The Red Sea


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Africa » Egypt » Red Sea » Sharm el-Sheikh
December 10th 2015
Published: December 13th 2015
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We arrived in Sharm El Sheik just before midnight and checked into our hotel, the Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village ($40). I selected this hotel out of the multitude of all inclusive mega resorts because it was out of the main tourist area (which resembles Cancun), that it was locally owned by a Bedouin, and the rooms are in a Bedouin style hanging off a cliffside overlooking the Red Sea.

We spent the first day just relaxing, enjoying being able to unpack our bags for once. We got our diving kits for the remainder of the week and snorkeled off the floating dock directly in front of the hotel. We were amazed at the local "house reef" and immediately realized why the Red Sea is considered by many to be the best diving in the world. We saw scores of types of coral we have never seen before, iridescent blue and purple giant clams, large Parrotfish, and other types of reef fish. The reef came right up to the beach, and the only way to safely access the water without stepping on the coral was to walk out onto the floating dock.

Our first day of diving we went to some of the local reefs, Ras Bob and Ras Nasrani. Our dive guide for the week was an adorable mild-mannered chain smoking older Bedouin named Adel. On the boat we were accompanied by two funny and vulgar Brits who were from another resort, one of which was an instructor. They nicknamed us "Team America" and provided us with entertainment (Monty Python & the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy quotes) throughout the week.

Tourism has been devastated in Egypt, especially in the Sharm area so all the dive operators have been pooling together customers to fill boats to save on expenses. We learned that 75% of all the resorts are closing in the area until the Spring when they are hoping flights will resume again from the UK. Half of all tourists in Sharm are from Russia, with another 40% from the UK so it's no wonder tourism has been decimated. We were told by hotel staff that we were the first Americans they had seen in 6 months.

Both of our dives consisted of going through eel gardens, which consisted of hundreds of small eels standing up in the stand looking like blades of grass blowing in the wind. We also saw lots of poisonous Lion Fish, Rockfish, Anemone fish (Nemos) and Triggerfish and did a fun swim through a small cave in the coral full of thousands of tiny goldfish. The visibility was close to 90 feet, which is the best we have ever dove in salt water. The diversity and magnitude of the coral in the Red Sea was astounding, and completely unrivaled to anything we have seen.

Our second day of diving was out to the Straits of Tiran, which consistently makes the top ten dive destinations of the world. We had to bring our passports with us diving because we were on the Saudi Arabian side of the sea. The strait is a narrow area of the Red Sea with Tiran island and large reefs creating a bottleneck which all the marine life must pass through. The area was littered with wrecks, one of which was sitting on top of the reef fully exposed. We were told how Tiran Island was lent to Egypt by the Saudis to use as a military outpost for bombing Israeli ships.

We dove at both Gordon and Woodhouse reefs, seeing several Giant Moray Eels over 6 feet long, blue spotted stingrays, very friendly Cornetfish that hovered next to us using us as concealment to aid in their hunting, and a huge Napoleonfish.

For our last dive day we were supposed to have gone to the Thistlegorm wreck, which was one of the things both Dennis and I were looking forward to the most in this trip and had specifically obtained our advanced diver certification for earlier this Fall in Mexico. Sadly, the boat trip was cancelled due to there being only us and the two Brits interested in going, and being as it was a 6 hour boat trip away there is a minimum of 6 divers to make it possible. We were crushed but made the most of it and dove a third day at Ras Mohammed National Park followed by a night dive.

Ras Mohammed is another top ten dive destinations in the world, and in the most pristine part of the Red Sea, having been designated as a land and marine park years ago. We dove at Shark and Yolanda Reefs, unfortunately devoid of any sharks, and then at Ras Ghozlani. Yolanda Reef was the site of a wreck which was carrying a cargo container of bathroom fixtures, so the sea floor is littered with toilets, sinks and bathtubs. Here we saw two Giant Morays side by side peeking out of the same crevasse and our first Crocodilefish, my new favorite fish in the Red Sea. The current was intense, and I had to rest for a bit to control my breathing and heart rate after a vigorous swim against the strong current. Diving while short of breath is quite an anxiety inducing thing that only becomes easier with practice. Dennis is quite a natural at diving and always has better air consumption than me because he trains in self contained breathing apparatuses being a firefighter.

Ras Ghozlani was a beautiful final dive. We entered another sea cave full of what seemed like millions of small orange fish guarded by several Lion fish and a Devil Scorpion Fish, both incredibly venomous but beautiful. As we were about to start our final safety stop before surfacing I spotted a huge Manta Ray in the distance. We watched this soaring behemoth in the distance feeling so lucky that he made an appearance before we were done.

Our final dive was a decision we made last minute. Both Dennis and I have wanted to night dive, but have suffered mild anxiety and trepidation at the thought of it. The ocean is a mysterious and sometimes overwhelming place full of alien creatures, so meeting these creatures in the dark always sounded a bit too scary for us, but at the same time really enticing. We met Adel at sunset and we entered the water off our house reef just as the sun disappeared behind the mountains so that our eyes could adjust as we rapidly lost light underwater. We were immediately surprised at just how comfortable we were diving in the dark that we soon forgot about any anxiety that we may have had. We spent the next hour peeking at various fish sleeping on their sides nestled into pockets in coral, peering back at the thousands of shrimp eyes, petting starfish that look like spiders that only come out at night, and dodging the dreaded Lion fish who hover close by using your flashlight to hunt by. At the end of our dive we turned off our flashlights and sat on the ocean floor playing with the bioluminescent plankton glowing in
the darkness making green fireworks with our hands. We were immediately hooked on night diving and cannot wait until next time in hopes of seeing some other creatures that only come out to play at night.

Tomorrow we end our travel through Egypt and head through Israel and into Jordan as we reach our official half way point in our trip.

Below you can find some videos Dennis took this week.

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21st December 2015
Twilight over the Red Sea

Wow
Stunning sunset.

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