Diving the Red Sea

Trip Start Sep 07, 2005
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Flag of Egypt  ,
Friday, March 24, 2006

So, the reason I came to this part of Egypt is to dive the Red Sea. It's a very famous area for diving, and a lot of the dives are shore dives rather than needing a boat, which makes it a lot cheaper too! So far I have done 6 dives, one refresher, and then the 5 required to complete my Advanced Open Water (the second level of Padi certification). The main reason for doing it here is that some of the really cool dives are quite deep, so you need to be certified to that level.

(a side note: for those of you who aren't interested in diving, you may not be overly interested in all the details here! I won't be offended if you choose to scroll on by. Honest!)

So, yesterday we did 3 dives at the Lighthouse. This is a shore dive, nice shallow sand entry so very easy to get in and out of. The first dive was for Peak Performance Buoyancy (basically controlling yourself in the water so you are not bobbing up and down, or running in to things!), and the second was Underwater Navigation. Me with a compass, not the best combination! It is really hard to keep it steady, but I managed to complete the exercises. The last dive was a night dive, which I was a bit nervous about. Descending into black water where you can't see what's behind you is nervewracking. But we ended up going at sunset, so there was still a fair amount of light that faded gradually as we went. So not as bad as I thought! During our safety stop we turned off our lights and waved our hands in the water, which makes the bioluminescence light up! The water sparkles all around you, which is pretty cool.

The lighthouse is a coral reef dive, so you swim out about 15m through the sand and then hit coral. Most of it is a winding wall with no current, but at the point there is a prett strong current, so all of a sudden you and all the fish are being blown in to the wall! It's find to ride it around the point though, but we didn't go too far as it makes for a long swim back.

Today we did the remaining two dives, one at the Canyon, and one at the Blue Hole. The Canyon was first in the morning. You swim out through the Lagoon, a shallow area about 5m deep so it is very bright and you can see the corals clearly. At the end of the lagoon, you begin to descend, swimming until you reach the entrance of the canyon. It is a narrow opening about 3m long and 1.5m wide, from there you drop straight down to 30m! This was our first deep dive. At the bottom there is a sand area, so we sat and tested our reflexes for nitrogen narcosis (basically acting like you're drunk because of the depth!). I was fine, but Nic was a bit out of sorts! Then you swim through the canyon (basically like a cave, with a very narrow opening above you at points) till you reach the other side, and then swim up through another narrow opening and exit. It was very cool, and not near as scary as I thought it would be. The coolest thing is that there are few places for all the divers air bubbles to escape, so when you come out and swim over the top, it looks like a field of tiny bubbles all around you where the air has found a place to escape. Very beautiful!

The Blue Hole was next. This is a very infamous dive here, well known for many people having died. It's not really all that dangerous, it just drops off a good long ways so in the middle there is no bottom for all intents and purposes. The area attracts all kinds of divers, and there is a recreational limit to how deep you can dive on air. Some people try and push that limit, and that's when most of the problems at this site have occured. Some people just have to be cowboys!

Anyway, unlike the other sites where we had a shallow shore entrance, this one you jump in to a hole in the coral about 3m long and 1.5m wide. This is the Bellz. From there, it is a straight drop down to 26m, where you swim along the bottom for a few metres before coming to the edge of the reef, where it basically drops right off. Here you are on the outside of the Hole, where the coral is more interesting than in the middle. We swam about halfway around, then ascended to 5m where there is an opening to enter the Blue Hole. In the centre, it is probably something like 20-30m across. The walls are coral, and then there is just water in the middle! We swam across the centre, and when you reach the middle it feels like flying!! You can't see anything around you but blue. And maybe an occasional fish. Hence the name of course. You have to watch your depth gauge pretty close, because you have no frame of reference for whether you are going up or down. Good practice for the buoyancy control!

Anyway, I am now officially certified as an AOW diver! Who would have thought this would be me this time last year, when I was too scared to even suit up. I fear that every dive I do is getting me more and more hooked, and I will have to start planning my vacations based on good dive sites!

So far, here is a list of some of the aquatic life I have seen: corals (many!), parrotfish, lionfish, scorpionfish, angelfish, clownfish, squid, shrimp, flutefish, 3 octopi, one baby giant moray eel (about 4-5 ft long!), and a whole bunch of others I can't remember the names of! Some amazing colours. And most of them are so used to divers they hardly move when you swim by. It's a wonderful feeling to be in the middle of a school of thousands of little colourful fish, and have them an inch or two from your face! I've come a long way from the girl who was visciously attacked by a man-eating fish in Mexico (actually, the thing was probably about 6 inches long and mistook me for lunch since we were chumming in the area!) who was afraid to go back in the water lest something larger bite me. Haven't seen any sharks yet (thank god!) and I'll keep my fingers crossed I don't run into one any time soon!
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