Rocky Island Liveaboard Diving
A locally-famous island known by scuba divers as one that offers among the best diving in The Red Sea, Rocky Island is the southernmost off-shore island in Egypt, lying 60-70 kilometres from the coast, out in the Red Sea. This tiny uninhabited island gets some shelter from Zabargad (6km to the northwest), but also gets fed from north-south currents, which attract lots of pelagic species that feed on or visit the resident marine life.
For some, Rocky Island is best kept a closely-guarded secret because it’s currently quite quiet but it offers awesome diving around its reefs. Many diving locations become spoilt when they get too popular, but this is unlikely to happen to Rocky Island, at least for a few years. Egypt’s southern Red Sea has more than twenty excellent dive sites, around several islands, many submerged reefs, and there are a few wrecks as well. This area is 450 milometres south from the most-famous dive sites in The Red Sea, such as SS Thistlegorm Wreck, and Ras Mohamed. Only scuba diving liveaboard boats departing from Marsa Alam and Port Ghalib come to Rocky Island, as part of their Deep South itineraries. Boats departing from Hurghada go north, or to The Brothers.
Rocky Island is a very small & uninhabited island in the deep south of Egypt’s Red Sea. It’s triangular in shape, and measures just over 500 metres long and 300 metres wide. Its northeast & southeast sides are quite straight, and its western side is shaped in a gentle arc. On all sides of Rocky Island, there’s a shallow plateau that extends from the island approximately 35 metres out to the sea, and then the water drops off steeply to become very deep. This plateau is ideal for your safety stop. The surrounding deep water and the remote & exposed location give the best chances of seeing exciting marine life, including pelagic sharks. Six kilometres to its northwest is its larger sibling, Zabargad Island, and both islands are at least 60 kiloemtres out to sea. Currents normally run north to south, or vice versa, and this will determine the plan for each dive, and where the boats are able to moor up during dives. For mooring at night, most of our Red Sea liveaboards use Zabargad Island as the base, because its larger size offers more protection from wind, waves and currents. Depending on the currents, surface conditions, and of course the marine life on the day, it’s easily possible to spend a full day here diving three or more times. Divers need to keep one eye out into the blue just in case something large swims by. This isn’t always easy though because there’s plenty of life and colour on the reef to distract even experienced divers.
- The southern shore has the calmest waters and this is the best (only) area of Rocky Island where less-experienced divers (and those who like an easy time under water) can fully relax. The result of less water movement here means that softer corals and smaller reef fish can flourish. Divers will still be gobsmacked by the beauty of the reef, the topography, and the marine life. This wall gets fewer large visitors than the north or east, but allows you to focus more on the thousands of critters and the schooling fish.
- The northern shore of Rocky Island receives most of the wind, waves and current and is therefore prone to rougher surface conditions and more action underwater. So this area is better suited to more experienced divers, but in reality nearly everyone on a Red Sea diving liveaboard cruise should be advanced with at least 20 logged dives anyway. The incoming current will need to go one way or the other when it arrives at the island, and your Divemaster guide or Cruise Leader will decide the entry point accordingly. Expect for a faster drift dive than many other dive sites in Egypt’s Red Sea.
- The eastern corner is exposed to all of The Red Sea, but a well-planned dive ensures that you will get to see some excellent marine life and corals, while enjoying the full dive time and not have to fight too much current. This is where large and/or pelagic species are far more likely to visit. The water gets deeper more quickly here, and you will benefit from staying as deep as possible for as long as practical, in order to avoid stronger currents in the shallows. There’s always plenty of action here, from both reef species and pelagics.
Rocky Island is the furthest south of all of Egypt’s off-shore islands, and is therefore the furthest point for the Red Sea liveaboards that depart from Marsa Alam or Port Ghalib. On your way there, or back, expect to stop at Zabargad and St. John’s, & Abu Galawa Soraya, plus possibly Elphinstone, depending on which port towns are used for departure and return. Rocky Island is often the highlight of these week-long Egypt liveaboard safaris, due to the clear water, healthy corals and possible pelagic sightings. Of course, there being no or very few other liveaboards in the area always helps as well.