‘Red Sea diving, here we come!’
23rd August 2019 – at last….the long anticipated day had arrived! Branch 5 – the MerseyDivers – were on their way, flying into Hurghada, Egypt, from three different UK airports, on the same day!
Our party consisted of 23 divers (Sports Divers and above) and 17 assorted friends and family! The trip had been planned well in advance, and had been well thought out, with an all-inclusive hotel, Three Corners Rihanna Inn, El Gouna, just North of Hurghada, as our base. This enabled our non-divers to enjoy the pools, the lagoon, the waterslides, the tuktuk journeys to ‘downtown’, the ferry to local islands, snorkelling, and several local excursions.
‘All-inclusive’ also meant that when we returned from a day’s diving , dining and a ‘little beverage’ could be in any combination of numbers… from couples, to a couple of nights when the entire group met and ate together….true celebrations!
On arrival, airport pickups and hotel check-in all ran relatively smoothly, although several of the singles in our group were a little surprised to be sharing a double bed with their room buddy! The hotel managed to sort that out the next day, though to be fair the twin beds were almost as cosy as the double!
The format for each day was simple. Emperor Divers sent minibuses to pick us up, after an early breakfast, and these would take us down to the waterfront, where the ’Pegasus’ and her trusty crew would be waiting for us. We stored all our gear in named crates under the benches, and left it there each evening.
On Day One Tobi, one of the dive leaders, got us all together on the top deck for a briefing. We were to dive 2 reef dives that day, so he used a whiteboard diagram to show us the dive plan for the first dive, the depths, the timings and what we could expect to see…..and what would be a possible bonus! Then Question Time. We were put into 3 groups, and given a buddy for the day. We met Tiger, and Mahmoud, our 2 other dive guides, and the dive plan board stayed on the wall all day, so we all knew the names of where we were going and who our buddies were, and didn’t have to ask the staff a million times!
As soon as everyone was aboard, we would set out – calm seas, glorious sunshine, great company, two decks to wander around on, sit and chat, and generally relax. Our fabulous crew made sure there was always hot water for tea and coffee, and cold water / soft drinks in the fridge.
We were all excited for our first dive, on Carless Reef. The first group kitted up, closely followed by the rest of us, and we entered the water a group at a time. Wow! For those of us who had never experienced Red Sea Diving before, it was awesome. Getting on for 35/40m visibility, we swam in a fabulous aquarium! Stonefish, a crocodile fish, blue spotted rays, HUGE moray eels peering out from the rocks, the tiniest purple Orchid Dotty Backs, shoals of wrasse, barracuda……
Eventually we reluctantly climbed the ladder back into the boat, with the crew lifting cylinders off our backs ,helping us de-kit, and our cook going round the boat offering us warm, freshly baked cakes!
Second dive was more of the same…..!
In between dives our cook managed to serve up a fantastic lunch buffet – salads, pasta, one or two meat dishes, and local Egyptian dishes…..all from a kitchen about the size of an old red telephone box!
Then it was time for another relax as we headed back for an hour or two back to El Gouna, and a celebratory cold beer….or two!
Day Two was more of the same, except that our dives were both Wreck dives. First was on the Carnatic, which ran aground on the Abu Nuhas reef. SS Carnatic is adorned with over a hundred years of coral growth – amazing colours and variety. She lies on her port side and is in 2 quite distinctive parts, the bow and the stern. The deck is now rotted away leaving a series of main supporting beams of the 3 decks- the ribs of the ship. These are covered in a profusion of colour and life, where the square portholes are covered with marine life, from soft corals to tiny pipefish and nudibranchs.
The highest point of the wreck is the stern at 17m, with the rudder and prop at 28m The bow itself still bears the graceful lines of a once proud and elegant ship, Her masts lie on the seabed away from the wreck alongside recognisable parts of engine, gears, and boilers – a magnificent sight.
She had been carrying a cargo of cotton, port, copper ingots and 40,000 Pounds Sterling in gold coins. Unfortunately we found none of it!
The second wreck was the Giannis D. which sank in 1983 after hitting the same reef. As the sea was quite choppy, this was a 15 minute RHIB journey to the wreck site, for us.
Giannis D. is is lying on the bottom in roughly three separate sections. My group dropped onto the stern of the wreck, lying at 24 meters and at about a 45-degree angle. The ship’s bent propeller lies partially buried in the sand on the bottom. Penetration into the superstructure , which quite a few of us were keen to do, involved entering the pilothouse, which has been stripped of all of its equipment, and then heading along and down the companionway into the engine room, which hasn’t been salvaged.
Because of the angle of the ship it can become a bit disorientating -the engine room is filled with catwalks and handrails, all at odd angles, with the diesel engine lying to one side. Here we were very taken by a huge spotted pufferfish in the depths, who took no notice of us at all!
We followed various dark passageways, with the occasional glimpse of brilliant blue out of a porthole, eventually exiting near the middle section of the ship. Then we finned along to the bow which lies completely on its port side, past winches, bollards and various ‘shippy’ things (I’m so technical!), and saw the masts stretching out parallel to the seabed –fascinating. Back along the length of the ship, seeing some of the original cargo still on the deck – wood! – and gradually ascending to our safety stop, along the ship’s mast which rises to about 4m from the surface. On the dive we were lucky enough to see numerous varieties of aquatic life such as glassfish, scorpionfish, wrasse, napoleon, crocodile fish, grouper and lionfish and blue-spotted stingrays along the bottom. Wonderful!
Day Three gave us more reef dives. It was like being in an aquarium –all sorts of angelfish, parrotfish, pufferfish , morays, shoals of tiny fish, cornet fish, and others too numerous to mention.
Our lovely dive guides offered us a third dive, stopping on the way back at Gota el Dier. For those of us who decided to dive it was an experience of a lifetime…… about 40 minutes into the dive, a huge grey shape shot through the group. It circled and returned, this time with a friend – DOLPHINS. For the next few minutes they circled us, raced to the water surface and back and brought more of the pod to check us out…a real honour! After passing us at an arm’s length away, the 7 dolphins eventually glided away into the distance leaving us absolutely buzzing!
And so the week continued – more spectacular reef diving in varying locations, and 2 more ‘Third Dives’ where we spent more time with dolphins – absolutely unbelievable!!
Before we knew it, the week was drawing to a close – with a final hotel day, to relax and chill before our evening flights home. Friendships had grown stronger, birthdays been celebrated, diving skills progressed, new food sampled, copious amounts of alcohol consumed, challenges met/ dealt with /overcome, and truly awesome dives accomplished. Red Sea Diving had lived up to its reputation – we’ll be back!
Many thanks to Emperor Divers, El Gouna, for a great week.
Purple Jan (Ryan)
[For anyone reading this and searching for gossip and ‘scandal’,- about who jumped in for their dive with items of kit missing (weightbelts? dive computers?) or who stayed up the latest each night, or drank the most beer?, you’re out of luck –‘’ what goes on in Egypt, stays in Egypt’’!!!]