Cruising Notes on Sudan

Published 15 years ago, updated 6 years ago

Contributed by Amanda & Mark Church – Farrell (NZ)

SY Balvenie

Sudan Anchorage and Passage Information – South to North

13-26 April 2008

Shatira Islet at Kor Nawarat

18 15.00N, 38 19.33E / 8.9m – good holding.

Entered through East Passage around noon. Excellent visibility, CMap ok. Watch for charted shoals. Reasonable snorkel on the outside of the reef between Shatira Islet and Farrajin Island.

Long Island in Shubuk Channel

18 46.39N, 37 39.47E / 5.5m.

We arrived late in the day, visibility poor. We encountered some patches shallower than charted and took it very slowly. A boat anchored a little further to the west of us outside a natural indentation in the island nudged some uncharted rocks there. Interesting vegetation ashore did a big walk.

Transiting Shubuk Channel

CMap is all off but it gives you a reasonable overview along with the waypoints in the Red Sea Pilot. I thought they were out but I think it may have been my fault. The channel markers are mostly in place and if you take your time it’s fine. Don’t recall any shallows to worry about. We motored through in light winds.


19 06.48N, 37 20.33E / 6m – holding ok.

Very sheltered from everything. Final part of entrance a little tight and scenery amazing, the scenery is still there once you have anchored so just concentrate on getting in first!!! CMap pretty good and visibility excellent for a commercial port. Don’t miss this place.

Suakin Diary Entry:

Here we are sitting in Suakin waiting to leave but haven’t got our passports back yet from Immigration, and each minute we wait the northerlies are building. We are only planning on going 10 miles up the coast but still don’t really want to bash into it so we will see what its like when we are ready. Had an interesting day yesterday, if we thought Massawa in Eritrea was a bit ramshackle you should see this place, basically, the whole of Suakin is in ruins. The buildings were made of coral so eventually, they just crumble, and crumbled they have!!! This used to be a very important port and goes down in history as the place the last boatload of slaves were sent from Africa to the US. There are a handful of cars here, mainly donkey and cart, dirt roads the odd camel, plenty of goats and lovely people. Most of the men wear the long white “thobe” and the women the very colourful wrap-around that pretty much covers them all up, but its a pleasant change from the black in Oman and Yemen.

We visited Port Sudan from here:

Yesterday afternoon we caught the local bus about an hour north to Port Sudan. It is a long straight flat road through the sand, several settlements of what could only be called cardboard shacks, all looked somewhat bleak but most tidy and cared for. Port Sudan was a lot bigger than we expected, very wide streets and some old colonial buildings in not too bad a shape. We went for a walk to the Port and sat on mats on the ground, drinking some rather good sweet coffee from one of 17 vendors on the Corniche (promenade). They have a little drum type fire permanently in the ground, with the big pots of water, tea and coffee bubbling away over coals. It was quite an experience. Then we wandered through all the streets and back to the bus station which at 5 pm was an absolute hive of industry.

After stopping for some fresh mango juice and spiced kebab meat chopped and mixed with tomato and herbs served in fresh hamburger-type buns, we went to find a bus back here. About 30 mins later and still not being able to find a bus, the 4 of us were deposited into a mini-minivan not actually sure of where we were being taken, just hoping we weren’t being kidnapped!!! All was well, one should have faith in Allah, as our driver took us to another bus station on the outskirts of town and we hopped onto the next bus home. It is just a two-lane road and for some reason there were about 100 trucks backlogged and almost stationary, not to be deterred our driver simply drove down the wrong side for miles with some rather sudden breaking to squeeze between these big beasts, alternatively we went off-roading into the desert sands to avoid oncoming traffic, one of the more action-packed rides we have had, and happily we live to tell the tale!!!! Although the trucks weren’t marked as UN or were obviously carrying Aid, we can only assume that that is what it all was, as there is almost zero industry here, maybe they were all headed for the Dafour region, many many miles away.

So we have our passports back now (but no Sudan stamp!!!) but the wind is up to 20 knots so we are staying put and will leave at first light (4.30am). From here we do some “Marsa” (reef) hopping up the Sudanese then Egyptian Coasts and according to those that have done this we should experience some of the best diving/snorkelling in the world. We have now moved out of the region of prevailing southerlies so will go as far as we can each time we have favourable winds – until we pop out into the Med.

Marsa Ata

19 17.42N, 37 19.67E / 12m – sand.

Entry on CMap was close enough but rest out. Again go slow, have someone up the rig. Snorkelling was quite good on inside of the reef, very shallow but good. We did a dinghy drift for happy hour, went up the Marsa for about 10mins in the dinghy, got the nibbles and drinks out and drifted back to the boats.

Umbria Wreck

Mooring buoys approx 19 38.45N, 37 17.44E – 14m.

Reputed to be the best wreck dive in the Red Sea. Take dinghy over to the wreck, there are little buoys to moor dinghy to. Wreck located approx 19 38.17N, 37 17.44E (this is estimate). There are 2 funnels partly sticking out of the water, not that apparent. We snorkelled the wreck which was pretty good as some of it is quite shallow so worthwhile doing. Liam dived on it and thought it was excellent. We did not stay overnight but in calm conditions, it would be fine.

Sanganeb Reef

19 44.07N, 37 26.74E – dropped 12m settled 19m, lots of coral and mostly quite deep.

We arrived late and although not entering into the sun visibility was poor. Followed the leads 107o in, then turned right between marks. The port mark is snapped off at water level and is hard to see. Zoom CMap to 15,000. Didn’t snorkel here, late arrival & early departure. It is said to be good. Fellow cruisers went up to the Shab Rumi snorkel/dive site (where Jacques Cousteau lived underwater for months observing hammerhead sharks), and enjoyed diving/snorkelling there and managed to pick up a mooring for an hour en-route.

Marsa Fijab

20 01.80N 37 11.46E in 4.5m – holding ok.

Entrance ok on Cmap then eyeball, channel is apparent. We saw camels on the beach here (the only place). We continued north from here up inside the reefs trying to nibble away at the miles we have left. We were going to do an overnight from here but all the boats ahead of us on the morning radio net were getting 20-30 knots on the nose, so changed our minds.

Taila Island

20 38.05N, 37 13.45E – dropped 8m settled 13m. A lot of coral on the bottom but water so clear you can pick your spot.

It was lovely here, this along with Shumma Island back in Eritrea were my 2 favourites in the Red Sea. We would have loved to stay longer but we’re getting towards the end of the season and need to keep going.

Wreck Recovery Anchorage

21 00.95N, 37 18.57E in 13m coral everywhere. Visibility very poor.

We went between Taila Island and the mainland heading north (it’s just a big grey patch on CMap) until north of Jazirat Magarsam, then turned right through channel markers and over shallows. We followed the markers around to this anchorage, and although it was too late in the day and very difficult to see our way, we took it slowly and were ok. We had no wind but it didn’t look like there would be any shelter. Few of these reefs were above water, we were not at all comfortable in here but had a peaceful night and made it out again the next morning. This was our least favourite anchorage.

Sailed up outside Qumeira Reef onto OUTSIDE ENTRANCE WAYPOINT to Kor Shinab – 21 20.91N, 37 03.93E. Can eyeball from there even in the afternoon sun.

Kor Shinab

21 21 09N, 37 00.73E / 10.5m – good holding.

CMap in channel all out but stay in the middle and very straightforward. Amazing place, worth the motor in. Stunning spot with a lunar landscape. We would have liked to spend longer here too but we had a good forecast so onwards we went.

Elba Reef

13m flat water.

Very good snorkelling all around reef entrances. CMap for entrance gap was ok but for reefs all out. WAYPOINT IN ENTRANCE 21 59.12N, 36 59.47E. Need very good light (we arrived quite late), must have someone up the rig and helmsperson must trust their judgement and have nerves of absolute steel. We could not pick the entrance without Mark up the rig. Excellent snorkelling through the pass.

Across Foul Bay (aptly named).

Thought how lucky we were leaving Elba Reef with a southerly this far up the Red Sea and ran with it all day and into the evening. About 8 pm it suddenly died and while the sails were flapping and we were thinking of what to do, the wind came in from the north. Within about 10 minutes it had built to 25 – 30 knots and we got our first experience of the Red Sea short sharp chop, which really does stop you dead.

We bore away and headed for shelter in Ras Banas, our first Egyptian Anchorage. We ended up staying there 8 days sitting out 30 knots. Welcome to Egypt and a taste of things to come!

Sudan Cruising Information:


We had blue skies and light northerlies right though Sudan. The waters are sheltered by the reefs and we managed to sail nearly all of it in the light winds. Fellow cruisers encountered their first taste of the Red Sea infamous short and steep, between Shubuk Channel and Suakin, and took shelter in Marsa Ibraham. It was just 15 knots but they could make no progress with the sea state. They were just one day behind us.


Just no issues, felt totally safe on the boat, in Suakin and in busy Port Sudan. Recommended keeping at least 5 miles offshore when passing the borders in and out.


No cells, possibly pay phone in Port Sudan, not in Suakin. No Internet in Suakin but friends found somewhere in Port Sudan (very very slow).

Checking in and out

Mohammed in his flowing white gowns will stand on shore waving at you. Take your papers into him, he is English educated and easy to deal with and organises everything. Cost was USD130 total. Friends tried to check in independently, but gave up and used Mohammed too.


We changed USD25 for 50 Sudanese Pounds with Mohammed, he will change back any unused at the same rate.


We took the local bus to Port Sudan and back, 14 pounds return for 2. The bus in Port Sudan does not leave from where it drops you (see tale above).


Excellent fruit and veg market in Suakin, also good pita type bread. Chicken and goat available from the market – not for the faint-hearted!! No other provisions but Port Sudan had some reasonably stocked stores and a good market.

Fuel and water

Mohammed organised fuel easily at USD.74c a litre in our jerry jugs. We didn’t need water but probably can be done, there are water tanker donkey and carts that could come right to your dinghy if needed.

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