Christmas and New Year 2009 in Sharm el Sheikh

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It had been a very busy year and with the stresses and strains of selling my house Christmas seemed like a very good time to get away for some winter sun.  My children were all working over the holidays or had made other arrangements.  This is what happens when your children have their own lives.  So, we booked a last minute holiday to Sharm el Sheikh for some scuba diving.  We weren’t able to book into our usual hotel so we tried somewhere new that was still close to the dive centre (more about that another time) and a ten day dive package with Ocean College.

The weather in Sharm tends to be on the cool side this time of year.  Although still warm compared to the UK, the water is cooler and the wind can make it feel arctic when coming out of the water and taking your wetsuit off.  Even though it was gloriously sunny during the day, the evenings were cool and I tended to wear jeans, a long sleeved top, and a fleece for good measure for most of our holiday.  Diving can take a toll on one’s body and being in the cold water doesn’t do one any favours.

The first few days of diving were very sunny, windy and the water was a bit bouncy.  After diving Jackfish Alley on Christmas Eve, I managed to get a bit seasick and missed out on the second dive.  I was also pretty cold.  I let the boat rock me to sleep while the others carried on diving.  Although I felt better after a nap, I didn’t want to risk having lunch in case I just ended up losing it.  To say I was very hungry at dinner time would be an understatement.  We were invited to the Ocean College staff Christmas party that evening, where we had a wonderful turkey dinner with all the trimmings!  It was a great party with lots of food, drink and lovely people.

Christmas day arrived and we had lovely sunshine.  We were going to Tiran that day, but unfortunately Amor wasn’t able to dive as his sinuses were all blocked up.  As we weren’t diving, we made ourselves useful on the boat.  The water wasn’t as rough as it had been earlier in the week, but there was still a bit of a breeze up.  Amor checked everyone off and I made tea and coffee and helped people off with their kit.  There was a jolly atmosphere on the dive boat and a fair amount of hilarity.  On the way back to the harbour, we had the added bonus of dolphins swimming alongside and the front of the boat.  Some even had babies!  What a great way to end a day of diving, even if I didn’t get into the water that day!

Boxing Day was spent by the pool.  It was time to work on the tan!  It was also nice to sleep in and have a big breakfast for a change.  The weather was glorious and I even went for a swim.   The pool was really refreshing.

The weather steadily improved for the rest of our stay.  It was sunny and warm, the breeze had died down and the water was calm.  We saw many amazing things this holiday.  There were morays, turtles, Napoleon wrasse, crocodile fish, torpedo rays, blue spotted rays, puffer fish, giant trevalis, scorpionfish, nudibranchs, spadefish, octopus, lionfish, tunas, jacks, and a baby oceanic white tip shark, to name a few of the bigger things.  Then there were the usual suspects such as the antheas, humbugs, parrot and trigger fish, angel fish, and clownfish as well as all the beautiful corals.  I am never bored when I am diving.  There is so much to look at if one bothers to take the time.  I don’t feel that diving is all about looking for the big things.  I love watching a patch of coral and observing how the littlest fish behave.

New Year’s Eve was spent diving in Tiran.  Our first dive was at Gordon Reef (sorry Nancy!) which was a beautiful dive, a gentle bimble with beautiful corals.  We managed an hour!  Unfortunately, there was a cargo ship that got stuck on Woodhouse Reef.  I think they were trying to take a shortcut and didn’t quite make it.  What a bunch of idiots, not to say the amount of damage to the reef that has been done.  Someone is in biiiig trouble.

The second dive was at Jackson Reef, which Amor and I opted out of, and lucky for us too as three groups got caught up in a surge of current and ended up getting whisked into the rough water at the edge of the reef.  It was a bit bouncy and scary collecting everyone and I was a bit worried that the helpers (including Amor) would end up in the sea also.  The boat was just one big rollercoaster, but everyone ended up safely on the boat eventually.  Some bright spark had taken off his 12 kilo weight belt on the line and gave it to one of the female instructors.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to put it on or hang onto it as the water was a bit rough (understatement) and so she had to lose it – it was either lose her or the belt.  We should have lost the diver that gave it to her, in my opinion.  There is always one in every crowd.  I asked Amor why someone would do that and he thought it was because of laziness.  I personally think it was because the person was a dick.

Our last dive for the day was at Middle Garden.  It was lovely and calm and we spent a good hour underwater – a great last dive of the year.  We had a bit of a traffic jam on the way back to the hotel as they stopped all traffic because of the president (of Egypt) being in the area.  Fortunately, we were stuck in front of an off license and so we started the New Year’s celebrations early in the bus. 🙂

Our hotel was having a New Year’s Eve party which was part of our package.  We went to that, but not before getting a head start with a bottle of champagne that we brought over and which had been chilling in the refrigerator for the last two weeks!  I think we were the only English people at our table, the rest of who were either Russian or from other Baltic areas.  No one spoke to each other until a young Russian couple sat down next to me and the young woman said hello.  They were delightful.

We had our first dinner at the hotel and although it all looked wonderful, we found the food to be disappointing.  However, it was the first time I had seen any real fruit in about two weeks, so I put together a good selection to take back to the room to eat over the next few days.  The entertainment wasn’t to our liking and so we went back to our room to rest before meeting up with friends later.  Unfortunately we didn’t make it.  I do remember waking up to the New Year’s countdown, waking Amor, and wishing each other Happy New Year before going back to sleep.  It sounds pretty sad really, but diving is very tiring if you are only doing it a few times a year!

New Year’s Day was spent at the pool as there was no diving that day.  We basically had a repeat of Boxing Day!

The following day we dived locally at Middle and Far Gardens where we saw the baby oceanic white tip shark.  The shark was hanging around the dive boats all afternoon which makes us think that it was being fed.  I know that some people might think that it is cute to feed a baby shark, but it isn’t going to be a baby for much longer and I shudder to think of the potential problems that may affect the shark or other divers in the future.  It makes me sad really that some people can’t leave nature to its’ own devices.

Baby Oceanic White Tip Shark – from the boat!

Our last day was spent diving in Ras Mohammed National Park at Ras Ghazlani and Shark and Yolanda Reef.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the water was extremely calm and flat as a pancake.  We had two lovely dives and on the way back to port I was really sad to leave.

It was an amazing holiday and I was pleasantly surprised how the locals pandered to the tourists with all of the Christmas decorations at the various hotels and such.  We had great food (mostly) and went back to Fares in Old Sharm a couple of times for excellent seafood.  We are starting to get the hang of this place now and were a bit more adventurous in ordering food.  We even got to choose our own fish from next door!  We met some really lovely people and had a few laughs.  To top it all off, I have finally sorted out my weight issues and leaky mask problems due to the advice of Amanda, one of the instructors.  Best of all, I had my very own personal divemaster looking after me. 🙂  Who could ask for anything more?  I’m just looking forward to the next diving holiday, wherever that may be.

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2 responses

  1. Hi Arlene

    Love this post. My friend went to the dive and tango event in Nov. and loved it. So to hear about your adventures there made it all seem so much closer, she’s on the other side of the world at the moment.

    cheers
    mj

    • Hi Mike,

      I would love to hear all about it from your friend if she would like to contact me! Diving and Tango! Wow!

      If these people organise another event, with enough notice, I might try and make it this year!
      Ax