Egypt - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 94

Sharm El-Sheikh

Saturday 14th June

Our breakfast this morning was very much better than anything we’ve had since we arrived in Egypt. It was nicely laid out, buffet style, warm and there was plenty to choose from. It makes the hassle that we went through to move hotels that much more worthwhile. As was the case in Tanzania, there were even fried potatoes and some sort of sausage or salami meat. Once again, then, I was able to eat sausage, egg and chips for breakfast - delicious.

Our daily routine has now settled in and we completed the ritual waiting around at the dive centre followed by the short trip to the dock to embark and sort out our gear. Since today was the first of the two days we will ultimately spend going through the Advanced Open Water curriculum, we brought along with us the course reference material to read through on the boat. We both read through much of it last night and the plan was to polish it off this afternoon. The knowledge requirements are not that substantial and most, if not all, of it is really just basic common sense. After our two remaining daylight dives and the night dive tomorrow, we will be quizzed on the course material. If all goes well, our dive master will certify us and we will then be able to dive almost anywhere in the world, thus increasing the quantity and quality of dive opportunities available to us. There are still plenty of dive locations that we intend to visit during the coming year or so.

We were particularly looking forward today’s dives, as they were inside the Ras Mohammed National Park area. This is reputed to be one of the very best dive locations in the Red Sea. We were not to be disappointed either since both dives were excellent with a wealth of spectacular corals and colourful marine life. Just a few minutes after entering the water for the first dive, a drift dive, a two-foot long turtle swam by us. We had the camera with us but the batteries were low and we had agreed to hold off with the photography until we saw something particularly worthy. This was our first turtle sighting and it certainly qualified. Our dive master pointed it out to me and motioned for me to take a photo so I followed it until I got close enough to get a decent shot. Unfortunately, I misjudged the direction in which the majestic beast was gliding and ended up at just below twenty-two meters. By the time I had noticed this and had started to ascend a bit, the dive master was already on her way towards me to tell me off. Getting carried away with the camera in my hand is something that I must try to do a better job of managing.

We’ve dived in drift currents before and always seemed to want to instinctively fight against the current. Our training material went into this a bit and we were both ready for the sensation this time around. Accordingly, we actually spent less energy during this dive as opposed to all the previous dives as we allowed the current to do the swimming for us. It was necessary to fight the current just a couple of times as we went around the curve of a reef island and tried to stay close to the inside of the curve.

Our dive master was very pleased with our performance during the dive, with the exception of the turtle incident, and we moved to a secluded bay to pause for lunch, after everybody was aboard. I still have a hard time with Egyptian food so I never eat the on-board lunches provided (which I otherwise would have had to pay for). Instead, I decided to join some of the other divers on a couple of neighbouring boats in the water for some impromptu snorkelling. It turned out to be a good move as the marine life right there at the beach was no less spectacular than anything we’ve seen to date, complete with corals and the full gamut of marine fish.

The discipline for the second dive of the day, and course, was the naturalist dive. Much to my disappointment, this didn’t mean that everyone had to dive in the nude. Instead, it meant that we had to pay close attention to the marine life and ecosystems of the underwater world. We had to demonstrate that we could identify vertebrates and invertebrates and we were given a slate to write down our observations. This dive turned out to be the very best dive to date. Even our dive master and all the others on the boat were praising the dive as nothing less than spectacular. We saw dozens of shoals of fish both big and small as well as an enormous wall of coral that we on in all directions as far as we could see. A Leopard shark was also spotted by our dive master but by the time she was able to signal this to us, it had passed out of visual range. There was also quite a strong current towards the far end of the dive circuit but we managed to hang around long enough to have a good look at the wreckage of a sunken and near completely destroyed commercial vessel. By the looks of it, its cargo included some porcelain toilets and I managed to get some nice photos of these, which will be a unique addition to my ever-growing collection. The wreck location is also where we saw the most shoals of large fish and I near depleted the camera batteries trying to take it all al.

Several other people have digital underwater cameras here and most, if not all, of them are of a higher quality than ours. Some of them are already up to five mega pixels and produce some very nice photos. Ours was one of the best at the time we purchased it but the digital camera industry is moving forward so fast that it is now showing its age already. Instead of buying a new digital SLR camera for Sandy, as we had decided a month or two ago, we may instead elect to buy a top-end digital camera with underwater housing. The idea is that we can use it both above as well as beneath the waves.

We returned from our day at sea this afternoon thinking that we might never top the experience but tomorrow is another day and there’s another one waiting for us after that too. The night dive should prove to be interesting and I have high hopes that we will see some great things then.

Back on dry land again, we filled in our logbooks and our dive master stamped and signed in the necessary pages. We are now approaching twenty dives each and our underwater confidence is riding at an all-time high.

Instead of using our credit cards or our remaining Egyptian cash reserves to pay for our diving, we hooked up to the Internet and electronically transferred the money directly into the dive centre’s bank account, which just happens to be a Rabobank account just like our own. It was the first time since we left Europe over three months ago that I had bothered to check just how much cash we had left in the bank. I was preparing myself for a bit of a shock but actually the figure was exactly where I had predicted it to be by this time when we were back in Cape Town. This month’s credit card bill still has to be paid but we will still arrive back in Europe in a couple of weeks' time with about thirty thousand Euros (approximately $35,500) to our name, after taking Jordan and the United Arab Emirates into account.

We ate at the bar this evening in the company of Henk and a couple of dive instructors. The food was good and was prepared right in front of us. We have a just a little bit more knowledge review to do for tomorrow and then we can call it a night.