Just came back from another trip to Sharm with The Divemaster. Two weeks of sun, sea and scuba diving! We stayed at our favourite hotel, Ocean Club. This is not a luxury hotel by any means. However, it is clean and friendly and next to our favourite 5* dive centre, Ocean College. Over the years, mainly divers tended to stay at The Club, but as with everything, things change and it has been infiltrated by non-divers alike. We also like it because it is generally quiet, especially in the evenings as divers tend to go to bed earlier than most. Because divers tend to stay there, one is bound to come across a familiar face now and again. We were pleased to see some people we had met in June and over Christmas, and we also made some new friends.
The first day was spent diving locally in Fiddle and Far Garden. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I had purchased new equipment and was looking forward to trying it out. Because my new BCD is extremely lightweight and only inflates at the back, it turned out that I needed an extra kilo on each side to help me get down. This didn’t pose a problem until I had to haul myself back onto the boat as the weights were integrated into my BCD and positioned on the back by the tank and on my hips. This gave me a bit of a drag when getting out of the water and climbing up the ladder. Thank goodness for the boat boys! Otherwise, I have no complaints about my BCD at all. I hardly noticed I was wearing it in the water as it was extremely comfortable and I had no problems with my buoyancy control. In fact, I love my new BCD! My regs – well, what can I say about them? They helped me breathe! I am no techie when it comes to scuba equipment, so I don’t have much to say about them except that the mouthpiece was small and fit well and it is also lightweight. I liked it and didn’t have to think much about it. I could also read my SPG really well and clearly underwater. I spent most of the time my first day looking at my new dive computer. It took me awhile to get used to it and work out what it was telling me. Eventually, I got the hang of it. I am sure that there are other things it can tell me that I might be interested in knowing, but I can easily access the essential information for each dive. I will need to look at the instruction manual and play around with it before I go diving again. I am especially happy with my little diving cap! It keeps the hair out of my face and keeps my head warm, although I did have to put a few holes in the top in order to let some of the air out. All in all, I am very happy with my new purchases. We had a lovely day’s diving and I was really happy to be back in the water.
Our second day was spent at Ras Mohammed National Park. We started at Anemone City, Shark and Yolanda Reefs. Every time I dive this site it is always different and we weren’t disappointed when we saw an Eagle Ray! Back on board, the wind was kicking up and so we headed over to dive Ras Za’Atar where I saw some very large snappers, groupers and a nice puffer and box fish. There was a bit of a swell and it was a bit hairy getting back onto the boat. I was surprisingly calm about the whole ordeal, even when I bashed my shin against the ladder (I still have a massive bruise). However, the ascent back onto the boat and the thrashing about weakened my reserves and I succumbed to a bit of sea sickness, although I didn’t heave. It definitely put me off lunch. Thank goodness I had The Divemaster to look after me. I just made myself small and slept on the boat the rest of the afternoon.
The next two days the swell and wind were so bad that they had to close the jetties at Travco and Naama Bay. They weren’t able to get our equipment off of the boat for the first day of the closure, so we were forced to sit by the pool and work on our tan. 🙂 The dive centre was able to get our equipment off the boat on the second day of closure so that we were able to dive off of the beach at Naama Bay. The Divemaster had never dived off of the beach before and was keen to get into the water. We started at the pier where there were too many lion fish to be believed. I had never seen so many in one place before. It was incredible. We eventually made it past the sculptures and a large puffer fish and his trunk fish buddy to a little reef on the other side of the beach. It is amazing how much one can see in a relatively small area. On our two dives there we saw a citron coral gobi, a couple of red starfish, banded pipe fish, a Mourning Dorid nudibranch, goatfish, trunkfish and a whole host of other fish that I don’t know the names of. I could have pottered around there all day if I had enough air to last me!
The diving thereafter for the rest of the holiday came in fits and starts. Although the weather settled down for the rest of our trip, some dives just seemed to be better than others. I learned a few things about diving with the current. We had a few dives when the current was flying and I panicked a little the first time I experienced that on Ras um Sid. The Divemaster gave me a few pointers and the next time it happened I was prepared and actually enjoyed the ride. The current is always an issue when diving in Sharm and sometimes the dive guides can put the fear of God in you during the dive briefing. Forewarned is forearmed I guess. There were a few dives that really tired me out, but for the most part I really enjoyed myself. I had no problems with buoyancy on this trip and was the most relaxed I had been in many years. I was getting better at spotting interesting things such as turtles, eels, and a Moses Sole. There were quite a few turtles to be seen on this trip. We visited a few sites several times over this holiday and each dive experience was different. I cannot understand the people that have told me that they get bored. Granted some dive sites are more interesting than others, but there is always something that amazes me even if I don’t see anything ‘big’ or ‘interesting’. It is all interesting to me. I love watching how the little groups of fish interact with each other in their environment. I saw many fish doing their little mating dances around each other. It was so cute. Then there is the coral. I think people forget that they are actually living creatures. Granted, some are more interesting to look at than others, but coral usually has some fish swimming in and around it, or hiding under it. There is always something to see. On this trip I saw: Lionfish, many turtles, an eagle ray, morays (three kinds), starfish, nudibranchs, Napoleon wrasse, crocodile fish, stone fish, scorpion fish, Moses sole, groupers and the king of all groupers (it was bloody huge!), jacks, tunas, barracudas, blue spotted rays, puffer fish, trunk fish, parrot fish, octopus, torpedo rays, butterfly fish, angel fish and so many other fish and lovely corals that I don’t know the names of. Too many fish and too little time to identify them all! To top it all off, we also saw a Ghost Pipe Fish. Pretty spectacular that was. He was having his photo taken by a few of our diving friends.
No dive holiday would be complete without the people you meet, fellow divers. For most of the holiday, The Divemaster and I dived with the same group of people, some of who were also staying at The Club. Some were divers who have been going to Sharm for many years although our paths had never crossed before, and some we had met on previous visits. On the second leg of the holiday, our little group was able to use the same dive boat for the rest of our trip. As well as having some continuity in our routine, this also meant that our kit was generally dry for the first dive. 🙂 For the most part, there was some camaraderie and hilarity amongst those that were already familiar with each other or were getting used to each other’s company. Unfortunately, there is always one or two that are a pain in the butt or a potential diving hazard. At least it gives everyone something to talk about along with what amazing creatures they saw in the water. It creates a weird sort of bonding sometimes.
The boat crew and diving staff can help make or break a holiday. Fortunately the people we counted on to look after us did so extremely well. They are practically like family, though in some cases maybe even better. Always ready for a laugh, their professionalism was never compromised and safety was always a priority. I guess this is why many people keep coming back to dive with Ocean College.
I didn’t really take any photos this time around as I am rather limited with my little camera and have posted images on previous posts. One of the ladies on the dive boat kindly took a photo of me with my dive kit on to show that I actually do go scuba diving. Quite a different look compared to what I wear for my other passion, Argentine Tango! We also had some Risso’s dolphins swimming near the boat on a couple of days. These dolphins are not the fun ones that like to come right up to the boat, but dolphins nonetheless. It is always wonderful to see them, though better to dive with them!
I had a wonderful holiday. However, I can feel my tan fading already. It is supposed to be spring! I guess there is only one thing for it – start planning the next one. Hmmn! Where shall we go next?