I went scuba-diving today. My first experience of the Red Sea. Shark attacks in the last couple of days had meant the sea was out-of-bounds in Sharm el Sheik. A few Russians had been bitten, and they had ‘closed’ the sea. Hundreds of small boats began an unofficial shark hunt, and caught a big one, displaying it to the public, putting photos of it in the newspapers, and on the internet, declaring Sharm el Sheik ‘safe’. Upon ‘reopening’ the sea, a German woman waded into the water and got chomped to death by a shark, in scenes reminiscent of Jaws. They’d got the wrong one. The killer was still loose! I was happy to be out of there.
I was with a group of 4 divers and a Dive Master. We had 2 dives – the Canyon Garden, where we saw a magnificent Moray Eel, and the infamous Blue Hole, similar to what I’d dived in Cuba. This was a particularly exhilarating dive, not for the faint-hearted. Both were shore dives, which I find much trickier than boat dives. You have to wade into the sea with all your gear on, inflate your BCD, and lie back and try to put your flippers on. On my first attempt I nearly dislocated my shoulder, and the divemaster had to help me, which caused me some embarrassment.
Blue Hole was even trickier, the entrance was surrounded by snorkellers. We had to, one by one, drop down into a tiny hole head first, trying not to hit the rocks at the side. You then swim under a kind of natural coral archway at 30m, coming out to stare at a blue wall of nothing. It feels like being in space underwater. It was tempting to drift away into it, but I turned around instead and saw in front of me an amazing coral wall teeming with life. We drifted along with the current, and it was from this point in a very easy dive, and incredibly enjoyable.
After the dive we returned to the hotel, passing camels on the way, who were basking in the bright sun while being battered by the relentless wind. Filled in the log dive book, then bid everyone farewell and headed down the promenade, stopping in a place for a cappucino and a kofta sandwich. I stayed rooted to the spot for 3 or 4 hours, and had a bottle of beer to finish my relaxing afternoon. I headed out to have a walk further down the promenade, and walked past many almost empty restaurants. Was beckoned inside one eventually, and treated to seafood soup, bread and hummus, salad, and a grilled grouper with rice, vegetables and fried potatoes. Stuffed to bursting point, so declined desert and had some bedouin tea instead.
Satisfied, I walked back to the hotel, calling at Rush bar for a beer. A small group of Egyptians and foreigners were playing cards at one table, and the only other people in the place were Estelle, the barmaid, and Paul, a Kiwi guy I’d met the day before. Estelle had an Egyptian husband, and had been here 9 years, not once returning to Slovakia. Paul lived in Brazil, was 43, had a 26 year old Brazilian wife, 3 kids, worked in oil and gas, and was a mad crazy traveller at heart like myself. A good bloke, after my own heart, we had a lot in common, a lot of stories to share. We talked about Brazil, how South America is such an amazing continent, how I should move to Brazil. If only. An Egyptian man of 33, who had a 55 year old German girlfriend, came in, and we talked of fidelity, religion, taboos in Egyptian culture, and many more interesting topics. Nothing like healthy, drunken debate. I had 5 big bottles and left around 1am. A great night.