outcropping coral pinnacles extends east-west for about 1.5 miles on the southern edge of Sha’ab el-Utah, flanking a large sandy lagoon with an average depth of about ten meters. Local fishermen call this site Saba Erg (the ‘Seven Pinnacles’) while divers have renamed it Alternatives’ because, as it is so well sheltered, it offers the opportunity to make alternative dives when conditions in the open sea are prohibitive. The classic dive goes around
the two middle pinnacles which are in line with a fixed mooring. Due to its position
this site has tidal currents that greatly influence visibility, which can be quite poor when the current comes from the south, especially if accompanied by wind and waves. If, on the other hand, the sea is calm and the current is either lacking or is coming from the north, you can enjoy Alternatives swarming with fauna where you can find numerous coral genera, large groupers (Epinephelus malabaricus, E. tauvina), Bluespotted stingrays (Taeniura lymma), squids, nudibranchs and even Leopard sharks
A group of anthias swarms around a red Alcyonarian and red sponge on the northeastern ridge of Stingray Station
(Stegostoma fasciatum). In the north-western part of Alternatives we find a large, roughly quadrangular outcrop,
27° 43.845’N – 34° 11.241′ E
known as Stingray Station . because many Bluespotted stingrays gather here, particularly in the spring months. About 1.7 miles to the west of Stingray Station, a single, large circular tower known as Lonely Mushroom comes up from the sandy seabed; it is situated at 27° 43.640′ N – 34° 09.293′ E and has a shamandura fixed on the reef at the surface, which can sometimes be hard to locate. Despite its small dimension, this site permits short yet interesting dives, especially for the lovers of macro-photography, as nudibranchs and shrimps are hiding between the numerous soft and small hard corals.
Features• A sheltered site offering a safe stay. • An abundance of marine life, especially groupers and many genera of corals. • Offers you the chance to see Leopard sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum).
Comments • It is better not to dive if the sea is rough and visibility is poor. • Night diving can be effected only in optimal conditions; make sure to bring two torches with you.