Egypt - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 91

Sharm El-Sheikh

Wednesday 11th June

The usual, Spartan, Egyptian-fare breakfast kick started our day this morning. An egg, a small piece of bread and a triangle of cheese is the going norm here and is about the same all throughout Egypt. It was just enough for me to take my forth Cipro tablet. The diarrhoea and stomach pains are all history now but I will, of course, complete the course of six tablets.

So, our first day of diving in the Red Sea awaited us and we were collected at around nine o’clock by the minibus with our dive master and a few other divers with their dive master. We stopped briefly along the way to the dock to buy some batteries for the underwater camera. Fortunately, we were able to find some Duracell batteries for a good price and we held high hopes that they would last at least one or two dives.

Having already travelled across, and snorkelled through, the waters of the Red Sea, we knew that it was clear and a lovely shade of turquoise. When we arrived at the dock, however, I was completely stunned at just how much clearer the water here was even compared to what we’ve seen so far. It was like looking through glass with a slight blue tint to it. We could see quite a collection of brilliantly coloured fish even as far down as a couple of meters or more, right there under the boats.

The trip to the dive sight lasted all of about five minutes at slow speed and in very calm waters and we eagerly kitted up to get in once we arrived. Our dive master had other plans, however, and took his time with the dive briefing and going over some do’s and don’ts, etc. He was very good and took his time examining our gear and making sure that all the safety checks were complete.

When we finally got in, the view was even more spectacular from beneath the surface and down we submerged to our relatively shallow dive depth to commence our circuit around the reefs. By quite a long stretch, the quantity and quality of corals and marine life here surpasses anything else we’ve experienced to date. Visibility was well into the thirty-meter range and we both took turns in putting the camera into overdrive.

Our underwater photography, as it turns out, is not really doing much for our actual diving disciplines. Our dive master was concerned that I, in particular, was diverting far too much time towards chasing after photo opportunities than I should have been. Consequently, even though I have quite good buoyancy control, my dive profile was all over the place as I swam up and down chasing after fish and other interesting reef life. Since this can be a potential problem, increasing the chance of decompression sickness, he suggested that we leave the camera on-shore for tomorrow’s dives so that we could work on some dive skills. We have to demonstrate that we can maintain both good buoyancy as well as a stable dive profile before he will allow us to go to some of the more challenging sites. I have no problem with this and, in fact, it’s quite encouraging to know that we are in the hands of professionals who are genuinely looking after our safety as the number one priority.

Our second dive site was separated by the first by all of about two or three hundred meters as well as a pause for lunch. A communications breakdown ensured that there was no food on-board that I could eat but I wasn’t really hungry anyway and Sandy enjoyed the food. The second dive site for the day was even better than the first and we saw a staggering amount of fish and some fantastic corals. The crowning glory for the dive was a Lionfish and a four foot long Moray Eel.

We returned from the dive with the bonus of having not experienced any nausea at all, thanks to the Cinnarizine anti-nausea tablets that we picked up back in South Africa. We spent a little time back at the dive shop cleaning our gear and so on and I was even able to hook up my laptop to their local network again. Another photographer on-board our boat also had a digital camera with a CompacFlash memory card so I offloaded this for him and burned his photos to a CD. Henk, the Dutch manager of the dive centre had organised a stack of twenty blank CDs for me as well as three blank DVDs. We can finally make a backup of our Serengeti photos and this will put Sandy’s mind at ease at long last.

Tomorrow’s dive will be a beach dive so we won’t need to get onto a boat. We will instead be driven to the beach location and will simply kit up and walk right into the sea. This will be our first beach entrance dive.

This evening, we took the shuttle bus into Na’ama Bay and wandered around a bit. We stumbled into the Hard Rock café and decided that the Buffalo wings on the menu were far more enticing than the KFC, so we stopped there for dinner instead and very much enjoyed an American style meal. We saw a lot more of Na’ama Bay this time around, including some streets that are far better developed than the usual run down bazaars that we’ve become so accustomed to. The whole place, however, still has a very numb, touristy feel to it. Pretty much everything that we saw for sale at the bazaars and gift shops were clearly aimed directly at wealthy, dumb, tourists and we could find absolutely nothing that looked even remotely authentic Egyptian. This little town is almost identical to any number of tourist towns that you could find anywhere on the planet – with the exception, perhaps, of all the Shisha smoking contraptions on sale everywhere as well as in every tacky restaurant. We left having almost felt the culture being sucked right out of us.