Sharmed Out!

People ask me why I go diving in Sharm el Sheikh twice a year.  Here are three good reasons to go diving in Sharm:

  1. It is a relatively short flight (5 hours) to get to an area that is warm all year around and the closest place to the UK with coral reefs.
  2. Most of the dive sites are healthy with beautiful corals and a wide variety of colourful fish.
  3. It is relatively cheap.

I just came back from my 10th or 11th trip to Sharm.  I normally go for two weeks twice a year, but this time I went for three weeks.  My partner was going to finish his Dive Master the first two weeks with one week of fun diving with me.  Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan.

I was feeling slightly under the weather the day we left the UK and I ended up with a bout of sinusitis.  I managed to complete my first (and 200th) dive on the first day with no problems.  However, when attempting my second dive of the day, I felt stabbing pains around my eyes at three meters and had to come back to the surface.  Not good!  I attempted to dive on the second day, but couldn’t get past a meter, so the rest of that day was spent sleeping on the boat and the next couple of days were spent by the pool.  A hard life you may think, but if you have purchased a 15 day dive package over three weeks, it kills you to think of losing any diving days.  I spent my days by the pool (in the shade), reading a book, and napping, while my partner and friends were out on the boat diving and enjoying themselves.  By the time I was feeling better, my partner was feeling worse and got what I had.  He had to put off his Dive Master course and fun diving as he wasn’t able to clear his sinuses.  The poor soul is sitting here next to me still all blocked up!  At least he managed to get a week of diving in before it all went pear-shaped.

So, what is a soul to do in a diver’s paradise when they can’t do any diving?  Fuck all really.  How much time can you spend surfing the net, sunbathing, going to the gym, sleeping, reading, drinking, eating, etc?  I can manage two days tops.  My partner had to endure about two weeks.  We are action people, which is why we go diving.  We get up early to go diving.  You can sleep on the boat in between dives.  There is not a lot to do in Sharm.  There is no culture.  It is a resort, not a town.  There was nothing there when people first started diving in that part of The Red Sea.  Development for tourism really didn’t take off until the early 80’s.  The place is full of hotels, some of which will never be completed.

When you have paid for and organised your holiday around diving, it can go against the grain to spend any more money on excursions that don’t live up to the hype.  Shopping  for cheap tat is also not an option.  There is nothing that we want to buy as we really don’t need anything.  All that was left to do was to suck it up and accept the situation as best as we could.  I had a day off after my first full week of diving in order to keep my buddy company.  I took the opportunity to have my legs sugared!  It killed an hour.  The rest of the time we hung out by the pool and took advantage of the all-inclusive.  Meaning:  we started drinking at 11am.

There is nothing to see and nothing to do.  How people who live there can say they are living the dream is beyond my comprehension.  The last few years, most of what I have heard is negativity and a lot of complaining.  If living in the sun and diving every day is your dream, great!  However, I can think of better places to do it, where you can actually do things and get a bit of culture to boot.  A few people I know that have left to go back to the UK say that the only things they miss about Sharm is the diving, the weather, and their friends.  Nothing else.  I think that sums things up.

I realise that my frustration about Sharm probably has more to do with the fact that I have been going to the same place for too long and twice a year.  If I only went for a week once a year, I might not feel the same way.  I personally like more variety in my life as I feel that there are so many places to visit and things to do.  I have dived most of the dive sites at Sharm, and although you can do the same dive site twice and it will be different each time, it can get monotonous.  If anything, this trip has taught me that I need to try something else and go somewhere different.  I doubt that diving in Marsa Alam or El Ghouna is going to offer anything on the culture front, but at least the dive sites won’t be so familiar to me.  I might even consider doing a Live-aboard in the future.

Being ill on this trip has showed me that I need to re-think my holidays in order to get more out of them in case things don’t go according to plan.  Diving will still be on the agenda, but it will be a long time before I go back to Sharm again.  I can’t say the same for my partner as he will now have to go out again in May to complete his Dive Master course and then go straight in to do the Instructor’s course.  It can be a tough life for some, eh?

Back in the Groove – With Art

Creating art has taken a bit of a back seat lately.  I have been painting a lot of furniture.  I love painting furniture.  It is creative and practical.  I’m a practical lady.  Besides, I have all of this furniture in my house that needs painting.

The creative process has many forms.  People, whether they realise it or not, are very creative.  They just need to find out where the creativity lies and work out what they are good at.  I am quite good at painting things for practical use.  I am learning to develop my artistic side – to make something just because it looks good or interesting or beautiful.

I find it challenging to make something from nothing, just from my head.  Painting walls and furniture is easy for me.  Working out what to stick on a piece of paper or canvas can test you to the limit.  That is why I like to paint things.  I like to paint things that I see like fruit and flowers.  It is easy to get a hold of these things.  Sometimes I paint things from photos that I have taken.

Photography is another aspect of my art.  I don’t just take holiday snaps.  I don’t just document aspects of my life.  I try to capture something seen from a different viewpoint.  I take a picture to report.  I take a photo of something because I think it is interesting or to use as an example as part of my writing.  After many years of scuba diving, I have only just gotten into underwater photography.  It is a challenge to take a picture of a creature without damaging the reef in the process.  I am surprised at the many newly qualified divers who take pictures without getting their buoyancy under total control first.

Since I started painting just over a year ago, I sometimes use my photos as inspiration to make paintings.  Since my diving holiday in August 2012, I have taken some underwater photos that I wanted to make paintings of.  Not all of the photos are great, but they give me ideas, many ideas!

After working on a mirror that I just couldn’t for the life of me get to grips with, I started a new painting instead.  I had some fun paint that I wanted to try out too!  So this is what I painted…

Red Sea Squid

This is an acrylic painting on A4 canvas.  The canvas is one I had painted earlier in the year that I was going to use for something else.  Obviously, waiting had its advantages.

I saw this Squid in The Red Sea on a dive with a friend of mine.  I hadn’t seen one before.  There were a few of them in the water.  This one looks like it is in a defensive pose.  Because this fish is fairly translucent, it can be tricky to see in bright sunlight.  This photo was taken near the surface.  You can’t really tell from the picture how iridescent the fish is.  However, because I had seen the fish, I could try to portray this in a painting.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a really great photo of my painting.  The fish shimmers and floats.  I used special paint and mediums to make it so.  Here it is again…

I am really happy with how it turned out and I had great fun painting it.  I am now working on a series based on my diving photos.   Just don’t expect your normal fish paintings.

Back from the Reef

I have been back a week from a wonderful two weeks of diving in Sharm el Sheikh.  I would have posted something sooner, but I started a job the day I got back and have been trying to catch up with myself.  I took some lovely photos and will be sharing a few with you.

Before I do that I want to tell you that I spoke with my dad before I left and when I told him where I was going he became a bit anxious.  When I asked why, he said that ‘they’ are saying in the USA that Egypt isn’t safe.  I couldn’t believe it.  So, for all of you that want to go to Sharm, go!  Go to Cairo if you can get a flight too!  Egypt needs the tourism.  If in Cairo, just don’t go to the squares where there might be protestors.  The UK has been the only country consistently flying into Sharm since the revolution.  Sharm is safe.  To be quite frank, I really couldn’t give a fig if a certain type of tourist doesn’t go to Sharm as the diving is nicer with fewer people around.  Enough from me on that subject.

Back to the holiday…I went with my dive buddy.  This was our first holiday together since we met this time last year.  It was the best holiday I have ever had with another person.  If you can spend two weeks, 24/7, with another person without wanting to scream or lock yourself away somewhere, then something must be working right.  If I had any complaint, it was that his kit was too heavy!  We needed to re-pack our suitcases 3x before we could check in!  I blame the tech jacket and drysuit!

Having had experience diving at this time of year in Sharm, I was glad that I packed some warm clothes.  The weather was unseasonably cool.  Still nice to wander around in a pair of trousers and a fleece and you could probably get a nice suntan sitting out of the wind by the pool, but it was freezing on the boat.  There is nothing fun about getting in and out of a wet, cold wetsuit with the wind howling and the boat bobbing up and down on a choppy sea.  I was getting brain freeze getting back onto the boat in the first week.  I am surprised I got a tan considering I spent most of my first week on the boat inside and wrapped up in a pair of sweatpants and fleece in-between dives.  The evenings were quite chilly too!  Still, a good time was had by all and it progressively got warmer in the second week. 🙂  It was also lovely to catch up with friends and meet new people.

We dived local at the Gardens on the first day.  Because my buddy was trying out his new drysuit for the first time and I was just cold, neither of us took our cameras.  We saw a manta and a feathertail ray.  It figures!  That was the biggest that things got for us while diving for 10 days.

Because diving isn’t just about the big things, I tried to focus more on the actual reef.  The reefs in Sharm are quite beautiful.  There is a huge variety of hard and soft corals and many varieties of small fish and crustaceans.  There was a lot of plankton bloom and a fair amount of jelly fish floating around.  If you bothered to look closely at the stuff floating around in front of you, you could actually make out what some of the little creatures looked like.  Some of them were quite electric!

Warty Sea Wasp - These things have a nasty sting, apparently!

I also love Anthias.  They are everywhere.  They let you know what the current is doing and are easy to spot because they are orange.  There are several types and are incredibly hard to photograph as they never stay still long enough.

These are Anthias, even the things that look like bubbles!
Little spots of gold!

Here are some of my best photos of the fish.

And here is some of the reef.

I have a lot of inspiration here for some paintings I want to make.  Painting the reef and some fish will make a nice change from painting flowers and fruit.

As with all holidays, it didn’t seem long enough.   Nevermind!  I have the next one to look forward to!