In 1983 the Egyptian government declared some select areas marine reserves with strict regulations (see Marine Reserve Regulations, p. 16). Some of them are located directly at or near the coast, such as the Ras Mohammed National Park at the southern tip of the Sinai and the reefs around Wadi Gemal, while others comprise islands and reefs off the coast, such as the Brother Islands, Daedalus Reef, Zabargad Island and Rocky Island, which are described in this section. As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, it is hardly possible to dive at all the Marine Park reefs in a single week because of the large distances. Therefore, the names “Marine Park 1” (Brother Islands) and “Marine Park 2” (Daedalus, Zabargad and Rocky Island) have been introduced to better differentiate the tours.
Big Brother and Little Brother Islands lie 60 km east of the Egyptian coast, where they rise from a depth of over 800 m and offer passionate divers steep walls, endless corals, a wealth of big and small fish and massive shipwrecks. However, their seclusion also leads to difficult diving conditions: the wind constantly sweeps the sea about them leading to big waves, which, though hardly noticeable underwater, make entering and leaving the water very difficult. Occasionally the islands can neither be approached nor dived at, so if you book a Marine Park tour, you must be aware that you may sometimes be unable to dive there because of the weather. For the above reasons, having diving experience of at least fifty logged dives are required and night dives are prohibited. Whereas Little Brother Island is uninhabited, Big Brother Island has a 24-metre high lighthouse with supply buildings, built by the British and completed in June 1883 The necessary building materials were extracted straight from the island as attested by an old quarry in the north. Presently, the lighthouse’s technology has been updated to today’s standards, and members of the Egyptian military ensure its smooth operation by carrying out their service on the island for three to four months.
Daedalus Reef lies 184 km further south and 82 km off the Egyptian coast as secluded in the sea as the Brother Islands. Though not an island, with its length of over a kilometre it is considerably bigger than the average reef and therefore provides sufficient shelter from the wind and waves. Daedalus also has a lighthouse on its reef flat, which is attended to by the Egyptian military. The keepers always enjoy variety in their routine and therefore even provide curious visitors with a tour of the lighthouse.
(St. John’s Island) The island, with its diameter of about 3 km, rises to an elevation of 239 m above sea level and lies another 151 km south of Daedalus. The Egyptian name Zabargad means “sea fog” referring to the dense fog that occasionally cloaks the island during changing weather. According to historical research, Zabargad is supposed to have been the ancient site of Topazos, where not only the Romans but also the Egyptians mined green peridots for jewellery. Today the island is uninhabited; only a military outpost is still maintained here.
Rocky forms the southernmost point of the Marine Park Islands. The uninhabited, 200 m long island lies just 3 km south of Zabargad. Its steep reef walls rise from a depth of 600 m to the surface, resulting in difficult diving conditions similar to the Brother Islands. However, because of the high chances to encounter sharks and other large fish here, it is nonetheless very popular.