Reef Check

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2005 Dahab

by Jenny Krutschinna (Reef Check Europe)


July 24th – August 07th 2005

Jenny KrutschinnaRC Scientist: Jenny Krutschinna, MSc, Frankfurt/Germany

Host: Sinai Divers Dahab, South Sinai, Egypt

RC dive sites: 8 sites along the coast around Dahab town (app. 10 km towards the North/South, respectively. Also see database at

From July 21st – August 07th 2005 I was in Dahab/Egypt to conduct REEF CHECK at several reefs along the coast around Dahab, South Sinai. Host organization was Sinai Divers Dahab, which is, with a permanent staff of around 12 (plus freelancers) one of the bigger ones of the now 65 (!) Dives Centers in Dahab and the only one to operate a dive vessel.

During my stay 17 volunteers were successfully trained. Data were collected at 10 transects (8 different sites, also see data sheets). Particularly dive guides and instructors also from other dive centers around town were very keen to get involved and helped with the UW-work as well as they supplied tanks and transportation. Many more were also interested to learn about RC, its aims and the methods.

Through a staff briefing on July 23rd, an introductory slide show on July 24th and especially through personal talks with interested divers/holiday makers about 80-100 people got to know about RC and its aims (although some of them had already heard of it before but didn’t exactly know what it’s all about). Three training sessions were held on July 25th and Aug. 02nd in which the 17 volunteers got their theoretical and practical training. Two more had already participated in previous Reef Check surveys.

Since there had already been RC surveys around Dahab we exclusively did re-surveys of previously checked sites trying to follow a priority list (to first of all check sites that had not been surveyed in more than one year).

Over the last years (dive-) tourism in the Dahab area has constantly increased. Hotels are being built along the coast near town and some of the reefs as the Canyon/Blue Hole, Lighthouse are now subject to heavy recreational diving.

A remarkable lack of reef fish, especially of bigger species was observed at all sites. At some of them enhanced overgrowth of dead coral with algae that presumably prevent these dead reef areas from recovering was obvious. There is no significant correlation with previous COT outbreaks, sewage outfall or fishing activities, although the heavy poaching activities that were observed will have an impact.

Reef Check survey Dahab
Photo: Jenny Krutschinna



Upon my arrival in Dahab I was given a warm welcome and very good support from all Sinai Divers staff from the very beginning of my stay. Since Sinai Divers have supported RC constantly since 1997 some of the staff were already familiar with the procedures. For the first couple of days the “reef check crowd” was guided by Bert who had already participated in the May 2005 Safari which was of great help.

I gave a staff briefing about the procedures itself, time schedules and divers’ FAQs on July 23rd. A spreadsheet containing these facts had been sent to the dive shop beforehand and was additionally handed out to everyone before the talk.

I was pleased that all dive instructors and guides were very open and interested in our work and willing to help in any way. We too would have a separate RC-Jeep and Guide each day (which unfortunately sometimes had to be cut after the Sharm Bombings).

A first talk for interested individuals was given on July 24th at the Hilton Conference Room. Since Reef Check had been announced to all Dahab Dive Shops and Organisations with conservational interest, the response was overwhelming: over 25 “Locals” and Dive Center Guests attended the talk. Immediately, plans for trainings and surveys could be made and additional help in terms of equipment and transportation was offered.

Theoretical and practical training sessions took place on July 25th and August 02nd and new members to the team joined the group as additional members for further training during the next few surveys if possible.

Because most participants were dive professionals (Divemaster, Instructors etc.) and familiar with a lot of the fauna, training was comparably easy. Nevertheless, logistics were sometimes very demanding: trying to match all these peoples work schedules and work out where to pick up who and who will do what tomorrow often took more time than anything else.

Yet it was very encouraging to work in a place where so many individuals appreciate our work and are willing to volunteer for something they too consider important.



Generally, the coast around Dahab is not as steep as it is further south (i. e. Sharm). At all survey sites there are fringing reefs followed by gentle slopes covered with coral gardens and sandy areas of different extent. The reef then drops down deep into the gulf.

Reef morphology slighltly varied where the different transects were laid.

Reef Ridges at Gabr’ el Bint and Moray Garden; along the Reef Crest at Abu Talha, Ricks Reef and Eel Garden; shallow slopes at Lighthouse and Three Pools and through the Coral Garden at –Coral Garden/Canyon South.

The surveys show that there is generally a remarkable lack of reef fish, especially of bigger species. This is probably only one of the reasons for the enhanced overgrowth of dead coral with algae that prevent these dead reef areas from recovering. Except for line fishing for personal needs through local Bedouins all fishing activities are banned in the area. Unfortunately this is not enforced and heavy poaching was observed. Even during the day kids were speerfishing in the shallow water at Lighthouse amongst the divers. Every night Locals were observed to take boats out or set nets along the reef crest; their catch then being sold to the local restaurants.

Some of the less dived reef crests were literally covered in fishing lines that had abrazed all live coral, leaving a complete “coral graveyard” (Ricks Reef, North side).

Somewhat puzzling is the fact that some reefs as Eel Garden and the Reef Crest along the southern beaches of Dahab town remain unaffected from algal overgrowth while others (e.g. Moray Garden, Coral Garden) which are far away from town and possible sewage outfall, were subject to significant overgrowth of dead coral by red (?) algae (sp.??).

The outbreak of Crown-of-Thorns-Starfish (COTS) of 1999-2000 did reach the area as the COTS invaded from the South but no reliable data was available to check whether COTS damage would correlate with the areas of algal overgrowth.

If one considers the quick growth of (dive-) tourism in Dahab the reefs are in surprisingly well condition. Lighthouse, which is easy to access at all times and a popular training site, was counted to get up to over 300 entries per day. And yet it still is an intact reef with little damage.

There is still good reason for concern. The numbers of reef fish are alarmingly low.

Amongst the “Western Community” and tourists there is some awareness of conservation issues and several organisations working on these issues do exist in Dahab. However, their influence is limited and representatives of the State Authorities who would be empowered to enforce the laws are few.



I would like to thank everyone for their support and contributions to REEF CHECK in Dahab. Literally all staff were very open and willing to help and I enjoyed working with every one of them. My special thanks go to Tom for the perfect organization, the warm welcome and a great farewell party. As to Guy who got the Dahab Crowd going and to Veronique/Emperor Divers who jumped in with extra support