The breathtaking Red Sea
The movement of plates in the Earth’s surface created the Red Sea about 30 million years ago. At that time, the Arab peninsula started to part from Africa along a thin break line, which was filled by the Indian Ocean’s water.
The geological history of the Red Sea region is distinctive, and there is only slow and restricted water (and larval) exchange between this sea and the remainder of the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.
Thus, Red Sea reefs have developed a number of features that distinguish them from reefs found throughout most of the rest of this vast oceanic area.
Particularly important in the light of global warming predictions is the fact that Red Sea corals have developed an unusually high tolerance to the extreme temperatures, salinity, and occasional turbidity (caused by huge seasonal dust storms) that occur in the region. Such conditions that would be lethal or highly damaging to most hard corals found elsewhere.
Also, water clarity is exceptional in the Red Sea because of the lack of river discharge and low rainfall. Thus, Red Sea reefs are not heavily impacted by the suspension and dissipation of fine sediments that plague reefs in tropical oceans near large land masses.
In general, the marine biota of Red Sea coral reefs is characterized by high endemism. For example, of the 1200 or so coral reef fish species recorded, about 10% are endemic (found nowhere else).
About 300 hard coral species have been recorded from the Red Sea as a whole. The Egyptian coast alone supports about 200 species of reef building corals belonging to almost 50 genera. This represents about four times the hard coral diversity found on Caribbean reefs, and is comparable to the coral diversity found in the Maldives and Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
Status Of Red Sea Reefs
Despite the extreme conditions characteristic of the region, Red Sea coral reefs are generally healthy. Coral reefs range widely in condition and cover, with up to 85% living coral cover at the best sites and over 50% live coral cover at many other locations. There is usually minimal coral bleaching evident, although some localized outbreaks are reported from time to time.
Still, many Red Sea coral reefs situated near urban centers and other developed parts of the coast have been heavily damaged or lost due to the predicatable effects of poorly planned or regulated population expansions and coastal development, along with associated declines in water quality.
In some of the once most pristine reef areas, insufficiently managed dive tourism (damage from anchors and recreational scuba divers) has also taken its predictable toll on the reefs.
Studies of diver effects on reefs suggest that continued dive tourism expansion at some of the more popular tourist destinations would be ill-advised and will inevitably lead to serious reef degradation.
Therefore please be aware of your own buoyancy, mind your fins position and stuck all equipment into your BCD.
Mother Nature has given us an amazing gift: the Red Sea and the land that surrounds it. Unmatched underwater beauty and variety of marine life has stunning contrasts with the dessert above.
The best way to appreciate golden sunsets after an active day of diving is by experiencing the Red Sea with a livebaboard. I suggest you look for companies run by Egyptians in order to contribute with their much-depressed economy. Be also aware of looking for reputable companies which take care of the marine environment as good as they will take care of yourself and your diving buddies.
We had a wonderful time with the highly recommended liveaboard www.myrosetta.co.uk
Please remember to dive carefully and to be careful with our precious oceans. Lead with the example!