Ladies and Gentlemen, may we ask for your attention. A diving spot belonging to the world's top ten (!) will soon be ours to discover. Located 60 kilometres east of the coastal town of El Quesir, the Brother Islands (Big Brother and Little Brother) are home to two large cargo ship wrecks and up to three metre-long large thresher sharks with long, lance-shaped tails which can almost always be found here – a true rarity!
The name Brother Islands comes from the company which did the electrical work for the lighthouse on the larger island. Both islands are of volcanic origin and sit atop a mountain ridge which plunges well over 1,000 metres in depth from the west side to the east side. The volcanic history can still be seen today: namely on the basalt rock, which is significantly darker than the reef structure itself.
Big Brother is 650 metres long and 180 metres wide. With the exception of the eastern plateau, we encounter a steep-faced reef in all directions. There's usually the chance for you to stretch out your legs on the island, smoke a shisha with the lighthouse keepers and purchase small souvenirs or simply to enjoy the view from the lighthouse! Depending on the mood of the military, this can quickly change however.
At the western end of Big Brother, we usually have to take large waves and a stronger current into account. Should the conditions allow us to dive in the afternoon, we may quite possibly have the chance of seeing grey reef sharks and hammerhead sharks swimming between the wrecks.
On the eastern plateau, the thresher shark says 'Good night' to the spotted sea hare and encounters with grey reef sharks also occur here all the time. Beautiful depressions in the reef, which are covered in soft and hard coral, can be identified further down the north side. Mooring points are also located in the east area and around the boots there's a lot to see – from whitetip oceanic sharks to silky sharks.
Just as squirrels in the park learn to trust, so do Napoleon wrasse in famous diving sites – two specimens of this fish already accustomed to divers can be found west at any time of the day. Gigantic shoals of fish can be found in the south, near the jetty, which is used to supply the lighthouse. Mackerel, tuna and barracudas on the hunt usually rush past us in the water. Silky sharks or whitetip oceanic sharks as well as turtles top off this spectacular underwater picture.
Planning the Big Brother route is simple, as the current points us the way. For some, this dive – which must progress very quickly from the Zodiac due to the currents – is anything but a walk in the park. Many tour operators offer the use of SART or other similar devices. Especially at the large outer reef, it makes sense to buddy dive using such an electronic search and rescue system. Should we come across the countercurrent after exiting the Zodiac, it's best for us to resurface and then drive a bit further out and try once again. Safety first!
Numidia: The Numidia lies directly on the reef between a depth range of 18 and 80 metres. After making a navigational error in 1901, the general cargo vessel laden with train rails and railway engine wheels ran aground on the west side. The Numidia is one of the most beautifully covered wrecks around the world; the vegetation however suddenly stops at 40 metres.
Aida: The Aida, which is nestled against the south side of the reef at a depth range of 30 and 65 metres, has been there since 1953 when it hit the fringe reef whilst sailing in rough waters. It was meant to bring personnel to the lighthouse and supplies to the island. The wreck has been slightly damaged by storms which occurred at the beginning of 2010.
Eastern plateau: Big Brother's eastern plateau is the right place for anyone wanting to catch sight of thresher sharks and explore and dive an impressive steep wall. It's worth it to continually hone your own diving skills in order to be ready take on this challenging dive one day.
Current: N/W in the mornings, N at midday, N/E in the afternoon
Visibility: J, F, M, A: 30–50 m; M, J, J, A: 30–40 m; S, O, N, D: 50–60 m
Temperatures: J, F, M: 22–24°C; A, M, J: 23–38°C; J, A, S: 28-30°C; O, N, D: 28-23°C
Depth: 100 m
Tour 1 – thresher sharks in the morning
The best spot in the morning is the eastern plateau with its hills located at a depth range of 36 and 45 metres. Here we will encounter thresher sharks. Should the diver leader allow, we should take advantage of our no-decompression limit, diving in the no current zone, all the way to the small hill on the spur of the reef in the east and then heading west with the current along the beautifully covered steep wall.
Tour 2 – Aida at midday
If the waves allow, we travel there by Zodiac. The Aida starts around a depth of 30 metres. The upper area is brimming with glassfish and the cargo bays are open to explore. Afterwards, we return by diving above the scattered cargo and along the jagged reef wall heading east.
Tour 3 – Numidia in the afternoon
If the waves and current allow, we travel by Zodiac to the Numidia. It has very gorgeous soft and hard coral growing on the north side and it is one of the most beautiful wrecks in the Red Sea. The south side looks as if only two days have passed since the sinking of the ship. Countless colourful fish additionally sweeten our view. In this area, the current varies in strength and it usually flows from the north around the bend to the west.
Tour 4 – thresher sharks in the late afternoon
We take the last dive of the day on the north-east tip again, because when the light of the day fades in the late afternoon, that's when the predatory fish come out to hunt. We can frequently see yellowfin tuna, giant trevally, barracudas as well as thresher sharks at the tip of the reef. Here, it's enough to simply seek a spot to watch; there's no need to swim around much. A feature film starring predatory fish!