Egypt - El Quseir 2019

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Egypte in El Quseir Akassia Hotel, local diving school Wonderful Dive

From October 27th to November 3rd, 2019


Akassia Swiss Resort

Wonderful Dive





El Qoseir

El Qoseir (Egyptian Arabic: القصير‎, romanized: el-Qoṣēr, pronounced [elʔoˈsˤeːɾ]) is a city in eastern Egypt, located on the Red Sea coast. Populated for approximately 5,000 years, its ancient name was Leucus Limen (meaning "white port", from Greek Λευκός Λιμήν, Leukós Limḗn). El Qoseir is located 138 kilometers south of Hurghada, 139 km north of Marsa Alam and 73 km north of the Marsa Alam International Airport. In 1986, its population was approximately 20,000. Today, the population of El Qoseir is around 50,000.
Climate
Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as hot desert (BWh). Summers are hot and winters are warm. Winter night temperatures in El Qoseir, along with those of Marsa Alam and Sharm El Sheikh are the warmest of any other cities and resorts in Egypt. Additionally, Port Said, El Qoseir, Ras El Bar, Baltim, Damietta and Alexandria have the least temperature variation. Rain is very rare as in most of Egypt. Seasonal variation is small, comparable to Marsa Alam, but its summer days are cooler, even cooler than similar more northern areas at the Red Sea, like Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh.
The highest record temperature was 46 °C (115 °F), recorded on July 12, 1983, while the coldest record temperature was 1 °C (34 °F), recorded on January 6, 1976.


Sunday October 27th, 2019: Fifth time in six years to Club Akassia Resort in El Quseir

It's time to go on a vacation again. Wow, there’s a lot to be done still. But it's for a good cause, so we do a lot for that. Arne goes to Patje at one o'clock, so that we can take care of everything and pack it up at our own pace. Then we have something to eat in SportKaffee Breeven and that was all actually Saturday. Sunday we get up at 2, luckily the daylight saving time has started, so it looks like we have slept a whole night. Now, getting up at two o'clock and still sleeping for five and a half hours, that is usually only possible when changing to winter time. There are a lot of people who want to get rid of this: we'll see what happens. After half an hour I get a text message that our Tesla-Transport is on its way to our home and will probably arrive at 2:50 am. What a service. We are ready and can indeed get into the Tesla at about ten to three and we will be brought to Zaventem in no time. Little traffic on the way, because we are there at three o'clock twenty. We bought a slightly more expensive ticket and can enjoy VIP Selection, so we don't queue up at the check-in, then Fast Lane through the security and then wait a little longer until they can check our passports. Apparently they only start around four o'clock.

We have passed this passport check and then we can go through the tax-free. No big purchases, just an M&M's light for Arne. Then something to eat and a little later we can go to gate B19. The food tastes good, but is a lot: we eat two croissants, a raisin biscuit, a chocolate brownie and we drink coffee and fresh fruit juice. Well done. I went to see if Starbucks was already open, but it doesn't open the doors until 5. But we also had a nice breakfast there and still had a view on the Smurfs. We walk to gate B19 half an hour before it is effectively indicated where we have to go. Luckily we already had our boarding passes on which the gate was indicated. Next to the smoking room we go downstairs and look for gate B19. We wait half an hour and then we can board. We are in the second bus to the plane and find our seats quickly and easily. First row, but not number 1, number 2 it is, three places next to each other. A little more legroom than average and that's definitely enjoyable. We wait a bit longer until the people of the third bus are on the plane and then we get a briefing and we can leave.

A flight of about five hours and we pass the time very nice. After an hour we get something to eat, something to drink and then we can rest, play on the tablet, read and so we spend another couple of hours. The most important thing is that we can rest for a while and that Arne is OK. He is very big and is busy with a DVD or the tablet, having fun without too much noise. I can even sleep for a while. In about five hours we are in Marsa Alam. At the end of the trip we even got a glass of champagne, the same as when we went to Jamaica, wonderful! We can then quickly get off the plane, take a ride on the bus and then wait for twenty minutes until we have our visas, then just 2 more checks and then to the bus. We get a private trip to our hotel so we are faster than the big bus. It's not really private, because four other people have to be dropped off in two hotels at five and ten minutes from the airport and then it's still half an hour for us. We see the big bus racing by when we drop off the last couple and just arrive in Akassia when the big bus leaves. So private and faster, I don't think so.

We are lucky that they have sent everyone to the restaurant for lunch. We know we will be able to get something in the beach bar soon, so we ask for our room right away. We still have to wait 20, maybe 30 minutes, because the room is not ready yet. But then suddenly five minutes later I get the key for the 1807. We go there right away, top floor with a view of the pool and the sea, it's really wonderful! We change our clothes and unpack everything and go for a swim in the swimming pool right in front of our door. Nice and warm and super relax. So we stay here for half an hour and then we can go to the Beach Bar, because we are hungry. We eat some fries, some hamburgers, drink gin tonic, cuba libre and do that twice. After that it's time to return to the room, get ready for dinner and at 6:30 am we have something to eat. Actually not very hungry yet, but we still eat and drink something. We don't see any of our two waiters in recent years, but halfway through our dinner one of them comes to give us a hug. Tomorrow, breakfast, my tables? Yes, man, of course. If you're as friendly and good as the past few years, of course you are.

We drink something, eat a bit of pasta or chicken with fries and drink red wine with it. Same wine as in previous years, here you can drink litres of it without getting drunk. And also nice and fresh, blissful! At half past seven we go back to our room, watch a bit of DVD together and then it's bedtime for Arne. We read a bit and make the report for today and an hour later we can also get into bed. In the end we are on a the road from two o'clock this morning to get here. Planning tomorrow: first arranging dives and then swimming or diving: just chilling anyway.


Monday October 28th, 2019: Relaxing, arranging dives and relaxing

We don't have an alarm clock and we take it easy. About seven o'clock everybody is awake and we enjoy our balcony. Super sea view still. Logical eh, because they don't just move them around. We get ready for breakfast and take everything with us to go to the pool later on. We get a table from Rabi, who had already seen us yesterday and so we had to come and have breakfast at his place. Of course, as tradition dictates, except for that one time. We eat well, Arne already brings some cookies for later at the pool. First we go to the diving center and Yasser is very happy to see us. He also called us yesterday when we were driving to our room: Welcome Back! I will arrange a check-dive at Maheleg this afternoon at 14:00. Then we just take the road to the pool, swim in the children's pool and also in the big one behind it. Also the guy from the towels says hi and remembers us from last time (or times). Arne has the time of his life again, really blessed to see him like this. We also go into the water a couple of times and so time goes really fast. At ten o'clock everything starts flowing again and then the peace is over. Swimming pool in, water out, really great to be here.

Around noon we walk to the beach restaurant and there we eat something. I don't eat much, because soon I will be diving, so I never eat much. Sorry for the people who hear this once again or read better. Some fries, a little chicken and hamburger. And with that a pint, that won't hurt before the dive for sure. Arne gets some pain in his belly, so let's go to the room. I had to be there anyway to get everything ready for the dive. This morning after checking in (I get cupboard and box 75) I went back to the room to put my equipment in place, so now all I had to do was take my mask, computer and camera with me. Well organised of myself I think. Arne falls asleep on the bed, so there will be something in his body from the trip or the fatigue or something. We let him sleep.

I am one of the first to arrive at the dive centre, because it is really quiet there. It was very busy this morning, but not much yet. And then suddenly everyone starts coming in. Soon we have to get a second van for the diving equipment and also two vans for the divers themselves. And then after fifteen minutes we're off to Maheleg. That's only a few minutes away and they often do the check dives there. We get a briefing from an instructor I don't know and of whom I also forgot the name. Then buddy teams: Andreas, me and another German, Thomas I think. The three of us can choose whether we follow the instructor or not. Prepare here and take anything but lead and bottle with you. The people of Wonderful Dive bring the hardest things for us to the end of the jetty.

When we get there the three of us decide not to really wait for the instructor. We hear things like: I have 27 kilos of lead with me and Nitrox, I don't know, but that's my tank, pointing to a tank with a green cap that serves for Nitrox divers. We are the first three in the water. We stay there for another five minutes, before someone comes to check the skills. Apparently there are a few things that are not causing problems on the surface. Our instructor makes us quickly fill up the mask, clean it with our breath, then we need to drop our regulator and retrieve it again. Then he makes a sign that the three of us can leave. And that's what we do. For me it's not the first time that I dive here, so I'm familiar with the current and so on. Just go diving, see how far we get and then back. During our waiting time for the guide, I have already seen a school of blue fuselier fish and I have already taken pictures of them and then our dive can really begin. And then it's immediately an underwater party again. The butterflyfish are fluttering around our ears, the red anthias are doing it again, the coral climbers are lying quietly on their places and their coral, really great. A couple of picasso triggerfish come to say hello and so we dive further with the reef along our left side.

A lionfish hides together with a blue spotted stingray under a rock, but we see them anyway. Then there are the big yellow coral butterflyfish with that grey spot along their eyes, really amazing again. Sometimes you think: the normal things of Egypt, but then you see a large coral reef, red with black or grey dots shooting away or opening its mouth to eat something and then you think that normal is not so normal after all. What you can expect, but not really normal. An important find for our night dive is seeing the eggs of a Spanish dancer. That means that they are here and that you might have the chance to see them during a night dive. A pair of bannerfish hangs floating along the reef. Once in a while I look at the blue water away from the reef, but there is little or nothing special to see. That will probably be for tomorrow. Around 25 minutes later we return, because then one of us has 110 bar. Dive a bit shallower and then return. Constantly around 10-12 meters, otherwise we miss the sandy spot. Although I've never missed it.

On our way back we see another royal angelfish, a ray, a bit better visible than the previous one, because now just open on the sand and just below a rock. After fifteen minutes we arrive at the sand. Afterwards they say: lucky, but it wasn't that difficult to find. After that you have to stay at about nine meters to see the anemone fish. I have been able to admire them here every dive and now again. I enjoy how assertive they are, but then I follow my two buddies. Another big tubeworm and then we are back in the small cove where we started the dive. Another lionfish and another titan triggerfish and then we do our safety stop. Due to circumstances I just can't make it an hour, but even for the four hundredth dive that's okay. We've had it again. Nothing special, but we spent almost an hour diving in Egypt. Then it goes back to the jetty and back upstairs to change clothes and then back into the vans and to the dive center.

Rinse everything there and hang up to dry for the next dive, number 401 tomorrow early morning dive. I find Arne and Evy at the swimming pool, they are just an hour there, because Arne is really still asleep. We play in the water and then return to our room. It is soon late and we still have to take a shower. Around half past six we go to the restaurant, Rabi already has a table for us and all three of us eat well. Arne certainly, because he hasn't had much this afternoon. We play another hour of Uno and then it's back to the room and sleep. Another DVD and then really done for today. Tomorrow I have to get up early.


Tuesday October 29th, 2019: Early morning, relaxing and doing nothing

Getting up early, but really early. The alarm clock is set at a quarter past five, to make sure everything is okay for the dive and to go to the dive centre. Camera OK, snorkel and mask check, together with a bag for towel and computer. Then I go to the dive center in the hope that Arne and Evy can still sleep a bit. It will be clear if they succeeded when I see them again. I am one of the first to get there, Andreas, my buddy from yesterday is also there and another German couple and they dive with me. We already have a chat and then our guide is there to explain a few things. First he divides the teams. He goes with me, the German couple and a French dad with his son. The others go with the other guide and we just dive on the house reef. We see what the dive actually brings. After the briefing our stuff is taken to the jetty and we will go into the water there as well. Everything is great!

I remember from last year that morning dive was a real hit, hopefully it is the same today. I'm already enjoying the rising sun which is starting to give a bit of warmth: it all looks great. We jump into the water, I'm almost the last one and then it's time to see if everyone's there and if everyone's ready. Just before I go into the water, the guide asks me how many dives I have, but I find it hard to understand him, he has to ask it twice what he means and he seems to blame me a bit. But he is also a bit shocked when I say that there are already four hundred of them. Yeah, well, that's what it says on your enrolment paper too, dude. It's an instant pleasure, a big coral reef, lots of small life on the reef, a couple of butterflyfish and then we're only ten metres deep. For an Open Water we have to stay above eighteen meters, but I don't mind. The Spanish dancers should really be here, because this is the second time I have seen the eggs here, hopefully at the night dive. A small mini fish attracts my attention: a black one with a yellow-orange ball in the middle, a real amazing how nature can deceive you. It looks more like an eye than a real fish.

We dive for fifteen minutes and then return to jetty. Oh no, there is already someone without air? But apparently it isn't, because we're still too deep for that. At ten minutes we hang back under the jetty and dive a bit further. The guide has already asked for our air and I am still at 140 bar in half an hour, so that will be okay. In a small rock I see a small pipefish, really great that they are still there. I say hello, take a picture and dive on. I had to swim last, but I also look at the German lady once in a while. Her husband hangs with the guide and her buddy, French guy, hangs fifteen meters below her. So I keep an eye on things too, that's for sure, because if there's something wrong, it becomes problematic. That's not my problem in the end. So it goes on until another ten minutes and then something comes swimming in the distance. Just next to a buoy I see two flippers going up and down. In the blue water a turtle swims in our direction, really great. Up and down, up and down the frisky turtle passes about ten metres from us. Great! We already have it stripe from our checklist. I stay as agreed at the end of the group and suddenly the guide is gone with someone. He'll be out of air, so it’ll be safer to go upstairs.

I stay at depth for a while and see a stonefish, really super big. Luckily he moved with his gills or I hadn't seen him. This specimen is bigger than any I've ever seen before. Almost half a meter long and almost unrecognisable from the rocks. I show it to the German lady who at first doesn't know where to look and then suddenly she realizes it, when I show her the gills. She also goes up with the help of the guide and I think I have more than ninety bars, so I'll stick around for a while. The Frenchman and his son have also left in the meantime, but I keep photographing some butterflyfish, coral climbers and also some flute fish. Another wonderful dive here on the house reef. It is also early, so we still have a whole day. Finally with the other guide I get out of the water after an hour and then we go to the dive center. There we give the dive time and depth, rinse everything, hang to dry and see where we can dive tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

I go back to the room and see Arne and Evy and that is always fun. Then we can have something to eat, together. After breakfast it's time to go and lie down at the pool. First we lie down at the same swimming pool as always in recent years, but then Arne suddenly has to get out of the water, after only five or ten minutes or so. Yearly maintenance: the pool will be closed today and in the coming days. It's stupid to do this just in the autumn holidays, but there are still plenty of swimming pools here. We just lay down on the lawn and swim in the larger swimming pool. Around eleven o'clock Evy is away for a foot and facial treatment, probably for about two hours. So Arne and I have a good time together. He is allowed to choose, so we first go to the rainbow slide, but the big one with the mats. I go with him a couple of times and then he does it alone. I don't take pictures now, because I can't really take the camera with me. Then it is eleven o'clock and the boats are open on the wild water river. I had already done that last year, so again I have to do it with him and I have the feeling that it will not be the only time this holiday. We enjoy the nice trip on the inflatable boat, a kind of zodiac. And I've had my work out again for today.

Then we go back to the big rainbow slide and rest by the pool. I'm pretty confident that Arne will be able to manage by himself, so I rest for a while. Just a few minutes into the pool and before we know it, mommy is already back. We go to the beach restaurant and get another waiter, who also knew us and was always friendly, so we have to give him a tip. We eat something, but not too much and Arne certainly not, because he has just eaten croissants from breakfast and cakes at the pool. Then mommy leaves for the spa again for a massage. She is probably only an hour away. We can play with the ball. We lay ourselves on the chairs close to our room in the part where it is deep, actually too deep for Arne, but when I'm there or Evy that's no problem. A little snorkelling and then playing with the ball. We use one of the goals here and we have to try to score with one and then the other becomes a goalkeeper. All very nice, especially for the movement and the colour to tan, but after half an hour it's a bit too much for me. So let's get out of here, put it back on and play a bit more.

Then Mom comes back from the spa. We can stay here for a while, but not for long, because we have to get ready for dinner. Showering, changing clothes and then to the reception, because we had received a letter from Fouad. Evy had sent him an email and he wanted to welcome us personally. Blessed! But he wasn't there, so come back tomorrow. Then it's back to eat at our friend Rabi's, have a drink and then play some Uno. We are close to the restaurant and not between the swimming pools as last year and Arne does not want to play with the other children, but prefers to stay with us to play Uno. Nice and he even starts to be able to stand his loss. At half past eight we go to the room. Arne watches a DVD and we read and write what and then we can go to sleep. First Arne and an hour later we too. It was early this morning for all of us. Sleep well and until tomorrow.


Wednesday October 30th, 2019: Relaxing and doing nothing, night diving

Today we wake up without an alarm clock, but our Arne-alarm is doing well and all three of us are already awake at seven o'clock. Well, that's what you get with the new alarm clocks, isn't it? We get ready for breakfast and take everything with us to go to the swimming pool. There we snorkel a bit, we do the boats on the wild water river and the rainbow slide. He can now also take one of the paddles in his hand and help rowing. After that he comes to mommy and is very proud that he was allowed to do so, really wonderful. It wasn't very handy for me, but we'll leave that out for a while. After a few minutes and more backwards than forwards, no just kidding, it wasn't that bad, I take over both paddles again and then we can finish the whole tour. Everything OK, then back to our place at the large swimming pool.

Arne takes pictures herself under water, but most of them are not open for publication. We snorkel a bit, swim a bit and Arne mainly follows a specific girl. They swim together here, but then she goes back to the rainbow slide. Suddenly Arne comes to us and asks if any of us are going to the rainbow slide. So Arne and I go to the rainbow slide again and then back to our place. Around noon we take all our stuff back to the beach restaurant. There we eat something and drink something and then it's back to the big pool. There are still some splashes, but not too much, because otherwise I will get cold during the dive. I had signed up for a night dive. The whole day and the whole week there is a red flag that you can't snorkel, but diving is sometimes possible. We have to wait and see what they decide in the diving centre.

Around five o'clock I go for a look and then they check if they can dive. Moemen says it's OK, so at half past five I go to the dive center and then prepare for the briefing, dive and then actually do the night dive. We go into the water with Arne, have a drink at the bar and then go to the diving centre. It's not because you dive that you can't drink cuba libre, is it? We shouldn't tell novice divers this. I go to the room to take care of everything: camera, mask, snorkel and everything and then our roads separate for one to two hours. At the dive center is the guide, Chris, a Fleming and Ralf, a German and Moemen, who will guide the dive. Yep, some briefing received and then on the road to the jetty in the north. Yasser arrives there with a small car and a couple of tanks and conditions and we put on the rest and are ready for our dive. Just when I'm wearing my jacket, Arne and Evy stop by to say hello. We will meet again at dinner.

Then it's so far: a night dive in Egypt is always fun. We jump into the water, really black and dark, a bit frightening, but in the end it's always a night dive in the Oosterschelde. Just orientate and then we're off. We just follow the guide with the reef on our left and immediately, really within seconds, we see a moray eel hunting. The moray eel follows our lamps and finds a lot of things. We also see a lionfish hidden in a cave. In another part of the reef I try to photograph two shrimps and then suddenly the moray eel appears on my right side and picks one of the shrimps. Apparently he takes everything that comes in the lamps with him. A yellow butterflyfish also comes very close. I see a strange kind of sea cucumber or something and then another moray eel. The feather stars are starting to come up as well and for the rest they are constantly red fish swimming along the reef. For a moment I think I see a nudibranch, but that is not the case. We meet a third and fourth moray eel, but that turns out to be the same every time. But it is a large moray eel and he or she knows he or she has to follow a diver and especially the lamp so that he or she can hunt more easily. Suddenly I'm shocked, because a red fish suddenly hits my lamp. I didn't see it coming.

It is especially a quiet dive and we all enjoy it. A lionfish is there again. You see it very often during a night dive and so also this one. Suddenly I see a red and yellow soft coral, really beautiful. We have already turned around and now follow the reef at our right shoulder. As easy as the other side. Sometimes it is difficult to keep an eye on my buddy, because he hangs about four to five meters from me and I hang about one meter behind the guide. Moemen signals that we are almost there and that we have to start our safety stop. That's what we do and after about 45 minutes it's over. I enjoyed the dive more than taking pictures this time. It seems to happen more and more every time that I take more dives and less pictures. We'll see, it's the fun that counts. The guide helps us up and then it is just a high five with everyone for the blissful night dive. Back to the center with Yasser's van and then quickly rinse everything off and hang it up for the next dive for tomorrow. Yasser helps me a bit and then I can leave for something to eat.

Arne and Evy don't eat much anymore, but I am hungry, so I quickly eat spaghetti and a pizza and a little bit of chicken and rice with a little sauce. The fish is tasty again today and we get a few glasses of red wine from Rabi and his companions. Enjoy the evening, have a drink and play some Uno. Arne plays well and can even win a few times as usual. We go to bed on time. We stay on our terrace and balcony to enjoy the nice weather and then we go to bed after an hour. Tomorrow at half past eight at the diving centre and then two dives at Zerib Kebir. After that it becomes quieter with an ordinary dive and an early morning dive on Saturday. Everything is great, nice and zen and enjoy!


Thursday October 31st, 2019: Two dives on Zerib Kebir and relaxing

Why does it always say relax in the titles of the reports. That is because we do it too. Today we're up at seven o'clock, because we'll be leaving at 08:45 for two dives at Zerib Kebir. That's 15 minutes by car, so still OK. Then I'll be home around lunchtime. At the hotel, that's a better way to put it, but it’s almost home. First we prepare everything for the pool and the dives and then we go to the restaurant. Arne and Evy go to the dive center to say goodbye. Tamer and Ahmed tell us good morning and this time Tamer gets an OK-sign back from Arne, super. Always a bit of getting used to everything and everyone for him, apparently. Getting everything ready to load into the jeeps, making sure that I have my bag with camera and all other things with me and then we can leave on time anyway. It's only a quarter of an hour's drive as well, so we didn't have to sit for long. Some trips take an hour and a half by car and then another two hours by boat. Well then you are away from the family a long time of course.

We get a briefing from Abdellah, who also divides the buddy teams. I dive with Hugo, an instructor and his son. They speak French and after ten minutes it becomes clear that they come from Belgium, the province of Luxembourg. So they know all the sites in the Ardennes and regularly dive in Les Lacs de l'eau d'heure. Samuel is open water, so we will have to limit ourselves to 18 meters, but with an instructor that will be OK, I think. The briefing is simple: reef on the left, at 30 minutes or 110 bar turn and then reef on the right. We agree a few more things and then go to the end of the jetty here. There are a lot of waves again, hopefully the current is not as strong. We are the last ones to jump, although we were the first ones here. We had some more work to put things in order. We see each other on the surface and then we can slowly descend and start the dive. The beginning is as always the same in Egypt. The damsel hang around your head and the sergeant majors swarm around the jetty. Trumpetfish look for their own and for their company just below the surface and we descend to ten metres very slowly, then check and everything OK, continue diving. It goes quietly and smoothly. I spot a scorpion fish between the rocks and a little further on we will see another one that is a bit bigger than this one.

We see the butterfly fish fluttering again. I try to photograph another juvenile of something and I'll have to see if it's OK. A few beautiful bannerfish pass us by and we enjoy the dive. I don't take that many pictures anymore than I used to. It hasn't all become normal, but I get used to it. Plus I also want to enjoy something more than just taking pictures. At our turning point we see everyone hanging over a rock and there Hugo sees an octopus. We suspect they were looking at it. Nice! Hard to see, but the eyes just come out of a hole in the rock. A third scorpion fish and then we are five minutes on our way back. Giant clams in abundance here and many mega sponges, really spectacular. A few unicorn fish also pass us and almost swim against a picasso-triggerfish. We're not diving as deep now and will probably surface around forty-five minutes. Suddenly I have to get out of the way, because from the right a couple of yellow coral butterflies come swimming right in front of me. Really amazing. I’m really stunned and then suddenly think: oh, maybe I should take a picture of this now that it's so close. Then we already see the stairs on both sides of the jetty and also the ropes that will lead us there. The small red coral perch swarm over the reef like a big swarm of ballet dancing fish. The yellow snappers all have their noses in the same direction and hang in the distance from the reef.

Then it's time to finish the dive. We have already done our safety stop and can go out without any problems. Hugo helps his son to go up the stairs with his fins. Then he lets me step up right in front of him and so I am out too. As always they loosen the bottle and you only have to go up with your jacket on the jetty. We will do our tank for the next dive later. We walk down the jetty to the place where our stuff is, get a biscuit and drink something. We chat about the dive sites in Belgium and the Netherlands. Especially Zeeland finds Hugo interesting, because he has only dived there once more. It's also a long way from Luxembourg, of course. After half an hour of talking, we are already called by Ahmed our dive guide for the briefing of the second dive. He thinks it is best that we follow him, because with the canyons and such it is difficult to find your way.

We go to the end of the jetty and can enter the water there, but first prepare our tank and then we move on. Now we are with a group of eight, guide included. Everything is okay and we're just diving. A puffer fish is waiting for us at the rope of the platform. Then immediately a lionfish and that's another great start of the dive. Sponges in all shapes and sizes. A few coral climbers are lying on the reef as usual, a yellow fish follows us for a while and so we encounter a few very large sponges and after that a few large pieces of scroll coral, if that's correct in English. Groupers with big eyes live in the niches of the coral and occupy the parts where otherwise only rock would be. Two blue-spotted rays rest on the sand. One of them is easy to see. Then we dive into a piece of cave. This is where the canyon starts and soon it will become clear that we can use a guide here. A small white grey moray meets us and seeks shelter under a small stone. He doesn't find enough protection, so he goes to a slightly larger rock. On our way there we can see him very well. Top! It was years ago that I had seen such a moray eel, so I'm happy to see it again.

We're the last in line and that has its consequences for visibility. Not that they make a lot of dust for us (some do), but it is sandy between the rocks and the caves and that makes visibility a bit less. We enter one cave and another out, so on and then we see a nudibranch. Blue-grey circles, in the middle black and everywhere from above a yellow dot here and there. Of course again happy with this find. The first nudibranch this holiday. There are really less than a few years ago I have the feeling. The lighting effects here are really super. Beautiful how the rays through the crevices and caverns shine down. Another cave reveals an emperor's fish in the light blue of the water in the hole in the rocks. Really beautiful again. Then we continue to dive very shallow, already at five meters or so and see one puffer fish after another. It seems as if they are laying eggs in the sand or something, because there are really dozens of them lying on the ground. A few rocks further on we enter a cave and the light plays beautifully through the crevices here as well. Really great.

Then suddenly a couple of fish, long and narrow with yellow fins and a grey-blue body and a long pointed snout. We see the two parents and also a small one. It looks like a great scene of a family of fish. I'll check for the species later, but I think it's a kind of wrasse or goatfish. A few more coral climbers and giant clams further we arrive in the last part of the canyon and from here it goes straight back to the entrance, in our case after the dive the exit. Then it's done. Our safety stop and after more than an hour this second dive of today is over. The tank is taken off and we walk to our places. There we put everything in our box and quickly make a sanitary stop and after five minutes we can leave for the diving centre. A quarter of an hour by bus and then rinse everything. However, I will first eat and then rinse. After dinner we go to the shop and there we buy a new kind of snorkel for Arne. It's not really new, because it's been around for a couple of years now, but he's seen it for the first time now and Evy said that this might be useful for Arne. Well, let's stop by the shop and bargain forty euros to twenty-five. Good job!

We try it immediately in the pool. At first it doesn't work out well, but after that it goes better. He is really good at snorkelling now, maybe we can go into the sea with this mask. We will see tomorrow, because today is already too late. We go for a drink at the beach bar and take one to the room, have a shower and get ready for dinner. There's not much to say about that, except that we get a cocktail and then we drink a glass of wine, but not too much either, because tomorrow we'll have another dive. Around eight o'clock we go to the room, do as usual and go to sleep around ten o'clock. Really early again, but that has always been the case here and that will probably not change now. Tomorrow another dive at Mangrove Bay, where I dived last year, when everything was closed. For now and this evening it's all over and done and then sleeping and enjoying a quiet night.






Friday November 1st, 2019: Mangrove Bay and pool, bar

The alarm clock goes off at seven, but we're still lying down for a while, because we've got fifteen minutes longer than yesterday. The bus leaves today at nine and not a quarter before like yesterday. Same drill as always and then all three of us are ready for breakfast, well organised. It is a quiet breakfast with the same as other days. Arne takes a few things with him in a lunchbox, because waiting until half past twelve or one o’clock is difficult for him, always hungry. A bit past half past eight we walk to the dive center, where we already prepare everything for the jeep tour and then quickly test Nitrox and wait until everyone is ready to leave. I have a chat with one or the other and then it's Abdellah who calls us all together to go to the van. Everybody join us, so we can leave. As it says in the books, we're there in fifteen minutes and there we get a quick briefing.

After the briefing a quick buddy-check, and good luck we did the check because I forgot my weight belt. I would have noticed that quickly in the water, so good luck, otherwise come back again and so on. Pfff. Jens and I can still be the first to go, step to the deeper part where the boats are anchored, we put our fins on and then we can start. The first ten minutes it is very shallow and not very clear visibility. Sand, sand and more sand. And then we arrive at the first coral blocks, but also here there is a lot of sand. Between the anchor ropes and the sand we navigate to the deeper part and from about eight metres visibility is better. A couple of big red big-eyed groupers hang around a piece of coral, two, three, no four or better five lionfish hang around on one of the holes in the rocks. Then we have to go a bit further with an anchor from a buoy of a boat and also dive over a piece of sand. Here we dive a little less deep and see a little anemone fish and the black and white damsel fish. From ten we go back to five meters and then back to ten over the sand to the reef and then a group of mackerel swims by and they are always laughing. Of course they all just closed their mouth just when I take the pictures. Well, that's bad luck.

The sponges are again very big and beautiful, some in shreds and broken (divers?) others are really super nice without any damage. Then it is a bit like a fairy tale. Everything here is covered with white polyps and they provide a white blanket over everything that grows and lives here or just exists. Along an anchor rope, or on the reef itself or even on sponges those polyps grow and open up with their small arms and close to a mega fast rhythm to filter something edible out of the water. And then we arrive at a piece of reef for which this place is known. On one side you see an incredible amount of large glass fish, on the other side of the rock you see ten thousand times more small fish. They really look like mini dots all next to each other, really thousands and thousands, a mega cool sight, really great! I'm now at 110 bar and do also signs to Jens that this is the case. Just have a look and then back. Perfect! Soon our attention is drawn by the guide who was first behind us and then suddenly in front of us: they have spotted an octopus, really on a blissful spot, on top of the coral. Just an attempt to take some pictures, but that doesn't always go well. Now too much blue and too little colour. We'll see on the laptop later.

Very calmly we continue our dive, pass the sand we just went up to, but now we continue our dive. We see the same big-eyed groupers as before and even the lionfish seems to be the same to me. We dive out and then slowly make our safety stop. Jens doesn't immediately think about that, but in the end I'm sure he's done his safety stop. At this depth a masked puffer fish comes to greet us, that's also exactly the same as before. And yes. Just over the sand and then we are done with our dive of 68 minutes. Just before the dive stops, we hang between the ropes and the boats and then I suddenly see another four calamari, or no there are six, ah no a little further there are two, so eight in total. Doesn't matter, the water is too murky to take a decent picture and they are too far away, but I have seen them. It's been a long time since I've seen a squid. We take off our fins thanks to a boat, that's easier to hold and we go to the side.

There are already some that are completely dry and dressed again, when we arrive. We are those annoying divers who always have to be under water for longer than the allowed sixty minutes. Well, sorry guys, or not really. We do get ready quickly and can then take the van back to the hotel for fifteen minutes. Quickly rinse everything there and then go to the swimming pool. Arne has made friends with Laurent, a Flemish boy, daddy Olivier is also a diver, mommy is Elise, sister's name is Emily and apparently there is also an older brother. There is an immediate click, because they are from Hoksem, Hoegaarden. Well, that's just like Mariekerke in Bornem, middle of nowhere. We have a chat, play a bit together and then we go to the restaurant and they go for a ride on the quad. We have lunch and see our friend again: I had read the name on his card this afternoon, but I don't remember it. Something with two syllables and then Mohammed. After dinner we go back to the swimming pool, because Laurent had asked if we would be here after he returned from the quad tour. We do that as promised, can borrow his diving gear and have a good time in the swimming pool.

By a little over three they are back, so then it's fun again on the rainbow slide, but like before the big one, because the other one hasn't been fixed yet. So slide on and slide down, they just have to be careful. And just there it goes wrong after half an hour. A little too fast up the stairs and Arne falls on the same knee as before. He needs some care and then it's OK again. Top! We have a chat when we go to the bar and they go to their rooms. Tomorrow they leave, so it's typical that we and Arne have met someone nice a day before we or they have to leave, unbelievable. Nice chat and then another drink in the beach bar. From the sundowner quiz we know this time 7 of the ten answers, but we haven't filled out a piece of paper, so we didn't win anything. We return to the room and then shower, prepare for dinner for the evening and then go to the restaurant. Enjoying the nice food, then the pizza man and the pasta man are a bit annoying, because they recognize my son and wife but not myself, so let's make a point – just kidding.

We play some Uno after dinner and enjoy a glass of wine or a Sprite or a water, but we certainly enjoy it. Every moment that we are here, is enjoying, really blissful. Tomorrow we have our last dive early in the morning and then it will be the last one of our holidays. Not really the huge number of dives, but still seven dives, the one from tomorrow included, so we enjoyed more than seven hours under water. Thank you sweetheart for finding this OK, because in the end I am always away for a couple of hours or half a day for the dives. Around eight Arne goes to sleep and so do we an hour later. Just enjoy on the balcony and then also in bed.


Saturday November 2nd, 2019: Early morning dive, relaxation and snorkelling

At a quarter past five the alarm goes off, wow, that’s early. Yes indeed, but this time I hope to let both my love sleep, because last time Arne was awake and Evy hadn't slept either. I leave when everything is ready and walk five minutes to the dive center, or even less. Fouad had given us a good central room close to everything and therefore also close to the diving centre. I'm the first to be there and watch a movie about the different dive sites here. A German couple arrives as well and they've been here a couple of times, so let's talk about the fact that it's not so bad here after all. I'm getting ready and then Michael arrives and so does Jens. We get a briefing from Tamer and that's actually short. The northern jetty, depending on the current north and south or just south to the other jetty. And then: I hope you see something nice! So much for the briefing. We walk to the jetty, have to look for the key to open the gate and then we can put on our fins, our weights and our jacket. Great! To the end of the jetty and jump.

I jump just before the German couple and everyone is waiting so that we can do the dive together and have seen the same thing. The pace is slow, not too deep, just always between twenty and fifteen meters and so we float along with the current to the southern jetty. The fish as usual come to greet us. A few mega-sized groupers swim right in front of me to the reef and continue their hunt there. They won't be deterred by my presence, so photo time, really great how close they swim to the lens. The same with two large red sea bass and also with a pair of bannerfish. Such an early dive in the day is always better in life than an ordinary one during the day, unless you see special things of course. There are four rays with blue dots and they also stay in place for a long time or change to an even better position. I try to take a picture closer and then it swims on to the other divers. The red sea anthias are also present in thousands and that is always wonderful to see. A moray eel comes out of the deep and swims over the reef and we can easily spot it while it swims up. Then I turn back to the right direction and suddenly I see three tuna passing by at a mega speed. You can clearly see that they were built for this kind of work. A whole swarm of blue triggerfish follows us for a long time and even past large perches that like a triggerfish anyway.

Lionfish, coral climbers and a peacock worm and so we dive on at a slow pace. I still see a bit of red soft coral and then we are already diving in the direction of sixty minutes. We just see the stairs appear and then we know that it's almost over. There were no requests for air on the way, but I still have 80 when we get out, so that's a good dive. Just before our safety stop I see a nudibranch, the same as on Zerib Kebir and a lionfish floating beautifully against a blue background of the Red Sea and then it's three minutes at five meters hanging and trying to climb up. Fins out and on our wrists and then to the stairs. Wow, that's not an easy task right now. The waves collapse with a mega force, that I first have to hold my arm around the banister and then I have to put my legs around it, because my arms don't have enough force. That was just as exciting, man. We all get to the top safely anyway, so that's pretty much OK. Nice dive, nothing special seen, but still nice to finish with seventy minutes. We walk from here for ten minutes to the dive centre and then I rinse my stuff very well, because the salt has to be removed completely now. Now it is time to take it home, so that has to be OK.

Back to the room and on the way Arne meets me: he missed me. Quickly in the room a few things in order and then have breakfast. That will taste good after such a dive. I take an omelette and just when mine is ready, Arne asks if he can get one too. An egg, scrambled without vegetables. That goes quickly in between without any problems. Then some sandwiches, cheese, cucumber, tomato for me. Arne, as always, takes a couple of croissants and a couple of coffee biscuits, delicious but very sweet. Evy takes it too and all three of us enjoy an extensive breakfast. Still with a nice coffee and a fruit juice, we really enjoy it very much. We're in the right place, we don't have to do anything special anymore, so after an hour of breakfast we go to the swimming pool where we've spent the last few days. A bit of swimming, a bit of rest and by 10 o'clock mommy goes to the spa and we swim some more, snorkel a bit and then it's time to rest again.

After the rest it's time to go to the other swimming pool with the big rainbow slide, because it looks like the little one won't open anymore during our stay here. They have already cut away some tiles in a few places and are now working with a drill a bit, so we suspect that there is more going on than just yearly maintenance. Maybe next year we'll see what's changed. So we go on the rainbow slide, but also on the blue one next to it. Time flies and there is not much to change. After the third or fourth time up and down I notice that Evy is already back, so that means that it is almost twelve o'clock. We come back to our sunbeds and Evy wants to cool off in the water. Then we can go to lunch. We walk to the reception and take the little bus to the beach restaurants. Enjoying our lunch and then it's to the large pool near our room in block 18 and cool off a bit. We try to convince Arne to come snorkelling with me. Apparently you can always swim and snorkel in the small rectangle close to the beach, even with a red flag. We do wonder how this came about: of naturally, or they got rid of the reef to be able to swim and snorkel here.

In the end we almost force Arne to come along. He doesn't want his fins on, but he does want his new easy breath snorkel. Then bam, head under water and shoot. I have to be quick to keep up with him, so looks like he did not find it that bad after all. From above we already saw fish, but we couldn't see which ones. White fish with black stripes and yellow fish with stripes. We see long narrow ones on the surface and slightly rounder ones on the bottom looking for food between the sand. We see sergeant majors (grey with yellow and black bands), mask butterflyfish (yellow with black stripes), trumpetfish on the surface, really enjoying themselves. Arne's fingers point first to the left, then to the right, then in front of or under fish: I think he likes it. He also loves the Red Sea doctor fish and Arne swims to the reef - or at least what remains of it here. Arne's finger goes to a snake-like thing on the edge of the reef and it's a fact: he's seen his first moray eel, a snowflake moray, blessed! Of course I take pictures that this is documented; we even take a snorkelfie (selfie of snorkelling people). Then we see a few rabbit fish and a few wrasse. Arne especially likes the Klunziger wrasse, but of course it is difficult to catch them on camera, because they never sit still. They are not shy, because one of them swims between my face and the camera. I enjoy myself super!

Then we stop, we've done the width and length about three times and then we return to mommy. Evy immediately sees that we come up as two happy children and that it was great fun. We tell her about the fish and the moray eel and the snorkelling, rest a bit at first, then go for a swim and then we have an aperitif at the beach bar. A gin tonic and a cuba libre: sit down, we'll bring them. OK. So we enjoy it. With the second aperitif we go pétanque and all of us win a couple of times, really big OK. We already promised yesterday, but thought about it too late, so we do it a bit longer today. A third aperitif and then to the room to take a shower and get ready for dinner. We have a voucher for Arne's birthday, so after dinner, we go and get Rabi, Rafa and the other waiter and then they come to Happy Birthday to go for our six year old: actually two days too early, but that's OK. Then they sing in Arabic and then a table behind us puts another full "Herzlichen Glückwunsch" in for Arne. Just enjoy, then eat cake and then continue playing Uno. Someone is super happy. To the room, usual things and going to sleep on time.


Sunday November 3rd, 2019: Swimming, snorkelling, packing and going home

We get up around 7:00, great! What is less super is the fact that it is our last day. A week is short, but really long enough, because last year we were here longer and then it was long at the end. Apart from diving for me and do nothing and relax there is not much to do here. Maybe when Arne is a bit older, we can take a trip, but we won't do it yet. Before breakfast we had already started to put some things ready to pack. Late check-out is already arranged yesterday and after breakfast we can swim a bit more. First just half an hour in the large swimming pool close to our room and then Arne wants to go snorkelling again. We walk to the beach, first we discuss which snorkel he will take with him, but once there, he is glad that he took the new one with him, because the seawater is salty anyway. I'm still standing at the edge of the water and Arne is already five meters further into the sea. I had warned him not to be overconfident. We'll see.

He is over the moon again and so am I, because I enjoy this son-daddy moment very much. Yesterday I went back to Evy with a smile behind my ears and as happy as a little child. And today too. The sea is even calmer than yesterday, because the green flag has been flying for a while, but now it is the yellow one, but already much more pleasant than yesterday. The first fish we see are the same as yesterday: white with grey stripes in the length, a few fuseliers and then Arne sees an eye catching butterflyfish. Yellow in the back, white with transverse stripes and a broad black band over the eye. Arne loves the view and is really happy that he can go snorkelling with me. Then it's already fish number two: a real baby puffer fish, the white spotted, really great! I had never seen it so small and cute before: during the dives you normally only see the adults. And then Arne is very happy with another find from him. I had to take a good look at the leopard flounder he pointed out to me. Light brown, just like the sand, then with the sun on it, it really disappears into thin air, but Arne had seen it.

A soldierfish in a small niche on the reef and then the same as yesterday with the barbels, wrasse and other things, but we are really super happy with what we see. After more than half an hour we get out of the water and it's time to get dry, because the water started to cool down. Back to Evy and rest there, enjoy some more. Evy and Arne go down to the pool for about twenty minutes, because that has just started with making waves. They are having a great time there. After that we go to the other pool, where Evy and I are drying up. Arne stays in the water until the last moment and then dries himself off to prepare to go to eat. We eat and drink here for the last time, because this evening it might be something in the airport or on the plane, but no longer here in the hotel. Too bad, but it can't be otherwise. After lunch we say goodbye to all our friends here and then return to the room. While Evy is packing, I pay at the dive centre. Thank you Wonderful dive for the super diving again.

I return the weights, get a bill of 195 Euro, so that's not too bad for 7 dives. I ask for another T-shirt for Arne and myself. A lady answers in Dutch and we choose a blue size 8 for Arne: a bit big at the moment, but we'll be fine. An orange for me with a new print and for that I pay a little over 20 Euro, I think. I ask about last year's free-T-shirt-policy and returning discount from Svenja, but the lady who is making the bill today says she can't decide anything about this. However, she doesn't take any action to ask anyone, so let's do it without the actions of previous years. That's no reason not to come back here, just a little disappointment. Everything becomes more expensive, they charge a guide more often than in previous years, but for the rest that's OK. We say goodbye to Moamen, Tamer, Yasser and the others and then return to the room. Evy has almost finished packing everything. I help with the large suitcase and pack my own diving equipment and then they can be locked. Just a quarter of an hour for the hand luggage and make sure everything is with us and then I take a shower and call the reception at a quarter past three to pick up the luggage.

We walk to the reception and check out, have a drink and then fifteen minutes early they come to pick us up. I don't understand why they still use Jetair, because it is with Tui that we have come. That's it. We get on the bus after the suitcases have been loaded and then we can leave ten minutes later. There are always people who don't read or don't want to read that they have to be here 15 minutes in advance. The drive to the airport will take more than forty minutes and there we can stand in line for the first check, then we have to check the luggage, then check in, fill in a piece of paper and then go through the customs check-up. There our passports are stamped and after that we have to have another look at everything before we can enter the departure hall. A customs officer is ready to check if the other one has done his job properly, then the hand baggage again completely through the scanner and then we're inside.

Here we can buy something tax free and we do, especially something to drink and eat. It will take a while before we get something to eat or drink on the plane. We play Uno for a while and then we walk around the departure hall and buy a turtle-hug for Robin, Arne and myself. Already an hour before we should leave, they start boarding and with three busses everyone gets on the plane. We have the same seats as when we left and we can already sit down. The hand luggage is something else, because a few things have to go to places six and seven and a piece of hand luggage even to place 28. We'll see how easy it is to find when we touch down. Soon we leave half an hour early and after half an hour and a glass of champagne, we get our food: it's good that Arne gets his first and when he's done we get ours. It tastes good with a glass of wine. After that they come to clean it and we can get some rest. Sleeping is not really a problem, but for Arne it is: she sleeps about three hours anyway.

After the flight we arrive almost an hour early, which is great. Get off the plane, go through customs in Belgium and go to the luggage belt. Here we are at 00:08 and wish Arne a happy birthday. A quarter of an hour to wait, although we had a VIP and had to get our suitcases out of the plane first, but that wasn't the case. Hopefully the rest will be OK. So we go to coffee bar Java and there they are already waiting for us. To the van, because the lady is with the Tesla gone and then home. Around one o'clock Arne is already sleeping in his own bed and tomorrow (later) he can already go to school to celebrate his birthday and I can already work and Evy can still enjoy a day off. Tuesday we already book the next trip with Tui during the autumn holiday 2020, same hotel, even period! Top of the bill!