Egyptian Live-aboard 2011

We all met up at Gatwick, some we knew, some we didn’t, yet. The flight was delayed an hour late leaving Gatwick but the terminal was clear when we reached Hurghada, so no real delay. We jumped onto the coach and it to us, down some dodgy roads, to the harbour where our boat was berthed. We had a quick walk around the harbour and bars before heading back to the boat for an early night, we had started very early that morning from Cornwall.

On the first morning we had an 8am breakfast, this would be the latest start all week.

We had a long discussion about the itinerary and it was altered under majority decision, this wasn’t going to be the only time either. Daedalus was dropped from the itinerary and replaced with the Salem Express wreck. I didn’t mind either way, having never dived Daedalus and knowing it was a long way with some very strong winds forecast, it definitely made sense to me. Whilst the Salem Express is a good dive. It was also agreed that we would spend less time around the Brothers and add in Abu Nuhas. Strong winds had been forecast all week which was going to make some of the diving fun and maybe change our plans again.

Our first dive of the week was the checkout dive, as always. We went to Gota Sha’ab El Erg, an Erg is a rocky flat top pinnacle that doesn’t break the surface. The Red Sea is full of Ergs and they make some interesting dive sites. This one isn’t the most interesting but after 56 minutes at a maximum depth of 12.4m, the guides were happy that we looked like we could dive. The most interesting thing we saw was one crocodile fish under a table coral. We then headed across to Abu Nuhas, we moored up on the south side, in the lee of the conditions and transferred to the rib and headed to the Carnatic. Once out of the calm conditions it was quite rough, very rough indeed, we weren’t looking forward to re-entering the ribs. One of four wrecks on Abu Nuhas, the Carnatic is by far the oldest, sinking in 1869. The wooden deck planking has all but disappeared but the steel hull and framework still lies reasonably intact in two major pieces. Covered in life with some easy open swim throughs it is a very pleasant dive. Bottles of wine made up part of the cargo as well as £40,000 in coin, the coins have gone and so have any intact bottles but divers have started collecting broken bottles and standing them together, I have no idea why. The biggest fish we saw was a huge Porcupine Fish hiding in the wreckage. The last dive of the day was a night dive on Abu Nuhas. We had the brief but two pairs got taken by a current and ended up around the other side of the Erg and had to be rescued by the rib.

 6am start on day two, not my favourite times of day especially on holiday. The boat had stayed put overnight and the ribs took us to the ‘Ghiannis D’ after the dive briefing, we would have preferred the ‘Chrisoula K’ but the sea state was too rough for the trip. A fairly recent wreck sinking in 1983, some of it’s cargo of softwood still lies around. Apparently the Red Sea’s first live-aboard was constructed from some timber recovered from the wreck. The above sea state wasn’t too noticeable underwater but did have some effect inside the wreck making some areas too risky. We swam around the engine room but avoided the bridge area as the surge was a little too much. The bow lies intact on it’s port side, midships is fairly broken but the stern and bridge area is intact lying at around 45 degrees to port. It is covered with loads of life all over and is a great dive. Re-entering the rib was a challenge but we all returned safely. The boat then headed south stopping off at Abu Gamar for our second dive.

Our second dive was on a site called Abu Gamar, I have since looked this up on the internet and cannot find a site called Abu Gamar. Perhaps everyone’s memories of it are like mine, vague. I never took one single photo, I usually take 100 per dive. My only comment I wrote after the dive to remind of what I had seen and done was – ‘Boring’. The next dive was completely different. On Gota Abu Ramada we saw lots, including Blue Spotted Rays and Morey Eels, one Eel was free swimming while another had cleaner wrasse swimming in and out of it’s mouth. I saw a crocodile fish and all the fish you’d expect to see in the Red Sea. We were told that there was a large model shark and knife just in front of the boat, so we went to find it at the end of the dive. It wasn’t what we expected, no shark and a big fibreglass knife next to a small perspex pyramid with HEPCA Shark project on the side of it. I did wonder how long it was since our dive guides had been here?

Day three, we were at Elphinstone. I’ve wanted to dive Elphinstone for a long time, I had been told how magnificent it was. Half the group were diving the south plateau and the other half were diving the arch. The arch is a hole through the reef at around 50m, I had no idea what to expect but at least it would make a change. Our group headed down to the south plateau and then down the east side to the arch. It is a big hole and it’s only a few metres long. There is apparently a sarcophagus at the bottom, I saw a rectangular looking rock, whoever thought it was a sarcophagus was a bit narked I think. We made our way back up along the reef to complete any deco we had clocked up. For our second dive most were going along the side of the reef, Ruth and I headed back to the south plateau to keep an eye out for anything big. We never saw anything much of interest. A quick peak at the arch again and we went back up to hang around in the shallows for a while, waiting. Still nothing.

So far this week the wind had been blowing, strongly. This caused a change to our plans, we headed to Marsa Shuna for the next two days. Marsa Shuna is the sort of dive you would normally do on a daytrip, a small sheltered cove with not too much depth. We were told of Dugongs, Turtles and Eagle Rays and thought, I’ve heard that one before. We jumped in, the visibility wasn’t very good, the strong wind this close to the coast was stirring it up. We started heading out and it wasn’t long before we saw a turtle, followed by another. We also saw flat fish, large tube-worms and various other strange creatures. We then came across two large Eagle Rays, one had no tail. No Dugong though. Our evening dive was going to be at Marsa Shuna again. We swam to the reef and followed it out, we saw sea snakes, nudibranchs, a large sea cucumber and some more strange things I have no idea what they were.

Overnight we had headed over to the Brothers. Another bumpy night passage, bouncing up and down in our bunks. We started on Big brother and the Aida wreck, a dive we had done last year, followed by the west side reef wall. The wreck was good but there wasn’t as much life on the wreck or the reef as last year. The surface conditions at the entry point was rough, a good 1.5-2m swell, and we had to go out further to dive the Numidia. It was exciting but we did it. Again, not as much life on the wreck or reef as last year but one of our group saw a Manta Ray. We believed him, we were constantly getting the guides telling us there were sharks that only they could see! Last dive of the day was supposed to be Little Brother west side but we ended up diving the east. A few shoals of snapper and one large Napoleon wrasse were the only notable sights.

Day 5, we moored on top of the Salem Express for two dives. Both dives were very interesting with lots of life. During the second dive I ended up following a free swimming Morey Eel for 3-4 minutes, twice. They were probably the best dives of the week, so much to see and do. Our third dive was on Abu Hashish en-route to Giftun, it was the only way we could get a third dive in. A strange dive site, not much to see apart from a toilet pan and some bits of junk. We then did a night dive on Small Giftun, there was a lot to take photos of on this dive. Octopus, Lion Fish, Morey’s, Feather Stars, Puffer Fish, Porcupine Fish, Scorpion Fish, Sea Cucumbers and loads of other fish.

Our last day, first dive, Small Giftun. After last nights dive I was looking forward to see what it looked like during the day. More Octopus, Napoleon Wrasse and even more Octopus. Our last dive was on Minaya (El Mina), in Hurghada Bay. We were told not to expect too much visibility but it wasn’t bad. We headed down the shot line and could see the wreck below so we dropped down onto it, it didn’t look like what had been described. I then thought perhaps it wasn’t the El Mina, so we headed in the direction that the shot was pointing when we dropped off of it. It wasn’t long before the El Mina loomed in front of us. We swam around it a few times and said fair well to the Red Sea for now.

Back to a berth in Hurghada harbour and we had the night and some of the following day to kill. We spent the night around the harbour and the bars, again. The following day we had a wander along the main street in Hurghada but it was really hot, so we made our way to Hed Kandi, a chill-out bar with a beach and a pool. The actual chill-out room was closed so we had no music, there was no food either but they ordered some food in for us. We spent most of the time cooling down in the pool, then back to the boat and onto the waiting coach, homeward bound.

Throughout the whole week the food on the boat was excellent with soft drinks galore. The boat overall was fine, the crew were very helpful, the guides were friendly and had an easy week leaving us alone most of the time. My only comment would be that the nitrox compressor struggled with the amount of cylinders it had to fill, there were seven twinsets and a lot of 15L’s. It made longer surface intervals but meant we had to get up early to get the dives done. The constant rough sea state was just unfortunate.