Egypt

Posted: April 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

A slightly delayed post from our trip in October 2015.

Egypt was the 56th country I visited in my life. It is a very popular destination for English people, however I might change this statement to past tense and leave the present for Russians.

My main attraction to Egypt was the Red Sea and diving hence why we chose Sharm el Sheikh to visit over Cairo and the Pyramids.

We booked the trip through Regal Dive as I could not find a straight forward way to book diving, flights and hotel separately.

Since it was Richard’s first dive livaboard experience we chose a mini safari (3 day trip) over a full safari (duration: a week).

We flew with Monarch to Egypt on the 4th October and once we arrived at the airport our driver picked us up and drove us directly to the port where the SNEFRO 6 fleet waited for us.

We were looking forward to this trip and hoped that we would have a great group, which we did! The group was small which is always a bonus, 4 guests in total, Richard and I plus 2 guys, Martin and Callum.

Our divemaster Basem was Egyptian and super friendly.

Few pics of the boat:
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The whole experience reminded me of my first liveaboard in Thailand around the Similan Islands. The staff were superb! The food was exceptional..we were properly spoilt.

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We sat down on the first night and tried out our equipment, then discussed the itinerary and the courses we wanted to do. Richard planned to do his Advanced course and beyond that the opportunity arose to do the Nitrox course so we both decided to do it.

The days began with very early starts, up at 6am and ready to dive by 6.30am.

We did the following dive sites on the first day

  1. Temple
  2. Stingray station
  3. Sha’ab Surur
  4. Sh’ab Ali Lagoon- night dive

We saw Lion fish, Masked Puffer fish, Giant Clam, Napoleon fish, Angel fish, Blue spotted stingray, Scorpion fish, Banner fish, Butterfly fish, Moray eel and Trigger fish.

Unfortunately my computer let me down on the first dive, the battery died which I did not expect at all and it’s not something I could check as it switches on underwater at around 2m depth. It was not a major issue though because at least I could use Basem’s Suunto computer.

The second important item that let me down was my GoPro..it kept freezing underwater which made me incredibly angry especially because I had just bought a macro red filter before the trip to enhance the quality of the video and pictures.

The next day we did the famous Thistlegorm wreck that sank on 6th October 1941. It was super impressive, with all the motorbikes still inside, rusted with corals around them, pieces of rubber tyres, guns, rifles. We did this dive with Nitrox.

There was another dive around this wreck ..just because you cannot have enough of it:)

The afternoon and night dive was at the same dive site called Beacon Rock. Now that night dive was one of my highlights ever. I saw a Spanish dancer …dancing! It’s fairly rare to see them at all let alone dancing.

spanish dancer

In the evenings we had great banter between studying EON and Richard his advanced course book.

On the third day we finished off with 2 dives only and some chilling on the boat. Then there was the time of truth; the exam. We had to sit separately with Basem marking our work. Of course Richard copied the whole EON exam off me therefore we had 2 identical mistakes! Back to school…..

The last 2 dives were at:

  1. Dunraven
  2. Shark & Yolanda Reef- 38m depth and current – very impressive dive site.

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After the magical 3 days living on the sea we returned to Sharm to our hotel…which was a big disappointment. Falcon Naama Star Hotel is one to avoid! Not clean, not by the sea..the staff were very nice but considering the number of options in hotels it is on the lower end of the range.

On the first evening on ‘land’ we got a little taste for Sharm’s charm..the hassle, the constant, ‘hey my friend, do you remember me?’

Therefore we quickly realised that we wanted to plan things to do for the remaining 3 full days.

The next day we booked a fantastic 4×4 safari trip to visit the Coloured Canyon and Dahab. Highly recommended!

We had a super fun guide, spoke about 15 languages! But 2 for sure, English and Russian. After racing through the desert we walked through this beautiful canyon:

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Then we made our way to Dahab and snorkelled the Blue Hole where lots of divers have died over the years. It’s a stunning crystal clear hole with colourful corals and beautiful fish.

After the snorkelling we had lunch from a restaurant with view across the Red Sea and the surrounding mountains. Fresh juice is always a must in tropical countries!

After lunch we did a 20 minutes camel ride along the sea..again..the guide was superb! We laughed so much!

IMG_8863The trip ended in a dodgy perfume shop where we had the opportunity to buy our favourite fragrance for a fraction of the original price.

Early night after the action packed day as for the next day we had booked a day trip to Jordan. We got picked up at 2am (!) from our hotel and we had a 8 hour journey waiting for us (4 h bus + 1 h boat + 3 h bus again). When we got to Petra we had about 3 hours to explore. 2 h guided and 1 h free. When I saw one of the 7th Wonders of the World it was just incredible! It was the 6th that I have seen…1 to go, the Great Wall of China, which I am planning on visiting in the next year or so.

With Petra my only issue was that in order to get to the Treasury (the main attraction) you can rent a horse with a carriage. The pavement is mainly stoned therefore the animals suffer a lot. The locals seem to ignore this and they encourage them with the whip to go even faster…my heart was breaking. People visiting Petra, please do not encourage this service by taking it!

Here is a map of Petra. It’s huge and I recommend that you leave at least a full day to explore it.

petra-map

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The penultimate day in Sharm el-Sheikh was fun:) I found an excellent snorkelling spot without needing to take a tour..well at least that’s what I thought. We packed our snorkelling gear and took a taxi to the Hyatt Regency. When we got there it was clear that this is not a common route that tourists take to go snorkelling…given that you need to go into the hotel and be on their private beach to access the reef. But I felt that I was so close  that I didn’t care:) We went through a security check before entering the hotel- like a conveyor belt and proper door men etc. first obstacle done. Then confidently walked into the hotel, through the lobby out to the pool area (removed our existing hotel bracelets and were happy to notice that in the Hyatt Regency people did not wear a bracelet). Finally we got to their amazing private beach..wow. It was great! The only problem was that we did not have matching towels to the rest of the people there so at the beginning we felt quite uncomfortable that we would be thrown out of there at any minute:) I threw myself into the water and spent most of the day there looking at the lovely Coral Garden. I saw a cuttle fish, tons of clown fish, barracuda, and an eel. It was fantastic! We had a great lunch at the hotel restaurant then back to sunbathing and snorkelling. That’s how we spent a day at a 5 star all inclusive hotel without any booking:)

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The last day we spent on the public beach, having a massage, with shisha and drinking cocktails. It was a great holiday and I truly hope that the political situation will allow us to go there soon without any threat or fear.

One week after we left ISIS took out the Russian plane so we timed our departure well.

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