Egypt - Taba 2008

Dive travel to Egypt - Taba and excursion to Petra, Jordan at hotel The Bayview Taba Heights Resort and scuba diving with Red Sea Water World

from Friday September 19th to Friday September 26th, 2008

The Bayview Taba Heights Resort

Red Sea Water World

Taba, Egypt

Taba (Arabic: طابا) is a small Egyptian town near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. Taba is the location of Egypt's busiest border crossing with neighboring Israel. Little more than a bus depot and a luxury hotel (complete with casino), Taba is a frequent vacation spot for Egyptians and tourists, especially those from Israel on their way to others destinations in Egypt or as a weekend getaway. It is the northernmost resort of Egypt's Red Sea Riviera.

Taba was the last portion of Sinai to be returned to Egypt under the terms of the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

Taba was on the Egyptian side of the armistice line agreed to in 1949, and returned to Egypt when Israel withdrew from the Sinai in 1957. However, when Israel reoccupied the Sinai after the Six-Day War (1967), a 400-room hotel was built at Taba. When Egypt and Israel were negotiating the exact position of the border in preparation for the 1979 peace treaty, Israel claimed that Taba had been on the Ottoman side of a border agreed between the Ottomans and British Egypt in 1906 and had, therefore, been in error in its two previous agreements. After a long dispute, the issue was submitted to an international commission composed of one Israeli, one Egyptian, and three outsiders. In 1988, the commission ruled in Egypt's favor, and Israel returned Taba to Egypt later that year.

As part of this subsequent agreement, travellers are permitted to cross from Israel at the Eilat - Taba border crossing, and visit the "Aqaba Coast Area of Sinai", ( stretching from Taba down to Sharm el Sheikh, and including Nuweiba, St Catherine and Dahab ), visa-free for up to 14 days, making Taba a popular tourist destination. The resort community of Taba Heights is located some 20 km south of Taba. It features several large hotels, including The Hyatt Regency, Marriott, Sofitel and Intercontinental. It is also a significant diving area where many people come to either free dive, scuba dive or learn to dive via the many PADI courses on offer. Other recreation facilities include a new desert style golf course.

On October 7, 2004, the Hilton Taba was hit by a bomb that killed 34 people (BBC), including Israeli vacationers. Twenty-four days later, an inquiry by the Egyptian Interior Ministry into the bombings concluded that the perpetrators received no external help but were aided by Bedouins on the peninsula. (Reuters) (BBC)

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.

Friday September 19th, 2008: Departure to Taba, Egypt

The countdown started rather late this time: we booked the trip only about one month before we left, so the vacation is here fast. Today a lot of things need still to happen before we can leave. Timo does those things and Eef still has to go to work for half a day: quickly stress for a couple of hours and then we’re gone. The garden company is putting our garden-house is being constructed, so that’s one worry less. We can have lunch at Maurits and Betty’s place, Cartouche stays here already and Maurits brings us to Zaventem at 13:00. It’s not busy, except for the last part to the departures. Maurits drops us off at the arrivals, we say goodbye quickly and then walk to the departure hall one level up. We check in and need to go to Gate B. we don’t actually know the gate number, but that’s OK. The checks at customs are fast today and within half an hour we’re already in a bar at gate B with a beer, maybe the last good beer this week. After one half liter we see the indication that gate B31 goes to Taba; perfect. We walk there and at 15:30 we can board: first our side of the airplane: rows 15 to 30. then our trip can start. First they perform all the different checks and on time at 16:15 we can depart. The aircraft is a A320 and is equipped with a camera on the front side. You can clearly see how fast the plane accelerates and you see clearly how the stripes on the runway shoot past us and then that everything gets smaller and the villages disappear. Now we are like free birds in the sky. It takes 4.5 hours until we arrive in Egypt, Taba.

When we get out it’s already pitch-dark and nice and warm. We ride to the airport building with a bus and then need to pass by customs. On the plane we had to fill out an immigration card and a visa is only needed when you take a trip to Jordan for three days or longer, or if you want to leave the Sinai-peninsula or if you only have a normal Belgian identity card. With our passports we can pass by customs immediately and then collect our bags. Everything goes smoothly, we were almost the first people to pass the customs check. Already after 15 minutes our luggage is there. We can directly g to the hosts and they point us to bus 22. Here we need to wait for another hours until everybody has their luggage and has found the bus. Then we drive off into the night. We need to form a column and after ten minutes driving we need to wait for a police or customs post. All busses (two small ones and four big ones) can continue after a few moments of discussion into the mountains, about 800 meters down to sea level. Then we really drive into the black night. The roads have good asphalt and lead us down through the high mountains. From time to time we can catch a glimpse of the Sinai desert in the bus lights. Not very much, but we can see that later. We arrive at a big check point where someone needs to open the barriers and then another one; here a guy even check with a lamp and mirror under the bus to see if there is nothing or nobody underneath. There is one big check at the entrance of the domain with all the hotels and then every hotel has a fence or barrier for a check. Then we arrive at the Marriott Hotel; someone from the hotel needs to remove a pole so we can enter on the bus, cool. There will not be a lot of unemployment here. Then everything goes fast, check in, luggage check, to our room, 2 Dollar tip, wait a few moments, but then we go to have something to eat at the Al Andalus restaurant, good Mediterranean buffet today and we drink 1.5 liter of water. When we return to our room after midnight the luggage is in front of our door. Quickly unpack, drink something on our terrace and light our first candle and then we go to bed. It was an exhausting day and we fall asleep immediately. It’s 00:40 now.

Saturday September 20th, 2008: Exploration of Taba Heights

After a good night of rest we get up at 06:30. At least Timo sits on the terrace and Eef stays in bed. Timo feels it’s already very hoot on the terrace that early in the morning, even that hot he can’t stay in the sun: he takes the table and move to the shadow. He writes the diary. When he’s finished, Eef also wakes up. We prepare to go for breakfast. It’s a buffet and it all looks good. It is a big row of food we can choose. Today we limit ourselves to bread and marmalade (fig and strawberry) and some small sausages with coffee and fruit juice. After the breakfast we put sun crème on, because we want to go to Red Sea Waterworld to see what’s possible and what’s needed. We need to do a check-dive although we comply to all their demands. We don’t really feel like this, 40 Euro for a check dive and the only thing we don’t know is how much weight we need to take. First we need to decide when we can go to Petra, so we’ll come back later. We follow the sea promenade back to the hotel. At the right side there is the Red Sea with on the right side Saudi Arabia and left Jordan. At our left hand side there are the mountaintops of the Sinai Desert. It’s rather impressive. At 11:45 we have the Neckermann-meeting, but before we go there we need to cool down in the swimming pool: no problem. We take two towels and lie down at the edge of the pool, take a plunge and let us dry in the shadow of an umbrella. Timo almost fell asleep.

Half an hour later we are already dry and it’s meeting time. Steave explains some things about Taba Heights, Taba and the surroundings and the excursions. We want to go to Petra and can book today to go there the day after tomorrow, Monday. OK, that’s done. So then the next things: we take our snorkeling gear and want to arrange the dives. This morning we saw a stand of Red Sea Waterworld close to the hotel (every hotel has one). Then we were not obliged to do a check-dive. Now we return and there are two other persons and they ask it again. We don’t want this and he says it’s recommended. I think its robbery so we prefer no check-dive. Then we go into the water and snorkel to the location where the waives break, hopefully on a reef. And indeed it’s a great place for snorkeling. We see one great fish after the other: parrotfish, lionfish, all different kinds and colors of fishes. It’s so great we go back to get the underwater camera. Timo takes a lot of pictures: we’ll see what it gives on big screen. After about 1.5 hours of snorkeling we get out of the water. Our fingers are already wrinkled and we have spotted enough beautiful fish and corals for today. That is promising when we go diving.

Back in our room, we take a shower, rinse everything and then can have an aperitif. In the bar of the lobby, the ‘Lobby Lounge’ it’s happy hour for local beers from 17:00 till 19:00. We only have half board, so we just need to pay for our beers. Thirty five Egyptian Pounds for half a liter, just divide by 8, so 4.3 Euro for 1 bottle, but you get two for it then, so that’s OK. At about six thirty we go to the restaurant. We get a table outside and we love the food. As appetizer we take a mixed salad with yoghurt, then fish with Chinese potatoes and as last plate a bit of meat sausage and veal stew.  Today the theme is Chinese, but there is not a big difference from yesterday. It seems stupid, but we are already tired and it’s only 20:00. We stay half an hour on our terrace, burn our candles and then go to bed, watch some TV and then go to sleep.

Sunday September 21, 2008: Taba Heights

Early wakeup this morning at 06:30 and we will have a quiet day. We start with a good breakfast  with toasts, marmalade, cereals, grape-fruit, bread and cheese, sausage, boiled egg, coffee and tea. We immediately prepare to go snorkeling on the spot right in front of the Hyatt Regency. There are two peers in the see and at the end of the peer you can enter very easily into the water using the stairs. It is really beautiful, marvelous, and breathtaking. Splendid corals, large schools of fish, large, small, blue, pink, read, yellow, all the best. So this is now the Red Sea. After our dives we’ll return with the camera. When there is nothing to see with the dives or can’t take any pictures, we’ll return here and take some more pictures. J. We snorkel twice, the first time almost an hour, the second time half an hour. We follow the coral along the coast and from time to time Timo dives. After the snorkeling we walk back along the beach to Marriott. Security is visible everywhere and they ask us to open our bags: five years ago there was a bomb attach here and there were 88 people killed.

We already cleaned everything at the snorkeling place, so we just put everything in our room and go to have a Sakara: Egyptian beer (from Heineken). We sit at the beach bar and look in the meantime for everything we saw under water. We are already a little bit tired and rest on two beach beds under a parasol. To chill we dive into the swimming pool too. We even fall asleep for a minute. At about 14:30 we take the Taf-Taf (shuttle-bus) to Red Sea Waterworld to arrange our dives. We see someone else at the counter, from Belgium and she tries to explain and arrange everything in Dutch. She even admits: her colleague was trying to sell an extra check-dive. She recognized us from the first time. We fill out all forms, take our gear: shorty, bcd, vest, weight belt, Eef has case 16 and Timo has 11. Everything is arranged quite well. A bit disappointing (J): Arabs really speak awful English. All arrangements made, we can start the day after tomorrow. Now we take the Taf-Taf to buy some stuff in the centre: water, two bags of chips, cola, biscuits. For now we an ice-cream and a Twix. Our battery loader is broken, so we need to buy new batteries for our camera. Here they cost 25 Egyptian Pound and at the hotel 75. What a difference! The Taf-Taf brings us back to the hotel. We shower and arrange everything for our aperitif. At 17:10 we’re looking at our first Sakara: schol! After two hours of aperitif we have something to eat and again we are tired very early. We prepare our bag to take tomorrow to Petra. We need to get up early, so it’s easy then that everything is ready now. We drink a last beer on our terrace, burn our candle and head for dreamland.

Monday September 22nd, 2008: Petra, Jordan

The sun comes up here at about 05:30. Timo is already awake at this hour and looks at the sunrise and then goes back to sleep for another 30 minutes, when the alarm will start. And indeed at six o’clock sharp the alarm rings and also Eef wakes up. We get ready to see one of the new world wonders: Petra in Jordan. At 06:20 (actually 20 minutes early) we go for breakfast, quickly because at 06:40 the bus arrives to pick us up at the Marriott hotel. We’re ready and the bus arrives at 06:50. It is a small transport mini-bus and that rides to the centre. There it stands 10 to 15 minutes and waits for the bigger bus to arrive there and to bring us to the harbor. Here we wait and need to fill out a card to exit Egypt. We stand in line and first need to go through a gate where they check on a number on our card; we received that number from the host. Then in a long line, first through a metal detector, then a passport-check and then we need to get a stamp on the passport. Then another two guys check if everything went well and then they check our luggage and passports again. Now we can embark for Jordan. Two hours after our departure from the hotel we are on the boat and we have moved hardly a kilometer. Two people from our hotel forgot their visa and they quickly take a taxi and just reach the boat on time. The crossing takes about half an hour, we see some flying fish and then arrive in Aqaba, Jordan. The checks here proceed a lot faster, on the boat there is a person, who quickly checks the passport, compares the picture and then puts a stamp on it. That all goes very fast. We can quickly move on with the bus to Aqaba and then drive to the direction of Wadi Rum. We can already see the typical mountains and the special type of desert.

Our first stop: toilet, drinks, souvenirs for sale. Probably they stop here all the time to help out the local businesses here. After the 15-minute break we drive through very isolated landscapes, sand, rocks, boulders, it looks like a real desert here. From time to time on our way to Petra we see villages along the road, but we don’t see a lot of living souls. The landscape is mountainous and dry, it rains less than 1 liter a year. And still we can see nomads at the side of the road. There encampments are located a few hundred meters from the road and there they live with their goats and sheep. The drive to Petra takes about 2 hours and it’s already 13:00 when we arrive there. We only notice now that it’s one hour later than in Egypt. From the parking lot we descend a small road to the start of the ‘Red Canyon’. On our way there we see the remains of the civilization of Petra: graves dug from the rocks. From very simple a hole to beautiful decorated graves. We stop a few times to get some explanations from Fatima our guide. This is one of the few moments where you see women working. The rest is al done by men, also at the hotels. You hardly notice a woman. Past the large entrance gate (also exit) we walk down. The rocks are very high and very colorful. We can see different types of metals and rocks: iron, sulfite, granite and others. That brings a marvelous splendor. Fatima also points out the ‘pipes’ carved from the rocks that serve to lead water in and out of the city. Inside the canon there are some statues, a square-form church and even from time to time trees grow here. On some occasions it can be very wet here, sometimes there are even floods. It can rain very hard (1000 ml per HOUR) and that is then just too much and the city floods. They dug a tunnel for that and guess what, there already was a tunnel from the time of the Nabataeans (about 200 BC).

Via the small canyon we reach the highlight of this trip: the sanctuary. It is stunning, beautifully cut out of the red rocks, just marvelous. It is huge with beautiful pieces of artwork on it. That’s what this is all about. We get some time to take pictures and then go further down to the theatre and the houses of Petra. We see everything is carved out of the rocks very beautifully. When you look up a little bit, you can immediately spot more sanctuaries, graves and houses carved from the stone. We rest a while in a tent and drink 2 cola. We are completely surprised that the temperature under this tent is rather low. After about 10 minutes we start the journey back and take all the way the same route back. We do the trip together with a couple Jurgen and Kim (too late this morning) and walk to the sanctuary and then through the canyon the way upwards. We do everything quiet, not very fast. From time to time we take some more pictures, especially from the sanctuary. Once we have exited the canyon they take a ride on a horse up. The walk and even make even better progress. We arrive at the bus on time and wait for half an hour for a couple that does not show. Later they suddenly are on the bus, very strange. We drive to the Petra Marriott Hotel to have lunch at 17:00. A late lunch, but the colors in the canyon are the most beautiful at midday, so we first wanted to have the visit and only then the lunch. A buffet with a beautiful view on the pool and the typical mountains and gorges of Petra and the wadi (valley) surrounding it. At 18:00 we drive back over ‘king’s way’, the biblical road that Moses took to the Promised Land. We stop for a last picture of the valley and then drive two hours back to Aqaba. A short stop again in the same centre as this morning and then on the boat. The Jordan authorities are milder and everything goes fast. The boat leaves at 20:00 and arrives in Taba at 20:30. We need to fill out our papers again and the same shit for Egyptian customs. That takes about forty-five minutes. A mini-van brings us back to the hotel. We quickly take a shower and eat something very small, drinks a beer in our terrace and go to sleep at 22:30. We have a marvelous experience, but we are very tired of this long, hot, very tiring day.

Tuesday September 23rd, 2008: Diving day 1: Ras Amira, Maxwells, Angels Net

So now we have the TOP-day of our Egyptian adventure at the Red Sea. We go diving! After the snorkeling tour this can only be bad (J, joke). We get up at 07:00, Timo as always earlier, but that is good so the stories get written. We have breakfast, Timo takes an omelet for the first time here and Eef doesn’t eat much, because she’s not hungry. After breakfast we prepare and wait just outside the hotel. There Robert, the boyfriend of Kelly, the Belgian girl at the reception of Red Sea Waterworld. He takes us to the dive shop and on the road he picks up his girlfriend. We learn quickly we will be only the four of us on the boat. Eef, Timo, Robert and Kelly, who has a day off at that moment. We have the biggest boat for us alone: this is what they call private diving. We pass the customs office to the boat, our gear is there already and we get on for a day of fun. We wait for clearance from the harbor police and then we go. On to our first dive in the Red Sea. The boat slowly leaves the harbor and in about 20 minutes we’re at Ras Amira, plenty of pinnacles en a little wall. We had prepared already and were ready to dive into the Red Sea. We’re at the dive spot in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. It is an overwhelming sight, unbelievable. You dive in an aquarium, even better than in an aquarium. The batteries of the camera are dead, but we continue without camera. Over the coral, fire, table and other kinds swim hundreds of fish. This feeling cannot be described; so much colors, so many fish, so beautiful coral, almost unreal. We dive next to a wall until 100 bar and then we return. We take it siga-siga with the four of us and we enjoy every second. It is so marvelous and overwhelming. The pictures will not be good, because we did not take any. After about 45 minutes we come back to the surface and we are thrilled with this experience. We have a YES this rocks-feeling.

We stay on the surface for an hour, drink and eat a bit and prepare everything for the next dive. This dive follows rather quickly, one hour later and we go to Maxwells. Here we enter the water for our second dive. We sink perfectly, certainly now Timo has taken a kilogram of lead more and we see the same schools of fish, all very colorful, Eef and Timo see a frogfish, the pinnacles are typical here, all small fishes, two different species of sea slugs, coral, sponges. The clownfish is always beautiful to look at and also the lionfish. They hover majestically above the corals. Remarkably the table coral have diameter of more than 5 meter, really marvelous. Also to this beautiful song comes an ending and after 50 minutes we need to surface. But we surface with great feeling; during this dive everything was relaxed and all beautiful. A person needs to see this and be able to enjoy it. Again on the boat remove empty tank and prepare with a new one. Now we stay on the surface for two and a half hours and then it is our last dive of today at Angels Net. A spot with two sandy plates 1 big one and 1 small one with sea grass in-between. Again pinnacles, but we don’t get bored. Timo has a bit of bad luck with the camera: first the batteries are dead, then the last two time the lens was damped. The most important thing anyway if the memory. We never dove very deep these dives, maximum between 21 and 25 meters. Also here again beautiful colors of fish, coral. Special species: bluespotted stingray, the juvenile of a emperor angelfish, a complete school of pennant coralfish and then usual species of clownfish, lionfish and lizardfish. It is marvelous, great, beautiful, super. This really is the bet. The last dive was a drift dive, de boat dropped us and returned a bit later to pick us up, but there was not a lot of current, so we did not really drift. At 15:00 we are back in the harbor, leave our gear on the boat and have a drink with Robert and Kelly. Then we take the taf-taf downtown, we buy water and take the taf-taf back to the hotel. After a quick shower we write down all our experiences of the day in the logbooks and the travel report and we stay on top of the world. This is one of the best experiences of our lives. We go to the Al Andalus restaurant and grab a bite. It is the same everyday here, only different names and different music. Today there is a salad and pasta for Timo and a salad and chili con carne for Eef. Then we walk through the hotel garden and come in the restaurant Grotto. Here they’re doing local dances and you can smoke the water pipe. It is also here that Kim and Jurgen (Petra) would be, but we don’t see them, so we walk back to our room, drink and Egyptian Stella and burn our fifth candle. A week passes by quickly. At 22:00 we go to bed. Tired, but extremely happy of a perfect day of diving.

Wednesday September 24, 2008: Diving day 2: Muqabila, Zacks Table, Aquarium

The mornings are the same as always. Timo wakes up first, then sits on the terrace in the morning sun and he needs to go and sit in the shade, because it’s already very warm. At 07:00 Eef also is awake, we prepare for breakfast, eat something and at 08:00 we are ready just outside the hotel. Timo has some trouble with his digestion, not so much fun, but it will work today – he hopes. We are on time in the diving center and we chat with Kelly and Robert. Today Frederic is our instructor and we have 1 Englishman with us, one Italian couple and one instructor with AOWD student. Today we do three dives. The first one is Muqabila. We go deep (30 meters) and don’t see that much fish, but other species: batfish, two times the eggs of the Spanish dancer (species of slug), octopus and stonefish once. We loose a lot of colors at that depth, so we don’t stay that deep very long. At lower depth the big schools come back and also many colors. The landscape is very special because of the gaps in the rocks and the corals that are attached to it. We take our 5-meter stop (Eef, Timo and the British guy) at the bowline and then we calmly go up. This dive was again completely different than the previous ones due to the rocks and the fish, but this is also a very nice diving spot. We stay on the surface for about one hour. Timo still has trouble with his stomach, so he primarily drinks cola and only eats chips. The second dive is Zack’s Table. The most striking here are the acropora corals, they resemble a table and are 5 meters wide and several very close to each other. Above the corals there are masses of fish, anthias, glazy fish and triggerfish. The red-toothed triggerfish is an odd creature. They have a fin on top and at the bottom and swim in the sea like that. Eef also spots a kind of jellyfish, the other divers did not notice it.

We see that there is a lot of mini-fish swimming along with the jellyfish, really a special sight. Again here the emperor angelfish and the juvenile version of it. Timo uses a lot of air, although we are now only at 20 meters, he signals to the instructor the 50 bar sign and he starts to release the signal divers below. At three meters he is stuck and he is taken to the surface by the air in the tube. Timo stays down and signals to Eef he is going to do his 5-meter stop. He calmly goes up and Eef follows him a bit later. They hover at 5 meters depth and then go to the surface. We climb aboard and the others arrive from the other side of the boat. We did well, stayed calm, performed 5-meter stop for three minutes and then calmly used our snorkel to go to the boat. Very nice. Then we stay on the surface for two hours and we go to the third diving spot for today: Aquarium. Normally dive two and three were in different order, but due to the current they changed it. At a little bit after two after some cola and chips we enter the water for the last time today. We go down very well, Timo also this time. He had to sink a bit slower the past few dives, because he still suffered from the cold he took from Belgium. It really is an aquarium, even better, you get to swim between the fish. We spot here two different species of moray eels: yellowmouth moray and geometric moray, many schools of glazy fish, really unbelievably plenty. Also anthias swim here in great numbers. The wow-feeling has not yet disappeared. We also see a non-identified fish. We need to look for the species with the pictures later on. Again we had three beautiful dives and tomorrow another three. Then there will be more people on the boat: 17 divers. We have a drink, write our logbooks and take the taf-taf back. Our beer-aperitif is here again today. Then we have a bite. After dinner we are tired immediately and we go and sit for a couple of minutes on our terrace and then go to bed, rather early, but three dives on one day are tiring. We also need to mention we say a turtle on the surface between dive two and three. Not under water as we would prefer, but we were able to see the turtle for a minute, a beautiful sight.

Thursday September 25, 2008: Diving third and last day: Fjord, Farun Wall, Farun Pinnacle

Timo has found a solution for the battery loader. The main switch needs to be on to leave the power-points active, but then there are three lights burning in the hallway. Unscrew the bulbs and the loader still works and the lights are off, great no. Timo and Eef are awake at the same time today, both at the same time as the alarm, at 07:00. We get all our stuff and go for breakfast. We reserve the room for a full day tomorrow till 18:00 for 60 USD. We wait for five minutes and then the van picks us up and drives to the diving center. We need to wait a while there, because there is a large group today: 17 divers and 3 non-divers, 2 instructors and as always 2 crew members. We arrive rather late at the first dive site: Fjord. There is a crater here  about eight meters wide with a spring of natural water, so we need to be aware about out buoyancy and about the temperature. We leave first with Jullien and enter the crater to a depth of 25 meters. Today Timo has no trouble with air and to stay with the group, because he has requested a 15 liter tank three times. We quickly go down to 8 meters and then to 12 and then all the way down to 25. there is a clownfish (a couple), and we think these are really nice fish. We dive here further until we’ve seen it all and after 15 meters we go up again to see some more of the reef. Inside the crater it was nice to have seen this, but due to the natural water it is colder (about 10 °) and bad view. Back at 10 meters we see more of the life and colors of the reef, one slug and many small fishes, but it’s fun and we dive long. Eef and Timo take there three-minute stop in the blue, they do it well and come happy to the surface. We replace all that is needed and then rest on deck together with a couple from Melsele, Belgium. Nice. The boat finds a new spot close to Faruns Island in 30 minutes.

Here we will to our last two dives: wall-dive and Pinnacle. After an interval of 1 hour we start our second dive of the day, wall dive. A great view at our left hand side. At 100 bar we turn and stay a little bit higher. We spot as before small fish, beautiful lionfish, a few big groupers and butterfly fish. The pictures will need to speak for themselves and help us to identify the different species.  We are still impressed by the abundance of life an by everything we get to see here. The second time today we perform our stop without reference and keep a depth between 4.6 and 5.3. We do well. Just before we saw a triggerfish, who behaved rather aggressive, so we made a turn to avoid the animal. Either the fish had eggs or babies. After this dive we stay at the surface for about two hours. We talk to some people and always fill out the diving manifest. For each dive, departure and return hour, bar in, bar out, and a signature at the end. We already did that eight times this vacation. After lunch, not for us though, we eat tuc’s and drink cola, a briefing for our last dive of this trip to Egypt, because tomorrow (damn) we leave. So the dive to the pinnacle was our last one. We received promises of plenty of fish, but the only thing we saw the first ten minutes was sea grass. Our guide Julien navigated a few degrees wrong and also the distance was not good. We see a few mini-pinnacles, but not the ones that were promised. We see some moray eels, puffers and lionfish: on one spot even six or seven under a rock, magnificent. We can’t stay here long however, because we had to swim here for about 100 meters at a raging pace. We have used a lot of air and in the range of 50 minutes Eef and Timo start again (the third time today) their 3-meter stop without reference. Well hovering. The boat picks us up, Julien inflates his sign ‘Divers Below’ and we go up when the boat is quiet. The engines of the boat make a hell of a noise. After a few minutes we can go on the boat. The way back is almost an hour and we talk to Magda and Luc from Melsele. At the diving center we arrange the financial side, clean the equipment and drink a beer. After all that is done we walk back to the hotel. Timo gives the battery-loader to the reception for Robert and Kelly – we could borrow it – and we drink an aperitif and fill out the logbooks and write the travel stories. Today at the Al Andalus there’s an Asian buffet and Timo eats like hell after three days; rice, bami, beefstew. Timo drinks cola and Eef a beer. After some TV on our room we go to bed. We need to rest because tomorrow there will be a tiring day: snorkeling and traveling.

Friday September 26, 2008: Our last day, snorkel and departure

Timo is awake at 06:00 and Eef at 06:45 and we go for breakfast. Timo takes an omelet and Eef has had enough of the food here: in the morning she wants bread with chocolate and in the evening steak and fries. After breakfast we leave immediately to the Hyatt Regency Hotel now to the second peer and as we’ve been told the better place to snorkel. We arrive there, snorkel a while, but it’s cold. Timo walks back to Marriott to get our shorty and to get new batteries for the camera, because they were empty too. We snorkel half an hour, but the sight is not very good close to the peer. There is more wind and the sand is shaken by the waves? So we swim to the other peer. We see the same fish as before and Eef also tries free diving. With some practice she is making it OK and she will be good at it soon. Timo is particularly attentive for blennies, also the clownfish are cool and the parrotfish too. After about an hour we’re done, we use the showers of the Hyatt and walk back to the hotel. There we have rest until 13:15, we even fall asleep for a moment. Then we go for snorkeling the last time this vacation right in front of the hotel. We snorkel and hour and see the small reef quickly. One large parrot fish is following us over and again. A few lion fish, one bluespotted ribbontail ray.

Eef spots it and we hang over it about ten minutes, a very beautiful animal, not the biggest one in the sea, but very nice. Then we move on and come back, because the water is not deep enough. On the way back the ray swims away very calmly and we follow him 15 meters with our eyes. We no swim back with the reef at our right hand side. We see some moray eels and a few bannerfish. They almost seen to pose for us, but now we don’t have the camera with us, bad luck. It seems, as they know we don’t have the camera and they do it on purpose. We rest on the sun beds and prepare for packing our stuff. In less than an hour this is done and we eat something at the lobby bar: two pita with tuna, two beers and at the end ones for happy hour. We get our luggage and check out. Then it’s time to leave from Taba Heights. At a bit before 18:00 the bus comes to pick us up, but it comes one hour late. We talk with a guy who is here alone and live in Branst, Bornem, someone from our town then. When the bus finally arrives, we can leave for the airport. We pass the checks at our hotel, then the checks from the domain and on the intersection of the road to Israel and the road to the airport they perform another check. Then we go to the airport. To get in there we need to pass another gate and then arrive at the airport itself. Everybody receives a strict check through a metal detector. Timo even needs to take off his shoes. Due to the severe checks we need to wait only an hour for the departure of our airplane.  That is the benefit of it. We leave on time and arrive after four and a half hours ten minutes early. The luggage is there also fast and it is now Friday night two thirty. It seems unbelievable that we still can arrive that late. But we don’t care a lot. Betty and Maurits pick us up and bring us home. At home we drink a beer and Cartouche is happy to see us and we’re happy to see him back. Then we sleep like babies.