The Barge, North Red Sea, Egypt
The oldest wreck in the North Red Sea? Turns out it’s not just an empty shell…
This is the start of a series of dive site reviews from my recent red sea trip. I had recently completed my Advance Open Water, and although had been diving abroad, had never visited the Red Sea. I had completed less than 50 dives in total prior to this trip. My home for the week was the Whirlwind liveaboard. In this series, you’ll see me and my group diving wrecks and reefs from Shark and Yolanda, Ras Mohamad, playing with dolphins in and around Sha’ab Abu Nahas and four incredible dives on the world famous Thistlegorm.
However, today I will focus on the dive site called The Barge. It isn’t the most famous for it’s history, as quite frankly it’s so old that experts are not sure of its background. With the first of the series I wanted to show you that even on the most unassuming of dive sites, in the North Red Sea the diving can be incredible where ever you are.
We headed over to Small Gobal which is a sheltered dive site in the gulf of Suiz. On the way over we had to cross a shipping lane which was a rough crossing to say the least. We turned the corner and arrived at the dive site. It just hits you how incredible this next dive is going to be. From topside we came around the corner of the smaller of the two islands (small and big gobal) we could see a large lagoon to our right.
The sea was still, and we situated our selves on the rooftop frying pan. We watched the captain and his crew moor up to the shotline. After such a rough crossing to arrive in such a tranquil place safe and sound, you really could see how good the team were at their jobs. The water was so clear it looked like a tropical island.
The bell rings and we head down to a briefing for “The Barge”. This is a wreck that have very little distinctive features on it and is so old it’s hard to tell where it originated from or what it’s reason was for setting sail, or even for sinking, but they believe it could be as old as the 1600’s.
This dive was a wreck dive, but we were told to look out for the lagoon swim through ,and awesome drift, some HUGE brain coral and George, the resident Moral eel. George must be big, if he’s been named, right!?
Into the drink
As the boat was moored up directly above the wreck, we had the perfect opportunity to practice our negative entry. So we ran through our buddy checks, let the air completely out of our BCD’s, held our mask and Reg in place and took the Giant Stride off the back of the boat and in to the water. Found the shot line and decended immediately down to the wreck.
We started this peaceful dive by looking around the outside of the Barge, which no word of a lie is a shell of the hull. It was covered in soft and hard coral and little schools offish.
My buddy and I went on this dive unguided and kept the wreck to our right and looking in all of the nooks and crannys in the hunt for George and the family. The rest of the group decided to look for them on the inner side of the barge. I think because of the group (we’ll blame them) George and the gang were no where to be seen.
Our guide signaled that George and the family had retreated in to the wreck or headed out for the day. We decided to leave the wreck behind and swim up to the lagoon, which was easy to find. You head directly north from the Bow of the barge, where in the distance you could see a huge Brain coral. It was hard to miss, as it was like a small tree, standing at around 9 foot tall. We shallowed up to 5m and swam around the back of it, where emerged an opening in the coral, a test for my buoyancy control.
As we reached the lagoon, the sand was perfectly flat, and the colours of coral were amazing. We saw a handful of Nudi’s and a small family of three clown fish playing in a sea anemone. It was like something off the front cover of a magazine. We also came across the famour lemon coral which is only local to that area, and looked awesome.
As we took in the beautiful surroundings the “C” shaped lagoon had come to an end. We exited through another shallow valley to the right and followed the main reef on our left. We could feel the current picking up so slowed down the finning and drifted along with the fish. This quickly became a slow yet great drift dive as there were sharpe drop offs, bumps we had to drift over or around. All the time watching the coral garden in our left, and the life which populated it too. It was a nice easy dive even with a slight current, I was really enjoying it.
Is that George!?
The current changed a couple of times and we had gone back and forth but each time getting further along the coral garden. Until we came to a point where we saw this huge Moral eel. His head was around the size of a rugby ball, and his body was as thick as my leg, which as a bootcamp instructor isn’t particularly small.
He was weaving in and out of the rock face and coral garden. His body seemed to fill all of the gaps in the rocks near by. We could see a smaller moray just to the side of him, my word we’d found George on our travels. Not just that, we had found the whole family! They were’nt hiding in the barge at all, they’d taken a trip down the road, and were waiting for those of us who could reach the far side of the dive site.
Time to head back
I don’t know if it was because we were finning against the changing current to keep an eye on the family of moray’s. Maybe because we wanted to investigate the local coral garden more. But I was down to 60 bar, and had to pop the SMB and head to the surface. We made our safety stop and amended to a waiting rib above. We climbed back in and headed back home to the Whirlwind Liveaboard.
The barge looked like a tame dive without much history but it quickly became one of my favourite dives of the Northern Red Sea Trip. It had some incredible coral and life, with a fab swim through, a wreck, a lagoon and even a drift. The perfect way to start my afternoon. Oh and we were the only pair to meet George and the family, who was massive! A cool relaxing dive! Well worth it.
I wanted this to be the first in the series, because it shows how amazing the diving can be. I’ll admit I thought it’d be less exciting as there wasn’t any solid history about the barge, but it was so much more than that. Add this to your list if heading up to the North Red Sea.
Here is a plug for the trip I was on: