This travelogue series will describe some of my most memorable diving experiences. Out of all the places I have dived Egypt ranks among in my top three, along with diverse marine flora and fauna the red sea boasts some of the best wreck diving in the world. My first ever wreck dive was in Egypt (HMS Thistlegorm) and no other wreck has measured up since for sheer atmosphere.
So, lets set the scene for the trip.....
It was a cold January morning as my flight left Heathrow, as the plane crested the clouds my ears popped and I stared longingly through the rain lashed window dreaming of purple polyps dancing in coral forests. It had been over six months since my last dive and my adrenaline was pumping, apprehension tinged with excitement. It's feelings like these that keeps us (as divers) cautious, careful and above all safe. I had booked a last-minute deal with one of the many liveaboard companies operating out of Marsa Alam in Egypt, the itinerary - ‘St johns and the deep south’.
As the plane reached ten thousand feet I noticed a couple sitting across from me flicking through a scuba diving magazine and after some hesitation I decided to take the plunge. In all my time traveling the one rule I try to stick to is – ‘ Always Talk to strangers’. Life is too short after all. I asked them if they were diving or just on holiday and through the course of our conversation learnt that we were on the same boat. Before long a south African guy a couple of seats up from us, overheard the conversation and chipped in that he was also on the St johns trip. Synchronicity at its best! Before long we were all swapping dive stories, comparing qualifications and generally baffling the other passengers with our scuba mania.
I completed fourteen dives on this trip taking my logged dive total to over fifty. The sites ranged from a test dive at Abu Dabbab to an exciting search for hammerheads out in the blue beyond the drop off at Eliphinstone’s northern plateau. The marine life was many and varied at all the sites but I will stick to the most memorable dives of the holiday to prevent this blog from turning into a novella.
St Johns caves
We spent a day at the caves (2 dives) before sailing overnight for Fury shoals. The first dive started with a descent to eleven meters before following the reef wall to find a wide opening into the tunnels beyond. Sunset-crimson bigeye fish rested in the light sway of the current.
As we ventured further in, shafts of sunlight arched from the broken roof of the reef above, creating shimmering shadows and illuminating bigeye's mango colored bellies. These openings are scattered throughout the cave system providing light and an easy path to the surface if the need arises. This site is perfect for the novice diver, providing swimthroughs while allowing a gentle introduction to diving within an enclosed area. As I finned gently onward the roof closed in plunging us into a twilight of turquoise. In this reduced light I noticed the purple tint of the coral walls soft shades, like the flakes of paint on a brush.
I noticed my dive buddy motioning with her hand like a fin above her mask. A small white tip reef shark lay close to the wall of the cave on the sandy bottom sleeping the day away. We moved in slowly, determined not to disturb this peaceful tableau. Buoyancy control was the order of the day here! Luckily I have never had a problem buoyancy when diving in a wet suit and we hung in the sway of the midday current for a minute or two before the sound of our bubbles disturbed the shark who whipped up the sand with its tail as it departed as a present for disturbing its snooze.
We meandered through this cathedral of bone. Corridors like arteries in the reef, delivering water and marine life, like blood to the heart of this symbiotic organism. Finally we emerged in a coral garden at about 6 meters, where I found eight of the fourteen strong group of divers huddled round a small clump of coral. As I moved in closer one of the other divers pointed out what had caught their attention, it took three attempts before I finally spotted two violet tinged semi transparent cleaner shrimp at the base of the coral. The joints of their legs and the shape of their bodies could barely be seen and would have blended perfectly with the sand if it wasn’t for a stronger purple-black pigmentation across the carapace. The shrimp darted in and out of the sheltering overhang as we teased them with our fingers, wiggling them forwards and back in imitation of a fish. These shrimp were not easily intimidated!
The dive ended with a leisurely three-minute safety stop at five meters, playing with clown fish among the groves of stinging anemone.
To be continued……..
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All pictures are original property of myself.
© Rowan Joyce 22/08/2013