Diving in the south...
Trip Start Oct 08, 2010
13Trip End Ongoing
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A couple of weeks ago, me and Ruben headed off on holiday - we headed south to visit a friend who works in El Quseir, which is a little north of Marsa Alam.
Because it's on the shores of the main body of the Red Sea, the chance to see big stuff is greatly improved, so I had my fingers crossed when we set off for the airport on a Sunday morning.
After looking at the various options, we decided to fly from Sharm to Hurghada and then get a taxi as it was only marginally more expensive than taking the bus - and the journey was going to take about four hours (when you factor in driving to and from airports - the flight only takes about 30 mins) as opposed to 16!
Our journey wasn't too stressful - and aside from a brief detour into Hurghada so that Ruben could buy some bolts for his backplate, was straightforward.
We got to the Akassia resort just outside El Quseir, where Yasser works, at around 3pm and decided to go straight in for a dive.
Andi, one of the owners of Diving.de - the centre we were diving with - came in with us and brought his camera as Yasser had told him Ruben is great at finding small stuff.
We got our kit together and headed down to the jetty to jump in on the house reef, which was lovely. Ruben managed to live up to the expectations, finding an octopus within the first five minutes, as well as a tiny nudibranch and an unusual shrimp.
When we'd dried off, we started looking at the dives we could do later in the week. There are quite a lot of good sites that are easily accessible from El Queseir, both around Marsa Alam and also Safaga.
One of the sites I wanted to do was El Sheikh Malik, because a dugong can sometimes be found on the sea grass bed.
The morning we were going out was really windy and we weren't sure if we would be able to dive at the site, or if we'd have to go somewhere else. Luckily our guide Khaled was very determined and decided we could manage it despite the waves (good call).
Because it was a bit rough, visibility wasn't too good and when we'd dropped off the reef table and descended a few metres, I was wondering how we were going to find the dugong if she wasn't being cooperative.
Khaled had warned us that sometimes you can spend most of your dive swimming over the sea grass and not find her - but I was keeping all my fingers and toes crossed.
We worked our way around some big coral heads until we were just off the reef, where we paused to listen - and to my massive excitement, I could hear some clicking noises, not dissimilar to those made by dolphins.
We all started looking out over the seagrass and as I turned around, I came face to face with the dugong, who was floating a couple of metres behind us and just watching us.
She didn't stay too long and we watched as she headed up to the surface to take a breath, but just knowing she was in the water nearby was amazing.
We made our way over to the sea grass and it didn't take too long until we found her, munching away on the bottom.
She was totally unphased by our presence and pretty much ignored us as we watched her moving slowly along the seabed.
After a few minutes, she headed back to the surface and again we looked for her before coming across her a short distance away.
There was a remora on her underside that she kept trying to shake off - they really are the strangest looking fish, with what appears to be a boot print on their head but which is actually the sucker they use to attach to their hosts.
Around 25 minutes after we got in the water, it was time to head back towards the reef, Ruben and I split off from the others and did some more exploring on the sea grass and were rewarded when we found a large turtle!
Finding the reef again was no problem and we had good fun exploring some little cracks and crevices among the coral - but then it came to finding the exit.
Because of the waves, we would need to use a rope to climb back onto the reef table and due to the bad visibility, we managed to swim past it without realising - oops! It didn't take too long to realise our mistake though and we got back and out with no real problems.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of my week but we still had several days of diving to do!
We took a boat trip on the Friday to go and dive the Salem Express, the wreck of a passenger ferry that sank in 1991 when it was carrying pilgrims back from Mecca.
Divers aren't supposed to go inside as it's a grave, but there is plenty to see from the outside and it's a fascinating dive. Tamer, our guide on the boat, gave an amazing briefing that had us all rushing to get in the water.
He explained the history of the ship, as well as the events that led to its sinking, so we all had a good idea of what to expect.
Because it's only 20 years old, it's in remarkably good condition and you can look into the canteen to see the tables still bolted to the floor, with a pile of chairs in a corner - the wreck sank on its side.
On the seabed around the wreck there are a few suitcases, a TV and a couple of stereos - poignant reminders of the tragedy that unfolded.
In the afternoon, we were given the choice of doing a second dive on the Salem or heading somewhere else and one of the other guys on the boat who used to work in the area suggested an offshore reef called Abu Kifan.
Weather conditions have to be near perfect to dive it, which means it's in much better condition than some of the reefs that attract more divers, and we were in luck, the weather was ideal!
The reef here is some of the most pristine I've ever seen, the walls are literally covered in soft corals and there were so many clouds of anthias that in places it was difficult to see the reef.
We were hoping for some big things to go cruising by and sadly that didn't happen but it was a beautiful site to visit nonetheless.
On our penultimate day, the wind had died down enough for us to go to a site called Zerib Kabir, which Ruben had been excited about all week.
There is a shallow cave system in the reef here, which he dived on his last trip, and he was desperate to do it again.
I was a bit apprehensive but as the caves don't really go deeper than 5m, Ruben pointed out that you couldn't get a better introduction to cave diving and he was right.
It was awesome swimming into small caverns in the reef table and then emerging into shallow, open lagoons cut out of the coral.
We found a beautiful nudibranch, which was exciting and we also saw a banded snake eel hunting one of the worms that lives in the sand, which was really cool.
After almost an hour of squeezing through gaps and exploring, we emerged and headed back to the beach - but as we were about to come up in about 1m of water, Ruben found a pair of ghost pipefish that looked exactly like pieces of weed floating in the water - awesome.
We had an amazing week of diving, met some fantastic people who work at Diving.de's centres in El Quseir and generally enjoyed getting away for a bit and going somewhere new.
But it was nice to get back to Dahab, see the dogs and sleep after our week away!