Dive sites (Jordan): Cedar Pride

During my stay in Jordan, (diving for Dive Aqaba) we often dived the Cedar Pride. She is a Lebanese cargo ship that was scuttled in 1985 after lying in the port for three years, abandoned by her owners after a fire in the engine room in 1982. The ship was sunk as an artificial reef and lies on her port side. The beauty of this dive site is that  the depth on the starboard side is around 10 metres, yet the sand below the port side is around 28 metres.

She lies on a rock formation allowing for a swim through up near the bow. Wreck penetration is also an option for all levels as you can swim through a few hatches or go all the way into the engine room. The ship is 75 metres long and you can explore all of the deck area and several open holds and this wreck is home to a huge variety of marine life. At approximately 150 metres off the beach it is possible to do this dive as a shore entry but it is far better doing a boat dive as there is also a barge and a small fishing vessel close by. The wreck has a permanent buoy and the viz is almost always 25 metres. There is a high speed ferry that runs into Aqaba daily from Egypt and the surge created by this ferry causes the Cedar Pride to rock slightly and if you are near the prop at the time you can see the keel lifting ever so slightly.

Wreck diving

There is just something so intriguing about diving a wreck and this need not be limited to ships alone. This tank wreck in the Red Sea is an amazing dive.

Sunken tank in Jordan
This tank was placed as an artificial reef by order of the King of Jordan, who is a diving fanatic!

Wrecks all have a story to tell. Some are there from navigational errors (like the Kakapo on Long Beach, Noordhoek), some from mechanical faults, some from war battles (like the HNMS Bato off Long Beach, Simon’s Town), many of them as a result of bad weather (like the Clan Stuart)  and some wrecks are the result of a planned scuttling to form an artificial reef (for example, the Smitswinkel Bay wrecks).

No matter how it got there, exploring a wreck is fascinating and within months of its arrival marine life forms move in and make the nooks and crannies home. Corals, sponges, sea anemones – to name a few – all appear and grow within months of the wreck’s arrival. Wrecks can sometimes become home to more species than you see on a nearby reef purely due to the wreck’s size, giving juveniles far more protection from rough weather than a reef can.

Despite the allure of the many opening and overhangs, wreck diving has its own set of hazards and without proper training it is important to stay out of any overhead environments. It is also critical to avoid becoming entangled in the myriad of cables, ropes, chains and often fishing tackle that can sometimes be draped over a wreck. When you start wreck diving you will most likely be content to swim around the outside and be awed by the size of some wrecks, once majestically sailing the seas, brightly painted and full of noise and life. Now they lie silent, rusty and overgrown, but still teeming with life.

A powerful dive light is a must if you want to peer inside holes and hatches, but be wary as your light can often disturb some huge creature who will buzz by you startled and dazed by your light, as you are blocking the exit.

Diving in Jordan

Diving in the Red Sea is rated by many as the best diving they have ever done. To many people the Red Sea is in Egypt as most of the renowned dive sites operate from live-a-boards from Egyptian cities.

Red sea corals
Coral in the Red Sea

However if you are like me and prefer the less travelled road and enjoy smaller groups and out of the way places, then Jordan is an extremely good option. Dive Aqaba located in the town of Aqaba in Jordan is the place to go.

Sunken tank in Jordan
This tank was placed as an artificial reef by order of the King of Jordan, who is a diving fanatic!

A PADI IDC Centre run by Rod Ibbotson and Ashraf Sulaibi, Dive Aqaba has everything you need. They run an amazing day boat which has recently had a major face lift and upgrade and was in my opinion an amazing dive boat when I was there but must be stunning now.

The boat runs out of the harbor daily and returns in the late afternoon. Between dives you are fed a meal they call lunch, an understatement of note as it is more of a feast. Having lived there for several months I tried many of the local restaurants and none of the amazing meals came close to the food served on the boat Laila 1. In the middle of winter when the water was cold (21 degrees celsius!) you are served hot soup, tea, coffee etcetera between dives. The kit up area on the boat is spacious, the dining area like a small restaurant and the upper deck a perfect spot to sit and absorb the desert sun on the trip out to the dive sites and back to shore.

Aqaba has an amazing array of dive sites for everyone, from snorkeling to deep technical dives, wall diving and the most amazing wrecks. My favorite dive there was the wreck of the Cedar Pride.

Cedar Pride wreck
The wreck of the Cedar Pride in the Red Sea

The Cedar Pride was damaged by a fire in 1982 whilst in the Port of Aqaba. In 1985 she was towed out and scuttled 150 metres from the beach and now lies in 28 metres of water on her starboard side. The Min depth is 10 metres and the max is 28 metres so it is a perfect dive for all qualifications and even has entry points for penetration, swim through and a swim through under the bow. The ship is about 75 metres long and with an average viz of 20 – 25 metres the Cedar Pride is an amazing site.

Wreck of the Cedar Pride
Wreck of the Cedar Pride

The city of Aqaba has an amazing array of clubs, hotels, bars and shops, and is safe and clean. It is a very pleasant place to stroll around in. Internet cafés are all over and there is wifi in most restaurants, not to mention hubbly bubblies everywhere.

Rod has been instrumental in many issues of conservation in the bay of Aqaba, has discovered wrecks, dive sites and many other wonders of the deep and will ensure you leave Jordan with a sense of satisfaction seldom found anywhere in the world.