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Bubbles from the Blue My life has been a bit of a journey, this is just one little part of it, currently blowing bubbles in a little town called Sharm el Sheikh...

Day trip to Dahab

EGYPT | Wednesday, 11 May 2011 | Views [594]

Living in Sharm el Sheikh, life can get surprisingly busy for your average dive guide, so we relish the chance of a little day trip up to the capital of chill... Dahab. Just over an hour's drive through the spectacular Sinai desert and we find a whole world of difference nestling between the mountains and the shore. Gone are Sharm's tourist spots of Starbucks and McDonalds, and in its place are the desert, a few beaches and small, local cafes and restaurants. I have friends who came here for a week or so, only to find themselves still there several months later.

From Sharm we quite regularly take our divers up here on day trips to enjoy a day's diving Dahab stylee.

It is an early start, we gather all our guests on the bus before seven am, and then head for the desert road where the peach coloured mountains jut up towards the sky. We meander between their feet, driving along a road that follows the wadi (a valley that becomes a small stream on the rare occasion that a rain storm hits). Small nubs of lime green stand out from the rosy rocks, where small waxy plants remain after last year's storms.

A short snooze later, and we are approaching the final police checkpoint... Dahab. Amazingly, we have not been stopped once en-route to our destination. This is the first trip I have made since the revolution and it is quite clear that the usual passport checks are now pretty much neglected. I guess that with an interim government and lack of power the police have chosen to sit back a touch. Whilst that may sound ominous, it should be remembered, that in most countries it is quite normal to be able to travel around without having to produce passport and explanations at random police check points along the way... so this could well be a good thing.

Our first stop is for breakfast at the German bakery. Set up some years ago by an expat, this has become a much appreciated venue in Dahab, with freshly baked bread, cakes and croissants, along with great coffee, it is a perfect place for our first meal of the day.


Once fed and watered, our first stop is at the Canyon dive site. Most of the diving in Dahab is from the shore, so our team have already unloaded the pick up truck that had followed us through the desert, onto bedoin rugs laid out on the sand. We set up our gear, and Hatem gives the dive briefing.

The wind is pretty high, so the entry is interesting. I watch the waves rolling in knowing we are in for a little fun. Luckily all our divers are pretty advanced, so unlikely to he phased too much. Although we do have a couple of unsteady ones as we first enter the water, there is nothing too drastic. As soon as we can, we pop our masks on, fins on and drop down under the swelly stuff on the surface.


Hmmm because the start of this dive is very shallow, we are still being swayed by the swell, rather like being on a rocking horse, we are pushed along the sand and then pulled back a touch. We gently fin through the hazy fog that is usually a lovely clear lagoon.

As we exit the lagoon, the visibility is completely transformed into the usual crystal clear, with deep, vibrant blue stretching into the distance. I can see hordes of the orange anthias swarming around a small pinnacle at the exit point, telling me that there is quite a lively current today... whoo nice one! This means that there will be plenty of fish milling around throughout our dive.

Off we swim, gradually descending deeper, little by little. I have my eyes, well and truly peeled for the small scorpion fish for which this site is famed. However they are so well disguised, it is almost impossible to see them, and today I guess I an just not that lucky, so we head straight for the canyon itself. As we are the first divers, there are no bubbles heralding the entrance, and we drop into a dark crack in the reef. As we drop down and our eyes adjust, beams of light from above cast  patterns on the sand below, and a shoal of sweepers glint and flicker ahead of us.

We swim our way around the large bowl at the end of the canyon before making our way back along its length. The canyon then plunges away below us, ever narrowing ahead of us, and we start making our way back up and out via the same entrance via which we had entered.

Once on the outside again, we have a lovely coral plateau, and an eel garden. We also spot a small cluster of tiny pipe fish hanging around (literally... they appear strung up, hanging vertically, noses to the ground) and we see loads of lion fish before heading back towards the lagoon and our exit.

Back on shore, we pack our boxes and the pick up is loaded, before heading off for the Blue Hole. This dive has become famous, or should I say infamous, for its depth and sadly several accidents that have happened here in the past. In the Blue Hole itself, there is a tunnel at depth that leads out from the hole into open water. This tunnel, or "The Arch" as it is known, has lured many a diver to their demise. It starts at around thirty five metres and not only does it drop down another twenty metres along its length, it is also much longer than it appears, often resulting in divers becoming confused, narked and running out of air.

We are obviously not planning to undertake this particular dive. This is now purely for the elite few who enjoy what is known as technical diving, with extra tanks of air, different mixes of gas and a good heap of pretty intense training, the arch can be dived safely. We are planning to do the recreational version of this dive, where divers begin at the Bells and swim along the outer reef wall towards the Blue Hole, ending their dive inside the hole itself enjoying the corals in the shallows.

First things first however, it is time to relax and enjoy a mixed juice or cup of tea in the Aquamarine Restaurant adjacent to the Blue Hole itself. Time to greet a few familiar faces that I haven't seen for a few months too.

My turn to brief the dive, I explain our plan to our little group of divers, and off we head to get kitted up.

There is a small walk to "The Bells" a kind of mini version of the Blue Hole in which we are due to make our descent. It is not the most elegant of entrances, as we flop into a gap in the rocks, putting our fins on in the water. Wary of the foot I broke last year (not here I hasten to add), I choose not to sit on the rocks but step off instead. It works well, however probably not the most suitable entrance option for our guests who sit down and shuffle their way into the water.

One by one we drop down a crack in the reef, following the bubbles of the previous diver. Thankfully the crack is open to the blue, so anyone uncomfortable can simply allow themselves to drift out and follow the wall down. At the bottom is a small arch under which we can swim, leading out into glorious blueness ahead of us.

The bulk of the dive is spent swimming along this beautiful wall of coral, following its folds, gradually shallowing our dive off to preserve our air and prevent any other issues caused by staying down too deep for too long. We finally get to see some scorpion fish, woo hoo! First up was a tiny scorpion fish, not much bigger than a shell, followed by a huge one, ten times the size and bizarrely ten times as nervous as he scoots away from anyone getting even remotely close.

We have our mouths cleaned by friendly cleaner wrasse, our masks pecked by not so friendly clown fish, and generally have a great swim along until we reach the garden that heralds the edge of the Blue Hole itself. Covered in colourful corals, we take in its beauty before heading over the top and into the Blue Hole. Staying nice and shallow for the last part of our dive, we are treated to the sight of free divers practicing as they plunge down a rope buoyed at the surface. Amazing, we can barely see the bottom of their line, as they glide down on a single breath of air.

Back in the restaurant, it is time for a leisurely lunch before heading back down to Sharm. We sit and admire the view as hordes of free divers take to the water for their training. There is a string of floats all linked together, each float host to at least three divers. We carry on watching as, with a flick of the fins, one by one, each diver takes the plunge.

Our day ends with the ride back through the desert, back to Sharm.

Tags: dahab, scuba diving, sharm el sheikh, sinai desert

 

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