The Amazing Red Sea

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End Jul 10, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  , Red Sea and Sinai,
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Daniel here:

Hello everyone, well you may have noticed that our blog entries are a little behind mostly because we have spent all our time in Dahab relaxing, sunbaking and doing very little, and the internet was expensive!

As Ly said we arrived late at night here in Dahab and had a bit of a much needed sleep-in.  Tonight will be our sixth night here already and tomorrow we leave for Israel.  The time went so quickly!

What have we done in all that time?  Well not much to be honest but I will fill you in on some highlights.

We both woke up with sore stomachs which we blamed on the food in Luxor but went for some breakfast anyway.  The buffet breakfast was included and had enough selection to keep us interested although I only needed to try the Egyptian breakfast food ‘ful medames’ once to know I didn’t want any more!  Ful is mashed fava beans with condiments eaten with pita bread and not being much of a bean eater it was too much for my tender stomach in the morning.

I had a quick look around the dive centre and the beach which was a little rocky but had some nicely spread out sun beds and these cocoon type lounges.  Apparently the Red Sea is one of the best places in the world to windsurf and kitesurf but after looking at the price list for lessons I decided I would be happier to learn somewhere else!  Plus I wanted to get in as much underwater time as possible.  The hotel is set away from the town of Dahab with a private beach set at the base of some large desert mountains.  The hotel has it’s own reef just off the beach and plenty of water sports available at a cost.  It is actually nice to be away from the town as we have no traffic noise and no people hassling us on the beach.

Unfortunately Ly remained a little off for most of the week during our time in Dahab which has meant she hasn’t been able to do much other than laze around by the water, getting a tan and reading. Seems every tourist we come across are quite open and frank about the fact that they had caught a stomach bug at some point or another!

My old friends Henry and Hannah had given Ly and I a snorkelling trip in the Red Sea for our wedding gift but Ly was too unwell so that gift had to become a ‘Daniel get’s his PADI Scuba Diver certification’ gift instead!  I have always been interested in trying scuba diving especially in the last few years with my friend Nicole always off on some scuba trip with her husband Michael and returning with stories of amazing experiences.  I went down and signed myself up for the two day course before grabbing my snorkel and mask to check out the reef in front of our hotel just a few metres off shore.

I can easily say that the Red Sea is the most awesome place I have ever snorkelled.  The variety of fish was just amazing (confirming Nicole’s comment on our blog).  In that short one hour snorkel I saw Lion Fish for the first time (so cool!), different butterfly fish, clown fish (nemo), blue tang (dory), sea cucumbers, broomtail wrasse, parrot fish, triggerfish, sea urchins, unicorn fish, puffer fish, flounder, crocodile fish, banner fish, star fish, cornetfish and so many others!  I just wish I had an underwater camera or even video camera so I could show you all!  It is just so amazing to look around and see lifeless desert and then look below the water and see so much life like a marine oasis.

We ate dinner that night in the hotel which was nothing special, just a big buffet with food that was mostly bland but at least guaranteed to not make us sick. The hotel does a different buffet each night so one night was chinese, french, BBQ etc

So anyway I left Ly to recover and to relax in the hotel room for the next two entire days (lucky my wife is so understanding!) while I completed my Scuba Diver certification which is the first half of the PADI Open Water course.  There were DVDs to watch, quizzes to take, confined water sessions to complete, gear preparation procedures, safety check and finally a few open water dives before I could complete the course.  I was quite surprised by how much was in it although I have a feeling that if I was at one of the cheaper and dodgier dive centres in Dahab town they would not have been so strict.  I think some of the drills were very practical such as the instructor turning your air off while you are underwater just so you know what it feels like to be out of air and avoid panicing.  On my first dive I was a little nervous that I might do something wrong but it all went smoothly and I must say I am extremely lucky that my first dive was in the Red Sea.  It is easily the best diving I have ever seen and the water is so clear.  Having your first dive in murky water would be quite scary I imagine.

My final dive was at a place not too far by boat where I could go to my maximum depth of 12 metres.  There I had to demonstrate that I could take off my mask while underwater, put it back on and clear it etc.  I saw even more fish including the biggest puffer fish I have ever seen.  This thing was the size of a small dog even in the ‘unpuffed’ state.  I was also lucky enough to see an Eagle ray with a huge remora fish attached which I was told is quite unusually in that area at that depth.  It was a great dive and was a lot more relaxed and so could enjoy it more.

So with my basic certification I can now dive to a maximum depth of 12 metres with an instructor.  I’m hoping to upgrade this to the Open Water certificate in the Maldives meaning I could dive to 18 metres without an instructor.  Thank you so much to Henry and Hannah for the gift which although wasn’t what was planned has turned out to be an amazing experience for me.

We went into the town of Dahab several times to eat very average dinners apart from one at Blue House Thai restaurant which was actually quite good.  I’m looking forward to getting back home and being able to cook our own meals again.  Dahab itself is mostly a strip of shops and restaurants all vying for your business.  We were hassled a fair bit walking around by restaurant staff trying to get us to eat and by taxi drivers and shop owners but you just have to get used to that in Egypt I think!  We found a pharmacy where we could buy Ly something to kill the tummy bug and to deal with the minor cramps. Pharmacies here were full of advertisements for Viagra which can be easily bought over the counter.  The pharmacist sold us two different medications which he said would make Ly better.  After a bit of research later on we found that one of the medications has been banned in almost all countries for it’s dangerous side-effects so that went straight in the bin! Thank goodness for Google!

The next day I went early with a few other people to the nearby ‘Blue Hole’, again leaving Ly to sleep in at the hotel.  The Blue Hole is a large hole in the reef which goes down to around 130 metres even though it is only a few metres off shore.  There is a lower section of reef on one of the edges (around 6 metres deep) which allows you to swim over the hole from the sea.  I only went snorkelling here not scuba diving but that was more than enough.  It was amazing to see the coral walls of the hole disappear into the depths below and the clear water made it almost vertigo inducing as it was like being on the edge of a very tall building and looking down

The Blue Hole is known as the ‘Diver’s Cemetery’ because of how many divers have died there (as many as 80) and even one only the year before last.  There is an archway from the hole into the sea 52 metres down which is 26m through to the sea.  Scuba divers come here to dive down the hole and out through the arch to the sea, but it is extremely difficult because of the extreme depth and currents.  Apparently the bottom of the blue hole is littered with the remains of divers and their gear so it was probably a good thing I was only snorkelling! 

There were also some freedivers there who specialise in diving deep on just one breath of air.  The Red Sea is a bit of a mecca for freedivers because of the warm and clear water and there are several record holders who live there.  It is amazing to hear that some freedivers have dived down the Blue Hole and through the arch to the open sea on one breath!  These guys can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes though which would make it a little easier.  I was content with diving down to the ‘Coral Garden’ which was only 6-7 metres deep, although I would love to attend one of the training sessions that the freedivers of the area offer to go a bit deeper.  It was fun to dive down past the scuba divers doing their safety stops at 5 metres. 

After exiting the water we had a look around the area (including the tomb stones of some of the dead divers) and ate at a local restaurant.  I was so glad we came early because by lunchtime the water was full of clueless tourists from the nearby city of Sharm-el-Sheikh.  They spent their time in this amazing place careless kicking their fins into other people, shouting out stupid comments to each other and standing on and otherwise damaging the delicate corals.  I wish there were snorkel police!  Although the variety of fish wasn’t as great at the Blue Hole the coral and the hole itself were amazing and I would love to go back again one day to scuba dive it (not to attempt the arch though).

On the way back through Dahab town I was amused to see goats who had somehow jumped up in the rubbish dumpsters eating away.  I guess that is how they recycle around these parts!

Well on our final day Ly was feeling a bit better which was great and in the afternoon she came down to the beach with me for the first time and we both went snorkelling.  I think Ly was as impressed as I was with the snorkelling and we probably saw a dozen lion fish on our snorkel at least.

Ly has recovered now which is great news and hopefully we both stay well until the end of our trip.

So tomorrow we head by car to the Egyptian city of Taba where we will cross into Israel and then catch a plane from the city of Eilat to an airport near Jerusalem.  A long day of travel but seems to be the only way to get to Jerusalem from Dahab.

Hope you enjoyed the read but I just wish you all could have seen the underwater world rather than just read me raving about it.

Daniel + Ly
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Nicole Bergersen on

Awesome Dan! Now you know what I've been raving about for so long!! You'll have to come diving with Mik and I when you get back!

danly on

Sure, I might be dissapointed though if visibility is less than 25 metres and I don't see lion fish! Ohh and I'm probably the slowest person in the world when it comes to setting up my gear.

Nicole Bergersen on

Yes, you've been spoilt! But it's always fun diving wherever the location!

Aunty Pete on

Wow Daniel how great it all sounds - it also seems similar to the diving in PNG in places. Glad Ly is better, give her a hug for me and make sure you now spend two days doing whatever she wants!! Have a good time in Israel - Shalom xoxox

Brian Benz on

Never mind I found you!
Dahab was one of my favorite places when I visited about 25 years ago....needless to say it has changed a bit since then. Back then the only road in town was the beach! The only accommodation were tents for rent and no electricity - everyone walked around at night with lanterns made from candles, a bit of sand and a water bottle.

Have fun!

dax on

Harrrr but you didn't see the Jewel of the Ocean did you.... the prized blue throated wrasse!

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