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A week or so ago now, but here's "Wot I did on my holidays".

Sick of the zero vis here in the UK, I went online and got the cheapest warm-water dive holiday I could find. I had a very limited budget, and looked to save wherever I could. Travelling alone meant I had to pay a supplement. Bugger!  

I started diving in '91, doing PADI OW/AOW back to back at the then-tiny resort at Naama Bay ("Sharm el Sheikh"), Egypt. As luck would have it, the cheapest deal I could find was at the same place!  I took all my own gear (including a 0.4li Buddy cylinder), which weighed 18Kg.  Fortunately, the dive card got me an extra 5+2Kg so I could take more than a toothbrush.

Flight/transfer actually quite good - Brittania flight was fine, the attendants helpful and the seats OK.  School dinner food, but I can handle that!  Daily pickups and drop-offs were handled by the dive centre, in this case Emperor divers.  I had bought a 5-day dive pack with them - and ended up paying for an extra day (&#3646USD)! Better to get 6 initially - still cheaper even if you skip a day.

Day 1, and an early start. 08.45 works out at 06.45 UK time! (And every day after that was earlier than the day before...) We met our dive guide (Yolanda), collected whatever kit we needed and did all the usual admin - passports, visa swipe etc. There were several groups starting and several boats.  Ours was all from the same hotel (convenient!) and all Brits.  Mixed abilities and dive clubs, and better for it - a nicer group of people you couldn't hope to meet!  We were put on a minibus and taken to our boat, Flash2, in the harbour in Naama Bay.  I had a smile like the Cheshire Cat as we walked along the jetty to the boat - even in the harbour the water was crystal clear! The boat had an Egyptian crew of around 4, two sundecks, an internal sitting/briefing area and two "heads" + galley - lunch onboard = LE25 (~£4GBP, but I took lunch from breakfast, if you see what I mean...).  Cylinders stowed in holes around large kitting up area, two fin-friendly ladders at rear.  Straight out to the first dive site, good dive brief, buddy selection, kit up and in we go! The vis was fantastic, the water warm and the sea life astounding - we had dolphins on the first day! I got a few odd looks as I was the only one in a dry suit.  Those looks became slightly envious towards the end of some of the longer dives...  A great first day, almost too easy after UK diving.

Decided to get as much training as I could whilst I was diving somewhere clear and warm - bang went the budget!  Arranged to do the basic TDI Nitrox course (&#3690USD + &#3635 for PIC, registration). Was given the manual to work through that night, with follow up lectures on the boat the following day.  Two others decided to do the course, which made the homework much more enjoyable! (Or was that the hotel buffet by the pool and a few local "Stella"'s???).  The following day, in between the dives, completed the training under the watchful eye of Margaret, an English diver and TDI instructor.

I won't bore you with the details of all the dives - and unfortunately I've no pictures to show either.  To summarise, the diving was as fantastic as you'd expect it to be.  Saw white-tipped and leopard sharks, electric blue rays, turtles, lionfish, stone fish, superb coral, barracuda shoals, tuna shoals, jackfish shoals - the works. Enjoyed reef dives, huge drop offs and the best drift diving I've ever done.

Most people dived the free 12li aluminium air cylinders (A-type or DIN), at on average 210bar.  15li were available, for extra &#36USD, and my first nitrox dives were 15s with EAN32.  (See notes on dive centre). Took the opportunity to begin my twinset career, and dived 2x12li steels with EAN36 (as independants), and from then on, only dived twins. A lot of us started out very overweighted.  Ally tanks, plus all the size variations kept me on my toes!  Which reminds me; I couldn't take my ankle weights...and I found I didn't need them!!!  One less thing to carry in future...

One point is worth making. &#3660 is a lot to dive a wreck but the Thistlegorm is just about worth it -  a fantastic wreck, the best I've ever dived.  And less robbed than any wreck I've been on - spooky to see remains of the boots and motorcycles and shells etc etc. Diving with Nitrox is very, very useful, and using twins even more so.  The second dive was just on air, and some how we managed to rack up 10 mins deco time!  Proof if it were needed of how useful Nitrox is...  The wreck was very busy, with three other boats on site.  There is talk of shutting it down.  This may be a rumour, but I'd get it while you can...  None of us felt that the Dunraven was worth the extra &#3620, not on top of the &#3660 for the Thistlegorm. Watch out for the 04.15 start though...

All in all, a fantastic holiday, and a fantastic place to dive.  I can't wait to get back out there!



The place: Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. (The Red Sea) (11-20 Jan 03)

The Dive Centre: Emperor Divers, based next to the Rosetta Hotel in Naama Bay (Sharm).  Good organisation with European/Australian instructors and a small fleet of dive boats.  Catering for PADI/TDI courses etc etc.  Able to supply equipment (including Technical) and air/Nitrox etc.  Our dive guide (Yolande) was extremely good, flexible with diver's requirements and endlessly positive about how good the diving was!  Anything extra costs - in &#36USD.  Take plenty, or bring plastic - there are lots of cashpoint machines and you can pay in Egyptian pounds, £GBP and &#36USD.  All of the staff were helpful. There was a rumour on the forum that their air clogged up regs with hydrocarbons.  Emperor seem to use two filling stations, one of which is a metal barge out in the harbour.  This has several compressors and is very busy, with boats rafting up to swop cylinders.  The air intakes are about 10ft above decks - well within range of the diesel fumes from the boats. Good filters should help, but knowing the Egyptian attitude to maintenance, I was left wondering...

The Dives: Two dives a day, on air or nitrox (&#367USD extra!) - 12 dives in total including the Thistlegorm (&#3660USD extra!),Ras Mohammad national park(&#365USD extra!), Turan straits, Jackfish Alley, Shark Reef, Jackson Reef, Yolanda Reef, Ras Nurani (pants), Ras Bob, etc etc.  £150 for 6 days through Regal Dive.

The Weather: Always sunny, quite rough seas towards end of week. 29 degrees on first day, 24 thereafter.  Water temp 24 degrees!  Visibility 30m+, with a few patchy dives of around 20m.

The Hotel: Amr Sina, a "3" star (yeah, right) about 1Km from the centre of town (Naama Bay).  A/C, TV with BBC World.  Acceptable for a bargain-bucket holiday, light-years ahead of anything I stayed at in '91. Supermarket and nightclub next door. Staff helpful, room cleaning especially good.

Misc...
The Holiday Company: Crusader, acting as agents for Regal dive.  Extremely helpful, with correct tickets on time, and as a nice touch, a courtesy postcard afterwards. £168 + 35 supplement B&B, Gatwick to Sharm el Sheikh!  Amazing value. (See Divernet site for contact details)
Tips on Egypt:
Taxi from hotel to Naama bay = LE15 (Egyptian pounds). Just give it to them. Anywhere else ~LE10. Bear in mind it is a five minute walk from Emperor Divers to Naama Bay centre.
Where to drink: The Camel Bar, above the Camel Dive centre, and the Bus Stop. Local drink is Stella (a lager, no relation to our Stella). LE6 from supermarkets, LE12 in hotels.
Where to eat: Well, there are lots of places, but on a budget try MacDonalds (LE8 for Big Mac), KFC and Pizza Hut!
Non-malarial mosquitos are present and bite - use high strength DEET lotions and fumigate room before going diving.
Local bottled water ("Baraka" - means "Blessings") = LE1.5.
Make sure you have &#3615USD or £GBP equivalent at the airport for entry visa. Exchange rate at the time was LE7.2 to £1GBP - try www.xe.com for up-to-date conversions.

Blimey, I've come over all Judith Chalmers!  I think I'll go and lay down somewhere quiet...

Hope this helps!

John
 

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Hi John,

that was a really good read mate and very informative.  I haven't been out there yet (failed in my plans to do so last year) but hope this year will prove more fruitful.

As I'd be going over with the family (non-diving partner) or going over solo, how did you find the buddying-up process?  Were you matched with somebody of the same ability and what if there wasn't a ready 'spare' diver to dive with you.

Cheers mate.

Tim
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] ]Quote: from Mdemon on 11:34 pm on Feb. 1, 2003

Blimey, I've come over all Judith Chalmers!  
<span =''>

You filthy man !!!She's orange you know!
 

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Hey John,

An involving read and sounds like you had a whale of time! Thanks also for the heads-up on the info general.

Tim,

Don't worry about buddies in Sharm - if you can't get one you're happy with, hook-up and dive with the DM or go round in a three-er with a couple you rate.
 

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Hi Tim,

The buddying process just happened - we had a brief chat amongst ourselves, and by the time the guide asked for buddy pairs, it was all fairly set.  The groups did change - both mid-dive due to air consumption and throughout the week.  I started with a nice lady called Sue, but finished the week with the other lads doing the nitrox course.  The one guy without a buddy went with the guide.

Gav - I know - she's been Tango'd!!! ;o)

Bren, it was the best!  Going solo took a while to get used to, but had its own benefits.  I also know enough Arabic to get by, which helped.  They all speak English/Russian (LOADS of Russians there!)/German etc, but a little Arabic oils the wheels...  If I can negotiate another solo week with the Mrs, I'm off!
 
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