For a few weeks the weather had been good in the UK, but it started to take a turn for the worse, so it was time to head for sunnier climes. So the three of us, Clare, Roy and myself, boarded a Thomson flight to Sharm. Unlike ‘Mystery Diver’ who recently wrote a report in Diver, we had no problems with luggage, apart from persuading the check-in guy at Sharm that a TDI card was as good as PADI card, and counted as a dive card for the extra 5Kg allowance.
We had decided we would stay at the Bay View hotel, where Emperor have moved to, due to the redevelopment of their site at the Rosetta. This is relatively close to the Naama jetty and convenient for town. The hotel is adequate for divers, nothing special, but unfortunately no fridges to allow for cold water in the morning. However we did return four days out of seven to a towel creation on the bed. Also we were only a minutes walk from the dive centre, so no early morning pickups!!
The first days diving was local as per usual, allowing us to check weights and get back into the rhythm of things. We dived Ras Katy and Far Gardens. Nothing too exciting apart from avoiding nesting triggerfish, I very nearly got bitten by a 6 inch Blue. Roy also had to duck to avoid a Great Barracuda that cruised by on our safety stop.
For the rest of the week, we were on Shorouk, because Emperor decided that moving Roy's rebreather between boats was too much like hard work. This allowed us to very much settle and have an extremely relaxing week. The next day started with a dive on Shark & Yolanda in Ras Mohammed National Park. As always a very pretty dive with a large shoal of Unicorn Fish amongst the many sights. We also saw a Fan Tail Ray, but unfortunately, it set off in the other direction, so no photo opportunity there. The following dive was on Jackfish Alley, or at least it would have been if our dive guide (Roy) had taken us in the right direction. Nice shoal of Black Fin Barracuda though.
Our third day was out to Tiran, where the seas were flat calm. This allowed for two dives which aren’t done very often. The first was on the back of Jackson Reef to see Hammerheads. Of the 18 people in the water from our boat, we were lucky enough to be the only three that saw a couple of sharks. Our dive profiles are interesting, with two dips from 20m to 30m, as the sharks cruised by at about 35m. I have photos to prove it, but not high quality, which I guess means a return trip to try and gets shots like the group a few days later that had several sharks circle them for about 15 minutes!! Our second dive was on the Kormoran, which has to be one of the prettiest wrecks I have ever seen. It is an 80m wreck stuck on the reef at 8m. The deepest part was at 20m, rising all the way to the surface. It also has some of the most stunning table corals, in pristine condition surrounding the wreck. An excellent swim around for an hour. I then went on to do a third dive on White Knights having a relaxing time spotting Nudibranch and Octopus.
The following day was trip out to the Dunraven, the site of one of Roy’s AOW dives in 1998, so an interesting return for him. We stopped and did a dive on Shark & Yolanda on the way out, and then on to the Dunraven. An interesting experience getting in, since the boat captain didn’t seem to want to stop exactly where the dive guide wanted him to, which led to 10 minutes hanging around on the stern. In the end we jumped in and down amidships on the wreck, where we had a very nice swim through and look at the boilers. Exiting the wreck we worked our way along the rest of the ship, before Clare and I headed for the reef, while Roy had a chat with a couple of Napoleon Wrasse down below.
Our fifth day, was a return to Tiran. No chance to do the back of Jackson today, so we did the front. Much time was spent looking for Longnose Hawkfish, and I was lucky enough to have one stay still for more than a couple of seconds so I could get a photo. Also we finished the dive off with a Stonefish just as we returned to the boat. The second dive on Woodhouse led to a couple of moments of excitement. The first when ones guys tank band exploded, leading to much struggling on the surface, before he returned to the boat. The second was me fetching back one diver (a 70 year old) who was heading off into the distance, ignoring his buddy, whilst the dive guide hung under his SMB trying to let everyone know it was time to surface. The third dive of the day was on Middle Gardens, which proved to be very fruitful. We caught sight of three types of nudibranch – Varicose Wart Slug, Yellow Lip Shield Slug and Twin Chromodorid. The Twin Chromodorid, is listed as growing to 5.5cm. They may have to update their records, since this was about 8-10cm.
The final day, was another trip to Ras Mohammed. We were lucky enough on Shark Observatory to see an Eagle Ray go by. Unfortunately I was studying the reef so hard, I only saw it when it was to far away to get a worthwhile photo. The next dive was Shark & Yolanda again, but unusually going from Yolanda to Shark, due to the current. It’s unusual to see a turtle swimming backwards, but that is what happened when it hit the current on the corner of shark reef. Another turtle also very purposefully pushed it’s way through a group of divers who were just in it’s way, causing them to duck. Our final dive was on Amphoras, where we had been promised a Manta Ray if we looked out into the blue, which we duly did for 20 minutes. Losing interest, we returned to the reef, occasionally looking out. 30 minutes later, the dive guide was pretty much jumping up and down on the spot pointing out into the blue, and we were treated to the sight of a Manta cruising by.
All in all it was an excellent week, with great company, and I think I can safely say we all came back very relaxed and with a nice tan. A return trip next year to get better photos is certainly on the cards with Benjamin in tow.