A popular liveaboard destination, the Brothers are a pair of tiny islands situated about 5 minutes from each other. They are located 200 km south of Ras Mohammed and are basically steep-sided cones, likely formed by volcanic eruptions. They are barely visible and easy to miss, save for the Victorian stone lighthouse, a legacy of British rule, which towers some 32 metres above the islands.
One of the most amazing dives not only in the Southern Red Sea, but likely the whole of the Red Sea, the Brother Islands are quite isolated and thus a delicacy to be savoured by the privileged few. The Brother Islands are accessible by liveaboard only as the exposed location in the middle of the Red Sea leaves it vulnerable to the whims of nature, especially the prevailing winds.
However once you meet the Brothers, the rewards certainly make the challenges worthwhile. The Brother Islands offer a stunning wall dive along the perimeter with breathtaking underwater scenery. The walls are completely overgrown with soft corals and huge forests of gorgonians. As the only significant reefs in the area, the Brothers offer the distinct opportunity to spot a variety of very large pelagic fish not commonly found at other sites.
At Little Brother it's not about size, but about quality. Surrounded by sheer walls covered with black corals, mammoth gorgonian fans with exceptionally dense hard and soft corals covering the spectrum of colours, it's easy to miss all the beauty as your view is obscured by schools of fish so plentiful that it often blocks out the light.
As at this site's bigger brother, numerous sharks are attracted to Little Brother. Grey and white tip reef sharks, hammerheads and the more ominous oceanic white tips are commonly spotted at Little Brother.
My Red Sea Adventure Begins
I don’t remember when I met Bruno but I know I met him soon after arriving in Djibouti. Bruno owns Dolphin Excursions, a few hotels and a logistics company that arranges logistics for the BBC and various production companies shooting movies here. Dolphin Excursions runs the dive trips for Camp Lemonier. Bruno was told about an “undiscovered” sunken WWII German submarine at Seven Brothers in the Red Sea. Seven Brothers is on the top 3 dive destinations in the world. It is where the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea meet. Because of the different oceans and seas coming together it houses the most diverse and beautiful sea life in the world. It is similar to a mix of the desert, the mountains, the tropics and botanical gardens all rolled into one in the sea.
I have been Dive Mastering for Bruno for almost a year now. When Bruno financed the trip to Seven Brothers I was the only American and female that was invited. There were three French, one British and myself. Five divers and a staff of five on a 100’ yacht with seven staterooms. Each of us had plenty of space to occupy without getting in each others way.
There aren't any sails on the yacht and because it is slow in motoring, it was sent out to Seven Brothers on Wednesday to be waiting for us on Thursday when we arrived. Bruno, Nicolai (Bruno’s cousin) and I left Thursday morning on Bruno’s speed boat. We stopped in Obock on our way to pick up Bruno’s security guard, Dimi. Dimi means "the same" in local talk. Meaning if you know two people with the same name, the second person is called Dimi.
The Red Sea is full of pirates and off limits to the military here. As Bruno put it, Dimi knows most everyone in this region and the pirates won’t bother us with him on board. Obock used to be the capital of Djibouti and is in the north region just around the corner from the Red Sea. While in Obock we had a quick lunch and were on our way.
We arrived at Seven Brothers in time to make a fun dive with Andy, the British Dive Instructor. I can now understand why Seven Brothers in on the Top 3 dive destinations in the world. It was the most surreal dive I have ever made. I am pushing over 100 dives now and this was incredible. It almost felt as if I were in a fairy tale. We came across a school of fish that was so large in numbers it had to have been well over 5000 fish. We were surrounded by Manta Rays, Sting Rays, Moray eels, soft coral in colors of red, orange, yellow, blue, purple all swaying with the flow of the ocean. The colors were vivid and the visibility was so clear you could see for hundreds of feet. We talked about it later for hours on end.
As I mentioned I was the only American on board along with Andy, the British instructor who works for Bruno. The rest of the divers are French. Bruno is the only French who speaks perfect English. The other two had broken English. Andy, who is extremely British is difficult to understand at times. Mix all this together and you have a lot of French speaking on board, which I only understand about one fourth of, Andy with his strong “spot on” British English and myself with my lazy American English accent and we communicated as only divers know how to do.
Andy and I decided later to make a night dive with Nicolai who only has a few dozen English phrases in his vocabulary. “Gail, my friend”, “how are you”, “you are sexy” and “good to see you”. So again, communication at it’s best although I don’t mind being called sexy by a cute Frenchman. Andy decides we will turn our lights off after descending. I’m not comfortable with this as I don’t like the dark. I can’t see in the dark and I don’t like what it is I can’t see. My imagination runs wild. I tell Andy this but he says “trust me” you will enjoy it. So down we go 10 meters and stand on the bottom of the ocean. Andy turns off his light along with Nicolai. Nicolai didn’t understand that this is what we were going to do but decides since Andy turns of his light he is going to also. After a few seconds I finally follow suit and turn my light off. Andy proceeds to wave his arms frantically and the ocean comes alive with bioluminescent. Nicolai and I soon follow his lead. We are surrounded by what I can only describe would be similar to thousands of fireflies. It was absolutely magical. Needless to say I was glad that Andy suggested this and that my initial fear subsided.
It’s now Friday morning and because I am an early riser I was up with the sun which turned out to be a good thing. There were dozens of pygmy Manta Ray’s jumping out of the water. This turned out to be quite spectacular and only myself and two of the staff saw the show which lasted for an hour. The French are used to eating late, going to bed late and sleeping in late. So I had most of the boat to myself while a couple of the staff prepared breakfast which eventually woke up everyone else with the smell of cooking food.
After breakfast Bruno briefed all of us on what our roles would be looking for the sunken sub. This lasted for an hour and was communicated in French. Andy and I had 5 minutes of briefing in English and weren’t quite sure what our roles were to be. Bruno had been given the GPS coordinates for the sub but after 4 hours of searching we never found it. We then made our way to another dive site that contained a sunken WWII Italian ship. Our intention was to look for treasure. Down we go to 120 feet only to discover the ship had already been discovered and pilfered. After 2 dives there we made our way back to the yacht to have dinner. Again Andy wants another night dive and Nicolai and I are game just to see the bioluminescence. The others decided to stay on the yacht to drink wine and watch the dive videos from the last 2 days.
Dimi, our Pirate protector disappeared sometime during the day and returned that night with fresh Khat for the locals. Khat is a legalized drug here in Djibouti and the outlying countries. It is a leaf that is chewed and makes people high as a kite. Another story in itself. It turns out Dimi made it to Yemen, a few miles away from our current location, and back again with the Khat and who knows what else. None of my business so I don’t ask.
Saturday morning and again I’m up early with a couple of the staff. No Manta Rays this morning and I’m guessing they have moved on to another area. The morning is crisp which is a nice change from the 130 degrees in Djibouti. I don’t drink coffee because I’m allergic to caffeine but I do picture myself sipping on a mug on this cool morning staring out at the picturesque ocean and the seven islands that name this spot Seven Brothers, also known as The Brothers.
This morning we spend a couple of hours looking for the sub and again we don’t find it. Dimi, our Pirate protector takes us to some other islands and tells us the history of each. One of them is named “Bird Island” which houses hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. The noise is unbelievably loud with thousands of them squaking, talking, chatting and whatever it is that birds do to communicate, all at the same time. The photos and videos I took have come out amazing.
We get back to the yacht, make another fun exciting dive in one of the most sought out dive destinations in the world. Again it was outstanding. Time for lunch and then back to Djibouti. Bruno and Nicolai take the speedboat back while Andy and I decide to stay on the yacht. We made good time in 9 hours as we had a tail wind. The ride back was one of the most relaxing times I’ve had in the last year. We arrive back in Djibouti late that night. I hitch a ride with Andy back to Bruno’s and call two of my best friends Mark and Brenda to come and fetch me. Back to Camp Lemonier and I can’t stop talking about the last 3 days as it’s one of those unforgettable life experiences.
That night I lay my head down on my pillow and fall asleep with a smile on my face knowing that life is good.