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Pool as ever, thence to The SandMartin. Next week, Steve and I will be away, so speak to Mark if kit is needed.
Egypt - as you may be aware, Steve won a holiday to Egypt – pictures will follow - and I’m sure Steve will have his tablet tonight to show some off!
Anyhow – here’s the write up - its somewhere close to the truth.
Leaving the house.
First problem. Part one of the slow death of my suitcase when I caught it on the door and ripped one of the standing legs off. Because someone had a delicate disposition
on Saturday morning Mr Grumpy and I weren't talking by the time we got on the coach, however a few hours later having slept most of the way, we arrived at Heathrow terminal 2 in a better frame of mind. Fortunately Heathrow is easier these days to navigate
and we managed to drop off our bags and make our way to the executive lounge in record time.
I confused the lass on the reception at Plaza lounge by producing paperwork and not just waving an email at them. Finally they worked out how to read it, and let us through.
Nice lounge, with bank stations for those with a hungry laptop, plenty of seating, hot and cold food, and bar staff who didn't seem to use measures. A good way to start
So far,so good! The Egyptair plane was more spacious than you normally get with cattle class. On the towel standard ( I rate a hotel by whether the towel will go round me),
it was great. I could put the tray down without impinging on my belly and you could recline the chair without annoying the guys behind, plus there were plug ins for your tablet.
Given the security issues with Egypt and flying in particular, it came as some suprise it's a that they gave us metal cutlery to eat the suprisingly ok meal. However its
a dry airline. Upside is that all the soft drinks are free. Downside is that you need to bring your own drink! "Now what do I do" said the large and growly bear staring into his coke. Simpering quietly I opened my handbag and fed the bear some Jack Daniels.
Slowly the growling subsided into snores...
We're on our way to Cairo, what could possibly go wrong!
Never fly to Cairo
Never fly to Cairo.
Hot and tired, the plane arrived late,which left about 40 minutes to negotiate the airport. Buying a visa was a piece of piss, which led me into a false sense of security.
Then we saw the already rammed security check ,and now there another 20 brits, and an angry aberdare lass, all trying to make our connecting flight.
The Egyptian airport staff were trying their best to help us queue jump, but were defeated by a norse viking of a woman, " No, I vill not let zem pass, I haf been here 30
mins already,zey can vait". Whilst I understood her anger, I still sniggered when she was turned away from the security counter, as she had missed the instruction to get her visa first. After the final push we got on the plane, evicted the Egyptians who tried
to blag our seats and settled down to the quick hop to Sharm. They barely had time to offer us a (soft) drink before we landed.
Next obstacle, would our cases make it here? Done deal and as promised, we were picked up by Camel club, and reached our destination sometime after 1am. A true gentleman
Steve then sent me out, unaccompanied, to find water.
Dawn breaks, breakfast in the hotel, and I persuade him to go for a walk. Took some doing "why don't we go later when its dark and cooler"says he " no chance" I retort, “
you wont get past a pub later! "
Seriously I cannot take him shopping again. He believes anything. In Egypt there are some truths
All shopkeepers are called Mohammed
They have all been to Wales
If you dont accept their hospitality and gifts , its a slur on their very mothers life.
They don't want money
So, 5 mins after leaving the hotel, we have papyrus, 10 fridge magnets (well the kids need a present), several postcards ( those under 30 may not understand the concept)
and some stamps. When offered Egyptian money , he shakes his head ruefully and asks if we have English. After turning down a fiver, mainly because he spotted the cash in his wallet, he asked for a tenner and offered to give us change. I managed to stop Steve
being completely ripped off,just slightly. Hey ho, must be time to go to the bar.
Yes I let him out again, this time it was a perfume shop. This time, after 10 minutes, the shop keeper gave up and stormed out of the shop to catch up with his next victims!
Having survived the non diving day, we set off on our first sea trip of the year. The boat is a motley selection of divers plus a few snorkellers. Divers range from just
qualified to a teckkie guy out for deep bimble. He had more kit than you could shake a stick at. So the Straits of Tiran it was
Turned out our dive guide,an Italian lass, had a Welsh boyfriend, and appreciated our flag, but as she needed a dry suit to dive in Egypt, the chances of her diving in Wales
looked as slim as she was. Tiran it was, flat calm seas but overcast and quite windy . We arrive at Gordon reef to find several day boats moored. As we were unsure of weighting with a 15lire ali , we jumped in on a mooring line. Yes I did need another 2 kilos!
Traditional scenic dive with all usual suspects, lots of trigger fish here , but very few lion fish. Some current especially as we rounded the side of the reef.
We all behaved so they let us on for a second dive on Thomas reef.
Very similar to Gordon, just smaller,currents were exceptionally kind, so no hard work.
After a fantastic lunch spread provided on the boat , we were given the option of 3rd dive. Us gluttons were the only divers up for it, and the rest missed out on the best
dive of the day at Near gardens, close to Naama Bay. Dropped in into a really pretty pinnacle, full of life. Pleasant mooch round with 2 separate fish cleaning sites,both with huge morays having a grooming session. Huge gorgonias surrounded by glass fish,
rays and the ever present trigger fish. A turtle topped off the dive. A nice start to the week.
1young dive guides can see really small things. After several attempts at looking at the nudi or shrimp , I finally just gave an
👌 signal at the next frantic hand gestures.
2 The Egyptian boat crew still dump you in favour of pretty young things (even when your giving the tips)
Day 2, we were given the option to go to Dahab, and and decided we’d give it a go, after all, this may be our only opportunity. An early start , 7:30, so I promptly fell
asleep on the coach . The dive resort looks like a bomb site, I'm not sure if it ever saw better days, and only decent thing would be to bulldoze it to the ground and start again. This was ancient Egypt, with camels and bare foot kids begging you to buy their
wristbands. We started off with The Canyon, a few hop skips and slips over a small beach into the water. Highlights were a large yellow moray free swimming and a red sea walker, not something you'd want to stand on!
Then the climax of the tour, The Blue Hole. He did warn us......50m trekking full kit under African skies,thence trying to enter the water over rocks.
At the blue hole they let Steve in first, as it's a squeeze down a fissure. Trouble is, its goes down forever, fortunately no one was there to check his depth.
Further on a cleaner fish refused all advances other than Turnbull’s and darted from ear to ear , stopping for an extra snack on his bald and inviting head . Having had his
daily groom, we went up and over the lip of a wall into The Blue Hole. It's a hole and its blue, lots of mermaids and mermen gliding up and down a line surrounded by fish.
Getting out was marginally better than getting in fortunately and after sorting out kit, its back to Dahab town which was marginally better than the dive centre
Been there, done it, didn't buy the tee shirt
Day 3 , and having signed up for The Thistlegorm, it was a 4:45 wake up call. Bleary eyed and grumpy we piled into the coach and down to main Sharm marina. Although there
were some working boats, it was partly a ghost marina. One charter boat was half sunk, and looked like it had been that way for a while. Nevertheless we got to the Camel Tribe,which to be honest, was the best looking boat in the harbour. Normal rules applied.
Shoes off,sort kit, then settle down to catch up on sleep before breakfast and the briefing. It was reasonably amusing watching the dive guide give a politically correct version of the Thistlegorms history to a mixed bunch of German and English .
We arrived on site, with only 4 other boats in attendance, at least one of which was a liveboard which was done and dusted before we got there, so not too crowded.
Detailed debriefing over, and the first dive was a external tour, bloody fish kept getting in the way of photos though!
Those who had been good on their air, got a tour of the captains cabin, complete with bath and toilet. The guide , bless, picked on me to lead into the wreck first, and I
did it! I don't always give myself full marks, but I managed not to panic,not to kick up the silt and manage buoyancy with a camera in one hand and a torch in the other! I nearly headbutted a lion fish, but was rescued by my James Bond, who basically didn't
want that mucking up the rest of the week’s diving.
Second dive and this was the tour inside. Again I bravely entered the wreck and saw the motorbikes, the lorries, rope locker....the list goes on. There's a lot less than
I remember from 12 years ago! It was such fun though.
Still having issues with the pesky fish getting in the way
Back on board,and having packed all the kit away, the guide gives us the choice to do a third dive - Shark and Yolanda reef. Out came all the kit again in about 20 seconds
What a beautiful dive , I can only list a few of the fish we saw, and everything seemed to be on steroids, the size they were, and all just wanted to pose! Tuna, barraccuda,
scorpion, crocodile, free swimming morays, huge trigger fish, one of whom gave me the eye and have me slithering out the way, cornet fish, guinness fish,clown fish....the list was endless. Then the remains of the Yolanda, replete with toilets, basins and the
like. Again us old and overweight welshies out dived all the slim young things! They need practice!
One complaint, no turtles!
Be aware that in The Red Sea you are playing by PADI rules, and the commandments as handed down by Jacques Cousteau himself, written in words of fire on a stone tablet
and held in an enchanted chest shall be as follows:
Thou shalt not pass 30metres
Thy second dive shall be shallower than the first, the third less than the second
Thou shalt always tell your guide and master whence thou gets to 100 bar and 60 bar.
Thou shalt always exit with 50 bar
Thou shalt always do a 3 min safety stop
Thou must always follow your guide and thou shalt have no other guide than him.
If your guide points out a nudi the size of a pin head, thou must agree that you have seen it
If in doubt of any hand signs offered thou shalt sign”ok”
If thou gets within 10 mins of deco thou shalt tell thy dive guide
Air computers get bent if you are doing nitrox diving and then beep very annoyingly for a long time
Always have a torch with you, not for diving , just to read the menus , as they are keen on mood lighting in restaurants (perhaps it doesn’t show the dirt)
Sharm is set beneath glowering hills, with not a speck of green on them, Sadly as you cross the empty lands between the airport and the town, the landscape is littered with
plastic bags which appears to be the only things growing there. Once you have got through the security, including chicanes, barracades, sleeping policemen, vehicle checks with mirrors, the outskirt of the town is filled with half completed buildings – I assume
that all the building works came crashing down along with the Rusian plane , and then there are the abandoned shops where the proprietors have given up, without the tourists flocking there.
Naama Bay is a cross between Las Vegas and Barry Island, all neon lights and kiss me quick hats (or the normal tat you get on offer for tourist)
At night when everyone comes out, its full of kids selling bracelets plus the nightly parade by the local Arabic band.
They all played the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order and never in harmony with the rest of the band. As for the drummer, great rhythm, just not the same
one as anyone else
Many go on holiday and expect to drink an ale or two. I've probably been more sober here than in many a year -beer is reasonably cheap but at £10 for a vodka and coke,
I wasn’t about to be drinking that!
Loads of restaurants, with varying price tags, however we found that other than the marvellous falafels bought from the street vendor by the dive guide, the Pomodoro restaurant
at the hotel and The Camel Club bar’s food was as good as any
A more realistic start at 8.30, and we quickly decamped to Noble Sheikh, a slightly smaller boat, bit tattier around the edges, but as previously, not full, so room for
On the way out to the first dive site at Jackson Reef, we stopped to watch a pod of rizzos dolphins, including a calf, and sadly an adult with no fin. The guide said it
wouldn't have been a propeller, but who knows, still the creature seemed to be managing.
The dive itself was a reasonably brisk drift dive. It was much of a muchness with all sorts of fish. Current at times was a little interesting , but tucked against the reef
wall was almost nothing. We were slowly coming up at the end of the dive when a large turtle slowly hove into view,chomping its way across the reef. A nice end to a pleasant , if not spectacular, dive.
When we surfaced, the water was like oiled silk,narey a ripple. Now I may not understand Egyptian but I understood the words Millenium Hope....A recent wreck which is larger
than The Thistlegorm, which ran into the reef in the 70's. Some say it was karma for changing the name, others whisper darkly in corners that it was an insurance job. I couldn't possibly comment. To make it even better,the over enthusiastic crane driver added
to the fun by sending the crane down into the briny whilst they worked on salvaging what they could from the ship. Testament to the viz was the way to find the wreck was to stick you head over the side and look for the top of the crane some 5 metres down.
Like the boat, the crane had landed upright, and the frame was a perfect home for soft corals and fish – particularly glass fish.
Thence to the wreck. Steve had missed the comment to follow the dive guide as it was easy to get lost in the wreck. After some minutes negotiating the wreck, we finally emerged into the open water again – sans Steve. As we were all peering anxiously into the
hole from whence he should have appeared, he appeared from behind us, hastily rubbing the rust from his suit. Mark you would have loved the engine room! The tool room also boasted an intact lightbulb, and Steve also found an intact fluorescent light on his
Third dive sans Steve who was suffering from the pharaohs revenge, was back to Near Garden, a pleasant bimble notable for the turtle, which left my new buddy in a frenzy
nearly surfacing from 11m , and a large grouper.
Day 5, another early start, but when we arrived at Sharm’s main harbour,the waves were crashing and the skipper couldn't get in. To be honest we launch in worse in west wales,
but its their call. So strike the Dunraven. Instead some 90 mins later and back at the harbour in Naama we are setting sail for"somewhere" def sounds like a West Wales trip.
Today our guide, whilst Egyptian, must have been trained by the Germans , as everything needed to be exact.Smile sweetly, say nothing! Eventually it was settled that we'd
dive the north side of Gordon reef. By red sea standards it was ok, nothing terribly spectacular, but out of the swell and better than nothing, turtles bum made up for it.
Dive 2 and again expecting not too much, in an area named after a wreck called Kormoran. What a surprise, possibly one of the loveliest hard coral gardens I have ever seen.
Table corals 2metres across, another which was so huge I first I didn’t realise it was a coral outcrop ! Very little fish life as the wreck was carrying pot ash, however as the water quality had improved the fishes were making a coming back.
Last dive was Laguna, again a bit of a bimble, with not much more than a free swimming moray on entry, a large grouper and a couple of belligerent puffer fish.
Because of all the malarkey first thing we had been late starting that morning, which meant we’d be later getting back. It was an interesting experience watching the dive
guides decide if they'd offer the third dive, or just steam for port . Unfortunately for them, their common language was English, which made it easy to work out the nuances. Company girl, Valeria ( to rhyme with malaria) won the day and chased the money on
the optional third dive.
Camel hotel, it's fine.The rooms are cleaned every day. The air con works, the tv.....well not exactly flat screen but it's got bbc world news with a lot of green presenters.
The breakfast isn't complicated,but all nicely presented and fresh. Their italian restaurant, Pomodoro is lovely. The camel bar is fine as long as you drink beer, and they let you stock up on happy hour. The staff are friendly, polite and helpful - what else
do you need?
Cheeky last days diving, we sussed that we could do the last 2 dives and still have 24 hours to off gas. This turned out to be another trip to Ras Mohammed, mainly due to
wind which had picked up overnight. This was a reverse of our first trip there, Yolanda first, then Shark. Ok I may have got a little distracted by the scorpion fish, then the free swimming moray, but it wasn't my fault I ended up with the 2nd group! Finally
I was reunited with my beloved before the safety stop.
It has to be said, Steve never actually told them he had no safety stop on his computer!
Last dive was Ras Zatar, where the real highlight was the shoal of giant trevalleys who turn ed up to wave us goodbye.
So diving was over, kit got washed and hung out to dry.
Now for paying bills. Our bill was only to cover the 3rd dive each day, 15l tanks, nitrox and lunch, entry to marine parks, Thistlegorm and the wreck dive supplement and
was roughly £418 ......each!!!!!!!
So lets look at costs if we had been paying for all of it
Transfers £10 (guestimate)
Camel hotel b&b and diving£400 (guestimate)
Additional diving £418
Boat tips £60
Guide tips £80
Food and booze £250
So, all in all over £1500, but yes you could bring the food and booze down if you tried, however it makes £1000 for a liveaboard a darn good price- and
no mucking around getting on a boat every day. I'd probably add a caveat that there probably cheaper dive centres there , but Camel are a slick, well run crew, and sometimes its better to have quality
So would I go back to Sharm? Yes, but not via Cairo, and there are other options such as via Brussels.
It does make you think that price wise Gozo or Lanzarote would be better, however then you wouldn't have The Thistlegorm, Dunraven, Shark and Yolanda,
Millenium Hope or Kormoran.
Egypt is an amazing place, above and below water....and I can't wait to get back!
Unless you hear to the contrary, take it Cossie is booked for Sunday for anyone who wants to jump in. I’m looking forward to finding the 9m that our fellow divers from Duff
found last week J
Saturday 16th June - Brewhouse and Kitchen, Cardiff. It is the club’s 45th anniversary, so please try and attend to help us celebrate! As ever this
is open to friends and family as well – so please let Megan and Sioni know if you are coming along!
If you are on Facebook, and aren’t yet friends of Cardiff BSAC, please do sign up for that,
you may get to hear of dives/events as the details are released!
If you don’t use Facebook, consider signing up – even if you only use it for club information!
Don’t forget we have tide tables for 12 months + on our website – great tool for planning your UK diving! Thanks to Mark for