Dahab is a small town situated on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Formerly a Bedouin fishing village, located approximately 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab is considered to be one of the Sinai's most treasured diving destinations. Following the Six Day War, the town was occupied by Israel and is known in Hebrew as Di-Zahav, a place mentioned in the Bible as one of the stations for the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt. The Sinai Peninsula was restored to Egyptian rule in the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in 1982. The arrival of international hotel chains and the establishment of other ancillary facilities has since made the town a popular destination with tourists. Dahab is served by Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport. Masbat (within Dahab) is a popular diving destination, meaning that there are many (50+) dive centers located within Dahab.
Dahab enjoys large numbers of tourists. It is world-renowned for its windsurfing. Reliable winds provide superb flat-water conditions inside Dahab's sand spit. Further away from shore, wavy conditions couple with strong winds to provide formidable conditions for keen windsurfers. SCUBA diving and snorkelling are also popular activities with many reefs immediately adjacent to waterfront hotels. The nearby Blue Hole-Which is nicknamed as "The World's Most Dangerous Diving Site"- and Canyon are internationally famous dive spots. Land based activities include camel, horse, jeep and quad bike trips. Mount Sinai is a two hours drive, with Saint Catherine's Monastery being a popular tourist destination.
Historically, most visitors to Dahab have been backpackers travelling independently and staying in hostels in the Masbet area. In recent years, development of hotels in the Medina area has facilitated the arrival of a wider range of tourists, many of whom visit Dahab specifically to partake in the windsurfing, diving and other activities.
The word Dahab is Arabic for gold and is possibly a reference to the geographic locality; gold washed down from the desert mountains may have accumulated on the alluvial flood plain where the town was built. The name may also be a reference to the colour of the sands to the south of the town itself. Some locals attribute the name to the colour of the sky, just after sunset.
One local story concerning the town's name is that it stems from the floods that wash through the town every five or six years. Larger than average seasonal storms in the mountains cause a great rush of water to surge down to the sea, dragging with it great amounts of sand. During this time, the town is cut in two by the flood, and the bay is stirred up and the sands turn it a golden yellow. It typically lasts a few days, and has caused damage and loss of life in the past as people were unaware of the sudden onset and the force the water moves at. Nowadays locals are ready when they see the clouds over the mountains, and anyone lucky enough to witness it will remember it for a long time.
Unfortunately, much of the coral in the reefs just offshore are slowly disappearing, due to inexperienced divers being taken out in big numbers. Another big problem is that in Masbat, local restaurants are dumping sand and rock in the sea to extend out into the shore, again, causing disruption to local coral reefs.
With its pleasant weather all year round, Dahab gained its worldwide fame. Yet, weather in summer is hot and during winter it is much milder especially during nights. Dahab has a very dry climate and rain is rare, even during the winter months.
This vacation is listed with Asia, because actaully the Suez Canal is the border between Africa and Asia. One could think since this is Egypt it is Africa, but actually this is Asia.
Tuesday September 6th, 2011: Departure to Dahab from Schiphol
After a very busy week at work and a last busy working day yesterday the time has come to leave for Egypt for a week of diving, to Dahab. Timo has not been there yet and Jurgen has not yet been anywhere in Egypt, so the both of us look forward to the trip. Ju was picking up Timo at his place and from there we would be leaving to Schiphol. Everything was booked via the site of SeaSeeTravel.nl and all flight leave from Amsterdam. The trip to the airport is a bit longer than to Zaventem, but thanks to the lease car of Jurgen and the price we pay for it that’s not really an issue. The flight and the hotel (half board) and a diving package of five days of diving only costs 1200 Euro for two persons, so the price is really good – you can’t stay home for that price. Ju is about half an hour late, Timo says goodbye to Veerle and Cartouche for about a week and then we drive with the luggage in the car to Amsterdam. Egypt is really great for diving, so we hope that Dahab will fulfill our expectations.
The traffic is OK, the time of the day is good for that and in less than two hours we reach the airport Schiphol. We look for the Long Term Parking that we reserved up front (55 Euro) and everything is well arranged. With the credit card of the reservation you enter the parking and then we look ten minutes for a free parking spot. In Row 511 we find a few free places. We walk back to the start of the parking and there a bus will pick us up to bring us to the departure hall. There are two stops and we take the firstone. That is the good one too. Check in at desk 5 and after a queue of fifteen minutes we don’t need to be dragging the heavy luggage with us. We pass the passport check of customs and then drink our first beer of the day. Well, we can’t have a beer here, because they only serve Heineken and Heineken Extra Cold. But we don’t have another choice. This is the start of the vacation. We don’t really understand we’ll be leaving in a few moments, but once we board the aircraft that will change.
We don’t loose track of time and need to be at gate D57 at 13:30. We quickly have a snack (Mars, Twix and a biscuit) and then we pass the last customs check towards the waiting room at this gate. Every gate here at Schiphol (this part at least) has a metal detector at every gate to check the hand luggage. No problems for us, so we continue to the airplane. We have an aisle-seat 21E and 21D, close to the wings. We don’t really care: it’s even easy when we want to stand up or need to go to the bathroom. The departure time is delayed with twenty minutes and in the end we leave at half three. We’ve been traveling for half a day already and leave now. The flight takes four hours and a half and everything is going OK. We have a drink (still no beer available) and eat some more of the snacks we had with us. They show a movie, but we don’t watch it, we only check the episode of Friends. The rest of the time we ready, rest, do nothing, get up for the neighbors and in the end we soon arrive in Sharm El Sheik. That is the airport here in Sinaï where we first set foot on Egyptian soil. They bring us with a bus from the airplane to the airport building and there we need to buy a visa. Nobody of Skytours is waiting, so we buy a visa at the first counter. Twenty Euro for a visa of only eighteen Dollar, a real rip-off, but we’re used to that in Egypt.
Then we pass by customs check: he looks at the visa and sets the necessary stamps and then another one: that guy glances at our passport from a distance to see if the visa is in there and if the stamps are done correctly and then we go to the luggage claim. It has never been that fast. In less than fifteen minutes we are at the conveyer-belt and immediately the case of Jurgen is there and within one minute also the one from Timo. Really amazing how fast this goes today. Then we go outside and there we see people from Skytours and they guide us to bus number five for our transfer to Dahab, Daniela Village. Because of the high temperatures Ju asks himself whether this was a good idea – yes it is. It’s dark already and now even thirty degrees. Now we only need to wait for half an hour until everyone is on the bus so we can leave. Timo is actually surprised everything is going so fast. It has never been so fast. After a while we leave the lit surroundings of the airport of Sharm and leave to Dahab.
Dahab means gold in Arab and it is a village that is known for the peace and the Bedouins. If everything is correct we’re looking at a very quiet week and that was our intention. We drive through the Sinaï-desert in the night to Dahab. Ju is looking out the window and watches the beautiful landscape. Quite often this is the case because of the mountains, but because it is night we don’t see it that well. The driver maneuvers through road blocks and then continues his journeys at a high speed. We reach the first hotel after about one hour. There four persons get off and then it takes about half an hour to our hotel. We drive through the windy, dusty, dirty streets of the village. The Egyptians are still awake and sit on their chairs doing nothing or drinking tea or sucking the water pipe. As we pass through the village life just continues, without paying any attention to the busses full of tourists. And then finally we arrive at Daniela Village. We get room 209, fill out a few papers and then go to our room.
The room looks OK, not really new, but it’s clean and big enough and they’ve left some food for us. Three sandwiches with again no beer – even here in the minibar they only have Heineken. We change our clothing, because the local temperature is still about thirty and it’s already past ten in the evening. There is no difference in time zone with Belgium, which is nice. We would not have had a jetlag, but it’s easier like this. We eat on our terrace and then go out. And going out here means, look for a real beer. We check out the reception and everything closeby. On the first floor there is some entertainment: a pool table, ping pong and some other things. After one minute we leave and ask the guy at the reception where we can have a drink. He confirms there will be someone at the pool bar within ten minutes. We finally get our first and second real beer: Sakara. Everything is better than that so-called Dutch ‘beer’. We get a second one, but quickly, because the bar closes at eleven. We speak about how this day was and discuss some of the expectations of the upcoming diving week.
We drink our first beer at the bar and take the second one with us to drink on our terrace with a view on the sea and the pool. It’s a nice room and a nice terrace, maybe a bit old, but it will look good when we see it by daylight tomorrow morning. All the evening there is a hot soft wind and therefore we need to use the airco in order to get sleep, otherwise that would not be possible. Our first impression is that it’s very calm here. We’ve been here for a couple of hours and we only saw about ten people and three of them were hotel staff. It’s calm and quiet and the atmosphere is also a bit different than in other Egyptian hotels. A relaxing atmosphere, a little bit I-don’t-care-mode. If you just come from the busy Belgium there is a need for adaptation, but that will not take us a lot of time or effort. The other hotels that Timo visited in Egypt all had a large green garden and also this is different at Daniela Village. Apart from a few small palm trees there is nothing green. In the desert around the hotel that’s normal, but also on the hotel grounds we can see very little green. In the end we’re mainly here for the rest and the diving and that’s what we’ll do tomorrow. We go to bed a bit before midnight and fall asleep immediately. Tomorrow diving!
Wednesday September 7th, 2011: Diving Day 1: Canyon
Already at half past six Timo has difficulties to remain in bed, he’s already awake and get up. The first hour of the day will be to write the report for the first day yesterday. He enjoys the sun and she’s shining already at full power. A cat keeps him company while he keeps himself busy on the laptop. The cat enjoys the shadow and clearly already avoids the sun. Luckily there is a wall on the terrace and gives some shadow; otherwise it would not be bearable in the sun. We ask ourselves what it will be like during the rest of the day. It’s better than the cold and the rain in Belgium of course – there it was almost autumn a couple of weeks ago, here it’s still summer and the high season is only starting here. It’s not busy and not much to do currently. After an hour Timo sees some movements, but more than one person of the hotel can’t be seen. At this moment the white buildings are much more striking against the brown of the sand and the blue of the Red Sea and Timo really enjoys this morning. The day has started off well and will certainly become even better later today.
At seven thirty Ju gets up. He wakes up and then we go for our first Egyptian breakfast of this week. Njammie! We have breakfast at the restaurant and make it a large one. If we do it like this then we can pass the day and don’t need to take something else. If it’s correct what they said then we’ll return to the hotel anyway after the first dive, so we can eat and drink whatever we want. Jurgens body is already starting to act funny, LOL, first there was the heat of Egypt and then a real breakfast in the morning instead of a semi-breakfast of cookies. We go back to our room to take all stuff with us and take it then to the dive center. It’s really good that we have a diving center here in the hotel: we only need to go by the reception, hand in the key and then take our equipment to the diving center. It’s great: only after five minutes we’re there. We receive a briefing about the equipment, but we say we have everything with us. But we need to rent boots and open fins, because we’re doing only shore-dives here and need to pass rocks before the dive. That really ridiculous, because the fins and boots of Jurgen are in the car in Schiphol and Timo left his at home. It sounds logical, but we did not think about it. Stupid. We know that for the next time if we do shore dives somewhere.
We arrange everything quickly and then load everything to the pickup and the jeep. Today we dive with Ann, a Belgian girl, Giedo, a Dutch guy and the two of us and all four get the guidance from Said. When everybody is ready they bring us a couple of kilometers further to the divesite of the day. We see shelters with pillows and there even are two taverns here. They need to ensure the additional income. Of course we did not bring any cash, because we thought that we’d return to the hotel, but apparently that is not the case. We stay here at the canyon for the two dives. First there is a briefing for Giedo, because he first needs to do a checkdive. It was two years ago since his last dive. We also know then how the dive will look like, the canyon itself, so we already have our briefing. Then we need to wait a while to start the dive. First prepare our tanks, then the checkdive and then wait another thirty minutes, before we can start our own dive. We’re not bored, because Ann tells stories about Australia, Thailand and other places she has been diving. We’re having fun. A person can receive harder punishment than to wait for a dive here in the Egyptian sun. The patience of Ju is put to the test, but we assume this will be the same as a dive in the Oosterschelde. It won’t be better huh?
And then the moment is there, it’s noon and Said says we need to prepare to start our first dive. We’re glad to do so. Timo acts as a rescue diver and helps others and then we walk to the ‘easy entrance’ of the divesite. We now see that we need the boots to go to the water without hurting ourselves. Ju has his 7-mm suit and takes twelve kilos, but he needs more. Timo has his shorty with hood and only needs eight. We’re surprised we need that many kilos. And then the dive starts, exactly at twelve o’clock, we go down and dive close to the sand until we dive through a narrow part and then reach the reef. We immediately see a large number of small fish, any colors of the coral, but we can’t enjoy it yet. Said takes us directly straight to the canyon in the blue water and we can already see a large crack in the reef: this is the lace to be, this is the canyon. From the top it’s a great view, a crack in the coral that stretches for tens of meters. We stay at ten-twelve meters and swim to the entrance of the canyon. And again there it’s a beautiful sight. The blue of the sea against the brown of the rocks and the other colors of the reef. Then we descend to twenty meters, equalize and sink deeper. All the way to the bottom to 31,1 meter and there Said takes a few pictures: a couple separately and a couple in buddy-team. Nice! We can’t stay here for a long time, because we are close to decompression time, not very close, because we stay another ten minutes. Longer than eight to deco time is not needed for safety and air consumption.
Said signals that it is about time to turn back and relatively quickly he ascends back to the entrance of the canyon. Nice! On the top we see a lionfish and Timo sees a nudibranch: not a coincidence. It’s only the normal white and yellow one, but it’s the first one of this vacation and still is nice. Then Timo spots a second one, but he’s mostly interested to see other species than the normal ones he already saw in the past. We follow the reef and see it’s unbelievably lush colors and species. We see a lot of different species of fish and we’re going to identify them all tonight. We don’t have anything special to mention this dive. For Ju there are many special things, but for people who were diving in the Red Sea before not really. We love the anemone fish. After about half an hour we start to dive not as deep anymore and return to the place where we started the dive. Here we do our safety stop and dive to the easy exit and that way end our first dive of this vacation. The last part was not so easy, because there is quite some current. Said helps Ann and takes here to a place where there is less current. We us a bit more effort and dive to the end of the first dive. For Ju this is great and I still remember how it was the first time in the Red Sea and I found it great, so it’s not really that surprising and a bit better than the Oosterschelde. LOL.
Then we have our surface-interval (about one hour) have a drink and mainly rest in the pillows and on the blankets. There is not much to see here. We wait about an hour to start the second dive of the day. Quickly move to the start of that dive. At a bit before two Said tells us to prepare and we do that quickly, perform a buddy-check (Ju and Timo) and leave to the same place as earlier. Now we won’t be as deep as the first one, only twenty meters and now we enjoy more of the dive. The first dive the instructor was really rushing and now he’s calmer, so we are too. We don’t use that many air and we’re really comfortable here in the Red Sea. Really great! Apart from the normal life we saw earlier the day (butterflyfish, parrotfish, groupers and others) we now see a moray already at the beginning of the dive and a scorpionfish. Luckily Said shows it to us, because we wouldn’t have seen it. We see fish dancing over the colorful corals and we love it a lot. Timo hands over his camera to Ju, but he does what he’s used to and takes a lot of pictures under water. We dive with the reef at our right hand side and after twenty minutes we turn back and head to a sandy spot. Timo stops at a shrimp and a goby and every time he’s surprised by the species and color in the Red Sea. If you haven’t seen this yet, you need to make the effort to come here. You need to take into account that you’re not allowed to touch anything, because then you’ll get a reprimand from the instructor. We never mind wrong remarks, because we rather enjoy the play of the small fish. Small green fish swim together with black and white ones above the corals and when a diver arrives they all disappear as one creature into the protection of the coral.
At the turning point of the dive we see a large pinnacle and we stop here to look at the under water scene. Really nice! Especially Timo looks for smaller things and details. He sees a couple of species of blennies, but does not bother to show them to Ju. If he would do that, we would only be pointing out things to each other. Then it’s about time to stop the dive and after half an hour we have our safety stop. It then takes about fifteen minutes to end the dive and we get out of the water very happy. A dive here in Egypt in Dahab is really great. A boat dive would add something, but we’ll see if we want to do that later. And then we had out second dive of the day. It was a nice one and we look forward to the rest of the week. We have a few missions: see a turtle, a seahorse or otherwise big things: shark, manta; we’ll see. We arrange our gear and had back to the hotel. They’ve arranged everything perfectly and don’t need to wait too long. At the dive center we need to wash the gear and sign a paper with dive time, depth and other details and then go to the room. There we clean the camera and housing, wash our salty bodies and then drink a Sakara, look at the pictures, write the report and mainly focus on drinking Sakara.
Then we think it’s time to go to the pool bar and have a Sakara to kill time for the supper. We kill time easily, because we have plenty to talk about. We’re both very impressed still by the two dives today. We check for all different species of fish in the book Timo has with him and already that takes a while. One of the drivers of the diving center comes and sits with us and tries to have a cigarette and talks about fish: there is one species that is a natural drug if you eat the head. Strange people those Egyptians. Also a Dutch guy is sitting with us for a while and we speak about diving: he’s an assistant-instructor, but has quit because his girlfriend does not like to dive. Strange people those Dutch guys. Then it’s about time we have something to eat, because we have not had anything and are getting hungry. We put away the laptop and the logbooks in our room and walk to the restaurant. They’ve served a buffet with good food. The quality is OK and the bartender already knows we drink Sakara and that’s what we do. We even take two more to drink on our own terrace and we stay awake until ten. As always on a diving holiday it is tiring and we want to go to bed at ten and we sleep very well.
Thursday September 8th, 2011: Diving day 2: Driftdive El Bells – Blue Hole, Canyon – Rick’s Reef
Jurgen has set his Iphone to the wrong hour, because the time here in Egypt is the same as in Belgium, but he has changed it to DST, but Egyptians don’t use that. At six thirty we wake up instead of seven thirty. We’ve already enough rest, so Timo gets up, checks the reports and already starts a new one. Today we’ve planned to go to the Blue Hole. And of course this is why someone comes to Dahab: the Canyon, El Bells and Blue Hole. By the end of the day we will have done two out of three, so that mission we’ve accomplished already. Ju had another mission: spot a blue-spotted stingray, maybe we’ll add that to the checklist today as well. While Timo is on the terrace, Ju stays in bed a bit longer, but when the alarm needs to go off he finally comes out of bed. A quick preparation for breakfast with an omelet, nice strong coffee and tea: all very nice. Everything is well taken care of; the waiters are very friendly in general, so nothing bad about that. If you’re on vacation that’s not really a big issue.
After breakfast we go back to our room and then walk to the diving center. It’s only two minutes past nine, but we already get a phone call on our room. Timo picks up the phone and they ask whether we’re diving today. Of course, what else? We had to meet at nine and at five minutes past nine we’re there. There was no need to call us, you know. Everybody is ready to go: two diving Italians, Ann and Richard and also Giedo, so we have a large group today. The Italians also have their wives with them, so it’s not quiet. We check the equipment, load it in the pickup and we sit down in the jeep. Everything is pretty full. The first stop is the Canyon. There we already need to prepare out tanks and put it back on the pickup. We leave the tanks for the second dive here and then we go to the Blue Hole. From Canyon there is a dusty road with all dromedaries lying at the side. They’re waiting on the next load of tourists to make a ride through the desert. In the jeep we pass them and fifteen minutes later we arrive at the Blue Hole. There we get a briefing and we’ll be diving from El Bells to Blue Hole. We will have done all three then by the end of the day. Then we drive off to the place where we take all our gear with us and then walk to the start of the dive at El Bells. We see on the rocks a number of memorial stones of people who died here and that brings us back to earth and encourages us to be careful. The place where we start is small: only five meter long and the widest part is just one meter. We need to wait here a while, because there are other divers who are starting in front of us. It’s very slow, but Said urges them to begin the dive, because it’s hot to be waiting here in the sun with the full equipment. We go into the water one by one, put our fins and masks on and then we can actually start. From the surface you can see that there is a small crack in the reef and that’s the way we need to go. In the rocks above the water we spot a small crayfish that is hiding in the rocks and then we can start the dive;
Said leads, then Ann, then Giedo, Timo, Jurgen and as last divers the two Italians. We descend in the bubbles of the divers in front of us and think we’re at Nemo33. The temperature is the same, the space to dive is less, but the view is soooooo much better. We descend between rocks at three sides and on the other side you see the blue water of the Red Sea, a really beautiful, marvelous, stunning view. At a depth of about twenty meters we reach the arch and we need to dive underneath that and then wait for the rest. When everyone is there Said asks if everyone is OK and then we can continue. The current is a bit against us, but not really strong. Said is diving pretty fast like yesterday, but today we can follow pretty good. We stay together and are the best buddy-team of the group. Again we are stunned by the coral, the beautiful colors and the amount of fish and also by the number of different species. We look for nice spots and after every rock or every corner we find something that worth photographing. Then the guide signals he spotted something. We see two octopuses gliding over the rocks. One quickly hides in one of the cracks in the reef, but the other one shows of, comes out of its shelter and dances in front of our eyes. Wow! A little bit further Said tells us there is a small nudibranch, so Timo immediately goes there. We need to identify it later. On the walls here there is a lot of softcoral and the colors and shapes are really beautiful. It’s hard to describe or to photograph it, because you need to see what is like. Apart from the normal lionfish, blow- and pufferfish we just see the usual stuff here in the Red Sea. At the end of the dive Timo spots a small crab and after twenty five minutes we reach the entrance of the Blue Hole. From here we dive back above the hard coral and we do our safety stop all the way to the other side of the Blue Hole. A couple of free-divers do their thing, but the Blue Hole as a diving spot on its own is not so special. It’s a deep hole about forty meters wide and that goes deep down to the sea-floor. It’s a beautiful natural phenomenon, but you don’t really see much. The walls are not covered with corals as on the outside and deep down you see blue and then black. Don’t dive too deep here. Richard has followed us all the time when snorkeling and he arrives together with us at the exit of the Blue Hole.
After our safety stop we’re ready to go out. We’ve been really deep and the dive time is not long: only thirty five minutes, but we don’t mind. Timo sees some Christmas tree worms just before we dove into the Blue Hole and he likes them a lot. We put all our equipment back to the pickup and Ju really loved this dive: a dive he will never forget the rest of his life. Yes, that’s correct according to Timo. The jeep takes us back to the canyon and there we need to wait for a while, because Richard could not join us for the first dive and he still needs to finish his last two dives to get certified. He goes with Giedo and Said to the canyon. That will take about forty minutes and then we need to wait for half an hour more, so we can wait here for another half an hour then. We decide to go snorkeling. Via the easy entrance we go to the reef where we started one of the previous dives. Even to snorkel here it’s beautiful. Ju spots a scorpionfish and even here we see butterflyfish, lionfish, anemone fish and loads of others. Some of them are really magnificent, unbelievable. We snorkel to the end of the bay and then just come back. When we’re out of the water we have one hour before we start the second dive of the day: a driftdive from Canyon to Rick’s Reef. That is the intention, but Said has a small error in the planning. Usually the current is with us, but we will see that is not the case today.
The drivers take Ann and Giedo back to the hotel and we wait until everyone is back to do the last dive of the day. Our maximum depth is eighteen meters, because Richard is joining us. He does his last OW-certification-dive together with us and the two Italians. We start at the easy entrance and dive to the reef. Right in front of the reef-entrance we see a scorpionfish again thanks to Said. We’re not completely adapted to the circumstances; we would not have spotted them on our own. The current is not in our advantage and Said races off. We try to follow him and have little problems with it for the time being. And then Ju’s moment comes: we see our first blue spotted stingray and then another one and another one. We can come close to only one of them, but it’s very nice to see them back. They are welcoming us here in Egypt. Timo finds it surprising that we haven’t seen any yet. Said shows us two huge pufferfish and a moray eel, but he disappears fast when we come closer. After half an hour dive time we take a break one in a while. Timo does that close to an anemone and fish that are nursing small ones and another time he stops to see a pipefish. That’s the first spot here in the red Sea this week. We see them more often in The Netherlands, but not as beautiful as here. The next stop is a baby-lionfish, also magnificent. Every time we stop we need to watch out where the guide is, because he’s diving full throttle. We stay a bit longer to see one of the rays. A cleaner wrasse is cleaning the ray and at a certain moment he swims into the gills, but the ray does not like it. Then it’s racing time again to keep up with the guide. We notice that Richard can follow us easily and that’s nice for him, because you can’t expect that from just any OW-diver.
After about forty minutes we need to start our safety stop. Said already gives the sign at eight meters, so we need to ascend another three and then start. While we patiently do the stop, Timo can’t stay at the same spot. He watches some of the coral, but does not see anything special. Aren’t we overdoing it? Or are we sued to this that fast? No, we enjoy every second of every dive, even when we’re doing the safety stop. When we get out the jeep is already waiting for us. We put the equipment in the pickup and they bring us back to the resting area at the Canyon to collect our stuff and return to the hotel.
At the hotel we feel we have deserved a Sakara and we drink one too. A Sakara in our room, look at the pictures and enjoy the show a second time. Then we take a shower, walk to the bar with the logbooks and have another Sakara. When it’s time to have something to eat two people from Antwerp join us and also Ann and Richard. We have a nice chat and then go to the restaurant. There Giedo also joins us and we’re having fun today. We ask at the restaurant another beer to take to our room and drink it there and talk about the past day. At about ten we start getting tired and go to sleep.
Friday September 9th, 2011: Dive day 3: Time flies when you’re having fun
Today is already Friday and it seems like we just arrived, but as always: time flies. Timo has been busy with the laptop on the terrace and we go for breakfast on time to arrive on time at the diving center. Yesterday we received some comments when we arrived late, but not today. We’re right on time, but then Ahmed needs to do two certifications for our Dutch friends and for Ann’s course of Nitrox. Today we can choose which divesite we prefer, because only Ahmed and the two of us are diving. The others (Giedo and the Italians) don’t join us, but we dive today. That makes things a lot easier, because then we have control over the diving speed, the divesite. We like that a lot of course.
After half an hour we start to prepare our gear and load everything into the jeep. We don’t go out with pickup and jeep, but everything is put in the rear of the jeep and that way we can leave for the centre of Dahab. It’s dead silent when we het there. A lot of dirt, many goats running free in the town, but the closer we come to the divesite (Lighthouse) the busier it gets. We even see more diveshops and divecenters that we’ve even seen. At our destination we unload the gear and make some time for a short briefing. The first dive will be over a reef to the left (north) side and the second one will be over sea grass at the left side. Here on the grass a seahorse is supposed to live, so we make it our mission to spot it today. You need a lot of patience and time, but we’ll see. Then again diving over grass is something else than a reef.
We’re ready fast and can immediately start the dive. We don’t need to wait for others or push to get to our gear. No, everything is quiet and easy and we walk to the water soon and wait there for Ahmed. In the sun it’s way too hot and we rather wait in the water. Ahmed arrives also and after the OK-sign we start. The first part is over sandy bottom and we see a pregnant pipefish and just a few meters way the bottom goes down very steep. We can see some pinnacles in the distance and they seem to be at thirty meters depth already. We descend to maximum twenty two and very calmly follow our guide Ahmed. He dives very slowly and we like that. Timo had just asked him before the dive to swim slowly and apparently he takes this into account. We pass a hole in the reef full of glassfish. A bit further we see two bannerfish keeping their buoyancy in good shape and it seems to work for them. The colors are beautiful and the vermillion seabass and the sea goldies color the reef red and orange. A couple of pufferfish look for shelter under table coral and we dive on between the rocks, the hard and soft coral.
Ahmed takes us to a stone surrounded by four dive tanks. This is to honor (by the Dahab-divers) the revolution in Egypt in January 2011. A bit further we see a couple of vases but they don’t have a meaning. We keep on following the guide and he continues slowly. Ahmed shows us a Chromodoris quadricolor and Timo can’t resist taking a picture. Either you’re a photograph of nudibranches or not. The dive takes half an hour already and we still have plenty of air: it’s a huge difference to the race of yesterday. Then Ahmed starts to return and dive less deep. We see a beautiful underwater scene of butterflyfish and five seabream form a beautiful contrast of their black and yellow against the colors of the reef. A starry puffer finishes the scene. We really enjoy all of this/ it’s way calmer and we’re more easy-going and use less air. It’s a very nice dive and not even over yet. Ahmed draws our attention to a hole in the reef. In the hole there is nothing to see, but right in front there is a crocodile fish. Usually a part is buried under the sand but not this one. This one is lying on the sand and is convinced that his camouflage will protect him. Ahmed comes close to the fish with his hand and then you clearly see why they call it crocodile fish. The mouth goes wide open and the resemblance is really good. Also the dorsal fin goes up and it’s nice to see it like this and Timo loves the thought to see the fish on the sand instead of under the sand.
We see a couple of more pufferfish and continue the dive amongst the fish and over the coral, really great. After that it’s about time to end the dive and start the safety stop. While we perform our safety stop, Ahmed sees bearded scorpionfish. It’s a small one hidden in a crack of a rock. That is the end of our dive and we get out of the water. We change tanks and enjoy the peace and the sun. We’re here in the centre of Dahab and it’s not that busy, because it’s Friday and time for prayer. Ahmed has lunch and we have a cola to taste something different than water and then Ahmed leaves us for about an hour. He goes to the mosque: it’s time for prayer. We don’t min and we take it easy, we speak about thing, and already start dreaming about the success of our mission this afternoon: the sea-grass-sea-horse.
At about one in the afternoon Ahmed comes back after a short break for his weekly prayer. We prepare and wait in the water in order not to overheat. The water is twenty seven degrees and air temperature is end thirties, but in the sun it feels like eighty. We wait a few moments for Ahmed and then can start to the right side this time. The guide immediately stops us, because he has seen something special. He has spotted a seamoth. In the Dutch translation this is small winghorsefish. It does not really look like a horse, but rather like a shrew with fins. It also crawls over the sea-floor instead of swimming. Usually you see them in pairs but we don’t see the second one now. So we move on and then we see something we’ve never seen before. Not a seahorse yet, but a sand burrower. They swim in groups of about thirty fish and when a diver approaches they bury themselves in the sand, nice to see this. They look rather pretty too and we think it’s a nice fish. A bit later Timo spots a leopard flounder and at that time we’re still diving above sand. But then we reach the seagrass and from now on we focus on spotting a seahorse. We already saw a ‘horsefish’, so that must count for something.
On the seagrass we se many snake sea cucumbers: it looks like a long string in the grass, but in the front we see parts moving and they eat everything. They don’t look pretty. Over the grass we also see two humpback turretfish, also a species we’ve never seen before. The dive is going to be a success. Between the seagrass there are stone vases or other things in the water and they form a great base for coral, so it’s not only grass, we also see coral. A very beautiful lionfish hides under a rock together with a porcupinefish. They are feeling OK it seems. The cornetfish swim just beneath the surface and we mainly see them in the beginning and at the end of the dive. Ahmed swims about ten meter in front of us, but is checking us out. Then he stops to point out an upside down jellyfish, a nice animal as well. Then we continue our dive over the seagrass, dive over rocks and coral from time to time and they ensure it’s not always the same. We all do this at a calm pace and reach our deepest point after half an hour: seventeen meters. Then we dive back to the place where we started, but that will still take half an hour. Between the grasses Timo see a very small lionfish, very cute, only two centimeter large, but he already has all characteristics of a grown up version. On our way back we see the same animals, nothing special you would say, but it’s very nice.
We look for seahorse all the time, but can’t find one. They don’t stay in the same location, so that makes it hard. They look the same as the seagrass, the same size and transparent, so not surprising we don’t see one. It does not really matter: we’ve tried. We return to the shore, can still see the bubbles of Ahmed, who watches us from time to time. Upfront he had said that we had to stay together, so we do that and signal when we reach hundred bar and stuff. Very nice. And at the end of the dive we see another seamoth, but now a pair of them. It is at the safety stop depth, so we can stay here for about three hours. Everything is very nice. It was a good dive, different from the other ones, but really fun. Ahmed says he likes diving with us: it almost is like a day off. Nice to hear! We get out of the water and put everything in the jeep. We have a different driver than this morning and this guy seems a bit grumpy, not even a ‘good afternoon’ and an Ipod in his head and not too friendly. Those things are of minor importance to us and we leave to the hotel and diving center. We need to pass by Ahmed’s house, because he wants to pick up his son. He’s not that old yet, maybe one year and he joins us on the ride to the hotel. The neighborhood where Ahmed lives is dirty and deserted, because it seems like nobody is cleaning up the garbage. The houses look like shit, although Ahmed’s apartment is a new building. It’s clear Egyptians don’t really take an interest in a beautiful garden, because that is something you don’t see here. Everything is like a construction site and is quite a shock at first.
At the diving center we clean the equipment, go to our room and have a shower. Ju had collected a beer, but there was no more Sakara and no Stella. So we choose Max Meister, a beer of eight alcohol percentage, so that add up. It does not have the taste of Duvel, only the alcohol. Timo phones home to check how things are with Veerle and Cartouche. Everything is OK and Timo is happy to hear home. We go and drink another beer at the poolbar and then make a status of the day: what fish have we seen that we’ve not written down earlier. Timo also keeps an electronic list to make things easier. Ann and Richard pass by and wish us a good vacation and we wish them a good flight back. For us that is still a couple of days. We go to the restaurant early and now ask for a bottle of wine with the food. This afternoon cola and now wine is a bit more varied than beer all the time. We’re really tired and we’re back in the room at eight. We go to sleep a bit before nine and it will be a good night for Timo. Ju has not such a good night, because he only slept a couple of hours and needed Imodium all the time. We will suggest a nap tomorrow afternoon. And maybe we plan for the nightdive tomorrow, and then it is interesting anyway to rest between the two last dives. Sleep tight Red Sea fish.
Saturday September 10th, 2011: Dive day 4: South of Dahab
Timo woke up in the night just a few minutes. He was dreaming about a photo shoot under water and noticed that the batteries were not full. He wakes up, starts loading the batteries and goes back to bed. Ju did not have a good night, but if we do everything calmly today he can catch up a bit. As it is looking now it won’t be busy at the diving center anyway, so we’ll have a nice and quiet day. Timo is up early and that’s normal on vacation: get up early, write the report, looks at the pictures of which he can be proud of already. A little bit later Ju also is awake. We have breakfast at about eight and everything is the same as the previous days. There is not so much variation at the breakfast table, but it’s a hotel and we think it’s normal. A sandwich with cheese and some tomato and cucumber and after breakfast we rest a bit more on the beds, because we’re not really feeling perfect this morning. Ju doesn’t even know if he will be able to dive today, but we’ll see about that. It would be a pity, but if you’re not OK, there’s little you can do.
At quarter to nine we are at the diving center with our gear and wait for Ahmed to arrive. His wife and son are also here, but for him we need to wait about thirty minutes. Giedo is there too and we’ll be diving the three of us today. The plan is to head a bit more to the south to a protected area, Nabq. We drive to the centre of Dahab with nine tanks, diving gear for four people and three adults in the back. Also in the front it’s not really comfortable, because there we have the driver and his son, Ahmed and his wife and son, but here that’s all normal. We stop on the road to receive permission to dive here. The police needs to know who is diving and after half an hour we arrive at the location. As before we prepare our tanks for the first dive and have a short nap in a Bedouin tent. Between the restaurants and the sea everywhere they have part covered and there are mats and pillows on the ground to rest in the shadow between two dives. That is really bliss and ensures a very relaxed atmosphere here in Dahab during diving.
The first dive is right in front here: moray garden. Maybe we see a moray eel here, maybe we don’t. at ten o’clock we start preparing for the dive and if you’re ready you can go and wait in the water to avoid the heat. Also here there is an easy entrance and we wait for Ahmed to start dive one of the day. It’s looking good under water already. When everybody is ready we start. Ju puts his head under water and immediately sees a seamoth (little or short dragonfish, Eurypegasus draconis). We again take some pictures like yesterday, show the fish to Giedo who is still next to us. Ahmed already is a bit further, so we don’t stay behind. We dive over sand and then reach a coral garden. Like the other times the view here under water is very nice. Already the first five minutes we sea a tube worm and Ahmed shows us an octopus. It’s a great sight how he moves over the pieces of coral and it looks like he’s posing for the camera: nice shot! A porcupinefish hangs beneath a table coral and looks at us with surprising eyes. Then Ahmed sees a scorpionfish and we follow his lead, because we don’t see it immediately. It’s remarkable that they can see these animals so easy. Again there are plenty of parrotfish and butterflyfish. Mainly these give the colors to the underwater life. We enjoy this big time!
After half an hour it’s time to turn back. Neither of us have hundred bar, so it’s clear that we do everything calmly today and that has a positive influence on the air consumption. The little sea goldies are swarming here on the reef and also the small damselfish do this. They swim over the coral and when a diver approaches they disappear like one fish back in the coral and you can only see bits and pieces of the fish. Also the anemone fish are beautiful and cute. Timo also tries to take pictures of little gobies and nudibranches. A regular visitor of this site knows that Timo especially sees the small stuff. But then he sees a large napoleonfish in the deep. He points it out to Ju: he knew it was a napoleonfish, but he expected a larger fish. This is not an adult version. A school of barbels is hanging next to us and it’s nice to see them with the sunlight behind them shining through the water. Then we start to dive shallower and we start our safety stop. First we stop at a pinnacle and there Timo sees a bearded scorpionfish and some cardinalfish. On the sand behind the pinnacle it’s only five meters deep and Timo sees a couple of pipefish. And then the first dive of the day is over.
When we come out we quickly change the tanks to be ready for the next dive. We choose to have the second dive at about one, so we have some time to rest and do nothing. We drink some water and some cola. While Giedo and Ju are doing nothing Timo check the fish guide and goes for a walk on the beach. He enjoys the surrounding mountains, because it’s very beautiful. Close to the shore the high mountains from the Sinai-desert seem to be erected directly from the sea. It is very quiet and in general it is calm on the different divesites here. That is certainly a plus for Dahab. If you want to relax and dive, Dahab can be recommended. Time flies and Ahmed says we’ll go to a different divesite for the second dive: Golden Blocks. That’s a two-minute drive, so everything on the jeep and Timo sits on the spare tire, so the others have some more space.
After five minutes we indeed arrive there and Ahmed has the feeling that he’s going to spot something special and that’s the reason for him to come here. We’re all ready, a mat on the sand, our gear on there and when we’re ready we go to the water and can start. The access to the reef here is not so wide and it quickly turns right and then heads into the deep. Underneath us is a small canyon, but we don’t enter there and just hang over it. This second dive is shallower than the first one, maximum twenty meters. A huge cornetfish is hanging in front of us and races into the deep when three divers of a liveaboard arrive from the other side. We follow our guide, but he does not show us that much. The most things we spot have already been pointed out and there is not anything additional. But then we reach a second canyon and there we see a very large, a huge gorgonian. We have difficulty to judge the size under water, but it must measure three by six meters. It is an unbelievable sight. A bit shallower an arch has formed, but we don’t enter it. Timo sees a string of eggs of the Spanish dancer, but until now he has not sees the slug. Not yet that is: the time is coming. We don’t see anything else worth mentioning: a diver is spoilt in Egypt. We’re still very happy when we see all the colors and the fish and we enjoy, enjoy and enjoy.
When we reach hundred and twenty bar we start to turn back and regularly look at the blue sea, but there is nothing out there today. Until the moment Ahmed shows a moray eel. It’s a large fangtooth moray, but there is no life in the animal anymore. He lies dead on a piece of sand between the coral. We notice that the corals here are more unspoilt than in other sites. Apparently there are not so many divers here. We do spot a new species: the chevron butterflyfish moves up and under table coral and we love this view. Also a large version of the yellowbar angelfish is eating way down below us. A large pufferfish is lying on the sea-floor and looks at us, but then swims away. We approach the point where we entered the water after forty minutes and there Ahmed sees two nudibranches. Usually you don’t see them so shallow and certainly not two so close to each other. A nice end of the second dive. Apart from the dead moray we did not see anything different than previous days, but one can’t deny that it’s great to put your head under water and check out what there’s to see. The total divetime was fifty one minutes now and we again stop with an unbelievable feeling. We put everything back in the jeep and then we head back to the hotel. We stop a few moments at the house of Ahmed to drop of his son and wife and then we drive on the rubbish-dump-like street to the hotel. We start thinking that we would not be able to live in such a dirty town. Goats and sheep run along the streets looking for something edible between the waste. No, we would not keep it up here.
Upon our arrival in the divecenter we start to clean the equipment and hang it to dry and then fill out all dive data and return to the room. We take a shower, have a Stella, because there was no Sakara yet. We fill out our logbooks and talk about stuff and then wait to go to the restaurant at about seven. Ju limits his dinner to a couple of pieces of cold pizza, because his body is not yet completely OK. A lot of people suffer from stomachache. Timo is not feeling hundred percent OK, but he does not mind for the time being. After the food Ju immediately goes to sleep, Timo has another drink and then goes to bed. We quickly fall asleep and say goodnight.
Sunday September 11th, 2011: Dive day 5: Canyon, Oasis and Coral Garden nightdive
I don’t need to describe the morning rituals, because that’s the same as always. Today is a bit different. We do wake up and Timo is first, then Ju, breakfast is the same too, but we leave later to the dive center. Ahmed wanted to leave later, because he had special plans. We’ll see about that later. After breakfast Timo goes surfing the net. He needs to use the wireless interconnection and the laptop of the hotel: QWERTY keyboard and also Arab signs. Some websites open quickly, others not at all or very slowly. He sends a mail to Veerle and thinks it’s about time to see her again: only a couple of days and he’s back home. But first enjoy the diving for a few days, then do a day nothing, flight to Schiphol and then home, but mainly first enjoy the diving here in Dahab. Until now it’s been very good and hopefully the last dives are the same as the ones we’ve had.
At eleven we meet at the divecenter, Giedo is already there, we arrive on time and Ahmed is a few minutes late. No worries. We collect immediately our gear and drive to canyon for the first dive of the dat. This will be the second time we dive there, but we don’t mind at all. The first dive was here with Ann and Said, maybe we can see other things now than before. It’s only a drive of five minutes and we prepare everything immediately and go to the water. Giedo is buddy with Ahmed and Ju and Timo dive together as they’re used to. We cross the beach, take mask and fins and then can start the dive. It starts very well, because we see a leopard flounder after one minute already. We saw him before and he’s a regular here. Then we calmly continue over the coral, but don’t actually see anything spectacular in the beginning. We see that we come closer to the canyon, because we see air emerging from the sand. This is a cool view, probably because so many divers get in the canyon; the bubbles come through the sand and the rocks. We did not notice that the first dive.
We’re at twenty meters depth and enter via a small crack in the canyon. We see there are two technical divers, but they leave when we arrive. The canyon can’t hold that many divers at once, so that comes in handy. We descend to the deepest point and check it out. If you look up it is really beautiful. You see the silhouettes of the divers against the crack that offers a safe exit to the deep blue. This view is stunning. At first Timo takes a bit pictures and then Ju takes the camera and take a couple of good pictures of Timo. The bigeyes are swimming together in the darkest part of the canyon and they don’t react to our presence. We again see the same things as before during the first dive, but we dive more calmly. We’re not staying here too long, because our deco time is already at seven minutes at the deepest. That is also the sign to Ahmed to dive a bit higher and we leave via a small crack the canyon again and then we look into the deep blue. We need to squeeze through the crack, but it works out fine and we don’t touch any rock during our exit. It was a great experience here in the canyon. Then the dive goes back to the reef at our right side and we reach beautiful shallower reef tables. Everything goes very well and poses no problem.
Along the reef we see the same images as before a unicornfish follows us and farther another one. It looks like a couple, nice! The image we’ll never forget is the number of goldies here that are dancing above the coral. We see this every dive in Egypt, but it’s just great. Ahmed shows a scorpionfish on a rock where we do our safety stop and we see a moray eel right next to it. We can’t see the head, but it’s probably an undulated moray. Giedo and Ahmed already finished their stop and we need to start, so we stay longer, but not too long. The dive lasts for about fifty minutes and that was anyway the maximum in Dahab. We have paid attention where Ahmed crossed the reef to arrive in the lagoon and a few minutes later we follow him. Here Ju spots an octopus and Timo a juvenile of the clown coris. A white fish with black dots at the bottom and a black and orange ball at the top. We check out the lagoon to see more stuff that we haven’t seen, but there is nothing special anymore – taking the fact that we’re diving in Egypt into account of course.
Then it’s time to rest for an hour. Ahmed decides with us that we will be diving for the second one at about one. We arrange a late lunch after the second dive, because we still have a nightdive to do. We can’t hold on until then with only breakfast. The nightdive is at six thirty, so you can’t get anything to eat at that moment in the hotel and we prefer not to wait until after the last dive. We still need some energy. We ret in the Bedouin tent, speak about the first dive and we’re glad we did this one, even though it was the second time here. This one was much more fun than the first one. It was at that time the first one of this vacation and went immediately to thirty meters, so we’re more comfortable by now. We’re just killing time, drink, and then it’s pretty soon that we can start the next dive of the day. All right! The material was already prepared, so we only need to put it in the jeep and drive for about two hundred meters.
The second divesite is Oasis and is a place where you nee high tide to enter the water. It’s a bit higher than earlier that day, but still not ideal. Ahmed knows that the hotel owners don’t want us to enter via the wooden stairs, so we do it the hard way. Everyone takes their tanks and prepares. First Ahmed dives, or better crawls, over the stones and rocks and part of the reefhead and then Timo. When we’re almost at the end Ahmed pulls us hard over the reef in order not to cause any damage. We were not prepared that he would pull us two meters, so we were completely surprised. The view under water is fabulous: everywhere you look there is coral fish, coral and fish and as I already mentioned in the most beautiful shapes and colors. All the way down at twenty meters we see two lionfish, but they flee. We now dive to about twenty maximum and are really relaxed, very nice. Then we spot a big emperor fish. Mainly blue with yellow stripes over the body and the yellow tail. Timo still thinks this is one of the most beautiful fish in the Red Sea. Then we see a ray, a leopard torpedo. He swims over the reef and is being chased by a number of seabass who are not really appreciating the ray’s presence. They’re chasing him away. This dive is really magnificent with plenty of intact coral. Everywhere you look you see coral; there is little sand here, really great. Ahmed has not been lying when he said this is a beautiful site. We start to turn back, but Timo needs to take a picture of an anemone fish with a closed anemone. That’s also something you don’t see all the time, but it’s nice to see it closed. We dive for ten meters over seagrass and look for a seahorse, but don’t see one. Bad luck today. At the end of the dive we spot the lionfish again who is being cleaned by a cleaner wrasse and then we ascend to cross the reef. Now it’s much easier because the water is much higher now.
The jeep takes us directly back to the tents of the Bedouins and lunch is served: two pizzas and a tuna sandwich that almost looks like a pizza. We eat it and hope we will not have any complaints because it’s quite greasy. For Dahab diving it’s already late and nobody is here anymore. Then we load the jeep and drive back to Daniela Village. Although we still have a third dive we clean the equipment. To celebrate this and certainly the first one we drink a Stella. The first one of the day was Ju’s dive number hundred, so parteyyy! We’re already looking forward to the nightdive and before we know it, it’s time to head back to the divecenter. We meet at six thirty and it’s already getting dark in Egypt at that time. Tonight Sami is our guide, a freelance diving instructor who is cooperating with Daniela for our nightdive. He does not bother too much about a briefing, because we tell them that in Belgium and The Netherlands almost every dive is a nightdive. Everything ready, into the jeep and then to coral garden. Sami is going to dive a large triangle close to canyon, but not all the way to the canyon and also not all the way to coral garden. Somewhere in between, we’ll see what it will be.
When we get there we quickly check everything and then head for the water with big expectations. We immediately see three lionfish and we need to get back to the surface. Sami tells us that the lionfish will probably will follow us during the whole dive, but we must not panic: they won’t attack, only follow us and we only need to see we don’t touch them. First thing we see then is a crab with anemones on the shell, it is a hermit crab that carries anemones around and has beautiful green-blue eyes. Then a cornetfish with dark stripes and then we move on to the place where we dive into the reef. Cool. The feather stars are now on top of the rocks and the coral and when we come closer with the lamps they shrink down. Apparently they don’t really like that. We’re only diving for a couple of minutes, but it’s already a nice dive. When you look up you can see the moon in the water, because it is a full moon and small creatures are sparkling in the night. It is sea sparkle. Sami points to a beauty in the distance. It can’t be true, can it? But yes, we spot a Spanish dancer, the Hexabranchus sanguineus (literally meaning "six-gills-blood-colored"). Yes, great, marvelous, magnificent: an animal of twenty centimeter. We dive towards it and Timo takes a couple of beautiful pictures. A very nice discovery. The books about it don’t lie that this is a beautiful animal. Wow, what a presence. Timo is already very happy and this dive is a winner anyway. A few moments later Timo signals he has seen something: an unbelievably huge stonefish. A large specimen of forty centimeter and according to Sami this is a grown one and a real danger is you step on it.
Sami is not looking at the fish, but is trying to locate where he is, so he can find the stonefish back if he’s diving here tomorrow. Stonefish are stationary fish for a long time and this is really a beauty to show to divers. A bit later we see another nudibranch and also a sleeping masked puffer. We don’t interrupt the animals and leave them be. Sea urchins are all over the place now and there is a black one and it looks like it has a radar in the middle between the long spines. The dive is very good. We agreed for a dive of forty minutes and time flies, so we dive back into the lagoon. Timo spots a stargazer, also very nice. You can clearly see the shape of the fish in the sand, but only the eyes and mouth are visible. And then the last thing we see on this dive is spotted by Ju: a small octopus. We try to follow it and stay together. On every rock the octopus is, it changes color. He’s very beautiful with blue dots, really a nice animal. Sami is already a distance away from us when we leave the octopus, but thanks to the lamps we find him back easily. No problems. Back to the dive center after a beautiful nightdive and two nice finds: first of all the Spanish dancer and then the stonefish.
We clean the gear for the second time today and go for a drink at the bar. We deserved that. We also get some food from the restaurant, but can’t eat much anymore and need to leave some food. We could not wait until now to eat and we’ve had a late lunch, so we can’t eat a lot anymore now. We have a couple of beers and the last one on our terrace and need to check out the pictures again of the beautiful red sea slug. This was the catch of the day and maybe of the complete vacation. It’s already past ten and after three dives today we’re pretty tired. We go to bed and can enjoy a good en well-earned night.
Monday September 12th, 2011: Last diving day: El Bells – Blue Hole, Blue Hole
Suddenly the last day starts. It’s not actually the last day, but the last one with diving involved. Suddenly I need to write that it is the last one and as always on vacation it’s annoying, but we can already look back on a great vacation and we still are diving today, so we’ll enjoy the dives again today. First we go for breakfast and go to the center at nine. Ju does not take too many chances with the food and Timo is not taking any interest, but he’ll be sorry for that. Everybody has some problems during a vacation in Egypt with the stomach. What’s the reason for that? Not as hard: different food, the water is not drinkable and then you have the logical consequences. As long as we can dive twice a day we’re happy.
At nine we’re at the dive center and prepare all our gear, we take some extra tanks for the second dive and load everything onto the jeep. Ahmed is our guide for the day and we quickly move for the Blue Hole. The first part until the Canyon Diving Area is over asphalt and then a sandy road takes you in fifteen minutes to the Blue Hole. We dive immediately when we arrive, then we have some more time between the next dives. It’s not so busy today. The previous time it was busy like hell with freedivers, divers and snorkelers, but today there are only about ten jeeps. It might become busier, but for now it’s fine. The driver drops us of at the place where the memorial stones are of deceased divers. We notice that they’re mainly young people and some of them have a ‘motto’ on the stone: Never let fear stand in the way of your dreams. That means a lot when you’re lying dead somewhere on the sea-floor. It encourages us to be careful, but we always try, so it’s not really much difference. We walk to the start of El Bells, wait for five other divers to start and then it’s our turn. We take it easy and after five minutes we’re ready to go. We give the OK-sign to Ahmed and then descend in the narrow part between the rocks of El Bells.
We notice soon that there is something wrong with Ahmed. He was having trouble with ears and sinuses the last couple of days. He says we need to stay together and descend to the arch, dive underneath as we were briefed and then wait a few moments. He stays a bit shallower, because he’s not able to equalize. We are careful and dive down, but at the same time we keep an eye on each other. We reach the arch already within three minutes, look at the rocks pretty long and then dive under the arch into the deep blue. We leave the protection of the reef and we stop in the blue to adapt to the depth and the water. The dive down was again splendid. We really enjoyed this big time. El Bells is a great divesite: Jan (Stevens, former boss of Ju) was right telling us this was a good divesite. We look up and see that Ahmed is already at about fifteen meters and he was able to get down already. He signs that we need to follow the reef at our right shoulder and dive towards the Blue Hole. The reef is busy, not because the divers, but mainly because the many fish around the corals, soft and hard coral. We see another anemone fish, but we like it every time, now especially when it’s living in a red anemone. Ad then suddenly Ahmed is right in front of us and has finally reached the depth of twenty meters, nice for him. We did not bother that he was not able to come down all the way, but we’re happy he’s here so he can spot some stuff for us. We dive under hanging rocks and it almost seems like a nightdive, no lamp today, but it’s not really black, only a bit darker. The colors of the rocks and the plants here in the dark are completely different from species living on the outer reef. We see a couple of large sponges and a geometric moray during hunt. Without the sunlight he seems to think it’s night and is hunting already during the day.
The dive continues slowly with a bit of current against us, but that is a minor nuisance. At a certain moment Timo sees a nice image: two reef lizard fish are resting on a rock and staring into the blue, nice that they are lying next to each other like this. A bit farther we see an octopus thanks to other divers and we’ve started to dive less deep. You can’t stay below twenty meter too long. A scorpionfish is spotted, the first one we see quickly both of us, but the second one Timo has trouble to tell the fish apart from the reef. So badly that Ju fears that Timo is going to put his hand on the fish. It would not be lethal, but surely not pleasant. And then we already see the spot that we need to cross to enter the Blue Hole. From here to our exit we do the safety stop: we’ve got plenty of time. We look at the play of the fish here where it’s shallower and then we dive along the edge to the place where we exited the water also the first time. At this side the rocks are not covered with the lush vegetation, but are a bit bare. After forty five minutes and fifty bar we exit the water and the last dive but one is done during this vacation.
We drink a cola and a sprite to have some sugars, Ahmed eats something, but we don’t do that between dives. Then we take some rest. Check the names of the fish we saw in the guide and then rest. There is nothing much to see here, but Timo takes a look. An Egyptian talks to him: you need something, drink, food, anything? Looks like he has a shop here. Timo ignores him with a simple: No thanks! And that works out. The people here in Dahab are not really pushy. We have never made it to the village, because it could be different there, but neither of us wants to go to the garbage dump. The time flies and it is noon soon. We wake up Ahmed, because he fell asleep. He’s OK to dive right now and so are we, so let’s go then. This dive start at the left side of the Blue Hole again, then we dive over the reef-saddle and then we turn right and back. Then we can dive further alone with max fifty bar or sixty minutes. That’s a good deal for us and for Ahmed. We exit the Blue Hole and we dive into the coral garden at the south of the Blue Hole. You can easily compare this side to the other one, but maybe we see something special.
We don’t have the immediate luck that we something new, but we don’t mind. We have enough with the different species and color, so we make this a good dive. After twenty minutes in the dive we turn back towards the Blue Hole and then we see something special. Yes! And what kind of special. Ahmed points out a turtle to us in the distance. We see the hawksbill turtle swimming thirty meters from us, sometimes it comes closer at other times it is more in the distance. She floats over the reef, we follow and then suddenly she disappears to the surface to breathe. Ju, this is a nice closing, eventually we saw a turtle. GREAT! Then just after half an hour Ahmed says goodbye, shows us where we need to go into the Blue Hole and we try to remember where it is. It’s not difficult, because there are many snorkelers here and this is the only place where you can get into the Blue Hole. Timo proves he’s the slug-spotter, because between the coral he sees a family-member of the headshield-slugs. A flat black slug with two yellow dots at the front of the head. Not as pretty as the Spanish dancer, but fun. Are there any slugs more beautiful than this red beauty under water? We dive this part again with only the two of us and then find the way back to the Blue Hole. Here Timo records a video of a couple of minutes and then we perform again a safety stop to the exit of the divesite. We arrive where we had to come out and then take our equipment of and go back to the divecenter after loading the jeep. We clean all our equipment a bit more thorough than previously. Tomorrow everything needs to be packed and now we leave it here to dry. We fill out some papers and check the invoice for the additional costs. We had to rent the boots and the fins and pay extra for the three dives we did. Everything seems to be OK.
Then we walk to the bar and Ju buys Ahmed a cola for dive number hundred earlier and we stay here and talk about the dives. We talk the whole afternoon about diving, a little bit old state of the hotel and about women – of course we’re men. &also the name Veerle is mentioned, but only positive things, dear. At the end of this week Timo misses her and it becomes time to return to Belgium. He also wants to see his dog back: Cartouche, you’re a good boy, aren’t you? After about four Stella we return to our room and take a shower to wash the salt of our bodies and also clean the rest of our stuff. Everything needs to be OK and dry by tomorrow. Then it’s about time to go to the restaurant, but we first check at the reception what we need to pay until now. In the end this is not so bad. Hundred and six Euro per person extra including the dives and the extra costs we had for our drinks here. This is really great. In total this diving vacation all-in comes down to a bit over eight hundred Euros and that’s really cheap. The things we saw, the dives we did: you can’t put a price against that. Really great. After supper we take another Stella to our room and drink it on our terrace. At a bit after nine we’re already tired and go to sleep.
Tuesday September 13, 2011: Departure from Dahab, to Sharm El Sheik, Amsterdam and home
Timo is up early again, Ju a little bit later, but earlier than the previous days. We get out of bed and go outside to explore the surrounding area of the hotel. In front of the hotel we see a part of the Sinai-mountain-range, typical for the region. We take a few pictures of the hotel and the area and then go for breakfast. We take our time, because we have enough time today. After breakfast we arrange some luggage so everything is ready to pack this afternoon and then we go to the divecenter to use the boots and fins to be able to go snorkeling for about an hour. We see the usual fish: whitetail dascyllus, masked puffer and many other species we’ve seen before and we enjoy it. A couple of lionfish try to hide on the house reef, but apart from an emperor fish we don’t see anything out of the ordinary. It mainly kills time and we can use that today. It’s really nice to snorkel here as our last water activity, but we feel it’s more fun to be diving than just snorkeling on the surface? Timo fills his shorts with some small rocks, so it makes it easier for him to go down and dive and not stay on the surface. Much better.
After snorkeling we dry up on the beach in the shadow and then go and take a shower and the go to the bar for a drink. By now they have again Sakara, so we quickly change from Stella to Sakara. Then we still need to collect our diving equipment from the divecenter and put the stamps in our logbook. We must not forget to buy a t-shirt. No problem: all is arranged very well. Then we quickly return to the room to pack. We pack some things and are done within half an hour. Then there is not much left to do than to wait for the bus to pick us up at quarter to four. We were still able to keep the room until then, so that’s very nice. The bus arrives fifteen minutes late and via a stop in the town of Dahab we arrive at the airport after one hour. Everything is going fast, no traffic jams and nobody had expected this. We first go past a metal detector, check in and then passport check. Typically there is a second person who needs to check if everything was done OK. And as always we queue in the wrong one. Well, shit happens. A second time pass the metaldetector with our hand luggage. We pass and then quickly need t have something to eat before we leave. The flight is on time and we wait until we can board at seven thirty. Timo smokes a last cigarette and then we actually board. Hopefully everything goes smoothly.
In two busses the whole bunch of tourists are driven to the airplane. We’re lucky that we have three seats for the two of us and we ensure the middle seat stays free. Both of us then have more space. But this does not really helps to fall asleep. Neither of us can sleep and that is because the pilot, the purses, the second pilot want to say things at the most inconvenient moments. One is like a commercial for Dr Fish-products, the other one say we fly over Cairo and the third one repeats we should remain seated and that they will extinguish the lights soon. Yeah right. Then put out the lights, damn pilot! And does it seem like I care over what city we fly and I’m certainly not interested in fish products. That’s the problem when you take a charter-flight. We land about on time and then we quickly see our luggage and from there we need to wait for five minutes for the bus that will take us to the car in another seven minutes. Then we only have to do the last part: one hour and forty five minutes in the car. Between two and four the traffic is OK, so that’s no problem. We arrive at quarter to four and Ju drops Timo of. Veerle got out of bed, just to say hi and then we go to sleep. Although Timo is tired he can’t sleep. Tomorrow he already needs to work: we’ll see what that will bring!