The Red Sea, with its stunning coral reefs and vibrant marine life, is a mecca for divers from around the world. Yet, as its popularity soared, the need for new and sustainable dive sites became evident. In 2004, a unique solution emerged in the form of the Hebat Allah, a small cargo ship intentionally sunk to create Egypt’s first artificial reef in the Giftun Island area of the Red Sea. This remarkable dive site now beckons adventurers and offers a new dimension to explore beneath the waves.
A Ship’s Journey: From France to Egypt
The Hebat Allah was born in 1985 at Breheret Ets., Ingrandes, France. Constructed as a small cargo vessel for the Egyptian Government, she boasted a length of 44.5 meters and a beam of 8.5 meters. Her diesel engines and single propeller provided a cruising speed of 8 knots. Little did this unassuming ship know that her fate would take her on a transformative journey from commerce to conservation.
From Wandering to Wreck: The Sinking of Hebat Allah
For some years, the Hebat Allah had languished on the reef just outside Hurghada’s main harbor, a result of breaking her moorings in heavy weather and drifting onto the reef. In 2004, the Red Sea Diving Association, in collaboration with the Egyptian Navy and the Red Sea Governor, made a pioneering decision. They purchased the ship from its owner, Mohamedi Hoeidek, with some accounts suggesting it was a donation.
Extensive preparations ensued, aimed at transforming the ship into a safe and captivating dive site. All fuels, oils, and fluids were meticulously removed from the ship’s machinery and tanks. Every speck of trash and loose equipment was cleared, and areas where penetration was prohibited were sealed off and marked for clarity. Once these essential steps were completed, the Hebat Allah was ready for her final voyage – to the depths of the Red Sea.
Originally intended to rest in 30 meters of water to accommodate divers of all certification levels, the ship’s fate took an unexpected turn. She ended up submerged in 46 meters of water, thereby making her a challenging dive for those with technical diving skills.
Exploring the Hebat Allah Wreck
Divers who venture to explore the Hebat Allah today will find a ship resting upright on an even keel on a sandy seabed. The superstructure aft reaches a depth of 25 meters, while her forward mast extends up to 15 meters. This wreck is a treasure trove for technical divers looking to refine their skills, test new equipment, or gain experience at greater depths. The cargo hold between the superstructure and the forward mast is empty and accessible, offering a unique underwater playground. Divers can also explore the pilothouse and two small spaces in the foc’sle.
Despite being a relatively new wreck, the Hebat Allah is already adorned with colorful corals and teeming with the standard marine life of the Red Sea, creating a captivating underwater ecosystem.
Dive with Responsibility: Hebat Allah’s Guidelines
Due to the unique challenges presented by this technical dive, there are specific requirements and restrictions to ensure the safety and preservation of the site:
- Divers must have a minimum of 100 logged dives and be certified as CMAS 3-star divers or equivalent (e.g., Dive Master with PADI, NAUI, SDI, BSAC Sport Diver, or SSI Dive Control Specialist).
- Only one dive per day is allowed on the wreck due to the inevitable requirement for staged decompression.
- A maximum of three boats are permitted to moor at the site simultaneously, ensuring the sustained integrity of the wreck and the enjoyment of divers.
- It is strongly recommended that dive centers and dive guides do not allow full penetration of the Hebat Allah except for divers with certifications like full cave and advanced wreck qualifications.
The Red Sea Diving Association has thoughtfully planned for the wreck’s accessibility, installing three mooring buoys for boats and three permanent shot lines to assist divers with their decompression needs.
The Hebat Allah, once a cargo vessel serving the Egyptian Government, now stands as an emblem of conservation and recreation beneath the waves of the Red Sea. As divers explore her watery realms, they continue the legacy of her transformation into a captivating artificial reef, offering an exciting opportunity to experience the beauty and mysteries of the deep sea.