One of the reasons we choose Egypt and the Red sea was the diving. It is famous for more than 1000 species of invertebrates, over 200 species of soft and hard coral and 1100 species of fish (more than 200 can only be found in the Red Sea). We went on a wreck tour (Famous five) with the Emperor Superior, a 37 meter dive boat with space for 25 guests, 2 sun decks, a large dive deck and spacious common areas. Our group consisted of 20 people, mainly from the UK, but also South Africa, Canada, Germany, Spain and Norway. A lot of the dive sites on the trip was quite deep, so 16 of our 19 dives were deeper than 20 meters.
We started our diving with an easy check dive where we for the first time dived on our own without a guide. We started off with a guide, but decided to leave him half way into the dive since he had to sort out some problems with other divers’ gear. The rest of our time at the Emperor we dived without a guide, although we often stayed close to the guided group to benefit from the guide’s trained eyes and local knowledge.
We had two dives on the Salem Express, one afternoon dive and one night dive. This is a controversial wreck to dive, since a lot of people lost their lives here. The passenger ship sank on her return journey from Mecca with up to 1600 people (mainly Egyptian pilgrims) on board in 1991, and only 190 survived. It was an interesting dive, but since we don’t have enough training we did not go inside the wreck, and because of that didn’t see much of the luggage and personal belongings still to be found inside.
During the night we cruised out to the Brothers islands witch is a world famous scuba diving destination. It offers some of the best diving in Egypt and in Red Sea, but can be quite challenging due to strong currents and rough surface conditions. These 2 small Islands (Little Brother and Big Brother) are famous for their abundance of colourful soft corals and gorgonian fans and the rich diversity of marine life and large pelagics including sharks and manta rays.
We were a bit early for the shark season, but were very lucky with the weather and the currents. We had 6 dives in total here, saw several large Napoleon Wrasses, a few different types of shark in the distance, visited the wrecks of Aida and Numida, and were seconds away from seeing two large hammerheads (they were spotted just under the boat as we were climbing up the ladder). On Big Brother there is a lighthouse and a navy base. On the second day at the Brothers, we were allowed onshore to climb the lighthouse and buy some t-shirts. The view was good, but since we were so far from everything, there was little to see 🙂
From the brothers we had a 12 hours journey to “Ras Mohamed National Park” on the tip of the Sinai peninsula. We did one dive, with beautiful corals, loads of small fishes, crocodile fish, scorpion fish and moray eels. The wreck (Yolanda) had a cargo of toilets, so there was a lot of them as well.
Our first penetration of a wreck was at the Dunraven.The dive guides said it was a very easy penetration with lots of exits, so we went for it. Inside we did not see much, but Gunnhild spotted a nudibranch on the way out. We ended the dive at the nearby reef, which was very colorful and with loads of fish.
In the afternoon the same day, it was time for SS Thistlegorm witch is considered THE best wreck dive in the world. There are 2 locomotives, 2 tanks, army trucks, jeeps, motorbikes, boots, stacks of rifles and various spare parts for planes and cars. Our fist dive on the wreck was a little crowded, but on the two next dives the crew made sure that we were the only ones on the wreck. We had one of our best night dive so far on this wreck, and the next morning we penetrated the wreck to explore 3 of the cargo holds. It was a very special experience!
Dive number 100 for Fredrik was at Giannis D, a very picturesque wreck, due to the great visibility. It is possible to access the engine room, but because of a lot of stilt this was only recommended for experienced wreck divers. We enjoyed the blue spotted sting rays on the outside, and again spent the last part of the dive on the shallow reef nearby.
Gunnhild started the last day with dive number 100 at Shaab El Erg, famous for dolphins in the passage between two reefs.We had a long and relaxed dive (our first over 70 minutes!), and also saw two Red Sea Walkmen,a very strange scorpion fish using it’s pectoral fins to walk along the bottom. One dolphin swam by as we were surfacing, and we saw several from the sun deck after the dive. Our next dive at Umm Gamar Island was maybe one of the best of the entire trip. We saw lots of large stone fish, a very rare (especially during the day) Spanish dancer, a huge moray eel and again loads of colorful fish and beautiful corals.
We both celebrated our birthdays on the boat, and the chef had made birthday cakes for the both of us. The entire group sang the birthday song, and Fredrik even held a short (slightly ironic) thank you speech. In addition he made a cake for a couple that got engaged on the trip (underwater proposal!), and a shared cake for 5 people (including us) that reached 100 or 500 dives during the trip. Since we are not really that fond of cake, we had brought some other treats to enjoy on our birthdays; Norwegian craft beer and aquavite!
After a week on a boat with wreck dives, we agree that corals and fish are more interesting than wrecks. Not that we don’t like wrecks (some of them were awesome), but we had our share for a while and will focus on other things on our next trip. Liveaboards on the other hand is something we will definitely do again. Living on a boat for a week, walking around barefooted, diving 3-4 times a day, meeting great people, relaxing on the sun deck, going to remote dive sites, learning so much from the dive guides and the other divers, watching the stars and the life in the sea around the boat, staying up late drinking beer and sharing travel stories, being exited to get up although you are tired because a great dive is waiting, eating great food, having someone to help you with your gear and put your fins on, warm cacao when getting up from a late dive, music, laughter and nice conversations. Gotta love it!