Aggressor Fleet & Dancer Fleet

Scuba Diving in Egypt Aboard the Red Sea Aggressor Liveaboard

I hammered away on my tank to attract the rest of the group’s attention, all the while marveling at the school of 19 hammerheads that was cruising in for a closer look at the invading bubble-blowers. My buddy, Brad, and I were the frontier party — hanging way out in the blue of Daedalus, looking for pelagics — while the others meandered along the sheer coral cliff. Our patience had paid off.

As I swam along, soaking up the magnificent view of these bizarre-looking sharks, with their distinctive meandering swimming motion, I was aware of a tank banger going of repeatedly near the reef. Turning to my right, I was astounded to see a 14-foot manta ray gliding toward me. I quickly snapped of a series of photographs as it breezed past me and turned, heading back out into the deep directly over my head. Watching the ray disappear, I caught Brad’s eye, and we celebrated with much fist-pumping. This is what everyone on board had come to the Red Sea for; this is what Daedalus is all about.


The Aggressor Fleet has returned to the Red Sea, utilizing the tried-and-tested Suzanna 1 as its liveaboard. Red Sea Aggressor — it is also named Suzanna 1 for a variety of reasons — is a modern, well-appointed yacht, initially launched in 2004. On the itinerary I joined, apart from a lone South African and a British couple, all the divers were from the U.S. or Canada. This is great news for Egypt in today’s climate — North Americans know and trust the Aggressor brand. My dive buddy, Brad Gehrt, had been on several Aggressor and Dancer Fleet vessels, and that helped with his decision to try out Red Sea Aggressor for a week.

Red Sea Aggressor runs two itineraries back to back — north to Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone, beloved by Red Sea aficionados; and south to St. John’s/Fury Shoals — so several of the guests had been on the yacht the week before or were staying on after our trip. It’s a smart marketing idea that’s obviously working — if you’ve traveled this far to get here, why not stay for two weeks? Aggressor also does occasional 10-day specials that take in the best bits of both itineraries.

The 120-foot yacht has been outfitted to the highest standards and offers a comfortable base from which to explore the Red Sea. The salon is sumptuously furnished, and the sun decks have plenty of room for everyone, even on a full charter. Aggressor’s rigid inflatable boats are equipped with boarding ladders to make getting back in easier, and they’re larger than the average Red Sea Zodiacs, so even with 10 divers, it’s not too much of a squeeze.


The Brother Islands — also known as El Akhawein — are two pinnacles that protrude from the Red Sea some 60 miles offshore. There’s nothing else around besides these two barren outcrops that lie about a mile apart, magnets for marine life of all shapes and sizes.

Big Brother — the larger of the two, as the name suggests — is roughly cigar-shaped and approximately 2,500 feet long. It is topped by a British lighthouse, built in 1883, that is manned by military personnel who will sell you an “I Dived the Brothers” T-shirt.

On the north point lies the wreck of the Numidia, one of the most stunning wreck dives in the world. This huge cargo ship ran aground in 1901 and sank down the reef, becoming stuck at an impossibly vertical angle on the sheer wall. The bow has been smashed by constant wave action — the top 32 to 40 feet is broken wreckage, but beyond that the ship is remarkably intact down to the props at 280 feet.

Swept by sometimes strong currents, the Numidia is absolutely smothered in soft-coral growth that drapes over the superstructure, railings and masts. Reef fish swarm over the wreck, and gray reef sharks can be seen circling in the blue, along with the odd barracuda, trevally and tuna. The immense size of the wreck, plus its bizarre orientation, make it a dive not to be missed.
Around the west side of Big Brother lies the wreck of the Aida. This Egyptian transport vessel was bringing supplies to the lighthouse in 1957 when it ran aground and broke in half — the bow was obliterated on the shallow reef; the stern sank into deeper water and lodged upright between 115 and 215 feet. You don’t get long on Aida because of the depth, but it’s covered in soft corals and makes for a dramatic view, disappearing into the deep.

Small Brother lies around a mile away, a circular island surrounded by sheer walls and deep plateaus. Currents sweep onto the north point, bringing nutrient-rich waters, which means the soft-coral growth is phenomenal. And you get sharks. Gray reefs are the most regular visitors, but hammerheads and threshers put in the odd appearance — we saw a couple of hammers, and the other RIB encountered a thresher and a manta ray. The sheer weight of life on Small Brother makes it a smorgasbord of rich, vibrant colors as all the reef fish flutter in and out of sponges, coral heads and reef outcroppings.


My past three trips to Daedalus — Abu Kizan in Arabic — had been damp squibs, delivering nothing more exciting than the odd barracuda or trevally. This time around, it totally overshadowed its Big and Small Brothers.

After hearing reports of multiple hammerhead sightings during the previous few weeks, I was quietly harboring hopes for this large, circular reef. I needn’t have worried. The first two dives delivered lone and buddy-team hammerheads doing the odd flyby. But it was on the third dive when it all kicked of: a frenetic 10 minutes of glorious shoaling scalloped hammerhead action, which was topped of by a manta ray’s acrobatic display.

Inevitably, the second day at Daedalus couldn’t hold a candle to our manic first experience. We found the odd hammer, and another manta ray in a brief encounter, but otherwise, everyone was happy to enjoy the bizarrely tranquil conditions and absorb the views along the dramatic sheer walls.


Moving north to Elphinstone, we were greeted by less than ideal weather conditions. We attempted to moor on the northern plateau, but waves soon snapped a line, and our captain wisely motored to the south plateau to join the other liveaboards already there.

A strong current was running from west to east, but a few of us punched through it and hung at 100 feet, scanning the blue for any “men in gray suits.” Just as we were about to give up, we caught sight of two large dolphins, and then another four or five swept overhead and around us. The mammals put on a bit of a show, effortlessly darting here and there on the current-ripped plateau before heading of into the blue.

We drifted with the current down the east wall, keeping an eye on the blue for any pelagics that might show up. Alas, it was not to be, and conditions on the surface had deteriorated, so the cruise director called it quits.

All in all, it’s great to see Aggressor back in the Red Sea, and judging by this trip, a rosy future is guaranteed for this high-end liveaboard. As for me, I can’t wait to dive the southern itinerary.

Pyramid in Egypt

Scott Johnson

Ancient History and Mystery

Egypt’s ancient allure is both topside and below the surface of the Red Sea.


01 Get Wrecked
I defy any diver not to be blown away by the vertical wrecks of Numidia and Aida.

02 Sharks and More Sharks
These offshore marine parks are famous for their shark encounters, including gray reef, hammerhead, oceanic whitetip, thresher, and even the occasional tiger and whale sharks.

03 Catch My Drift
Due to their location in the middle of the Red Sea, the Brothers and Daedalus can sometimes be swept by extremely strong currents — get ready to put on your best Superman pose as you fly along the sheer walls.

04 Remoteness
For most of the itinerary you will not have any cellphone signal; after all, you’re here to get away from life’s hustle and bustle. (Yes, there is a satellite phone available if you must.)

05 Culture Vulture
You can’t travel all the way to Egypt and not venture out to some of the ancient attractions. The Aggressor team can assist with visits to the Pyramids and Valley of the Kings, and cruises down the River Nile.


When To GoYear-round, but the better conditions tend to be in summer. Winter can deliver more shark action.

Dive Conditions Summer water temps average 84 degrees, so a
 3 mm shorty or wetsuit is sufficient. In winter, temps can drop to 73 degrees, so a 7 mm suit (or drysuit) is a better option. Entries and exits from the RIBs can be rough; being comfortable with back rolls and negative descents is a plus.

Logistics Red Sea Aggressor departs from Port Ghalib, near Marsa Alam. There are numerous fights into Hurghada, about a four-hour minibus transfer from the marina, or you can get on a scheduled fight into Marsa Alam International Airport.

Operator Red Sea Aggressor ( can take 20 passengers and 12 crew.

Price Tag Deluxe staterooms start from $1,899.

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Aggressor Fleet & Dancer Fleet

Red Sea Aggressor

Book a new reservation on the Red Sea Aggressor starting Sept. 25, 2015 for any of the following weeks and save 50%. Thats right, it’s March Madness month and we are o…

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Liveaboard: Diving in Indonesia Aboard the Komodo Dancer

A train of four giant mantas charges overhead, and it’s not a freak encounter. The site’s full name is Manta Alley, but superstition has local guides simply calling it the Alley lest the wonders fail to appear, which is rare. Right now, 15 of them — each roughly 12 feet across — are winging laps around Langkoi Rock, a craggy pinnacle of the south side of Komodo, the Indonesian island best known among nondivers for dragons. As for the mantas, they’re here when cold water is, pushing in plankton. And the action is nonstop.

Being in the shadow of beings so large and powerful is humbling. It’s why Noh Atta Abola, steering mate of the M/V Komodo Dancer, is kneeling on the sand, arms overhead. He can’t help the visceral gesture of awe.

The big stuff, from mantas to mola mola, is just part of the reason experienced divers consider Indonesia — and this luxury vessel — the trip of a lifetime. It’s a reward best appreciated after countless hours logged over reefs, learning to identify enough fish species to appreciate the record-setting biodiversity of this underwater Amazon. Moreover, participants need skills honed for the sometimes challenging conditions, from down-currents to drift dives ending in open water.

The 10-day voyage I’ve just begun starts on the island of Flores, 36 hours by boat if traveling nonstop to the end point of Bali, itself a destination most lengthen their trips to experience. Before I embarked, I had wanted to revel in the magic of the place, devoting a week to touring the incense-heavy temples —local myth alleges Bali has a thousand.

The dive trip will be a whirlwind. The itinerary promises a parade of wonders so large it’ll take work to keep pace, and so small it’s a hunt to acknowledge their presence. I imagine it’ll feel much like standing before the ornate temple altars — like what Abola experienced today: a feeling of awe so overwhelming you can’t help but be brought to your knees.


It’s just after sunset, and Rob Morgan-Grenville is briefing us on a site called Circus, supposedly one of the trip’s best night dives. But after he uses the words sand, rock and coral rubble, I debate tugging on a damp wetsuit.

“It’s not the pretty corals we’ve been seeing all week,” Morgan-Grenville admits, referring to sites like Crystal Rock, where every inch of coral is alive, supporting anthias and schools of rainbow runners so thick they obscure any divers among them in the water column.

But muck diving is one of the main attractions of Indonesia. The only possible reason to skip it is a cold Bintang beer — unlimited for guests. But the stocked fridge will wait, so I opt in.

We start by hunting stargazers. Earlier, guide Gede Merta had shown pictures: The fish buries itself in the muck. Only its face — bug eyes and a frowning underbite of corn-kernel teeth — is visible.

I find nothing but broken coral bits until he shakes his dive light, commandeering our attention. Then he aims a wire pointer at the black sand.

The alien is no bigger than a baseball. It’s a lesson repeated when Merta points out a bobtail squid, no bigger than a bumblebee. I think it’s a juvenile till later that night, when we gather in the salon to pore over the Reef Creatures book.

Turns out, bobtail squid are no bigger than golf balls, making their sparkling iridescence somehow more magical.

And so the next few days and nights pass, muck diving at sites such as Fuzzy Bottom of Sumbawa Island. We’re treated to encounters with algae octopuses, dragon sea moths, spiny devilfsh and Bobbitt worms — all of which we truly only appreciate when Merta shows us those pages. And he would know. On the book’s credit page, Merta is listed among eight dive guides whom authors Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach thank for helping them locate the critters.One thing not mentioned in the book: Merta has even discovered a few species.


It’s the last day of the dive trip, and Merta and Morgan-Grenville can’t seem to agree. We’re at Gili Tepekong, an island of the southeast coast of Bali — and just hours from where the yacht will harbor for the final night. This area is known for mola mola, aka ocean sunfish, but the season for seeing them extends only from roughly June to October. Right now, it’s April.

“It’s too early — we don’t have a prayer,” Morgan-Grenville tells us, not wanting to get our hopes up.

“They’re there,” says Merta.

And now, at 78 feet under the surface, Morgan-Grenville is gesturing wildly with his free hand, flashing a thumb up, while gripping his camera with the other.

We all fin deeper, and there, at 100 feet, is a mola mola, glowing white as the moon. Its apple-size eye follows us, its tiny mouth pursed in a pucker.

As I stare at it, and it stares back, I have to laugh. In a way, I’m not surprised. This is Bali, the land of a thousand temples and a population dedicated to its gods. With so much devotion, it’d be wrong not to expect at least a few miracles.


Tender Diving. All sites are accessed by tenders, facilitating drift diving and access to offshore pinnacles.

Local Flavor. The lunch buffet is a highlight, when the chef prepares spiced fish cakes, vegetable curries, beef satays, banana fritters and more.

Komodo Dragons. During much of the trip, no other boats are in sight. When Komodo Dancer moors of its namesake island, visiting these killers is as easy as a dinghy ride.

Day Excursions. Take time for optional land- based excursions, including a pink beach without a soul on it.

Stay for Ubud. Add a day or two to explore Ubud in Bali’s interior. You’ll tour temples, including one of the most famous,the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, home to 600 macaques.


When to Go

M/V Komodo Dancer devotes most of the year to seven- and 10-day treks between Bali and Labuan Bajo, on the west coast of Flores. In October and November, itineraries travel between Flores and Alor, giving guests the chance to dive with whales, plus muck critters like wonderpus, blue-ringed and starry-night octopuses.

Dive Conditions

The southern region has greener waters with temperatures ranging from 72 to 77 degrees; it’s where manta sightings are much more frequent. The northern region sees visibility of 100 feet or more, and water temperatures around 82 degrees are standard.


The 124-foot Komodo Dancer accommodates 16 guests in eight staterooms: two owner suites, two cabins with full-size beds, and the rest with bunk beds.

Price Tag

Rates start at $2,700 for seven nights, double occupancy. Deluxe and master suites are also available. Nitrox upgrades cost $100 for seven days, and $150 for 10 days.

Click here for more information on bucket-list liveaboard adventures, and make sure to check out special discount pricing for a trip aboard Komodo Dancer

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Dive Hacks: Expert Tips for Liveaboard Adventures

Savvy divers know that liveaboards are the ultimate way to travel for maximum water time and major pampering. These floating palaces of dive lust cruise some of the most exotic and prolific regions on the planet, putting their guests into the best possible conditions at optimal times for mind-blowing encounters. When your plush stateroom and gourmet meals are bobbing gently above a world-class dive site, a vacation doesn’t get much easier. All that’s required is to roll out of bed and into your wetsuit, because your gear is already assembled and waiting for you, attached to a full cylinder. Consider enjoying this scenario for seven to 10 days in a row, and the fantasy that is liveaboard diving comes into clear and wonderful focus.

All of this bliss comes at a price, however. This method of travel represents a significant investment, one that frequently cashes out at a more expensive price tag than a land-based alternative. And because you’re typically isolated from civilization, it pays to come prepared with a highly tuned game plan, the right equipment and a few tricks to which only liveaboard veterans are privy. To even the playing field for every diver, I asked Lauren Hill, the New Zealand-born captain of the Aggressor Fleet’s Cayman Aggressor IV, for her expert advice. A veteran of six years at the helm and a half-dozen more as an instructor and guide, Hill is one of the most customer-focused liveaboard hosts I’ve ever encountered; her advice can help you make the most of your luxury-travel investment.


Diving from a liveaboard means that, more often than not, you’ll be anchored in a prime spot that day boats can take considerable time to reach. And captains know how to maximize local conditions to serve up the best spots on any given day. Advantage: you. So make the most of the opportunity by rising with the sun and being there when the reef comes to life. Piloting the CAIV gives Hill early-bird entry to some of her favorite sites in the Caymans: “Nancy’s Cup of Tea on Little Cayman as a dawn dive is always a ‘wow’ dive when the reef is waking up around you and the reef sharks come in close to check us out.”


Without the pressure land-based operators have to get their guests in the water and back on a schedule, liveaboard divers have the ultimate luxury of time. Whether you’re diving from the yacht or by tender, the relaxed schedule can take some getting used to. “As all our dives are from the mothership, there is no need to take of on a mission swimming 2 miles away underwater,” says Hill. “All our dives are right under the boat, so our guests can slow down and smell the roses — and relax.”


The glorious isolation of being on a yacht far out at sea is a fantasy many of us share. But it can quickly turn into a nightmare when equipment malfunctions and you can’t hit the local dive store for that key part or replacement piece. “A big mistake our divers make is not testing their gear after having it serviced,” Hill says. “First dive of the week, and we have free-flowing this and malfunctioning that and the cry of, ‘But I just had it serviced.’ Go for a couple of local dives at home before your trip, even if it’s just in the pool.” You can’t always count on the boat staff to have a particular part, so a well-stocked save-a-dive kit is a must.

Hill advises that “having backup equipment if you own an unusual brand, for example, or a spare battery for your flashlight that regular batteries don’t fit,” can help liveaboard guests avoid missing dives when disaster strikes. “And photographers should pack backup fiber-optic cables and strobe connectors, and a backup SD card or hard drive too.”


With the availability of up to five dives per day, liveaboard guests can rack up serious bottom time, but they can also chill themselves to the verge of hypothermia — even in tropical waters. Being mindful of your internal body temperature can be the difference between performing at your best and shivering in discomfort.

“I always encourage guests to get completely dry and changed between dives,” Hill says. “Your core temp will warm up faster, and you will probably stay warmer and enjoy the next dive even more.”


You’ll be on board with the same group of strangers for an extended period. Even though a common love of diving is a great icebreaker, Hill has seen enough good and bad chemistry experiments to pick up a few best practices. “There are a few key ways to make friends or just get along when you are on a yacht for a week or more,” she says. “In your cabin and on the dive deck, keep your belongings, equipment, and diving and photo gear all in your space. Don’t be that guy or gal who takes over the cabin or the dive deck with all of your worldly possessions.”

Hill’s final piece of advice: “Try not to be a know-it-all,” she says. “It’s great that you are enthusiastic and you have all of this knowledge to share, but don’t force it upon your fellow divers — you’ll only drive them away. Move around the group, sitting with different people at mealtimes, and just be social. Best of all, just relax, bring a sense of humor and enjoy the ride.”


Capt. Lauren Hill’s recommended scuba accessories and common household items to make the most of your liveaboard trip.

A GOOD FLASHLIGHT Think small, bright and rechargeable (or with plenty of extra batteries).

SURFACE-MARKER BUOY Make sure you never dive without one.

TWO OR THREE SWIMSUITS So you’ll always have a dry one.

BATTERIES Bring backups for your computer, camera and everything else that uses them.

SUNSCREEN Nothing is worse than getting fried your first day on board, then suffering the rest of the week
when you strap your BC on sunburned shoulders.

SEASICKNESS MEDS Be proactive about taking them, because when it’s too late, it’s too late.

CONDITIONER Girls or guys with long hair, not all boats supply it (your hair will appreciate it).

PRESENTS FOR THE CAPTAIN AND CREW Bring (and leave on the boat) DVDs of new movies and TV series, books, magazines, etc. The crew will love you.

Click here for liveaboard dive deals and for some of our favorite liveaboard destinations!

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