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Egypt – Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild
Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild

Egypt

Red Sea Liveaboard


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!

Hurghada, Cairo and Luxor

Time for a new dive trip, this time to Egypt. We ended up booking a charter trip, since that was the only direct flights to Hurghada, and we got a decent hotel for a very good price. Just 4 days before our departure we got an email from the charter company saying that due to few bookings our return flight was cancelled, and we had to travel via Copenhagen the day before instead. Not too happy about that, but not much we can do (except get some money back). Our flight from Oslo to Hurghada was not full either. Less than 50 of the 180 seats were taken, so we had plenty of space. We arrived in Hurghada around midnight, were the first ones out of the airport and were happy we had pre-booked a shuttle instead of waiting for the charter buses. When we arrived at our hotel (Triton Empire Hotel), we were told that it was closed and that we were moved to the beach resort instead. We got a nice room with a view over the beach and the pool area. Even though it was quite late, we went to a bar close by (Debbies) for a few beers before going to bed.

The next day we explored the resort area and the neighborhood. Our main goal for the day was to find a dive shop, and we stopped by a few different ones. We ended up booking 4 dives with Funny Divers who were very helpful, professional and flexible. We got the cash we needed for the next few days, bought beer and snacks for the boat trip, delivered our dive gear at the shop and packed the few things we needed for our next excursion, Cairo and Luxor.

The next morning we got up at 4.15, and were picked up 30 minutes later and taken to the airport. We had a 6 am flight to Cairo, where our guide for the day was waiting for us. We had a large van all to our selves, and got a lot of information while driving through Cairo. The French president was visiting, so the main roads were decorated with flags and banners, but the traffic was luckily not too bad. We started at the Egyptian Museum, and were the first ones through the gates when they opened. The museum has more than 120000 items, including the treasures from the tomb of king Tut Ankh Amoun.

Our guide showed us the highlights, explained a lot about the history and the culture, and thought us which signs and features to look for in statues and carvings to know what or who they represented. We were amazed by the details, and impressed by the condition of these very, very old treasures. The mask of Tut Ankh Amoun was one of many highlights.

Good food and great views, but way too much to eat as always. At 1 pm we arrived at the Giza plateau, and had our first view of the great pyramids. Wow! They are the most substantial ancient structure in the world and still surrounded by mysteries. They were built over the span of three generations from 2575 to 2465 BC. The great pyramid of Cheops/Khufu is the only remaining Seven wonders of the ancient world. We also visited the Great Sphinx, a limestone statue with a lion’s body and a human head, most likely representing Pharoah Khafra. It’s the largest monolith statue in the world. Our visit ended at The Valley Temple, made out of red granite and used for the embalming process.

As always we were quite efficient tourists, so when we finished we had a lot of time before our flight. We stopped by a papyrus factory for a short tour, and stopped for tea and coffee at a small coffee bar downtown. The plan was to eat dinner at the airport, but the airport was very quiet and all we could find was a couple of sandwiches and some Sakara beer.

We arrived in Luxor quite late in the evening, and were again picked up by a guide and a driver. Luxor was small, cozy and very green compared to Cairo. We spent the night at a beautiful 5 star hotel with great views over the Nile, and were picked up again at 7.30 am. We had a short stop at Colossi of Memnon, a temple ruin currently being excavated, and where two large statues were restored. In Valley of the kings (no cameras allowed) we visited three tombs. Ramses IV was very colorful and Merenptah was very long, but the most interesting one was Horemheb which was newly opened for visitors. It was very steep and closed before it was finished. Here we could really see the different stages from stone cutting to carving and painting. Really cool!

We visited Hatshepsut Temple, built for the queen that ruled as a king. Two of three levels were mostly restored, but a lot of the carvings were ruined by her stepson after her death, as a revenge for keeping him from the throne. We had an amazing lunch at Cafe Africa by the Nile, and went on a short cruise on the river in our own boat while crossing over to the other side (east bank). Nice!

The final and maybe best stop of the trip was Karnak Temple. The complex is the second largest temple complex in the world(247 acres), after the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia. The temples were built over several generations of pharaohs (around 30 contributed). There were several large obelisks, lots of carvings on large pillars and walls and the colors of the paintings were still strong in certain areas. The drive back to Hurghada took 4 hours and we arrived at our hotel around 6 pm.

It seems we ate something we shouldn’t have on the way back to Hurghada, because in the evening Gunnhild got sick, and Fredrik the next morning. Luckily it didn’t last very long, so we were still able to go on the two planned day trips with Funny Divers, but the energy level was not very high. We spent a lot of time between dives talking to a group from Belgium and The Netherlands, and it turned out that 4 of them stayed in the two rooms next to ours at Triton Empire. The dives were also very nice. We saw lots of Napoleon Wrasse, loads of giant moray eels, some beautiful nudibranches, bluespotted stingrays, cornet fish, crocodile fish, box fish and all kinds of colorful fish. We also had a filmcrew following us for a day, to take photos and videos for their webpage and Facebook. When we got back on the second day we had about 20 minutes to pack and get ready to be picked up for the liveaboard. Luckily we were almost done already, so we didn’t forget anything very essential.