Northern Red Sea Expedition (Apr 2000)

7th-14th April 2000: The Nile valley is one of Egypt’s main attractions, where the Pyramids and Sphinx, the Valley of the kings and countless temples remain as an eternal tribute to the land of the Pharaohs and the ancient civilization which flourished here as long as 5000 years ago. Older by far is Egypt’s other great attraction, The Red Sea, here will be found an underwater paradise of vibrant colour, the only enclosed coral sea in the world sustaining an overwhelming variety of flora and fauna. Crystal clear warm waters and year round sunshine, the Red Sea is a ‘Mecca’ for both sun worshippers and water sports enthusiasts. Situated at the top left-hand corner of Egypt, the Red Sea thrusts up and cuts the majority of this continent off from its neighboring countries of Sinai and Jordan, the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal at the upper most part completing the job.

The Red Sea

The Red Sea

The Red Sea is one of the world’s most spectacular underwater paradises renowned for its diving and welcoming climate. It offers you unforgettable experiences both above and below the water line.

Outstanding water clarity offers the opportunity to observe vast numbers of exotic coloured fish, sheer walls covered with exotically shaped corals of stunning colours which start just below the surface of the water. The coastal waters, so rich in marine life offer some of the finest sites that can be found giving the chance to discover the delights of a magical underwater world.

Although being a world-renowned diving area , it has the added advantage that this fantastic underwater experience is only five hours direct flight from the UK

The Red Sea offers the qualified diver the best of the underwater world; both shore and day-boat based. If you want to get away from the crowds, there is also the liveaboard option, which offers the opportunity to visit sites that are not normally offered to day-boat divers who are staying in one of the many resorts on offer. Imagine waking up next to a remote reef site, dropping over the side and descending into the clear warm waters, amongst a vast variety of corals and marine life or dropping onto a quite shipwreck, all before breakfast. Soaking up the sun whilst cruising to the next site, or returning from a night dive to a welcoming meal. The liveaboard gives the opportunity to live right over the dive site and to experience secluded dives. Sites such as the Thistlegorm can be dived, both before they arrive or after all the day-boats have all packed up and left, thereby giving the maximum enjoyment obtained without vast amounts of other divers spoiling the views.

The Red Sea is divided into to main areas or sections for liveaboard, both offering dive sites that rival those in the other parts of the diving world. On a liveaboard your only concern is how many dives are you going to do, the times of the meals and whether or not there’s enough tanning time!

North visited from resorts such as those of Hurghada, Safaga or Sharm. Sites such as the wrecks of the Thistlegorm, Carnatic and the Ghiannis D, reefs of Ras Mohammed, Abu Nubas and Carless reef are all available to be visited.

South also visited from the resorts of Hurghada, Safaga, El Quseir, as well as resorts further south such as Marsa Alam. This is for the more adventurous and only when the weather is suitable, it is also subject to local restrictions. Sites such as The Brothers, Abu Dabab and Elphinstone can be offered.

The Shalakamy Explorer

The Shalakamy Explorer

After many attempts to visit the Red Sea over the past years, I finally managed to arrive for a week on the liveaboard boat ‘Shalakamy Explorer’; which we planned to use to visit various sites in the northern area of the Red Sea. Quite a few of our group had previously visited this area of the Red Sea, including Julie my wife, and they had filled my mind with the wonderful things that we would dive on and see. Upon arrival it was hard to see what the boat actually looked like because it was moored between two others, so our first good look at it was from the water on our first dive of the next day. The ‘Shalakamy Explorer’ can accommodate a maximum of 13 people, although our party had only 12 in the end, due to one of our number dropping out due to medical reasons, this made dive pairing much easier. (sorry Frank)

LENGTH 25 MTS      BEAM 7 MTS     BERTHS 13 (6 x TWIN BERTHS) with Washbasin, 1 x SINGLE BED      2 SHOWERS + 2 TOILETS (Guest use only), 2 SHOWERS + 2 TOILETS (Crew use as well)      CREW 5 + DIVE GUIDE       SAFETY OXYGEN + FIRST AID KIT      ELECTRONICS VHF, GPS, RADAR AND ECHO SOUNDER   WATER DESALINATOR 4 TONS/DAY      AIR CONDITIONING    ENGINES 240 HP CAT X 2      GENERATOR 2 x 32 kW (220v AVAILABLE)      COMPRESSORS 2 x Bauer     SPEED 12 – 14 KNOTS       ZODIAC SAFETY BOAT

The accommodation on-board was very comfortable, although for the majority of the time when we were on board the air conditioning was not working in the cabins, they only managed to repaired it when we returned to port on the last day. Because of this, when the weather was to hot, we all slept with the portholes open, this made for some noisy nights as the generator was run all night to supply power. When it was safe to do so, we did manage to persuade them to turn it off to give us a good night’s sleep. This made for some great fun if you had to go to the toilet, but that’s for those who where there to remember and not for me to tell. Another drawback was that there was little or no space to unpack, luckily we did not have a lot with us, so it was not a problem, although some of the cabins did have some wardrobe space.

The double berths were bunk beds, with the bottom bunk being a ‘queens’ size bed and the upper bunk a normal single size bed. Each cabin has a washbasin that was supplied with both hot and cold running water, allowing you to have a quick wash in the mornings and at night. All 6 double berths were below deck, where the showers and flushing toilets were also found. The single was off the main living quarters, where the majority of the time was spent and the meals, which no one could complain about, were taken.

Bench seating was also to be found in this area, with two tables for the general use of those on board.

All in all the standard and cleanliness of the boat was very good.

On the first day on board, we where all presented with a medical statement form to fill out, this is similar to others where you answer various question about your health, both past and present. I have filled in lots of these over the years, but what concerned me and the rest of the group was on what was on the reverse, it was another form entitled ‘BOAT TRAVEL AND SCUBA DIVING VOLUNTARY RELEASE, WAIVER AND ASSUMPTION OF RISK’. We all read the statements that it contained and concerned us all. The one that was most concerning was the following:

I understand and agree that neither Shalakamy Red Sea, the dive master, the crew, captain or owner of the vessel, the vessel, nor owners, officers, employees, agents or assigns of the listed above individuals and/or entities (herein-after ‘ Released Parties’) may be held liable or responsible in any way for any occurrence on this trip which may result in personal injury, property damage, wrongful death or other damage to me or my family, heirs, or assigns that may occur as a result of my participation in this boat trip and scuba dive(s) or as a result of the negligence of any party, including the released parties, whether passive or active. I (Your name was to be inserted here) by this instrument, do hereby exempt and release all the above listed entities and/or individuals from all liability and responsibility for personal injury, property damage or wrongful death however caused, including, but not limited to, product liability or the negligence of the released parties, whether passive or active

It went on to state the following…..

I acknowledge that I have read the foregoing paragraphs, fully understand the potential dangers incidental to engaging in this boat trip and scuba dive(s), am fully aware of the legal consequences of signing this instrument, and that I understand and agree that this document is legally binding and will preclude me from recovering monetary damages from the above listed entities and/or individuals, whether specifically named or not, for personal injury, property damage or wrongful death caused by negligence or product liability.

Being asked to sign such a statement was a bit of a shock especially as no one had signed one on any of the other previous trip here. A few of us did not sign at first, but were pressed into signing later if we wanted to continue to dive. So if anyone reading this is thinking of going – you have been warned. We made a special effort to ensure that safe diving practices were followed at all times and anything to do with the boats was treated with the utmost care. Thankfully nothing happened to anyone on board, but this does not guarantee it will not happen in the future and signing something like this may cause problems with any claims against the tour operator and his agents. This was the only downside to the whole trip.

Our Trip was planned to leave Hurghada early on the Friday morning and return late the following Thursday afternoon. Our itinerary would take in dive site such as El Fander, Kuta Sheab Elerg, Ghiannis D, Dunraven, Sheab Tarnatif, Ras Mohammed, The Thistlegorm (which we dived three times), Kuta Sheab Ali, El Gobal Shaghir, El Gobal Elkiber, Soul Elsaghir, Um Gamar and Carless reef. Some of these were wrecks, but the majority of them were reef dives. One of the things that I noticed first was that a lot of the colour that I was promised was not in evident, what was, was the destruction that some of the boats, both day and liveaboard have caused. Whole areas of reef had been destroyed by indiscriminative use of boat anchors, large Tabletop corals lay upturned on the seabed, Staghorn coral broken and scattered about. On one dive we actual saw a mooring point that had been ripped out of the coral and was lying abandoned on the seabed yards away from where it had installed. How this happened could be explained by some of the sights that we saw on the surface, you would see a number of large day-boats all tied together onto one mooring point, this would be putting more stain onto the anchoring point than it was designed to take.

Thankfully this was not the scene everywhere and some of the dives were a beauty to behold, vast areas of vibrant colours of fauna and flora were to be seen and enjoyed to the utmost or until the air supply ran precariously low. One particular dive was on the ‘Cargo Boat’ at Kuta Sheab Ali, where the coral and fauna displayed every imaginable colour and the amount of different aquatic life was staggering. (To list what was seen would take more space than my web master would allow.) Dive times of 50 minutes or more being logged on this one site alone. Another was a night dive at El Gobal Shaghir on another wreck, thankfully Julie talked me into doing this dive as I was not going to at first, as it was it turned out to one of the most enjoyable dives I have ever done. We were the first pair of divers in the water from our boat and the last pair out, we only finished the dive when we did because other liveaboard boats anchored in the same cove had started to drop their divers onto the wreck.

It was becoming a bit like Piccadilly Circus down there, everywhere you turned there were divers and because of this the water clarity was slowing going. On our safety stop we could see the torch beams of these divers all over the wreck, suddenly one beam would point towards the surface as divers ran into one another.

Moray Eel

This Moray Eel suddenly appeared underneath me as I was looking at the propeller of the wreck of the ‘Cargo Boat’ at Kuta Sheab Ali. I followed it to see where it was off to and found it at a cleaning station. Although it has not come out very well you can see the cleaners at work on it outer skin (There are two, one at the rear and one in the middle)

 

'Cargo Boat' at Kuta Sheab Ali

This shot give you an idea of the amount of colour that was in evident on some of the dives. This is another that was taken on the ‘Cargo Boat’ at Kuta Sheab Ali. The fish is a Sohal and we were swimming through the deck ribbings of the wreck.

 

Sea Urchin

 

Here is a shot of a Sea Urchin that we saw on the wreck at El Gobal Shaghir. We were doing a night dive and the Urchin had all of it feelers out feeding, slowly moving captured prey towards it’s mouth. I very nearly touched it, but though better of it.

Later I was told that this is a poisonous variety of Sea Urchins, so I was very fortunate not to have been stung.

 

Parrot Fish

Another shot on the wreck at El Gobal Shaghir. This time of a Parrot Fish sleeping under a rocky overhang (if it could with all the divers that were around). It had spun it protective covering of mucus around itself and looked like it was enveloped within a misty bag.

 

 

These two were the best dives of my trip, but there were some that were not. Every story had two side and this is just the same, the worst was at the reef of Soul Elsaghir, where the total dive of 60+ minutes was spent looking at broken coral of every description, thankfully it was showing signs of recovery and the aquatic life was returning. We did see a Turtle, Moray Eel and various other exciting and colourful things at this site which cheered me up a lot.

What were my first impressions of liveaboard’s in the Red Sea? Before I answer that let me explain what a typical day was like.

It would normally started with us getting up around 6:00am, having a dive briefing and doing the first dive before 7:30am. We would return to the boat for a much needed breakfast and talk about what we had just done. While this was going on, the boat would move towards the next dive site, after breakfast we would all have a rest, some seeking the obligatory suntan to show those back home, others relaxing in the lounge area. Another dive would be had before lunch, the third before dinner, this would normally be as the sun was setting, so would be classed as a night dive. Occasionally we managed to do four dives in the same day, but the majority of the time only three dives were done. In between dives, the general dive logs for the groups were collected and recorded on the expedition records, personal logs were written up and the forthcoming dive site was researched from the various Red Sea diving guide books that we all had brought with us. After the days diving was completed we would be allowed to have an alcoholic drink, no drinking was allowed during the day if you wanted to dive, chat amongst ourselves and then retire to our beds normally at around 11:00pm or sometimes earlier. It was rarely later than that as the day’s events had taken their toll on you.

So what are my first impression of a liveaboard? It’s can be a hectic way to spend your holiday, even though you have long surface interval between dives it can still be very tiring. It’s also a great way to see some of the sights that are on offer and it gives you an easy way to do it.

If you asked me if there could be any problems with life on board a liveaboard I would say yes.

What could be a problem is whom you could end up sharing the boat with; from our group two people who were unknown to us prior to us all meeting at Hurghada airport, hopefully they took away a good impression of us, I know we did of them. Six of us belong to the same dive club; the other four have been on holiday with Julie, Ian and myself previously. So we did not have the problem with getting to know one another the majority of us having dived with each other before.

Another problem could be the boat crew and the food. All I can say about them is that they were wonderful. What our Chef produced from his small galley was amazing and could not be faulted, no one ever complained about any of the meals, most times there was very little left on any of the platters, which shows how good the meals were. The rest of the crew, although speaking very little English, where always cheerful and helpful, we had some good laughs sometime with the antic’s of one of them. Sammy had the annoying habit of tying any lose hanging items of you suit to someone else’s and you only noticed when you moved. We finally got our own back on him by tossing him overboard one day.

The final problem that you could have is your dive guide. You are reliant on this person to make you holiday one to remember. If they are not up to the task it can be a disaster. Our guide was an experienced diver who knew the areas that we were going to dive; but he was not really a guide as such. He knew all about the dive sites and what we were to see, what he seemed to be unsure of was the currents that we might encounter. On more than one dive this turned out to be the most talked about item when we were all back on board. Overall though he did his best to give us some enjoyable diving, which is to his credit.

Andy (with the hat ), Ian, Trix, and Bob. Enjoying breakfast back at port

Andy (with the hat ), Ian, Trix, and Bob. Enjoying breakfast back at port

Julie, Andy, Kye and Jon. Enjoying the evening air.

Julie, Andy, Kye and Jon. Enjoying the evening air.

If you asked me about my first impression of the Red Sea, I must say that they were about the amount of damage being done to the underwater sites, both reef and wrecks, due to the mooring of the actual boats that we rely on.

Chris, Ian, Julie, John and Joe. Eating breakfast on our last day of diving.

Chris, Ian, Julie, John and Joe. Eating breakfast on our last day of diving.

Peter and Trix enjoying a coffee break (the new additions to our group)

Peter and Trix enjoying a coffee break (the new additions to our group)

 

 

If you asked me about the diving, I would say it must be some of the best available to divers that I have experienced.

 

 

If you asked me if I would go back, I would say YES. This was the first time and some of my impressions may be tainted. I would also like to visit the southern dive sites that as yet are not so popular with divers, but is quickly becoming so.

And finally the last few word’s.

I would like to thank everyone who came on the holiday with me for making it so enjoyable.

THANK YOU ALL!!

Hope you have enjoyed this report and that it has whetted (excuse the pun) your appetite for a trip to this beautiful underwater paradise of vibrant colour that is Egypt in the sun.

If you do go please let me know your feelings when you return.

Harry Ryalls

Diving Officer.

Last updated on: 2-June-2000

Copyright © 2000, 2008 Bristol Aerospace Sub-Aqua Club

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