Submitted by Stephan Moldzio, EcoDiver Course Director
2018 marks the tenth year of the Reef Check monitoring program started by Red Sea Diving Safari (RSDS) and Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director Stephan Moldzio to conduct regular surveys at the most important dive sites of RSDS. This year’s two-week journey featured a full program with two EcoDiver courses, two EcoDiver Trainer courses and five full surveys. Nine new Reef Check EcoDivers and three new EcoDiver Trainers were successfully certified.
As a pioneer of sustainable tourism in Egypt, RSDS has implemented an extensive environmental policy for many years, promoting eco-friendly practices, supporting various initiatives, educating their guests, and recently installing a photovoltaic plant to switch to renewable energies.
We started at Marsa Shagra, the northern-most and largest village of RSDS. The reef is well known for having around 300 fish species and a high abundance of large fish. There are also famous residents often found on night dives, including the big brown marbled grouper (Epinepelus fuscoguttatus), the Fatima red snapper (Lutjanus bohar) and the large north-reef giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus). We also visited, “Shaab Shagra,” a world famous dive spot known as “Elphinstone Reef” rising from more than 100m depth.
Reef Check EcoDiver Course and First Survey at Marsa Egla
The three-day course went through the theory combined with practical exercises and training dives. On the last day, we had a beach exercise to practice the Reef Check method on land, as a rehearsal before the real survey.
The next day, we went for our first survey at Marsa Egla. Similarly to dives in 2010 and 2012, we recorded no big fish, only two medium sized groupers within both depth contours. Instead, we found even more lost fishing lines.
Next Stop: Marsa Nakari
After the first survey, we moved south to Marsa Nakari to conduct two more surveys at the house reef. Marsa Nakari is a peaceful and quiet village with fantastic offshore reefs at its doorstep. We surveyed both sides of the house reef for the fifth time. At Marsa Nakari North, we found 7.5 times more groupers and 9.5 times more snappers than in Marsa Egla and this “snapshot result” echoes the findings of previous surveys in past years.
Final Stop: Wadi Lahami
For the last survey, we moved down to Wadi Lahami, the southernmost village of RSDS. Wadi Lahami is located south of Wadi El Gemal National Park, directly beneath a large mangrove area that is home for many seabirds, such as osprey, herons, terns, and sea gulls. We dived some of the most beautiful offshore reefs of southern Egypt.
Shaab Angel consists of impressive formations of massive, Porites black corals. The visibility is around 40m or even more, an indication for moderate biological productivity and accordingly we observed few fish.
The reefs Daisy and Shabrour, which are located in zone 1 of Wadi Lahami’s dive sites, are really truly jewels! Here, the visibility is somewhat lower compared with those offshore sites, but high plankton availability also induces an incredible richness of fish and coral! Huge swarms of anthias, fusiliers, silversides, and on the other side, large hunting schools of jacks, barracuda, and snappers.
Reef Check Eco Diver Course with the Red Sea Rangers
We met and worked with the Red Sea Rangers, whose daily work is to enforce marine protected areas in Egypt. Everybody had a different background, ranging from marine biologist, geologist, office worker to an engineer for mooring systems. The Rangers are utilizing various monitoring methods in the course of their regular work. Now, their goal was to become certified Reef Check EcoDivers.
An accelerated two-day course went quickly through the species ID and theory and put the focus on learning and correctly applying the method.
Finally, a fantastic two-week journey through all three villages of RSDS was ending. Thanks again to all the people involved. For anyone interested in joining the Reef Check activities next year, stay tuned for course dates and schedules- they will be published soon on www.redsea-divingsafari.com and www.marinebiologyworkshops.com, as well as their Facebook pages. The EcoDiver course is suitable for all levels of diver with reasonable buoyancy, and the surveys are open to participants of the course or those who are already certified EcoDivers. For more information contact Red Sea Diving Safari, Marine Biology Workshops, or one of the RSDS partner travel agencies in your country.