Scuba Diving Egypt
Seven froggies headed out of the country, to what I would suggest has been
the furthest a field any Frog Dive trip has been. Our destination, Egypt and the Red Sea.
22hours later, the weary travellers landed in Cairo. Whisked away to our hotel and unable to check in as it was only 5am in the morning, we headed to the Pyramids for a tour – impressive – that’s the word that springs to mind for these monuments, still standing after thousands of years.
After spending a few hours and being harassed constantly by souvenir sellers, it was back to the hotel for check in, for some hard earned sleep and an early flight the next day to Sharm El Sheik.
SINIA DIVERS / LIVE ABOARD:
After a short flight from Cairo to Sharm El Sheik, across a landscape, that if someone painted, they would only need one colour – brown – it was either brown sand or brown mountains, nothing growing, then over the Red Sea, where the brown changed to vibrant blue.
A short bus ride to the dive shop, to find out that we couldn’t board the vessel, due to some other divers from Germany, who’s flight was delayed.
So the afternoon was spent walking around Miami of the Mediterranean, a little more haggling (shopping), a few beers etc… it was after all around 40 degrees.
Later that afternoon it was off to the dive vessel. The dock was just chaos, there are about 300 vessels in Sharm, 100 must have been at the dock, loading tanks and supplies, most of the vessels are 2 or 3 decks. Nothing like what we are used to in Sydney.
All the vessel running diesel generators, so finding somewhere out of the fumes was hard.
Our vessel was the Ghazala 1, three (3) decks in total, with free 32% nitrox for those trained, twin and triple share cabins with beds that, unfortunately were hard as a rock and air conditioning that didn’t spit out much cold air, making the cabins very warm at night. Other than that the crew were very good, the food exceptional and loads of it. The dive briefs at all the sites were very thorough to the point of being almost painful, but nothing was missed. Some of the dives were conducted from the back of the vessel and others from the two (2) zodies.
Given the fact that it seldom rains in Egypt, which is why the main colour is brown, the water was exceptionally clear at most of the sites. The water temp varied from 26 – 27 degrees, with a strong current at some of the sites, so a few drift dives were done.
Given the high number of large boats that depart from Sharm, it was surprising that most of the sites were not like diving in Pitt Street in the middle of a weekday. Most of the sites were either coral bommies or wall dives. The coral life and growth was in places, spectacular.
The fish life, whilst abundant, was lacking large pelagics, such as sharks and rays, on several sites there were large hump headed maori wrasse and I’m guessing, one lost barracuda (as it was the only one I saw). One of the highlight dives would be the Small Crack, were we did a drift along a coral shelf to a crack on the shelf and drifted right back to our boat.
The second time we did this a few days later, the current was running out and our guide at the briefing said that we would not be able to get back into the lagoon. This of course was a challenge to us, which we meet, much to the guides amazement.
We dove two (2) wrecks, the first being the Dunraven, it’s an upturned old freighter of sorts on the edge of a drop off. The wreck reminded me a lot of the Bombo at Wollongong, only much, much bigger and warmer water.
The second wreck, was the wreck of the Thistlegorm, a former WW2 British merchant supply ship, that was sunk by the Germans whilst at anchor. We did three (3) dives on this wreck, it reminded me of Truk Lagoon with current. The wreck is classed as one of the top dives in the world and it lives up to this reputation.
The wreck still has on board two (2) locomotives, a couple of tanks, artillery shells, a swag of trucks in the holds carrying motor bikes and boxes and boxes of riffles. We could have easily done more dives on this wreck, but a couple of divers (not us) on the boat weren’t keen on wrecks or penetrating.
The dive boat then moved onto other sites for some more coral reef diving. At one of our sites there was about 20 boats moored from mid morning (day trippers). Lucky for us we got there really early, so we avoided most of the crowd. Once the diving was completed, it was time to clean and dry the gear and pack up for the trip back to Cairo.
Short flight back to Cairo, then a bus ride through the madness of their roads, painted lines are only for decoration, traffic lights largely ignored, motorbikes that carry whole families and I think the car horns connected to the brakes, as they were always sounding.
We checked back into the Oasis Hotel. Rooms there are very comfortable, with two (2) double beds and breakfast included.
Over the next couple of days we did tours of the pyramids again, managing to secure tickets to go inside the great pyramid and out to the step pyramid.
We did the night pyramid / sphinx light show, which although very 70’s was also very good, followed up by a trip to the Egyptian museum, some of the stuff they have in there is amazing, the mask of King Tut weighs 11kg, that would be 11kg of gold. The things they have in there have to be seen to be believed, given their age (including the mummies).
We rounded off the main trip with a stop at the markets. This place is not for the faint hearted, as you are almost dragged from store to store. Here, if you can drive a hard bargain you will get some good deals, the rule of thumb, whatever price they give, cut into a quarter and start from there, if one shop won’t come to the party, another will (sorry Andrew).
Some of the more funnier, and possibly dumbest moments throughout the trip (except if you are of the Muslim faith) were had by both Jim Vernon and Andrew Henderson. Jim’s was telling the dive boat captain that he liked the music he was playing – he was actually listening to the Qur’an being recited.
The second and very similar incident was when we walked into a shop in the markets, here’s an imam in full garb reciting Qur’an, we look around shop and as walking out Andrew turns to him and says, “I like your singing mate”, tapped on shoulder and told what he was actually doing, turns again and says, “Shit, sorry mate”, exit shop thankful that some parts of the world are tolerant of silly tourists.
Andrew also brought along a blow up kangaroo, which, at some of the more populated sites, he used to get up onto the top deck waving around at other tourists. I don’t know what they made out of this inflatable mammal, as there weren’t many smiles.
The trip then parted from this point with some people heading to Luxor for a Nile river cruise and others heading home.
All in all, the trip went very well with only a few minor issues that were able to be sorted. For those that came, we had some spectacular diving and site seeing, with some memories I’ll not forget in a hurry, for those that didn’t come, sorry you missed out.
From my point of view the trip was the culmination of two (2) years work, which whilst very good, I doubt I’d arrange again due to its nature.
– I’d like to dedicate this trip report to the memory of Don (Donald) MITCHELL, 20.5.1955 – 18.11.2010.