Tag Archives: scuba diving

Thistlegorm Remastered

An unforgettable journey on the Thistlegorm

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Introducing Sharm el Sheikh

Sharm el Sheikh is located at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula along the Red Sea Coast.  Once a sleepy fishing village, Sharm el Sheikh is now a cosmopolitan resort town boasting some of the best scuba diving in the world.  A dry, temperate climate, clear waters, and an abundance of coral and marine life make scuba diving and snorkeling a year-round activity.

Air temperatures average around 30° C (86 F) with summer months (June-Sept) 33° C-37° C (93° F – 97° F)  and winter (Dec-Mar) averages around 22° C (72° F).  Water temperatures range from  22° C (72° F) in winter to a balmy 28° C (82° F) in summer.

Naama Bay Promenade
Enjoy the evening along one of Naama Bay’s pedestrian streets

Naama Bay is the main downtown area with it’s restaurants, clubs, and hotels.  Stroll the pedestrian streets in Naama Bay past international chains and numerous local cafes and restaurants featuring traditional Egyptian cuisine and entertainment.  Naama Bay comes to life at night when people gather to eat, shop and relax after a day on the beach or snorkeling & diving in the Red Sea.

Dramatic scenery coupled with strict environmental laws have made Sharm a prime spot for water sports like diving, snorkeling, parasailing, and windsurfing.  In fact, Sharm was voted the Traveller’s Choice 2012 Destination Winner on TripAdvisor.

Sharm el Sheikh boasts long stretches of sandy beach and fringing coral reefs. Perfect for snorkeling or swimming right from your hotel.
Sharm el Sheikh boasts long stretches of sandy beach and fringing coral reefs. Perfect for snorkeling or swimming right from your hotel.

Sharm el Sheikh is about 30 km long spanning the Red Sea coast from Hadaba to Nabq Bay.  Where ever you decide to holiday in Sharm, you will find stunning mountain views, warm waters and friendly locals who desire to make your holiday the best it can be.  We want you to enjoy your stay, tell your friends, and come back to Egypt!

Diving is one of the premiere activities in Sharm.  Even if you have never dived before you can jump in and experience the Red Sea when you take a Discover Scuba Dive.

Certified Divers can enjoy the sheer variety of diving that Sharm offers.  From Ras Mohamed National Park to the Strait of Tiran to the World War II wreck Thistlegorm divers will always find a new and exciting underwater landscape that boasts over 1200 species of coral reef, fish, and marine mammals.

Ras Mohamed
Ras Mohamed National Park encompasses 480 km², including 135 km² of surface land area and 345 km² area over water.

Long regarded as one of the best dive sites in the world,  Shark & Yolanda Reef  is the most popular dive site in Ras Mohamed National Park.   The Park can also be enjoyed by land and offers hiking, swimming, snorkeling and diving from pristine beaches overlooking some of the most stunning coral reefs in the Red Sea.

Divers can also explore the magnificent Straits of Tiran in the Gulf of Aqaba.  The Straits are home to five main reefs with dozens of dive sites:  Laguna, Jackson, Woodhouse, Thomas, and Gordon all of which offer exciting and varied diving.

napolean wrasse
The Napolean Humphead Wrasse is a common site on Red Sea Reefs. They can grow to over 2 meters!

Did you know?  The Red Sea hosts one of the largest mooring projects in the world.  Moorings are permanently affixed to dead coral rock in the sea allowing boats to tie up to a dive site without ever dropping an anchor.  This protects the reef and preserves the underwater environment for generations to come.

There is a no touch, no take, no break rule when diving the Red Sea.  Don’t touch any coral or marine life, do not take anything out of the sea and watch your buoyancy and fin tips so that you do not break any of the coral!

dive map of thistlegorm
The Thistlegorm is the most popular wreck in the world. Sunk in WWII she was loaded with cargo that can still be found at the dive site.

Take a step back into history when you dive the Thistlegorm. Since Jacques Cousteau first dived the wreck in the early 1950’s, thousands of visitors have explored the amazing wreckage loaded with Bedford trucks, motorcycles, wellington boots, and other cargo meant for the allied forces in North Africa.  The ship was sunk about 40 km from Sharm in the Gulf of Suez.  Take a trip to the Thistlegorm and feel the power of history as you swim through the cargo holds and explore the nooks and crannies of this bucket list dive!

camel safari
Take a Camel Safari through the spectacular scenery in the Sinai

Surface Intervals are as varied as the diving itself.  If you can’t get enough of the sea, there’s swimming,snorkeling, kitesurfing, parasailing and boating.

Desert trips are a popular way to see the rest that Sharm has to offer.  Spend an evening at a Bedouin Camp and learn how they navigate through the desert using the stars and constellations.

Take a camel or jeep safari and check out the spectacular mountain ranges, hidden valleys, and colored canyons of the South Sinai.  Visit the oldest working monastery in the world and summit the highest point in Egypt, Mount Sinai.

hiker on mt sinai
Hikers start the trip to the top of Mount Sinai at night so they reach the summit for the sunrise.

Mount Sinai is said to be the place where Moses received the 10 Commandments.  At the base of the peak is the oldest monastery in the world, St. Catherine’s.  You can tour the monastery and see the burning bush and other icons.  The monastery can be coupled with a hike to the summit or toured on its own.

St. Catherine's Monastery
St. Catherine’s Monastery is set in valley between soaring peaks.

There are many other spectacular sites to visit in the Sinai, but if you’ve never been to Cairo or Luxor you may consider a day trip to see the sights in these ancient cities.  Your tour representative can easily arrange these tours for you at very reasonable prices.  Cairo and Luxor are best experienced with a well organized tour operator to make the most of your vacation time.  These tours leave early in the morning and have you back at your hotel in Sharm for a late dinner.

Sphinx
The Sphinx at the Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo

No matter what you’d like to do on your holiday, Sharm can star as a fantastic water sport and desert exploring destination and serve as a convenient and relaxing base to explore the ancient wonders of Egypt.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Straits of Tiran: A Day on the Boat

Great day out in The Straits of Tiran this week with a combo of divers and snorkelers on the boat, it was comfortable with plenty of room on the dive deck and there were plenty of people to talk to and share some experiences with.  Our guides were Kareem and Ayman leading the divers, Seif was leading the snorkelers, Osman was taking photos and working his magic underwater, while Speed was there to help out and make sure that everything ran smoothly.   We were cruising on Maka with one of my favorite crews led by Captain Ibrahim.   There was a bit of wind as we left Shark’s Bay Marina but the sun promised to warm things up.

Rafah on El Medina

Cruising out of Shark’s Bay, Rafea waves to us from the bow of El Medina in Shark’s Bay, the sister ship to our boat Maka.  He was also heading out to Tiran to guide a group of snorkelers and introduction divers. 

After we boarded the boat we slipped off our footwear as is the custom on all Egyptian boats.  There is nothing like spending the day barefoot and lounging in the sun on the Red Sea.

We gathered on the upper sundeck to relax and meet our fellow passengers.  We met our instructors for the day along with the captain and crew.  The instructors gave us a boat briefing which included our dive and snorkel plan for the day, safety features and rules for the boat.

wreck of the Louilla
The iconic wreck marks Gordon Reef in the Straits of Tiran

Making our way out to the Strait of Tiran, it only took about 15 minutes before we encountered the southern most reef: Gordon Reef.  You can easily recognize Gordon Reef because of the shipwreck Loullia that run aground in 1981.  The ship was then hit with another vessel in 2000 which separated the bow from the rest of the Loullia.  Gordon Reef is a fabulous dive site but on this day we were headed a little further north to Woodhouse Reef.

Woodhouse Reef, Straits of Tiran, Sharm el Sheikh
Woodhouse Reef, Straits of Tiran, Sharm el Sheikh

Woodhouse Reef is a long and narrow reef with neither a sheltered lagoon or moorings so divers must make a drift dive.  One of the most interesting part of the reef is a canyon that opens out at a depth of about 30 meters.  The marine life is beautiful on Woodhouse with an abundance of corals and one of the best sites for observing sharks and turtles.

After Woodhouse, we headed to Jackson Reef.

Jackson Reef is the northern most reef in Tiran.  The wreck of the Lara, a merchant ship, sank here in 1981.  The remains of the Lara sit above the surface on the northern side of the reef.  Diving takes place on the southern side of the reef where the shallows are cut with sandy splits.  Corals and marine life here are exceptional making Jackson a favorite dive in the Strait of Tiran.

sandy splits
The sandy splits at Jackson Reef

Depending on currents and conditions, the dive can be made as a drift dive to the east or a moored dive to the west where divers make their way along the reef and then turn around and come back to the boat.  There is a splendid large Turbinaria commonly called a Salad or Lettuce Coral in the shallows near the moorings on Jackson.  On this dive we made our way to the west and returned to the boat.

The winds settled down while we moored up on Jackson and the seas were very calm.  We emerged from the dive with lunch waiting for us.  The crew cooked up a huge buffet of rice, fried fish, beef, vegetables, assorted salads, and their famous pasta.  We ate and relaxed while the captain gently moved us to the next and final dive & snorkeling site.  Ras Ghamila is a local dive site meaning it is situated close to the shore.  Situated almost directly opposite Gordon Reef, the reef separates a vast lagoon from the sea.

Ras Ghamila map
Ras Ghamila map

We did the classic drift dive and were rewarded with a Hawksbill Sea Turtle, a huge Moray Eel, and one of our eagle eye divers spotted a Stone fish camouflaged on a coral outcrop.  What a great way to finish off the day!

We headed back to Shark’s Bay, said goodbye to instructors and crew and hopped into our transports waiting to take us back to our residence.  Can’t wait to get back out on the boat!

Get Ready for your Next Adventure: Discover Scuba Diving

What is a Discover Scuba Dive?

divers in school of snapperWhat better place than in the splendid Red Sea to Discover Scuba Diving!  The under water world is like no other and the experience of weightlessness can only be described as floating in outer space.  No wonder astronauts are train as scuba divers before going into space!

 You can choose to do the dive in two ways:

Shore based:  We pick you up in the morning from your hotel, take you to our diving center where you will register and meet your instructor.  You’ll watch a video and take a quick quiz, confined water training, and then a dive in the Red Sea.

On the Boat:  Jump right in and experience scuba diving in the Red Sea!  Get picked up at your hotel in the morning, to the marina and out on the boat to a world class dive site suitable for beginners.  Your instructors are there to guide you every step of the way, from briefings to gear fittings to splashing into the sea!  They’ll teach you a few skills and then take you on a mission to Find Nemo!

It’s easy to fit a Discover Scuba Dive into your holiday just use the contact form below and we’ll start the adventure!

Life, the Universe, and The Red Sea

Moored at Gordon Reef
Moored at Gordon Reef, Straits of Tiran

To live and dive 

Gloriously wedged between the Sinai Mountains and the Red Sea, Sharm el Sheikh is a city blessed by good geography. World class scuba diving in waters teaming with marine life and boasting one of the healthiest coral reef systems in the world. The sparkling sapphire of the sea is offset by the golden hues from the dramatic mountain range that limits Sharm’s size and access. Desert adventures include hiking Moses Mountain, jeep safaris to colored canyons, camel trekking, and rock climbing. Sea side activities top out with scuba diving and snorkeling on world famous reefs.  The winter winds paint the sky with long  strokes of colorful kites: the surfers- artists as they ride the currents.

It’s a pretty spectacular place to be.  My job:  Scuba Instructor & Tour Rep.  My Life:  Married to an amazing man who brought home a puppy five months into our new homestead.  I’m not gonna kid you, this life is pretty sweet.

MMD
MMD: I’m married to this guy

Ever since my first dive in the Red Sea, I knew that I wanted to live here.   Good thing MMD agreed.  We spent the next three years in Houston, Texas working toward that goal.   We worked at dive centers, we became instructors, we were very active in the local diving scene.  We took a couple trips to Egypt and explored more of the Red Sea and just kept re-affirming our decision to make this our new home.

Finally, on August 1, 2012 we landed in Cairo and migrated to Sharm a few weeks later.  18 months on, I realize I’m starting to feel less like a stranger in a strange land and more strange in an even stranger land.  I guess I might be settling in a bit.

Everyday is an amazing adventure whether I’m above or below the water line.   There’s been misunderstandings and frustrations, revolutions and revelations  that converge together to make this expat life so colorful.

So relax and take a look around this blog.  I’d like to tell you some stories.  About Life, the Universe and the Red Sea.

The Red Sea is a unique and special eco-system.  An informative website by Dr. William Alevizon includes some interesting and easy to digest information about the Red Sea and it’s amazing reefs.

 

Sports tourism: a growing trend in Egypt

Adventures Abound in Egypt….and not just underwater!

Sykose Extreme Sports News

Mount Catherine makes for an exhilarating and interesting challenge (photo from Destination 31)

Mount Catherine makes for an exhilarating and interesting challenge
(photo from Destination 31)

Egypt is known for its Red Sea beaches, awesome Alexandrian seaside for long nightly promenades and most importantly, the Pyramids. We are not exactly known for a land of modern adventures, but this is quickly changing. The young people of Egypt are hip, modern and fit (well, at least most of them) and they are demanding a change in the usual vacation time traditions. The idea of sitting by the beach and reading a novel seems too mundane for those who seek the thrill of excitement. That is why sports tourism is growing.

We consulted one of the hip and happening Egyptian eco-tourism travel companies, Destination 31, about their take on the trend. A relatively new company, founded in 2009 by three friends, they have specialised in adventure tourism and extreme sports. “Adventure travel and sports…

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10 New Rules of Scuba Diving

See the original article from Scuba Diving Magazine 

Recreational diving is still a relatively young sport. Created in the 1950s, it gained acceptance in the ’60s and ’70s, boomed in the ’80s and took great technological leaps in the ’90s. So there’s a good chance that not everything you learned in your open-water class still applies. New research and equipment have made diving safer and more enjoyable than ever—if you know the new rules.

1. Reverse Dive Profiles Are OK

New Rule
It is permissible to dive deeper on your second dive than on your first, and to dive deeper on the later part of a dive than on the early part.

Old Rule
Most divers have been taught to go to their greatest planned depth early in the dive and then gradually work upward in a regular “stair-step” pattern. Similarly, they’ve been told to make the deepest dive of the day the first one. The rationale was that the shallower depths later provided decompression for the preceding greater depths.

Reason for the Change
Dive computers. Because computers can track your depth and time constantly and are pretty good at math, it’s possible to know your nitrogen exposure accurately regardless of your profile. Tables, by contrast, can account for only your greatest depth, and this crude approximation of nitrogen exposure still mandates a conservative approach.

Exceptions to the Rule
Obviously, divers using only tables must still follow the old rules. And even when using a computer it’s still smart to dive deeper first. Ascending profiles give you more bottom time and a greater margin of safety against DCS.

2. Lower Minimum Age

New Rule
The Recreational Scuba Training Council, which sets many industry standards, dropped its minimum age requirement for junior certification near the end of 1999. As a result, PADI, SDI, SSI and NASDS (which has merged with SSI) have dropped their minimum age requirements for junior certification to 10. SSI has a pool-only “Scuba Ranger” program for 8- to 12-year-olds. NAUI and YMCA are retaining the age-12 minimum, at least for now.

Old Rule
Minimum age for junior certification was 12. (Junior certification requires supervision by a fully certified adult.)

Reason for the Change
To promote the sport. Lots of baby-boomer divers have kids, and the growing popularity of resort diving meant a market for family dive vacations. “The future of diving will be determined by kids,” says Bret Gilliam, president of SDI, the first agency to lower the age. “It’s a great step forward to recognize the family unit as key to our sport’s growth.”

Exceptions to the Rule
It’s still up to the instructor to decide whether a child is mature enough to dive. Being 10 does not create a right to be certified.

The new junior certifications typically have various restrictions. In PADI, kids are limited to 20 feet in confined water first, then 40 feet in open water. Juniors must be accompanied by an agency-affiliated instructor, a certified parent or another certified adult. Check specific agencies for their rules.

3. Universal Referrals

New Rule
Getting certified? Beginning in 1998, you could take classroom and pool sessions in your hometown from an instructor with Agency “A,” then fly to warm water for open-water sessions under an instructor with Agency “B”— as long as the agencies had agreements to recognize each other’s standards and instructors. This means you can choose from many more warm-water resorts for your open-water sessions.

Old Rule
Classroom, pool work and open-water dives all had to be with the same training agency. If you wanted to do the open-water dives in the tropics, you had to pick a resort with an instructor affiliated with the same agency.

Reason for the Change
Customer convenience. Smaller agencies with few instructors in place at resorts found it necessary to band together to offer greater options — especially when certification standards are virtually identical.

Exceptions to the Rule
PADI. According to PADI, it issues 70 percent of all certifications. The agency still requires that all phases of your training be with PADI instructors.

4. Slower Ascent Rate

New Rule
Ascend no faster than 30 feet per minute — one foot every two seconds.

Old Rule
The usual rate was 60 feet per minute until the U.S. Navy adopted the 30-foot-per-minute rate in 1996 and training agencies followed suit.

Reason for the Change
Research. Navy studies found that a 30-foot-per-minute rate resulted in fewer cases of DCS than the older 60-foot-per-minute rate. A slow ascent is really a rolling decompression stop, allowing your body to flush out and exhale dissolved nitrogen before it forms bubbles.

Exceptions to the Rule
The 30-foot-per-minute rate may not always be practical for the whole ascent, especially when you are deep and low on air or approaching hypothermia. In that case a faster rate, up to 60 feet per minute, is acceptable, but for the final 60 feet of your ascent, you should slow to 30 feet per minute.

5. The Safety Stop

New rule – Make a safety stop at 15 feet for at least three to five minutes before ascending to the surface — longer for deeper and more strenuous dives. Safety stops allow your body extra time to eliminate nitrogen.

New Rule
Make a safety stop at the end of dives. That means you should pause at about 15 feet for a minimum of three to five minutes before your final ascent to the surface. Some experts recommend safety stops as long as 10 to 15 minutes under certain conditions.

Old Rule 
Make a what? Safety stops were not taught prior to the mid-1980s.

Reason for the Change
More research. The new rule recognizes that all dives are decompression dives, and that DCS can and does occur even when you’ve stayed within so-called “no-decompression limits.” Studies clearly show that pausing at about 15 feet allows you to offgas nitrogen before ascending through the zone of greatest pressure change, near the surface. Nitrogen that hasn’t been eliminated can bubble out of tissues rapidly during the last part of the ascent, causing DCS.

There are other safety reasons for the stop. The air in your BC and the bubbles in your wetsuit also expand rapidly during the last 15 feet and may cause you to become significantly positive without realizing it. Stopping gives you a chance to adjust your buoyancy so you don’t lose control of your ascent.

Safety stops also allow you to survey surface conditions and boat traffic before surfacing.

Exceptions to the Rule
You needn’t stay at exactly 15 feet, especially if you’re elbowing a crowd of other divers. Anywhere between 10 and 20 feet is fine. And although three to five minutes is a good minimum, longer, deeper dives call for longer safety stops.

6. Neutrally Buoyant Ascents

New rule – Remain neutrally buoyant during ascents. Neutral buoyancy eliminates the risk of run-away ascents and the strain of finning against negative buoyancy.

New Rule
Become neutrally buoyant before beginning your ascent and maintain neutral buoyancy throughout.

Old Rule
Dump all air so you are negative before beginning your ascent and fin upward against negative buoyancy.

Reason for the Change
The old rule was designed to prevent runaway ascents. But Navy studies revealed that the strain of finning hard while ascending sometimes causes divers to hold their breath. Also, it can lead to air trapping in the lungs. Both present embolism risks. The change also reflects greater confidence in modern BCs, particularly their dump valves.

Exceptions to the Rule
In an ascent from very shallow depths, say 30 feet or less, it’s OK to fin up against slight negative buoyancy. The risk of losing control because of rapid buoyancy changes in your BC and exposure suit, and the low stress in finning such a short distance, makes this the better bet.

7. No More Buddy Breathing

New Rule
In a no-air emergency, depend on a redundant system or your buddy’s octopus, or make an independent emergency ascent. Do not attempt to “buddy breathe” from a single regulator unless you and your buddy have practiced it.

Old Rule 
Before octos, ponies and devices like the “Spare Air” were common, divers were taught to pass one regulator back and forth while making a slow ascent.

Reason for the Change 
Safety. Experience showed that unless both buddies had practiced buddy breathing and were skilled at it, the attempt was likely to injure both divers, not just one.

Typically, buddy breathing divers become so absorbed in passing the regulator that they neglect to control their buoyancy, and a too-rapid ascent with embolism could result. Or the diver who has passed the regulator holds his breath instead of exhaling slowly, also an embolism risk.

If you are out of air and neither you nor your buddy has a backup system, your best move is to make an emergency swimming ascent: swimming to the surface while keeping your throat open by slowly exhaling.

8. The Buddy System

Every training agency is emphatic on the need to always dive with a buddy. Yet solo diving has long been common, particularly among underwater photographers. Experience, and incomplete statistics, don’t indicate that solo diving is more dangerous than buddy diving, and some divers argue that solo diving is actually safer.

9. The Snorkel

Most of us were taught that a snorkel is mandatory gear on every dive, just like a pair of fins. But increasingly, divers are leaving the snorkel in the gear bag much of the time.

Why? They’ve come to the conclusion that a snorkel, when attached to your mask, is more often a hazard than a help. The long tube—dangling from its midpoint so the hook-like gizmos at the ends can wander around—is pretty effective at catching kelp, fishing line and camera straps. And, given the importance of your mask, your mask strap is about the worst place to mount it or anything else.

Many divers now save the snorkel for special occasions, like a long surface swim from their entry point to the dive site, and carry it in a pocket or strapped to their body.

10. The Dive Computer

The dive computer is probably the most important safety advance in the sport. Much more important than a snorkel, and arguably more important than an octopus, a dive computer is often considered mandatory equipment today. “Virtually all divers now use dive computers to make diving safer and more enjoyable. Why not establish that practice from the beginning?” says CEO Bret Gilliam. “Dive tables have simply been supplanted by advances in technology.”

What to Expect on Your First Scuba Dive

Curious about SCUBA Diving? Read this guide to learn what to expect when you take the plunge!

Scuba - Tips

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Scuba Diving Takes a Little Getting Used to . . . But It’s Worth the Effort!

Some divers take to scuba diving like fish underwater. They put regulators in their mouths and off they swim! However, this is the exception rather than the rule.

For most new divers, scuba diving feels a little strange at first. Be patient with yourself, don’t rush through skills, and take your time. By the end of your first dive you will already feel exponentially more comfortable underwater than you did when you first entered the water

Scuba Courses Are Taught in “Baby Steps”

New scuba divers are not expected throw on a full set of scuba gear and leap off a boat into the deep blue sea on their first scuba dive. A dive student’s first dive will be at a controlled dive site such as a pool or shallow bay. At least one…

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7 Wonders of the Underwater World

Today is the last day of voting for the PADI New 7 Wonders of the Underwater World on Facebook.  I’ve nominated Ras Mohamed National Park and was selected as a finalist.

Now it is up to voters to decide which locations make the list of the New 7 Wonders of the Underwater World.  I’m asking for your vote because I want to bring international attention to this beautiful and vulnerable underwater Garden of Eden.    PADI will promote these places in diving campaigns around the world.  Continued support and increase in dive tourism will help ensure the protections and conservation efforts here in Ras Mohamed National Park.

Please click the link New 7 Wonders  to vote on Facebook.  Thank you for your support!