This would be my first trip to the African continent (some people consider this part of Egypt to be Asia – either way, whether in Africa or Asia, it was a first for me!). My first on a live-aboard dive trip. And as I would later find out, a trip of many other firsts.
We left Paris Tuesday night on the way to Milan where we’d have an overnight layover before going to Sharm el-Sheik, a resort town on the Red Sea in Egypt. We were met at the airport by the diving company crew, Moon Divers, who drove us to our boat, Snefro Love where we’d await the rest of our group arriving from Saudia Arabia, of which included David’s parents.
The boat was fantastic! Our cabin was very spacious. We had our own private bathroom. There was a large dining area, two indoor lounges and two outdoor lounging decks plus a large diving deck. I was amazed and pleasantly surprised. I had reluctantly expected a small, cramped boat similar to the shoebox I sailed in with other budget travelers in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. There, the cabins were so small, most of us opted to sleep on the deck under the stars, but I digress.
I’d also expected to go be half starving the entire trip due to crappy food but again I was wrong. We soon discovered that the food was also equally fantastic. And didn’t feel hungry once. The crew was courteous, attentive and very professional.
We stayed at port the first night and we were briefed on everything about our trip. There was only 18 of us, mostly young Saudi men and older expats. We took off next morning and we were ready to jump in the water for our first of eight dives by 6:30am! The next two days went as follows: dive, eat breakfast, dive, eat lunch, dive, have a snack, dive, eat dinner, sleep and repeat. There was little more than 2 hours between some dives and my idea of getting a nice base tan quickly disappeared especially after signing up for the Avanced Open water course thus permitting us to dive deeper than 18 metres. So any free time we had, David and I studied our books.
We visited Stingray Station, the wreck of Dunraven, four dives at the wreck of Thistlegorm, dove the Yolanda and Shark Reefs in Ras Mohammed National Park and ended the trip with one last reef dive where we practiced underwater navigation.
I’m pleased we got to take our Advanced Open Water. I had my first intro adventure dive in Australia in 2006 and I loved it. Had I known what the future would bring, I really should have taken my PADI course then. I missed out on diving on our honeymoon in the Cook Islands because I wasn’t certified; whereas David was. So when we were on vacation on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua 3 years ago, I couldn’t pass up the chance to become certified there. Thankfully I did otherwise this trip to Egypt, with much more experienced and advanced divers, wouldn’t have been possible.
There were many highlights from this trip. It was our first time diving a wreck. Seeing trucks, motorcycles, an army tank, artillery shells, the ship’s canons, rolls of wallpaper, a pile of toilets and so much more frozen in time was quite something. Being down at the bottom of the stern looking up at the massive looming hunk of metal before us quickly made us feel so tiny. And then, when we went into the wreck, the feeling of claustrophobia could easily cause panic but we remained calm and savoured this underwater treasure, this underwater museum.
We also went on a night dive… This was something I was really looking forward to after our first one in Nicaragua. There, our dive guide stopped us on the sandy sea floor and instructed us to turn off our lights. We were rewarded with millions of chemiluminescence swimming around us. It was a surreal experience which felt like we were floating in space among the stars.
This night dive was different but equally unforgettable: it was on the wreck which made it gloomier and just plain eerie. Then while performing our safety stop, to our delight and amazement, dolphins came to greet us. Their grey smooth skin were illuminated by the boats lights in contrast to the endless darkness of the sea. They came so close you could almost touch them as they danced around, playful, as we looking straight into their curious eyes. It’s a vision I will never forget and another surreal experience. Possibly the best part was that we didn’t bring the camera nor the GoPro so we weren’t distracted and could fully enjoy and savour the moment.
The Red Sea is plentiful in beautiful, colourful fish and we saw a number of moray eels, lion fish, crocodile fish, Napoleon wrasse, clown-fish, nudibranch, spotted sting rays, and lots of beautiful colourful hard and soft corals. Aside from perfecting my buoyancy, breathing slowly and at times fighting the current, I just had to remind myself to relax, look around and let myself be overcome with awe.
The pictures and my descriptions just simply don’t do it justice. I’m already hoping we can plan another dive trip. (Click below to watch David’s video compilation)
On our last day we spent the morning in Sharm el Sheik town on the Old Market. People were friendly as they tried to lure us into their shops peddling bad counterfeit purses and cheap souvenirs. The most shocking and somewhat disturbing scenes was the countless “open air” butchers, hanging whole skinned and half butchered carcasses, dripping blood on the streets, throwing them onto their backs then onto the bed of a pickup truck onto dirty cardboard all in +20C heat as flies swarmed. Needless to say no one had the beef at lunch when we returned to the boat.
Now back to reality and from -30m to 10,000m and back down after a thrilling but exhausting trip on the Red Sea. And reality actually won’t be for too long, tomorrow we’re off to Capetown, South Africa for some more sea, sun and lots of Syrah (and Pinotage and Cabernet Savignon and Chardonnay).