Scuba diving the Red Sea had always seemed nearly impossible. It was faraway, expensive and, let’s be honest, seemed a little dicey. However, when opportunity knocks, you open the door, and when a friend called with a plan to charter an entire boat and dive the Red Sea, the D&C said yes. In the end we did not manage to fill up the whole boat, but it was close enough, and we got to meet some cool new people in the process. Win-win.
We flew from Cairo to Hurghada under the watchful eye of the god Horus, and I also had my St-Christopher in my wallet. You never have too much supernatural protection when travelling.
The ground beneath us was uninterrupted ochre desert. The flight was short, barely an hour, just enough time to have a mango juice. After a very steep turn we landed at an airport also used by military jets. A blast of hot desert air greeted us on the tarmac.
The minibus dropped us off at the marina, right next to our floating home for the next week, the Nautile Evo, operated by Anthias plongée. The ship looked gooooooood (more on that in the next post). We got some basic info as we boarded but the main briefing would be later in the evening. We took a walk along the water front, for some sightseeing and basic needs filling: beer, food, plus rum and chips for the boat.
We found a patio with an owner clearly very happy to have customers, but also quite friendly, we went back a week later and he remembered us. It might have been two or three on a Friday afternoon, the waterfront was pretty much deserted, feral cats made up most of its denizens; not sure if that was because of the tail end of the off season, the time of day, or just the slowdown in tourism (though less apparent in Hurghada I thought). Our waiter was clearly the chef and probably the owner as well, we ordered Stellas, officially the beer of this trip. We did try another local beer, Sakara, but Stella was for us the clear winner.
There was a jarring cultural moment as we sipped beers and the call to prayer resounded from the large nearby mosque, but no one seemed to have noticed or mind. Later in the evening women in burkas crossed paths with tourists in cut-off jeans and tank tops. I wondered who thought what of whom.
We returned to the boat for the welcome briefing, and I took possession of my diving locker/space and swinger bathrobe. We would sail in the morning, head generally north up the Red Sea, and come back a week later. It was adventure time.
Over the next week we dove 16 times, which isn’t all that much, but the dives were on the slightly deeper side (roughly 90 feet, give or take, for most dives). That gave us plenty of surface interval time, and leisure to just admire the beauty that is the Red Sea.
Here are only some of the creatures we saw. BTW, all the following pics, but also the one at the top of this post, are from our new buddy Frederic D., who was kind enough to let me use his photos, since mine were crap and his were hot).
This is just a very small sample of all the wildlife in the Red Sea, and we’ve said nothing of the beautiful corals, but basically it is as good as you have heard.
In the next post it will be more about the ships…