Saturday July 7, 2012: Departure to Hurghada
Iíll try to cut it short. Yes, we leave with three good friends to Hurghada, Egypt and that will be a great week of vacation. Jurgen picks me up at half past eight at my place. Then we drive to Roel to pick him up and then we leave to Schiphol. First we need to stop at onderwaterhuis.nl to buy some things to make sure we will be able to take under water pictures. Itís on our route, so thereís no problem; we stop at Oud Gastel and then continue to Schiphol. We got everything sorted out fast. Jurgen had reserved a parking spot about ten minutes away from the airport; we park the car and get a transport to the departure hall. This is one of the first weekends of the holiday season in The Netherlands, so itís pretty busy. Really very busy actually. We need to queue to hand over our luggage and I had to pay extra again for additional weight. This starts to be a tradition just like the vacation to Marsa Shagra. This time itís thirty Euros, I pay quickly, receive a new boarding pass and then we have a drink, because weíre on the road already for about half a day and are thirsty. We donít drink actual beer, but Heineken Extra Cold, but when youíre thirsty. Then itís time for a bit of food and we have a snack at the local McDonalds. Thatís done pretty fast and then Jurgen sees a print and go-possibility. Roel still needed a picture for his visa in Egypt. Ju takes the picture with his Iphone, sends it to an e-mail address and then we print it, very fast en well arranged. Maybe the picture is too big, but weíll about that in Egypt. For now weíre OK and weíre having fun. We walk towards gate D55 and there we quickly pass the luggage check and we only need to wait for five minutes and then we can board the airplane. We have close-to-exit-seats, so not perfect, but we have enough space with Transavia. During the flight the time flies, with again a non-beer, but we sleep a bit and at about seven we arrive at Hurghada-airport.
When we arrive there itís still warm with twenty-eight degrees, itís actually hot, but we know this would be the case, so we just enjoy it. We quickly buy a visa and also that goes well. The luggage and our transport is also well arranged, so only thirty minutes later weíre n an air-conditioned bus to the hotel. Weíre still OK; one negative thing is that we need to stop at four other hotels. We donít like that, because weíre thirsty and weíre on the road already for a while. At about nine we arrive at the hotel and can check in. we have room number one, of course, for three numbers one, a perfect choice. We drop our luggage and then have our meal at the restaurant. We have Sakara draft and a small snack, but itís nice. Weíre tired and have a drink and then try to sleep. We try, because right next to us the bar Oasis is located and this becomes a disco during the night. That was not our preference. At about eleven they lower the volume and at about midnight itís quiet and we fall asleep. Iíve taken the single bed and Jurgen and Roel share the double. I hope this will be OK. Sleep tight and donít snore too loud tonight.
Sunday July 8, 2012: First day of diving on the vacation
Despite the loud music we had a good night of sleep; we get up at six thirty, because the diving school will see us at the reception at eight. First we wake up, then we have breakfast and at eight weíre at the reception. There they pick us up, but we were not aware of that. We need to prepare all our diving gear very quickly. Weíre at the Triton Empire Beach Resort with a local diving school of Deep Divers and we assumed we would be diving from the hotel. Now it seems that they pick us up with a van, which was not the deal, but we return to our room and Ď two minutesí later weíre back for a drive, but we donít know for how long or whereto. We donít get any information and we donít ask, because we assume it will be a fifteen minute drive or something like that. That is not the case, because one hour and fifteen minutes later we arrive at the Aladdin Beach Resort that is the home of the Deep Divers headquarters. Deep Divers is not to blame for this, but Seaseetravel should have told us this. With a little bit of irritation I ask the guide what this is all about and he explains: the school at Triton is open, but not for boat dives, because Aladdin is the only place they can moor the boats. Thatís not so good, especially for us, because we thought that we could just walk out our room and head to the boat. Weíre not really pissed: itís vacation, so we try not to bother. Hopefully we can keep that up the rest of the day and week. Weíve put everything in a large bag and in the suitcase, so people look at us with a strange expression when we arrive like that. We arrange the necessary things, show our diving licenses and the rest will be done on the boat. We walk from the school to the boat and there we prepare everything for our first dive. We see everything is OK, except the tank for Jurgen, because that tank had only hundred and seventy bar: a quick change and ready. Then we receive a short boat briefing and need to fill out a couple of forms (the one with No, No, No everywhere), then take a break, because it was a stressful start of the day for a vacation.
A bit later we receive a short briefing of the diving spot Small Giftun and in a few moments we will forget all stress. The briefing is pretty easy: we dive along the reef at our left hand side and then turn back: not difficult at all. After weíve dropped a couple of divers to do a drift dive, we go to our own diving location: small Giftun. The name doesnít sound Egyptian, but that does not really matter. We prepare as the first group, because behind us there are a lot of initiation dives, so we can do our first dive. A quick buddy check and again we think weíve forgotten something, but here we wear a shorty and have no lamp or anything with us. We check first if weíre using enough weights and then start. It is as every time we dive here in Egypt, we put our heads under the water and think: this is great; the visibility is like twenty meters, below us we see coral and the fish rush past us. We descend slowly and there are hundreds of fish between the rocks. Weíve seen squirrelfish before, but not in these large amounts.
After five minutes one of my missions is done: the first nudibranch, a normal Chromodoris quadricolor, normal, but beautiful every time. And then we spot a large school of bannerfish and we notice large schools of fish shooting by. After the squirrelfish and the bannerfish we also spot large schools of yellow snappers. And then Ju discovers something: a large crocodilefish that stays lying on the sand in front of us, even when we approach him, he stays still very long. We love this sight. The reef here at the Red Sea is magnificent, unbelievably beautiful. The number of fish we see here is immense and you canít see that anywhere in the world. And also the coral is beautiful: hard and soft coral. After only twenty minutes weíve already had a great dive. Weíve seen a couple of black snappers and some hawkfish stay put until you come too close. A blenny is waiting quietly on a rock until we pass by. Roel has tried to signal us that we need to go to the surface because he has a problem. Neither Ju nor I have noticed something, but with cool heads we go to the surface to see whatís going on. On a spot with some current Roel has hit fire coral. That hurts, very nasty stuff. He wants to finish the dive and then check what the impact is, so we descend again and pretend as if nothing happened. Under a hanging rock we see two butterflyfish and we follow the reef at our right hand side, so weíre already on our way back.
And then I spot something that Iíve never seen before and the view is really great. Usually you see masked puffers alone or sometimes you see two, but now we see about fifteen of them swimming to the surface. Itís a pretty sight to see the round shaped fish pass us by. And then there is another discovery. We see a bearded scorpionfish and not a small one: a huge animal. I was swimming over it, but did not notice it. I turned back for something else and then noticed it from a different angle. Nice one. Even if I say this myself. A large school of snappers follows the masked puffers to the surface. Roel is close to fifty bar, so we have a second safety stop. He goes up and Jurgen and I stay under water for a few more moments. We check on a couple of anemone fish, really cute: an adult with a baby. Itís really unbelievable how such a small and simple fish can surprise someone. Under the rocks we see a couple of snappers. Together with a large group of blue fusilier fish a cornetfish passes us and we enjoy every moment here. But then the moment arrives that we also reach fifty bar and go to the surface. We donít spot anything extraordinary, but we can already look back at a very nice first dive. Hopefully the fire coral arm of Roel is OK. And yes, it hurts a bit, but nothing major happened and usually the pain only lasts for a couple of days.
Then itís time for lunch, but as normal I donít eat: the others do, but a very light lunch. We stay half an hour more and then we head to the next dive site. We receive a separate briefing with Markus, a German guy and weíre going to do a drift dive on Cota Abu Au Ramada. They drop us about four hundred meters from an island and then we need to drift with the current to the location of the boat. It could become a long dive, because the guide speaks about a seventy-minute divetime. Itís shallow, because this dive takes us only to sixteen meters. We prepare, perform a buddy-check and then wait for five minutes to jump into the water. Itís really hot on the platform: luckily weíre not wearing our seven millimetre suits. Jurgen has a full body suit of two millimetre and we have our shorties. And then the sign is given to jump: we jump and we can start our dive. On the surface there is some current, so we go down fast close to a large pinnacle. Everyone OK? Yes, so we go down. Once weíre at a depth of about five metres the current is less and the pinnacle is really amazing. We enjoy this from second one. There are whip corals, soft corals, really beautiful life forms and there is an abundance of sea goldies, a great sight. We dive around the pinnacle and then descend to about fifteen metres, dive between two pinnacles and follow our guide.
We spot small and large lionfish on the reef between the rocks; we had not seen these during our first dive. I canít resist looking for nudibranchs, but canít find any at this moment. We see the eggs of the Spanish dancer, the animals itself, that might come later, we hope. When we have seen the whole pinnacle, the guide signals us we need to keep quiet. A large napoleonfish is resting at a cleaning station and two cleaner fish are doing their job. Itís a big fish and we can stay here for about one minute while we watch the animal. Then heís had enough and swims right to me so I can take a couple of great pictures. Yes, this is a great feeling, a fish of about over one metre. We continue the dive in a coral garden. We notice the garden needs to be redone, because there is a lot of dead coral on the sand, which is often the case in Egypt. I spot the first flatworm of the week, the yellow spotted flatworm, after Jurgen ahs seen a large giant moray; two people were diving over it, but Jurgen has seen it. Nice! We see many bluespotted stingrays. Last year in Dahab we only saw one, which was surprising, because usually theyíre everywhere. On this dive alone we already see five. A large emperorfish is seeking shelter between the rocks and the anemone fish in their anemones; itís a very calm dive, because the guide swims very slowly. The guide does not really spot many things for us, but at the beginning of the dive he saw two giant trevallys, also fish with a size of over one metre. After half an hour he points a Chromodoris quadricolor, but we already saw that. In the end itís still nice to see one.
We mainly see the usual life of the Red Sea and then I see yet something special: an octopus is hidden between the rocks. Our first spot and they are not so abundant here apparently. The octopus checks out what is happening around him and when he sees a diver next or above him, he disappears in his layer. We then continue to the boat and when we see it, we notice a spectacle that is really amazing. A very large school of snappers, thousands of fish have found shelter under the boat in the shadow. Some are just laying on the sand and other form a huge pillar to the surface, really amazing. None of us has seen a large school like this. During our safety stop we look at the fish and then have been diving for seventy-three minutes. It was a great dive, we saw many things and it was very peaceful and quiet and we have this amazing view at the end. This is why you do it, really unbelievable. The battery of the camera has just kept up until the end, because the light was flashing for a while already, so it needs to be charged. We climb back on board and leave five minutes later. Everybody is back; we quickly arrange the night dives for tomorrow and the day after. Then we pay and enjoy our trip back and have a chat with other divers on the boat. We have a chat with Markus, the guy who joined us on the last dive. We speak about diving on vacation and also in the Oosterschelde. An hour goes fast like that and we arrive quickly at the harbour and then go to the diving centre. We wait for a couple of minutes there and then they take us back to the hotel. This takes less time, because weíre there after forty-five minutes. Our highest priority now is to find something to drink, but we canít find anything, not at the restaurant, not in the bar next to it, not even in the bar close to our room. In the end we had to pass twice via the reception and can have a beer at the bar Oasis. The bar tender is acting a bit difficult, because we wants to give us small cups only and theyíre really small. Jurgen arranges that quickly, because we donít think this is funny.
The evening advances quickly, we have a shower and then have dinner and have a drink. We can check out the pictures of the day on our terrace and chat about our day. Weíve lost the stress of this morning. Weíre tired, because weíve been away for a long time for two dives. At ten thirty we canít stay awake and go to bed. Once the noise of the bar has gone we sleep like babies.
Monday July 9, 2012: Dive three and four: South Abu Ramada and Cota Abu Ramada (east)
We get up early, because we need to be ready at about eight at the reception. No problem with that. We are there at a couple of minutes before eight and can leave. Aid of Deep Divers is already waiting for us, so we can go to the other hotel where the main diving school is of Deep Divers. It took us longer yesterday, today only forty-five minutes, yesterday it took an hour. We donít mind, although it was not our own choice to be that far, but we donít complain. When we arrive at the hotel, we enter the Noura 2, another boat than yesterday and hopefully they have all our gear on board. Not really. We wait for our gear and then prepare everything. Today we use Nitrox, because we plan to do two dives and a night dive. Jurgen and Roel first need to pass the course and also can dive Nitrox. Achtep helps them how to measure the oxygen in their tanks, I already did this myself and we can leave to the reefs in front of Hurghada. It takes about an hour. We like the trip there: Jurgen and Roel practice the exercises on the theoretical exam of the Nitrox course and I have a chat with the Dutch people next to us. After an hour weíre at the diving spots and we get a briefing: we are allowed to dive alone, then we can like we want and we dive as slow or as fast as we want to.
Aid and Achtep are confident that we will be doing fine, even with two trainee-Nitrox-divers. We prepare our gear, have a buddy-check and jump into the water. We seek depth until about twenty-five metres, because Jurgen had Nitrox thirty-six percent, so he canít go deeper than twenty-seven metres. We follow the reef and spot a couple of large morays, the Chromodoris quadricolor and keep on following the reef at our right side. Until we think we should dive shallower and return a bit closer to the reef. There are many boats and we see brown stuff dangling in the water. We donít want to think what it is. We reach the reef again and have about hundred bar left. During the briefing they explained that was the key things to return to the boat. Roel did not feel like diving behind us, so he chased a group of cornetfish. We wait for him close to a small cave that provides shelter for many fish and other life. Soft coral and many different species of fish and with the blue water in the background, itís great. It's amazing how you can see then in a distance that Jurgen is waiting for Roel. After a couple of minutes Roel comes back to join us and we can continue. Weíre on our way quite a while already and we have about hundred bar left, but the rest of the dive is shallow, only about ten metres or something. We see the common fish of the Red Sea: squirrelfish and lagoon triggerfish, but nothing really special. We get easily used to the abundant marine life. A large school of barbels is hanging to our right and left we see a wreck. It is a real wreck because there is only some iron left. Itís nice though, because fish seek this as an artificial reef. We follow our way and arrive back at the boat. A cornetfish is hanging still above the coral and a couple of butterflyfish seek their way through the coral garden. We follow the reef and see the bottoms of boats. Under one of them we see a tank of Deep Divers. This is where we need to be, but first we check on a beautiful lionfish up close. A giant animal, but very beautiful. After sixty-nine minutes weíre back and we had a great dive.
We climb back on board and stay there until after lunch. We donít have lunch, rest an hour and a half and then itís time again for the briefing, get ready for dive two and then we can get in the water. We enter right away in a large school of fusilier fish and love this great sight. The first thing we see is a nudibranch and a bit further two anemone fish and again another nudibranch, both quadricolor, the latter was seen by Jurgen. Some masked puffers and yellow butterflyfish also keep us company in our journey over the coral garden towards a large pinnacle. On the part of the coral garden we see a very large stonefish in a small piece of rock, itís a miracle weíve seen it. Just before we reach the pinnacle I spot, who else a new nudibranch, this time the striped gymnodoris. Of course Iím very happy and I try to make a decent picture of it. Weíll know more when we see it on the laptop. A triggerfish is making its nest, so we also take some time to check that out. Itís always nice to see fish in their natural habitat and with their natural behaviour. Then we reach the large pinnacle and need to swim around and return towards the boat. The way back is really very beautiful, not so deep, but thanks to the light we can clearly see the colours and we even see a large moray swimming over the reef freely. You donít get to see this so often during the day, so we stop and enjoy the moment. We continue the dive slowly and half an hour later we arrive at the Noura 2. It was a very calm dive, not too busy, very relaxed and we loved it. Weíre having pretty long dives here and that has a good influence on our average dive time. Again we were under water for over an hour.
And then itís time to put everything back in our boxes and return to the harbour. It takes about one hour and we take our boxes of the boat, because weíll be doing a night dive today. Not really that is; when we arrive at the diving school they almost beg us to have the dive tomorrow and not today. So we agree. Weíll make it a nice evening then. One more hour in the small bus in the busy centre of Hurghada and we immediately find drinks, check out the pictures and have a shower. Then we eat something and have some more drinks. We did not hope to be able to drink beer, because we were supposed to dive still, but that will come tomorrow then. We were diving Nitrox, but then still weíre pretty tired and at ten thirty we go to bed. We hope for a good night of sleep and immediately fall asleep, which is nice.
Tuesday July 10, 2012: A day with three dives
In the morning we have our drill of the day. Roel and I get up first; Jurgen needs a bit more time. Weíre ready for breakfast on time, then we take all our gear and we head for a dive. We take both underwater cameras, so we can take pictures with both of them. Jurgen wants to try the camera and we walk to the reception with all our stuff. Again one hour on the bus and then pass by the diving centre to show my Nitrox license, so they know I have it and then to the boat. We have another boat again than yesterday; today weíre on Rana and we locate it easily on the peer. There are four or five boats and then it canít be difficult to locate one. We get on the boat and sail to the reefs for about an hour again. We receive a briefing of Aid for our first dive and he comes with us. A large pinnacle with plenty of marine life is the start of our dive. Especially the juveniles of the lyretail hogfish are swimming around table coral by the dozen, so itís really nice. We follow Aid around the pinnacle and then head for the blue water. The idea it to spot a turtle, but weíre not lucky. Just to see something Aid shows us a large mollusc. Yeah, thatís what we were waiting for. We dive high above the reef, first about six metres, then ten, because we want to save on air. For about ten minutes itís nice to dive this high, fifteen minutes too, but after half an hour weíre still doing this and we havenít really seen anything: no turtle, not so many fish, because weíre too high above the reef. The second part should be really great to make up for this. Five minutes later we arrive at the other pinnacle and there we see some soft coral and gorgonians, but top of the bill is a large moray eel and a fish next to it. The fish is playing a game to life and death, because if he just moves a single fin, heís dead. We donít wait for the end of the battle, but find it a very nice thing to watch. On this part of the pinnacle, a bit shallower we see glassfish and bigeyes in the dark. We stay here a while and then we need to follow Aid again. When we leave here back to the boat weíre lucky Aid is with us, because we would have never found this route. The dive was not the best ever, but we were under water for an hour and we really have reached Zen-mode.
Back on board we first prepare everything for dive two, again with Nitrox. The first dive had thirty-six percent, now thirty four. We do nothing for about an hour and a half and then we head for the second dive site. The first was called Tourft El Shahed and now we dive at Shaab Sabina. We receive the briefing and are dropped with the three of us, together with four other divers, but they will stay in their team. The first two things we see are again nudibranchs, not far apart. We see a blue spotted stingray seeking shelter from us and a magnificent yellow edged lyretail hangs in front of the lens. This dive is after five minutes already better than the first one. And then suddenly we see a long animal coming towards us. This is already the second giant moray we spot swimming freely. In the past we did not se them so often and now already two days in a row. Itís really a great view and we follow the moray with our eyes until he passes us. A lionfish is hanging above the reef and then we need to dive shallower, because the reef ascends to a depth of five metres. There are large schools of snappers and also a couple of butterflyfish. At these dive sites we saw the largest schools of fish ever and also different species of fish. To reinforce it: this is so magnificent. Over the shallow part of the reef we have the yellow and the Eritrean butterflyfish and then we also see a pair of hooded butterflyfish: the first time we see this in Egypt. They are really beautiful: a red head, a black tail and a grey body with small yellow stripes on it. Yes, we saw a new species. We dive along the reef at our right-hand side and need to watch out we keep on seeing coral. If we donít see any coral anymore, weíre gone too far. After a bit longer than seventy minutes we approach the boat: we already see an instructor with two divers below him while he holds them by the tank. These are the introdives to allow people to get to know scuba diving. Itís not so good for the reef and not a beautiful sight, but might have benefits too. We see the bottoms of the boats and quickly find our boat with the diving tank of Deep Divers, so we know weíre OK. We stay a bit longer for our safety stop and take some more reef and fish pictures and then get on board and head back to the harbour.
About one hour later weíre there and we need to wait for a while, make some appointments for our night dive and have a drink, because weíre thirsty. Weíre not allowed to take any drinks with us on the bus, so we quickly finish our beers. We speak wit a Dutch couple about diving and licenses, because they got interested after their intro-dive. We advise them not to hesitate. The drive does not take long when we have a chat and weíre back at the hotel at six. Nice, but late. We have a quick drink, prepare for the dive and then go to the Deep Divers centre here at the hotel. A Russian guy is diving with us and Abdel is our guide. A short briefing with the question whether weíre used to diving at night with a torch. Yes, certainly: that canít pose a problem. We prepare everything, take our tank on our backs and start at the beach. We test the torches and can begin the dive. The first thing we see is a large mangrove jellyfish and then even three of them. We dive over a small piece of reef and then over sea grass, maybe a seahorse? Not. We see two small cuttlefish and then Abdel signals he saw something: a squid, yes, finally we spotted squid during our dives. Later weíll see four more. I spot a small octopus that is looking for its way between the grass and the sand. And then after half an hour we turn back and there are the remains of boats and other iron debris. Soft corals grow on this surface and there is plenty of marine life for a night dive.
And then Abdel is very happy. A large nudibranch, the size of a Spanish dancer, but itís not the same. Itís the pleurobranchus grandis. Yellow, red, brown spots on a white body and about fifteen centimetres big, a really beautiful animal. She has two feelers at the front and in the back a kind of tail standing up straight. After the dive Abdel will tell us this is the biggest one heís seen in his career of eight years diving. Then we continue the dive: the only thing that can make it even better is a seahorse, but we donít see that. We do spot at the end of the dive a juvenile of a longfinbatfish, really totally at the end. Itís a great end of a very nice night dive. It was supposed to take only forty-five minutes, but we take it to the hour. It was a great experience and great dive. Thanks Abdel for the beautiful stuff you showed us.
Then itís time to have dinner and a shower, because we can use some food. At about eleven we go to bed and watch some of the pictures and drink a beer. Then we go to bed, close our eyes and say goodnight to all the creatures in the Red Sea. See you tomorrow.
Wednesday July 11, 2012: Two drift dives: one to see a cave, the other one to look for turtles
We get up for another day of scuba diving at the Red Sea, sounds bored, but thatís not the case at all. Iím already awake at five oíclock, havenít slept that long: the sleep was OK, but just not long enough. First I surf the internet for a while, write the reports and about an hour an a half also Roel and Jurgen wake up. Six thirty looks like a better time to get up than five. We have breakfast and are ready for our trip to the diving centre. The van is there quickly and we can move within thirty minutes to the other hotel. Weíre lucky to be here so fast, now we can look for a good spot on the boat. All has been checked and we can leave, if they would not have had to load some more equipment and tanks on the boat. Theyíve put too few Nitrox-tanks on the boat. When thatís done, we can finally depart. Half an hour later we prepare the tanks. Theyíve given us thirty six percent Nitrox, so we need to watch our maximum depth. During the briefing the guide tells us weíll visit a cave at thirty metres and according to the Nitrox tables we canít use 36 percent for that. So we change our tanks from Nitrox to air and ca dive. The captain drops us and we can descend easily. Jurgen has problems with his mask and will not be able to resolve it the whole dive. Even in this situation heís OK. The trip to the cave takes fifteen minutes, bad drop-off, because weíre ten metres above the reef to save on air. We receive the sign to descend from fifteen to thirty and we go down. On our way to the cave we saw a large moray, a very large grouper and a blue spotted stingray. We quickly reach the cave and can easily enter. Itís only two metres high, seven metres deep and fifteen metres wide. In the cave is little life, because the hour-cave-napoleon is not in today. The view is good, when you can sit on the sand inside and look outside the cave with all the blue water in the background. We donít stay there for a long time, but I wait until everyone reaches the exit again and that provides great pictures. Itís really cool to see the others in front of the cave and then follow them, deco time was coming closer. Then we float in the blue above a drop-off of hundreds of metres deep, itís amazing.
Once we exit the cave we go less deep and we see the air bubbles coming from the sand and thatís a great view. The guide even goes less deep, because the three of us are approaching hundred bar. We consume half of what we did below thirty metres, so we can make this a long dive after all. Really super! The first spot is again a moray: weíve quite a lot this vacation. We can already see the surface close and there the sun changes the light and we can see the colours of the reef. We donít see anything special but we enjoy it a lot: the reef is beautiful. A school of wrasses passes next to us and this way we slowly reach the boat. We turn right after our safety stop to reach a small lagoon. A triggerfish stays with us for a while and we reach the boat soon. Schools of snappers and cornetfish hang above the reef. Roel is happy with this picture and then the dive ends. Most people on the boat have lunch and we laugh and enjoy the sun. Itís great to spend the time like this, but we mainly are here to dive. We get a briefing, or not really a briefing, we only need to follow our guide and we think we can manager that. We rest for one and a half hour and then prepare our equipment for dive two. Jippikajee.
The idea is to dive to a small cave, which we canít enter, but it will be worth it, we hope. We hang above the reef for a while without seeing a lot and then descend to about twenty-five metres and take a look at the soft coral and then the atmosphere changes from happiness to total utter joy. I see that something is nibbling on the fins of Jurgen and he thinks Iím pulling his fins, but thatís not the case. A turtle! Yes, a turtle and how close, unbelievable. The flash of the camera works like hell and we take very nice pictures, again really a great sighting this vacation. Until now we had no time to check out the cave, but when the turtle swims away, we watch closer to the glassfish, the soft coral and everything in the cave. We see a pair of hostile banded coral shrimps, very cute animals. A little bit further our guide sees a crown of thorns and wants to get rid of it. He takes one of his fins, removes it from the coral and drops it into the deep, where it will die before it becomes a plague. We then return to the reef and already ascend to about ten metres. I spot an octopus, Roel checks it out, but Jurgen does not. We almost reach the boat, the guide shows where it is and we stay under water a bit longer to check some things out. We see a couple of lionfish, magnificent animals, but we only see the usual stuff of the reef. When we reach fifty bar itís time to stop the dive, but the boat is still moving, so we need to wait and after about one hour we exit the water. We put our stuff in our boxes and then chat about diving today and in general en then head back to hotel Aladdin. We will not have a night dive today, but tomorrow and the van takes us home and we have a drink on our terrace and in the bar. Correctly put, we take beer from the bar and drink it on our terrace, while I write up the reports. Watch the pictures, discuss the diving here and weíre having a great time. Then we have supper and it really is very busy at the restaurant. Apparently everybody has decided to eat at the same moment. We wait in the garden and five minutes later we already have a free table. We eat quickly and then have another drink on our terrace. At ten thirty we are tired and go to sleep.
Thursday July 12, 2012: Three dives, a stunning night dive
Breakfast in the morning, take all our stuff for the dives and the van picks us up as usual at eight. We drive through the busy centre of Hurghada for about an hour. Roel thinks Hurghada is a dirty city compared to Sharm El Sheik, but then he needs to check out Dahab, that is a complete dumb site. Upon our arrival at Aladdin Hotel we pass by the diving centre, say good morning to the crew and then we walk to the boat. We immediately measure our Nitrox and each have a tank of about thirty-six and there is one of thirty-eight, so the dives will be pretty shallow today. We wait a couple more minutes for divers and snorkelers and then we can leave. The wind is hard and thanks to the current in our favour it goes pretty fast. Next to us are two people from Temse, very close to our village, what a coincidence. We have a chat and after an hour weíre at the first dive site: Banana Reef. We do a drift dive here and itís still early when we can get into the water. Zizo, our guide, also the same one of the last couple of days, has not the best timing, so weíre waiting for fifteen minutes with our gear on the platform before we start. Then we go and weíre starting our first dive. We start at a pinnacle, where we see two morays, again the giant morays, really great. Around the pinnacle we constantly see a common remora and he will follow us the rest of the dive. At certain moments itís almost as if he is hitchhiking with the divers on their tanks. Then I draw the attention of Jurgen, because Iíve seen a yellow spotted flatworm. Jurgen missed the first one, but this one he can see now too. I can even take a picture when itís swimming; itís funny to see the wings going up and down to start moving. Then weíre close to the second pinnacle and there are large school of bannerfish. We pass more pinnacles and they are magnificent. At other times we check out the main reef and then we see a pair of citron coral gobies. This is the first time we see those and theyíre very cute with their yellow colour and the blue lines on their head and back.
Weíve been diving for about half an hour and we still have hundred bar in our tanks, because we donít dive really deep. Then we arrive at anemone city. Between the corals there are about ten anemones and almost every one is inhabited by one or more anemone fish: itís great to see how many there are here. We arrive back at the main reef, because one of our buddies only has fifty bar, so he uses the tank of our guide for a couple of minutes and we follow him across the reef until we do our safety stop. Itís a long safety stop and at the end we see a juvenile of a black snapper and a lionfish. In the holes of the reef we see many lionfish. Although weíve already seen them like hundred times, we still think theyíre magnificent creatures. After about one hour we stop the dive, the others are already on the boat and we finish the hour and then also get on it. Itís lunchtime, but not for us, because we donít eat. We rest a bit, drink some cola for the sugars and then we get a briefing of another instructor, who will guide us during the second dive. It will be a very shallow one, almost a safety stop dive all the way. But this means that we will be diving for over an hour. Weíll see.
Our guide Tanner brings everyone together to start the second dive of the say: thatís us three and a Dutch couple. In less than ten minutes weíre ready and we moor to start the dive. Under the boat itís only ten metres deep and that will be the deepest part of the dive, a long shallow dive it will be this afternoon. On the sand we see the normal life for these circumstances: pipefish, lizardfish and then we reach the actual reef. We see a beautiful nudibranch: a species of phyllidia, mainly black, white and yellow, again a really beautiful animal. This part of the reef is pretty with many lionfish in the holes and a large diversity of marine life. And because weíre diving shallow we can see clearly thanks to the sun. We enjoy a very relaxing dive. We look at all the fish and certainly when Tanner shows us a large stonefish under a rock. He moves the fish a little bit so everyone can have a clear view. We have noticed that there are not many nudibranchs, but we see a tiger flatworm, not really the same as a nudibranch, but itís a nice animal anyway. Weíre diving already for our fifth day, so it becomes more difficult to see new fish or creatures. Weíve seen a lot already and mainly enjoy this relaxing and long dive. Like I said itís very shallow and we dive for over an hour again. Really great! We have increased the average of our divetime doing all these long dives during this vacation. This dive site is called Eurk Talata and itís a great place and weíll be returning here tonight for the night dive. Weíre curious what that will be like.
When everybody is out of the water we return to the harbour and after twenty minutes weíre there. We still need to wait for one and a half hours until we can leave again and that time is taking long. We can have a chat between ourselves and with the other divers, but still it takes long. Finally we return to the same dive site, again twenty minutes and we already start preparing our equipment, once we have moored. Then we wait another fifteen minutes until itís completely dark and then we begin. We already know this place from this afternoon and that will be nice, when we need to find our way back. Our group is pretty large: the three of us, a British guy, the Dutch couple, Tanner our instructor and a woman who films the dives, not only this one, but all other dives too. On the sand we see a cuttlefish, a couple of small fish above the sand and then we watch the reef and see featherstars, like we usually do during night dives. The view is again great. Between the rocks cleaner shrimps are seeking shelter, but they leave when they see the light of the torches. They are very beautiful with the white, red and blue. And then we see the first nudibranch, again the same species as earlier this week. I still need to check the name of this one. These are magnificent animals and weíll see about seven this dive. Then Tanner points a Red Sea anemone hermit crab, a crab with anemones on the shell with blue eyes, very nice. Then we need to swim very fast, because weíve lost our guide. He has spotted a turtle, so we follow him and try to see her, and yes we did it. We see a black nudibranch, similar to the first one. This is the Forskals Pleurobranchus, the other one is the Giant Pleurobranchus. Yeah, whatís in a name? Weíre still following the reef and then see yet another nudibranch, again a very large one, flat, probably a species of platydoris. Itís not very colourful, but every nudibranch is nice to see. It does not sound like it, but weíre already diving for fifty minutes and we still need to do our safety stop. Tanner instructs everyone to sit down on the sand and extinguish the torch. We sit down on the bottom of the Red Sea with our group and then only thing we need to do is to move our hands. Beautiful light flashes come out of our hands and that is real magic. An amazing moment we probably will never forget. We stay here for five minutes to have a safe safety stop and love the light in the darkness, really amaaaaaaaaazing. That was our last act of the dive and get out of the water after a dive of sixty-one minutes, a very good last night dive, unbelievable actually.
We change, have a snack and then turn back to the harbour, which apparently is not easy, because theyíve lost the correct direction. We look up in the sky and se the starts and I think Iím in heaven for a moment: a black sky with all small lights. You canít see anything like that in Belgium because the air is polluted with light. Half an hour later we arrive back at the peer. The bus is ready for us and takes us back to our hotel. There we have a shower and drink a beer. We stop our day very nice, but donít have the time to watch the pictures. Roel needs to see a doctor with his arm, because his arm starts to hurt pretty badly. No problem they say: he gets different medication, a different lotion to use, some antibiotics and thatís it. A couple of days he will feel it, but should be better soon. A beer as a final close and then go to sleep, because itís pas midnight already.
Friday July 13, 2012: Last two dives of this vacation
Weíre starting our last day of diving, drill as usual, get up, check pictures, finish reports and then breakfast. After that immediately to the reception and there the van is ready to go. Today we drive for forty-five minutes and enjoy the lovely Egyptian music. The first quarter itís always an imam who performs a sermon, of which we donít understand anything and then the real music starts, nice romantic songs, not really. The songs give a new dimension to the word romantic. We chat and look forward to our last two dives of the vacation. Weíll make them worth to remember. We are on the same boat as before: the Sea Moon and there are quite some waves on the Red Sea. The wind blows hard today. It takes only an hour to reach the dive site, one we did before, but maybe weíll see different things now. This time we have guidance of Zizo and a Dutch couple and their son also dive with us. Theyíre underwater photographers as well, so we will see some things hopefully. Weíre the second group and dive behind our guide, so we donít miss anything when he sees something. First thing we see is an octopus. We have not seen this that often, at least not as clear as this one, only in the holes of the reef. The goldies swim over the coral and after twenty minutes Zizo sees a stonefish. These are really ugly fish, but special ones and a species you better donít touch. Luckily the guides know where they are, otherwise we wonít see them. They donít move a lot and not very far, so theyíre easy to follow. We spot two crocodilefish this dive and weíve seen these more than usual this vacation. After forty-five minutes we reach the reef after weíve passed a couple of pinnacles with many scorpionfish and goldies. They really enhance the colours of the reef and we like to observe how they dance along the coral.
During this dive we again see a blue spotted stingray and he stays at ease ion the sand. Jurgen was happy last year to see one: weíve seen plenty more this vacation, so everybodyís happy. Close to the boat we see again large schools of fish and we dive through them and enjoy every moment. Our average dive time has increased a lot, because we done a lot of dives longer than one hour. This feels great. We stop this dive with more than fifty bar and then we can relax for an hour on the boat, fill out the logbooks, have a drink and prepare for our second dive, the last one at the same time. Thatís not really a nice feeling, but we canít complain about out dives here. Not really very big fish, but every dive was a special one and we liked it to hang out here with three best friends. We do our last dive with the same group and also this is a very shallow dive again, so weíll make it a long one. We start at a large pinnacle covered with lionfish, a dozen almost. From this pinnacle we go towards the reef over small pieces of coral and this way we reach the corner of the reef with yet another pinnacle. We saw a couple of morays and the usual reef life, really a very pretty and relaxing dive. At the last pinnacle we see plenty of life and colours, the small goldies, the butterflyfish, really everything is beautiful. After half an hour we turn back to the boat. Three scorpionfish are seen and one of them is swimming over the coral between the reef and clearly has a fish in its mouth. Probably he was hungry. We also pay attention to small Christmas tree worms that are in the coral. Theyíre really magnificent. Some are blue, others yellow or brown, but the shape and colours are beautiful every time. After seventy minutes weíre back at the boat. There they give us a signal theyíve spotted a large napoleon. We look for it a few minutes, but not too far, because weíre almost at fifty bar. We donít stay there long, but we want to make time to hang inside the large school of fish under the boat, really an amazing feeling. When you look left, right, in front or behind, under and above: the only thing you see is fish, a great feeling. I dive in it and enjoy the last moment under water.
We do our safety stop and reach the surface for the last time, but then there is a really disgusting moment. We are on the surface, Roel jumps out of the water, but Jurgen en I have not understood whatís wrong. One of the boats next to us has dumped gasoline or something in the water and we hang right in the middle of the spot, really disgusting. On the boat we try to clean everything up to get rid of the dirty smell and taste, but it will only disappear when we can wash ourselves with soap. Weíre just on the boat and the engines start for a trip of an hour to the harbour. We stop on our way to drop some divers for a drift dive to the house reef, but we donít join them. We just stay on the boat and then check out at the diving centre. We still need to pay for one extra day, a couple of days of Nitrox and Jurgen and Roel for the course. We pack everything again in the bags and then we can return to the hotel with our full equipment. After an hour we reach the hotel and drink something, because we had a warm and thirsty day. We check the pictures and then have dinner, always with some beer and we make it a nice evening together with the couple from Temse and go to bed around midnight. Our last evening is finishes and we leave for home tomorrow.
Saturday July 14, 2012: Pack, snorkel and leave Egypt
Today itís really finished, we have breakfast, return to our room, use the beach towels of the hotel and decide to go snorkelling the last day. We take our fins and get into the water. In the shallow part I immediately see a cuttlefish; itís great to see this animal in these circumstances. Otherwise we always saw it in the Oosterschelde or during a night dive, but we really like this during snorkelling. We also see anemone fish on the house reef, but the general impression of the reef is that the quality is not so good anymore. There are too many swimmers and theyíve caused a lot of damage already, so we swim to the outer reef and then turn right to the harbour to explore what we can see here. About ten iron poles are standing up and theyíre all covered in soft coral, really nice to see this during snorkelling in the sunlight. Seeking a little bit more shelter we see three batfish and two longfinbatfish. We did not know they would be hiding here during the day. We already saw one of them during our first night dive, but to see them during the day is really great. A small school of little sergeants major also seeks shelter here, just like a boxfish with his family. This is a nice piece of the underwater world. We stay out here for about half an hour, regularly dive down to see it from a diverís perspective and then return to the bay to look for more things to see. Thereís not a lot actually, only a couple of butterflyfish swimming over the reef. At the end we see our friend the cuttlefish back and still think itís a beautiful animal.
We have been in the water for about two hours, take all our equipment from the diving centre and return to our room. We already pack everything and a few minutes before two we have lunch so we can live the day. After lunch pack the final things and then we decide to check out all pictures from the last days and talk about these great memories. We have a drink in the bar next to the hotel and surf the Internet. Then itís all over and out, because after a shower the bus picks us up to take us to the airport. And then everything goes fast, check in, pass customs, have a snack, shop tax free and then board. Everything is on time, so weíll arrive at one in the night on Schiphol. Jurgen en I can have a sleep, but Roel canít, although he had exit seats. We will need to rest anyway tomorrow. We receive our luggage quickly and then we can drive home. At ten past two weíre on the road and everyone is home at about four. Weíve had again a great vacation and weíve enjoyed it very much.