Frost, snow, ice and no sign of a bit of warm weather; this was the norm all over the Christmas break.
So, what else was there to do but stop talking about it and clear off to warmer parts, and where better than Sharm El Sheikh in the Red Sea, a mecca for divers for many years.
The last time I had dived the Red Sea at the Sinai peninsula was in 1979, with John Wright. !
Things were a bit primitave back then as the Sinai was under the control of Israel, who had taken it over in the infamous 6 day war, from the Egyptians in 1967, but had to give it back in 1983. When we were there, Sharm El Sheikh, was called Ophira, and was a small outpost on a single roadway than ran alongside the coast and had very limited facilities. (one compressor – by appointment only. !! ) The military looked after everything…. permits to dive, night diving was frowned on, and you never knew when soldiers were waiting by the rental car when you returned after a dive. We carried everything with us and cooked, ate and slept on the beaches beside the road. Sand storms regularly covered the road with drifting sand which made for some exciting driving, especially at night where it was often more luck than skill that we found the tarmac again after sliding around in a small rental Fiat.
All our diving then was shore diving, especially on Ras Muhammed, where we drained the cylinders taking in the last look at the fantastic reefs and drop offs that have made this part of the Red Sea famous. There was no problem getting some like minded divers to go along, especially at this time of the year. Direct flights from Dublin meant the least amount of trouble in getting there.(God be with the days of car ferry to England and charter flights to Eilat ) Sharm El Sheikh is now a bustling town with the ‘old’ part of town a busy market place, full of traders and souvenir shops as well as local produce, and has a large marina where most of the dive boats work from.
Our first days diving was spent on the usual ‘house reef’. Getting used to the gear, adjusting bouyancy etc. Just like us here at home, they were having some unusual wether and there was a cool wind blowing which created a sight chop on the surface and disturbed the umbrellas of all the sun worshippers on the beaches. ! A few boat dives along the coastal reefs were just the job….. beautiful colours, an abundance of fish life, it was great to see such a variety and most important…. warm water. A couple of full 60 min dives, nice and relaxed is just what the doctor ordered for January. (more…)