3 – Diving in the Red Sea

03.10.2017

Once again not being able to sleep in I was up at 7am. Quickly freshen up, a quick breakfast and off I was to head to the Mr. Dive centre to my long awaited dive day trip. During my first trip to Sharm in 2015 I was diving 7 out of 8 days  I was in Egypt. Diving there is just great, and beats diving in a German lake with visibility of 0,50m or 2m, while it is cold.

Unlike at Sharks Bay I was not staying next to the pier, so I had to walk from the hotel to the dive centre, and Ali was already waiting for me in his car. So on time we left at 8am and headed towards the most southern pier, near the exit of Sharm towards Cairo. We collected a German couple (who were far more experienced than myself) on the way, and the 20 or 30 minute ride gave me the chance to actually wake up (I am not really a morning person….).

Arriving there we had to wait a little bit for the other dive centre, who shares the boat with us, arrived. There are places to buy water, soft drinks or coffee if you need that before entering the boat. As all was provided on board, I was fine and glad when we passed security and entering the nice boat, my home for the next few hours.

In addition of us 3 Germans there were a few Chinese attempting to dive for the very first time plus some divers who joined a tour with Sinai Dive Club. So we were a few people on the comfortable with the usual set up with a cabin, a dive platform and an upper deck to enjoy the sun.

But we had not a lot of time as we soon arrived at our first dive location – Far Garden. I dived here before, so I was looking forward to be back. Getting all my equipment ready, checking everything and our little group of four was ready to dive in. My dive buddy was Ali. However, I was slightly surprised that there was not a long briefing. Maybe I have been spoilt with Umbi Sharks Bay, where I got a great briefing before every single dive of 22 dive I did with them. Ok, clearly every dive centre is different.

Anyhow, jumping into the lovely blue water and I was back where I sometime feel I do belong….under water. The water felt so warm, the visibility was just great, and we went down towards 25m. I find it difficult to explain my non-diving friends why I love diving. It is hard to find a place as peaceful as being underwater, only hearing your own breathing and seeing colourful fish and reefs and the beautiful blue colour of the sea. And I got this excitement immediately after jumping in. While I dived a few times in German lakes, it was two years ago that I dived in the sea. So to no-one surprises (but my disappointment) I realised quickly that my air consumption with my 15l tank was a little bit too heavy. So I tried to calm down a bit while we got down to 25m and 30m and passing several coral reefs.

The green, blue and red colour offered such contrast to the blue of the sea. And just seeing the colourful little fish swimming around added to the view. I don’t really need to see large fish to enjoy such a dive. Though I was glad to see a larger Napoleon fish a bit further away and spotting one of my favourite fish on the ground – a Pufferfish. They just look just like a little helicopter when flying slowly through the water. Unfortunately, after 50 minutes it was time to get up again. Ali made sure to tell me that my consumption of air was no problem, and that it is normal being back after a break. And he was right, it worked much better the following dive. Overall I was happy – happy being back in the Red Sea, happy to witness the stunning underwater world, happy diving again.

One thing I realised though was, that the dive at the Far Garden was complete different to the one I did 2 years ago. Based on the wind and current you take different routes, so even if you have been to a dive site before, it could be complete different. It was something interesting to learn. On the down side it turned out that my red filter of my GoPro (the one I bought a few days prior to this trip) fell of the GoPro. This lens is just put on top of the GoPro case without additional support. So if you push against it away from the case, it just falls off. This happened during my first dive. Quality for €39 looks different.

The we headed to the second dive site: Middle Garden.

I have been there before back in 2015 and really enjoyed the dive there. So yes, I was looking forward to be back there again. New 15l tank added to my jacket, and off I was back in the clear, warm Red Sea.

I must admit, this dive was better than the first one. We passed some great coals that looked a bit like trees, raging out from the ground towards the surface, with lots of red, yellow and even green fish around them. One little highlight was swimming through a little school of fish. I have done something in the past, but it never stops to be amazing seeing them so close. It is like being a child again. I also saw my first blue spotted ray on this trip. I really enjoyed the dive, and on a positive, we stayed underwater for 60 minutes and I still had enough air left in my tank.

Back on the boat I actually realised that I was quite hungry, and thankfully lunch was served when we arrived at a little bay with plenty of hotels around. Most day trips on a boat either include lunch in the price, or you pay a low fee to be included. Back in 2015 I was spoiled with great food, and this was no different. A mix of meat, fish, seafood, vegetables rice and fries were served, and it was good. While lunch was served some of the passengers went for their try dives. At this bay there are some nice coral reefs in 5-10m depth, so perfect for such dives. Instead of being lazy on the boat, I went a bit snorkelling. Thanks to the low depth of the reefs it was a lovely spot, with a “coral tree” next to the boat in 50cm depth, and a bit closer to the coast there was a nice little network going around some corals. So it was a great spot for snorkelers and dive- newbies. The Red Sea is just amazing.

After all try dives were completed, lunch was finished and no one was hungry anymore, the boat headed to the third dive site of the day: Ras Um Sid. I told the dive centre I wanted to do 3 dives when booked the tour, so I was looking forward for a new dive site.

However, here I got a wee surprise. The other two divers had a few more dives planned the whole week, so preferred a break. And my dive guide Ali wasn’t bothered either to dive. Besides, they only brought 2x 15l tanks for me. Stating I was surprised was probably an understatement. Ali probably realised that I was not really happy, so he spoke to the guides from the other dive centre. And thankfully, Daria, from Sinai Dive Club, was happy to take me with them. I highlighted that a 12l tank wouldn’t last me for a full hour, so after some searching they found a 15l steel tank. Well, it is something different. Due to the weight Daria advised me to carry less weight with me – and she was spot on. They dive every day, so they probably can judge on somebody’s stature how much weight is required and how to adjust if for different situations. And she even decided to carry an additional 12l tank with her. I was really impressed. I even got a nice little briefing for a change – something I missed during my previous dives.

Soon I was back in the water – with a new guide, new steel tank and exploring a new dive site. Well, the best was reserved for last. While Ali led the way and pointed out several fish and corals, he mainly left everyone alone (though he clearly made sure everyone was ok and provided assistance if needed, so safety was never an issue). Daria on the other hand had a more direct approach, constantly pointing out something, finding little “surprises” hidden. This is how I experienced diving 2 years ago, and or me it was my preferred style. Though, the dive site was fantastic as well. Of all the three sites it was the most beautiful in my opinion. Some of the coral formations were just stunning. And I was a bit lucky in terms of sea life. Well hidden in the sand a ray was staring at me while passing it, while a few minutes later a blue dotted ray decided to swim with us. Seeing them moving through water in such elegant way is just beautiful. Then somehow Daria spotted an octopus hidden in some corals. I would have passed it without ever realising that there was something. On the other side I spotted a lion fish while Daria passed that one. Keeping some distance I like watching a lion fish. I find them just beautiful. This was followed by a moray eel hiding in the corals and at the end I finally found Nemo again. I wonder how many people actually call them clown fish, or if most people still call them Nemo when they see one. Who knows.

But overall it was a great 55 minute dive – I thoroughly enjoyed that one. Daria was a great guide, and I must admit, better than Ali. She was happy with my diving ability (always nice to hear feedback) and tried to convince me to join the dive to Tiran the following day. I regret now that I declined it, as my plan to dive on another day didn’t materialise, so without knowing then, the third dive of the day was my last one. Yes, I am still kicking myself!!!!

All three dives done the boat headed back to the pier and 8 hours after leaving there we were sitting back in Ali’s car, returning to Naama Bay. Ali dropped me off at the hotel, but as I still had to pay for the 3rd dive (€20), I met him in a cafe near the hotel. I had a little chat with him there over a tea (why do the cafes in Egypt serve only Nestle tea bags???), which was very interesting. We agreed that I contact him on Friday to check where the day trips goes to on Saturday and if I can join following my Cairo Excursion.

So overall I had a great day with Mr. Diver. The staff is very friendly and helpful when booking the tour. The equipment is in great conditions and the prices are very reasonable. However, I was not happy that they were not prepared for a potential third dive (which I made quite clear I wanted to do), and I found Ali’s approach a bit too passiv. He explained he preferred to give divers a bit more freedom, but I preferred Daria’s approach. Though after that experience, I would certainly return to Umbi Sharks Bay as I found the diving set up and the quality of guides better than Mr. Diver.

So overall I had a great day with Mr. Diver. The staff is very friendly and helpful when booking the tour. The equipment is in great conditions and the prices are very reasonable. However, I was not happy that they were not prepared for a potential third dive (which I made quite clear I wanted to do), and I found Ali’s approach a bit too passiv. He explained he preferred to give divers a bit more freedom, but I preferred Daria’s approach. Though after that experience, I would certainly return to Umbi Sharks Bay as I found the diving set up and the quality of guides better than Mr. Diver.

 

After all this excitement it was nice to freshen up and having a pre-dinner drink before heading back to the dining area for dinner. I was actually quite happy to have a buffet available as I was pretty hungry. And the staff made sure that my glass of Rum Coke was never empty.

After dinner I got some information about the planned trip to the Pool Party at Hollywood, that happens once a week or once a month, I cannot remember. So I met one of the girls of the entertainment team at 11pm, and to my surprise, I was the only one going. Based on previous conversation I thought a few guests were joining us. Mmmh, Ok – lets see how it goes. Short taxi ride (including a phone call from the girl to someone else to check the taxi price) and we were at Hollywood, a kind of entertainment area with a cinema, statues of movies, a lovely fountain and a party area. As the “doors” opened only at midnight, she showed me a little around. I was a bit surprised how many families with little children were out that time of night, but I guess they prefer being outside when it is not too hot. Of course I realised that I forgot my phone at the room, so no chance to take photos of the lovely music and fountain spectacle at the main square in this area.

At midnight we entered the club. Price was €10 and included a drink. Considering that a Rum & Coke is €5 it was not too bad for an entrance fee. The set up was quite straight forward. A DJ stage at the front, then a dance floor, a VIP area behind, then a large pool to swim followed by another VIP section. I am just a NP (Normal Person) so I stayed at the dance floor. It actually got quite busy, but for some reason after 40 minute the girl of the entertainment team suddenly left. Great, now I was on my own. No problem – they serve alcohol and they have music. And it was easy to talk to other guests. One downside of the night was to observe the behaviour of some locals. As soon a group of them spotted a few women dancing they approached them quite closely, surrounding them. It was like observing a pack of lions. In one or two instances I actually intervened, rewarded with a big smile as thank you. Seeing that behaviour, I would really advise women not visit such clubs on their own.

As it was a bit windy it was not nice to go for a swim, so instead after 2am I returned to the hotel. Was the pool party worth it? I had a nice time, but with more people it would have been nicer. And was it worth it not to dive the following day? Hell no. In hindsight I would have booked the tour to Tiran instead and dropped the pool party. But you always know better afterwards. At least I had a few drinks, danced a bit and met some interesting people. It could have been worse….

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