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Just thought I would post up a quick report of my recent trip to Sharm el Sheikh and share what was a #### fine week’s diving with you….

We travelled with Explorers to the Ocean Club just outside of Sharm, and did our diving with the on-site school, Ocean College.  We took advantage of what we considered to be the better flight times on a Thursday and left Gatwick at the respectable hour of 10am.  This got us into Sharm, showered, unpacked and drinking Sakara on the rooftop bar by 7.30pm – not bad going!

Day 1 dawned and we headed down with crates to a packed jetty to meet our boat for the first couple of days of local dives.  Not the best boat in the world by any standard, apparently it was a charter for Ocean College and not one of theirs, but we were in good spirits anyway.  So first it was a northerly route for Fiddle and Ras Nasrani.  Nothing spectacular but the feeling to be back in warm water, unencumbered by hood and gloves, was fantastic.  The water temp was a balmy 25 degrees and viz a reasonable 15-20m.  

Day 2 was local again with a first dive doing the swimthroughs of White Knights. Only 2 dives for the local sites, so a snorkel whilst the middle dive was going on gave me the bonus of investigating a shoal of surface feeding milk fish (sometimes called “tourist sharks” because tourists mistake them for sharks with their big dorsal fins – fooled us for a moment too!).  Some of the tinkers were about 4 feet long, others only 10 inches or so.  They could certainly put in a pace when they wanted, but weren’t too bothered by us joining them.  The second dive took us south to Tower and here we met a shark – problem is there is disagreement to what type it was!  It was about 7 ft long at a guess and my buddy, who spotted it first, and who got the best view instantly went for the picture of the guitarfish/angel shark in the book, certain it was that.  The guide differed in opinion however, and although she could give a positive ID she reckons it was a nurse shark.  I really need to get prescription lenses in my mask so I’m not arguing with either of them.  Whatever it was, it brightened up the dive!

Day 3 and off to Tiran.  Now we were getting spoiled.  The boat was far, far better (even had a flushing toilet!!).  The see was like a mirror and possibly because it was flight day (Sunday) there was hardly another boat in sight.  3 dives and we didn’t meet another diver.  First dive on Thomas reef, which was nice, second on the wreck of the Kormaron to the north of the reefs, nice again, but the third took all prizes.  We went off the weather side of Jackson, between the lighthouse and the wreck, taking full advantage of the exceptionally calm seas.  The hope was that as it was mid-afternoon and the site had been quiet we might have the smallest of chances of seeing sharks, but it was a good dive to do anyway.  So we start to descend and instantly the guides rattle is sounding through the water.  We move over to join a young, but unfazed, turtle grazing on the reef top.  I had never met a turtle in the water before so I was having an emotional moment before we had gone past 2 metres!

We continued the dive along the reef and as we got down to the thermocline we branched off about 10 metres into the blue to just hang for a minute or two, with fingers crossed, staring intently.  Literally seconds later we were rewarded as about a metre below and maybe 10 metres in front of us cruised 2 large hammerheads, moving through the water with that characteristic gait – I didn’t need my specs to see those babies!  I was overjoyed, and judging by the underwater shapes our guide was throwing, so was he!!

It didn’t stop there however as back at the reef we were treated to a flyover by a magnificent manta ray who turned as if to come and see us before heading back into the blue.  Just to put the icing on what was already a stunning cake the ascent gave us a sighting of an eagle ray as it glided off the reef over us and disappeared off to who knows where.  The atmosphere back on the boat was fantastic – but back at the bar it seemed no-one really wanted to believe us….we rubbed it in anyway!

Day 4 was Ras Mohammed, Shark Reef and Yolanda, Shark Observatory where shortly before one of the instructors at Ocean College had broken the Red Sea depth record, and Ras Ghislani which gave a close encounter with the ubiquitous, inquisitive Napoleon Wrasse and a view of a truly massive eel garden.  I had never dived Ras Mohammed before and was positively taken with the wall dives there.  I loved the contrast between big fish highway on one side and all the nooks and crannies holding reef fish, eels and beautiful corals on the other.  I have to admit to a hypnotic fascination with the blue though.  Just staring out and down and seeing layer, upon layer, upon layer of different fish disappearing into that soft blue blanket.  I could quite easily be taken in by it all and it is a slightly sobering thought, especially given that I had my first recognised case of euphoric narcosis whilst at the deepest point off Shark Reef, with hundreds of meters below me.

The next day held some trepidation as it was Thistlegorm.  Neither my buddy or myself had dived a big wreck before, and it is fair to say there was some stomach churning the night before and the morning of the trip.  We got up at twenty past five and were on the boat at six, getting comfy under a towel for a small snooze to past the time.  A while later it was breakfast and then some excitement as we spotted something small breaking the surface of the water ahead.  Shouted bets on whether it was a shark, a dolphin or a manta ray were all called off when closer inspection revealed a small group of sunfish.  The caused some delight amongst both guests and guides as no-one had seen them before.  We circled the area for a few minutes, watching their very leisurely progress before continuing the journey.

Arriving at the site we were pleases to see only three other boats.  One boat already had its divers up, one lot were having brekkie and watching the football on deck and the third lot seemed to have no sign of life at all!  We were briefed, two lines attached at one quarter and three quarters of the way along and the first dive started.  There was virtually no current or swell on the descent and we made our way to just behind the bridge for the first swim-through.  A deep breath and we entered the dark to find it wasn’t as bad as feared, and nerves settled the rest of the first dive, which was a tour of the outside, including locomotive, was most enjoyable.  

The second dive was the penetration dive, and although we were slightly worried about the confined space our guide was careful to take us nowhere where daylight wasn’t a fin kick or two away.  The sight of the motorbikes, truck, rifles and other assorted cargo really brought it home that this was a war casualty and I felt quite, quite moved by it.  The real sadness was that other visitors had clearly not felt the same and evidence of the vandalism and pilfering that had taken place in the search for a “souvenir” was clear in places.  We were lucky again though, in that we didn’t see another group of divers on either dive, so the atmosphere was more that of museum than tourist attraction.

The final day was due to be Dunraven but we didn’t fancy forking out the extra dollars for another wreck and so opted to return to Tiran where we dived Woodhouse, then Jackson from the mooring to the saddle which gave us our second close turtle encounter and some beautiful coral gardens, then finally Jackson from the mooring to past the lighthouse.  The latter dive caught us in a screaming current that gave you the feeling of flying – there were a lot of sheepish superman impressions going on.  We also had a swim-by by a chunky specimen of a grey reef shark before joining the comical sight of a funnel of divers queuing up for safety stops as we hit the current coming round the reef the other way and no-one could go forwards or backwards!

Ok, I have rambled on for quite, quite long enough.  I hope you can tell how much I enjoyed myself.  We have decided to not go back to Sharm now we have done the dives we wanted to, and we couldn’t have asked for a better week to experience….bring on the brochures, we need a new destination!!!



(Edited by Lou at 9:07 pm on June 19, 2002)
 

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Excellent review Lou - I'll work on uploading your gallery today. I'm in the process of organising a last minute trip to Dahab with my brother in September. Think we will wait till the last minute before grabbing a cheapy flight out of Manchester as the current price is £299 return. Good thing is that the diving will be next to nothing as he used to instruct in Dahab so we'll use his contacts there (and accomodation will be about £5 a night ;) ).

Cheers once again for the report!
 

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Great report Lou, I'm of to Hurghada for the third week and Sharm the fourth week in September, hope my dives are just as exciting.
Eddie..
 

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I've just uploaded Lou's gallery and the images are simply breath taking - she has emailed me to say she used a Sea and Sea MX5 and boy can she take a picture. I'm sure a few of you will be looking for some tips from her in the near future.

Well done!
 

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Lou....

those B&W pics on the gorm blew me away.  as good as anything in the mags.  well done.
 

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Glad you like the photos - cheers!  I have to say that I am no photographer, by any stretch of the imagination.  This is only the third time I have used a camera underwater and I only "snap" above the water.  I guess I was lucky with a few shots but the good thing about that is that if I can do it, anyone can!!

Eddie, seen your photos and the comments that you usually take warm water shots - what do you use?  Do you do alot of photography?  I am keen to share info as I would really like to improve the overall quality of photos I take.  I obvioulsy didn't send in the photos of illuminated silt, or the "what the #### was I pointing at there" ones!

Lou
 

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Lou - an update on the instructor who broke the Red Sea depth record - Lee Cunningham. He's a mate of my brothers and he is planning an attempt on the world record (currently held by John Bennett - 300m) in August (August 4th I think). Planned depth is 330m (makes me ill just thinking about it!).

Will update you all as and when I get more info (might even try and get an interview with him if I can get his email address!!).
 

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Yep, it's something like that.  There was a TDI instructor on our boat one day, taking a girl on a nitrox course, who had been one of his support divers.  I can't remember if it was him or one of the other guys who was making the point that this Leigh chap carries all his own gas as part of the "art" of doing it.  Absolute nutter!  

Maybe if you contacted Ocean College in Sharm they could put you in contact if you can't get hold of him otherwise?  It would be an interesting interview.  Try putting it to him that Red Sea diving is a soft option... ;)
 

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Mark Andrews is going for 350 metres next year and has stated that if he dies trying it will be worth it.
 

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If he is carrying all his own gas there will be enough cylinders for us all to have one!
 

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</span>
[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Quote: from Ammers on 7:04 pm on June 20, 2002
Mark Andrews is going for 350 metres next year and has stated that if he dies trying it will be worth it.
<span =''>

Judging by this account of his lunatic dive to 150m on AIR, this is a foregone conclusion.

Once again, WHAT A F**KING IDIOT
 

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To say this man has gone through that experience and is trying again is beyond belief!  He has no qualms about putting other people in the melting pot qith him apparently and seems to have a callous disregard for his safety and his familiys happiness.  

No way wouls I risk such a venture and risk losing my kid.

And to publish it, possibly giving other divers a false impression that out of control ascents can be survived by mental strength, and getting back in the water to depth, no chance.

What a tit.
 

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Read this on DIVERNET:

"Five days of recompression treatment following a 160m dive have failed to halt Mark Andrews in his bid to beat John Bennett's depth record.
Andrews was carrying out the 160m dive in the Red Sea as part of his build up to a new world record attempt in 2003. He surfaced in pain, and was rushed to the chamber in Hurghada for treatment. "It was a nitrogen bend, caused by dehydration" said Andrews. "I've completely recovered and expect to be diving again in two weeks time."
Andrews was diving with Divers Lodge, Hurghada. When Divernet initially contacted the centre, they denied that there had been any incident.
"At the end of the day people get bent every day." commented Andrews, who put his dehydration down to an upset stomach on the evening before the dive."


Hmmmm!
 
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