Elphinstone Reef

Elphinstone Reef

What’s special about Elphinstone?

Visit one of the most famous dive sites in the world in The Red Sea. Elphinstone is one of the most incredible dive sites due to the reef position, current and transparency of the water.  Divers from all over the world come to see this marvellous site because it is teeming with marine life and the coral reef itself is well preserved.  It is a ‘must dive’ destination for advanced divers.

This fabulous dive site is about a 2 and a half hour boat ride from Marsa Alam and closer still is Hamata. It can be accessed on daily boat tours or on liveaboard trips. Many divers recommend liveaboard trips because you can spend longer at Elphinstone.  Although this site offers great visibility for snorkelers it can have a strong current pushing from the north to the south. Divers should take care which is why this site is usually recommended to divers that have certification.  Elphinstone is full of colourful soft coral and along the vertical walls divers can see a multitude of fish including spade fish, barracudas and mackerel. In the shallower areas there are plenty of snappers, raccoon butterfly fish and puffer fish.  Another great factor about Elphinstone is that the water is very clear with great visibility even at around 20 meters.


This site was named after Admiral George Elphinstone, a British naval commander who served in Egypt in the Napoleonic wars in the 19th century. It is characterized by a long thin reef wall from north to south starting just below the surface of the water. It is approximately 300 meters long with sheer drops. This site reaches a depth of 60m although there is still a lot to see just a few meters in!


Elphinstone is large and with so much to see it usually takes 4 dives to see everything.  From the north side there are two pinnacles, the first at 42 m.  Divers usually do drift dives here and move along the finger shaped plateau. You can see a vast amount of purple and brown soft corals along with red triggerfish, barracuda and reef sharks.  This is also the site for Oceanic White Tip sharks and their pilot fish.  If you are lucky you may spot a hammerhead shark although these sightings are rare.


There are plenty of coral gardens on the southern plateau, sharks can sometimes be found here at the tip of the wall.  Many divers start here and swim down the west side and back up the east.  This southern section is frequently visited by Oceanic White Tip sharks. These sharks are curious of divers and will often return surprisingly for a second look.  These sightings are rare but Elphinstone has gained much of its fame and popularity from these creatures.

On the western side of the south plateau are many small caves at around 30 – 35 meters. Here you can see the Elphinstone archway famously named the sarcophagus archway because of the rock that looks like a sarcophagus, this is around 65 meters deep. Past the archway is a 10 meter high tunnel that connects the western and eastern side walls.  However this tunnel is not for general recreational diving because proper training is needed.


The eastern side is often used for drift diving. The sheer drop off from these walls is more than 100 meters and you can see plenty of colourful soft coral and endless amounts of fish.  Once more there are occasions when divers spot sea turtles here!


The western side is sandier than the east and less steep. It has more caves and caverns so this is a great place to spot triggerfish and squirrelfish. There is also an overhang here where you can spot schools of black snapper fish.

Marine life

The Elphinstone dive site can be distinguished by the few small breakers on the sea’s surface. It is considered one of the best dive sites worldwide because of the amazing amount of sea life.  The underwater landscape is ideal for all manner of creatures making it a hot spot for divers and snorkelers.  Turtles, manta rays and sharks can be observed here.  Manta Rays are usually spotted from May to August whereas sharks are more commonly seen from October to December.  Although this site is popular it is only suited to advanced divers because of the strength of the current, this helps keep the number of divers more manageable. The reef is also visited by hawksbill turtles, bottlenose dolphins and the occasional hammerhead shark. The only downside to this site is that it isn’t used for night dives because of how isolated it is.