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Dunraven, Nordtour

Sha ab Mahmoud lies to the east of the Straits of Gubal. It is a mosaic of meandering coral reefs and shallow turquoise lagoons. Previously seldom visited except by local fishermen. Sha ab Mahmoud has been something of a staging post for divers returning from the wreck of The Thistlegorm. In 1876, it became the last resting place for the 82 m merchant ship SS Dunraven. Bound for Newcastle England, she was loaded with timber and Bombay spices. Local legend has it, the captain was drunk following an altercation with both his wife and first mate. This is so often the story, whether you believe it or not, take a look at the wreck. She went down with all portholes open, proof that at the time of the catastrophe conditions were calm. In 1979, she was heavily investigated by a team of archaeologists bringing to light an assortment of bottles, plates and other interesting objects. In the rare event of flat calm conditions, dive this wreck from a mooring line, looped around the rudder-stock at 17 m. Alternately do it as a drift dive. Drop in by the metal framework lying at the reef edge approximately 100 m north of the beacon. After diving the wreck return along the shallow reef to the boat that should wait in the lee of beacon rock. The current usually runs north to south and if not will be weak. The Dunraven should be dived not so much for the wreck itself, more so for the rich variety of marine flora and fauna. The hull is almost entirely obscured by a thick growth of soft coral and sponges. The gravel sea bed around the stem is ideal territory for crocodile fish. They are there, even if you cant see them. Most dramatic are the large schools of glassfish and those that feed upon them. Inside the bow, packs of lion fish can be seen, pectoral fins spread, herding and hunting in formation. Scorpion fish lie in wait beneath. This scene will enthral photographers. The reef alongside, though drab, is home to a rich array of marine life. Napoleon wrasse, morays and the occasional turtles, as well as a wide variety of crustaceans and molluscs. The wreck will surely keep you fascinated right up to your no stop limits, so you will be grateful of this lively reef as you do your safety stops on the return to the boat.

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