiar with the southern Red Sea, visiting Elphinstone on any of its routes is always a good option.