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wibble
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
It seems hard to believe that in the 10 years I have been diving the lure of the Red Sea has never actually got me to Egypt, but finally, after waiting all these years I am no longer a Red Sea virgin.

Amazing how perspective can change so much. The day dawned grey, overcast and, well a bit average. We stayed overnight in the Gatwick Hilton - a really rather nice hotel, but then this was my birthday treat! A few hours later as we climbed out of the muted dreary day into the most brilliant sunshine. The awful clouds of the morning which seemed so dull, so everyday, became a vast rolling eiderdown over the horizon, dotted here and there with plumes of puffed up cloud which if you concentrated on you could watch new infant clouds being born and rise to the heights of their parents. Soon enough the Dolomites appeared and we soared over the towering peaks dotted with ski runs and pine trees, sparkling rivers meandering their way through the snowcovered fields.
I never realised how mountainous the area around Hurghada actually is, but they were utterly breathtaking as we flew in over the desert they were picked out against the sunset, a million shades of red to blue, tiny lights flickering between their sand covered toes.

We were given our visa stamp by a Blue O Two rep, and then went through passport control which was all fun and games as they kept on deciding to close a lane here and there to keep us on our toes! Eventually we got to the bus and were briefed by Fifi who took us to the marina where the boats were moored.

We were booked into a larger room which meant we got a big bed to share as well as all the usual air conditioning, private bathroom and little fridge filled with bottled water. A huge turkey dinner was served after boat briefs and a little kit faff.

The next day our first dive was on a site just outside of Hurghada called the Aquarium. No deeper than around 15m, it was an excellent checkout dive. We dropped down off the back of the boat (after much farting about with weights) and to the reef. The sheer number and variety of fish was amazing, I have no idea about most of them, but we did see a crocodile fish and a pipe fish plus trigger fish (non stroppy), a few sea cucumbers, angel fish, butterfly fish, barracuda, sweet lips and lots of wrasse. I think its great that evolution has found a basic design for a fish (a wrasse) and then gone to town with the colours out here!

A leisurely lunch and then a second dive at the same bit of reef, but this time from the zodiac. I was a little nervous about getting in and out of a small boat sloshing about at the swim platform of a big one, but this turned out to be no problem at all and we soon plopped into about 15m next to two huge totally unspoiled stacks which terminated about 2m from the surface. The massive coral fans spread out into the barely there current and we headed towards the sun as instructed. Puffer fish, a free swimming moray, lion fish and a juvenile ray were all spotted, and then a giant clam with its vibrant blue interior nestled in one of the coral heads.

Overnight we head off to the Brothers which seems to not agree with my sleeping patterns as I suspect the motion is very different to our boat and this seems to wake me up as somewhere deeply programmed is “this doesn’t feel right you need to wake up”. The early morning dive is canned by us as I am knackered and we sleep in, no point in diving when this tired as I tend to make mistakes.



The second dive of the day is on the wreck of the Numidia, which sits on the northern end of the island. We are taken by rib to the site and descend towards the reef which appears out of the blue as we swim down. The wreck sits almost vertically, like the Rondo in the Sound of Mull, but a lot deeper with the top of the wreck in around 18m and the bow in 85m. Needless to say the bow and everything below the engine room access remained a mystery, but Hazel did a lovely swim through exiting via a hatch in the site of the wreck. We then headed out and along the steep wall, being pushed along by a gentle current. The wall is amazing, covered in life and incredibly steep. The sunlight filtered down through the blue, a million fish swimming around us and I feel like I am in heaven! This is like swimming in an fish tank, so many beautiful things to look at, so many colours. I also come across an anemone fish, who refuse to leave their home but do pose obligingly for some photographs.

In the afternoon the plan was to follow one of the surface lines to the reef and head back north towards the wreck of the Aida but as we got to the end of the line we found the current was far too strong to swim against - I finned as hard as I could and went backwards! We aborted the dive and managed to grab the mooring line and head back to the boat and warn them not to drop anyone else in. After climbing back aboard we found we had used a fair bit of gas and decided to can the dive, while the remaining divers were picked up by rib far down current and re-dropped much further up the island to complete their dives.

An early morning start again and we go over to Little Brother, all of about ¾ of a mile away. We jump in following the guide which turned out to be a very good decision as after around 3 minutes we see our first shark - and my first ever shark. A flash of silver below us and suddenly the shape of a thresher shark appears from the darkest blue. Two turns and it vanishes again, but I didn’t widdle in my suit which is always a bonus! A massive dark shape appears and joins us, a huge Napoleon Wrasse decides he wants to be our buddy too and he keeps us company for a good 20 minutes. When I say huge, I don’t just mean a big fish, I mean this thing is a good 2m long and just stunning. The colours on his body are fantastic, tiny blue and green and yellow stripes, with a really strange double jointed mouth which can hoover up any unwary crunchy creatures! We go with the current and follow the wall around to an area covered in huge Gregorian fans which you can play a brilliant space invaders game of soaring over them using your buoyancy - brilliant! Gradually making our way shallower, we pop a bag and complete our ascent to be picked up by the rib driver who simply grabs your hand and hauls you over the tube like you are as light as a feather.



The lunchtime dive was a shark spotter at the cleaning station at the top end of the island. The reef ends in a really sharp point with a small mound at around 30m. Hanging around here there are usually sharks wanting to be cleaned up by the myriads of small fish, but today - nothing. Reluctantly we head off around the island following the wall which is once again utterly stunning, disappearing below us into the blue and above us the silhouettes of a thousand fish against the surface. On getting back onto the boat, Hazel realises she is missing her VR3, despite it being attached with the usual strap and a lanyard, it has gone from her wrist. Working out that it must have come off when she shrugged her gear off in the water, everyone decides it has gone forever - Little Brother is only a small island, but big enough to lose something like that forever.

We decide not to dive in the afternoon as Hazel is annoyed at losing her computer, however later on we change our minds when it emerges that they are happy to drop us back on that side of the island to have a look for it - no matter how fruitless it may seem. You always feel better for having a look, so in we go, asking the rib driver to drop us where he thought he had picked us up. Once in the water it looks very much the same as the whole top of the wall, so no idea if we are in the right place. Heading down the beautiful wall, Hazel drops below me as I am distracted by something fishy and pretty and I turn around to see a flat plateau beneath us at around 40m. A strange squeak is then heard and a little dance and I really can’t believe my eyes as she heads for a small dark VR3 shaped thing on a tiny patch of sand below us. We head back up the wall as quickly as is sensible, and loiter around the shallows ensuring a nice clean profile. One very unhappy VR3 is reunited with Hazel, it wants around 9 hours of deco and has done 220 minutes at 40m!

We head off down to Daedelus which is basically a reef in the middle of nowhere and renowned for its hammerheads and other fishie delights. At early o clock I notice that the engines have stopped and we must have arrived at the island. For the first dive we are taken by zodiac along to the top end of the island and dropped onto a stunning wall with a really quite swift current. This made us good time along the reef and finally the wall started to develop the small underwater bays we were told about in the brief. I pause for a picture and become aware of this tap tap tapping at my ear. I look around and find no-one there. I go back to the camera and it happens again, but this time Hazel is in front of me rapidly flooding her mask and giggling like a 10 year old. Apparently my ears did not pass the cleaner wrasse inspection and needed to be nibbled! We were picked up by zodiac after surfacing and get back to the serious business of breakfast!

Dive two was the wall along the side of the reef where the boat was moored, a flattish plateau where the elusive sharks may or may not be hiding. Once again half a dive was spent looking wistfully out into the blue for a flash of silver - but nothing. The second half of the dive where I got to concentrate on the fishies was great, I found a giant moray who did his silent growl at me and the very shallowest parts of the reef were truly awesome, some of the most beautiful of the trip. The top of the reef seemed to be very much eaten into by the sea, creating all these little inlets and tiny caves where the life hid. It was a fantastic dive, and we returned back to the boat seriously debating to do the third but decided that we had said only two dives a day unless it was exceptional so two it was.



I took the offer of going to visit the lighthouse by zodiac which was an excellent idea. I wish I had taken my camera though as it was a bloody weird place. The reef has a long and ancient jetty out over the shallows to the edge of the drop off and at the other end a tiny island has a lighthouse stretching up to the sky. The heat was staggering, and we made it to the top sweaty and breathless but the view was stunning. Below us stretched the reef, you could make out the dark shapes of the fish amongst the sand and corals below, the liveaboards anchored just offshore and a tiny bird landed just beside us to share in our rest at the top.

The weather was forecast to get worse, so as soon as we were done with dinner we set sail for Elphinstone which always conjures up images of underwater pixies, but I was hoping for underwater sharks!



The life at Elphinstone was awesome, so many big schools of big fish - far more than the other sites so far. It was rough for our drop off by zodiac, but these more than made up for it. Another visit from the earole fish, and hopefully I am now officially clean!



We were warned that the journey north would be rough, but I had no idea quite how rough. We spent the next 8 hours going weightless every wave peak, slamming into the water and really not having a nice time. Battling to Marsa Shuoni to try to see turtles, dugongs and rays was the only thing that really kept me sane-ish, it was a long night!

Marsa Shuoni is a shallow sandy bay surrounded by reefs, and was the busiest site we had been to so far. Surrounded by day boats and little shoals of snorkell ers we decided to follow Karin the guide as she seemed to have a nose for finding something special. We dropped in not expecting much current, but once down onto the sea grass it was a howling current in the lowest meter or so and not much above this - no good if you are looking for ghost pipefish! We found an old mooring on a lump of coral with some grey morays in it, and then a couple of banded eels before getting to the reef which was really quite spectacular in its variety and number of species. Schools of banded mackrel passed us by with their mouthes agape, blue spotted rays among the rocks, and an octopus pretending not to be there at all. Of course I was disappointed not to see a turtle or a dugong, but that is life - sometimes you don’t get what you want.



Our last site is Panorama, which is overrun with dayboats. However, it is a lovely site, with coral pinnacles jutting up from the bottom, and the obligatory proliferation of life. We found a rather unhappy puffer fish who we suspected had been puffed by some bastard of a diver. If it was you, I hope your crotch strap really chafes. Twat.

And that was that, all done. One shark, one turtle (seen from the boat), lots of giant clams, groupers, wrasse, napoleon wrasse, some luggole fish, eels, rays, and about a bazillion fish the identity I have no idea of but they were pretty.

The boat was Blue Horizon and my overall opinion was she is a lovely boat, but was in need of a refit - which she is getting in a weeks time - handy that! The crew are awesome, they work together seamlessly and are very professional, nothing is a problem. The food was really very very good, a great variety of dishes and no shortage of quantity either. No dodgy tummies from either of us too, which is something I was worried about when coming to Egypt.

We both dived with 2mm drysuits which at the start of the week seemed to get some smirks, but by the middle of the week there were no more smirks....it seems quite hard to do when you are shivering. We were toasty warm all week, not even too hot on the surface due to the wind.

Its just now we are back in the UK some bugger made it snow, and its cold, and no-one rings a bell and nice things happen (food or a dive) and I want to go back.

If anyone wants to see all of my pics they can be found here: Red Sea - a set on Flickr (click on small images to enlarge)
 

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Floats like a cannon ball
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Sounds fantastic, Im going out there in two weeks, first time diving in the red see too!!
 

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Great report Helen - the "over run by dayboats"/"busiest site"/"surrounded bydayboats" has always put me off the Red Sea, sounds like you had a great time though.
 

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Thanks for that Helen, took me back..
 

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It seemed like a good idea at the time...
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Takes me back 8 months - I did that trip in reverse I think. Fifi is mad isnt she? The aquarium was my last dive there. I'm hoping to trust Blue Fin with my newly repaired leg in a couple of weeks time if I can get a dive doc to sign me off.
 

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Hacked off member
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What a lovely trip report - thank you! It brought back some wonderful memories of my own 'North and Brothers' trip this summer.
 

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Making God laugh...
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Nice trip report Helen, glad you liked it and hope you'll be back.

Great report Helen - the "over run by dayboats"/"busiest site"/"surrounded bydayboats" has always put me off the Red Sea, sounds like you had a great time though.
Sharm is dead at the moment, seems the Shark thing has scared away the divers..... So if anyone wants a divesite to themselves get over here now!!!
 

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Great report and lovely photos on Flickr. So glad Hazel got her puter back - what are the chances of finding that eh? Testament to the crew too for remembering where they picked you up. Belated happy birthday x
 

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wibble
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Apparently according to Hazel I got the Numidian the wrong way up - the bow is at the top and the stern is at the bottom of the cliff. Serves me right for trying to write a trip report while knackered (currently in Perth in a Holiday Inn) and to be honest I hadn't actually noticed as I was far too busy looking at fish :)

We got 90% of the dive sites to ourselves, we shared our first site with a dayboat, and the last couple of dives with some more but they added to the amusement as you got to see how not to dive in glorious technicolour.

Right, off to battle with the 3 inches of snow it laid down over the 3 inches already on the ground. Trying to get to the ferry to get home tonight :)
 

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All we wanted was a home... Manics
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Great report - glad it was a good trip.

Although I'm also a confirmed coldwater diver I find the red sea has a different type of enjoyment - very relaxing and hassle free diving without the constriction of drysuits, extra kit etc etc. I like to go to red sea and dive singles in a wetsuit - with the camera - and stay < 25m - I usually go in Jan but not this year due to work being 'inconsistent' for the last 2 yrs... can't wait to go back... nice pics btw
 

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Living a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget!
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Beautifully written report. Glad you had a wonderful time.
 

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team wibble
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Lovely report Helen bought back some really good memories, glad you enjoyed yourself and found you vr£, thanks for taking the effort to write it

Regards John
 

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Squidgey Member
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Great report Helen and thank you very much for the well spaced pictures! With reference to the earhole wrasse, a good waxing is always required:D
 

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Making God laugh...
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We got 90% of the dive sites to ourselves, we shared our first site with a dayboat, and the last couple of dives with some more but they added to the amusement as you got to see how not to dive in glorious technicolour.
I never realised that being on a liveaboard made you a better diver - cool...
 

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Now a Silent Warrior
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Really good trip report Helen and nice piccys too. I can imagine you and Hazel trying to clear the deco on the VR3 with some string dipping it over the side all night.

I went on a Blue o Two trip last year and they showed us round the Blue Horizon as it was undergoing a refit at the time that was only last January. the whole interior was in bits, surley it's not got that tatty in a year.

All the best G.
 
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