Travel Report Red Sea Trip

El Gouna Times got permission to publish the following, nicely written travelreport from Georgina from El Gouna. Pictures added to this travelreport are however from my own trip to Port Ghalib and are just to illustrate the Port Ghalib situation in November 2005

THREE WEEK RED SEA TRIP
Report on two liveaboards and one week hotel based

Week One: 28th October
MY Golden One – Northern Itinerary from Hurghada – Wrecks, Reefs & Dolphins!! Sea temperature: 26 – 27 degrees centigrade
Guests: 16 British 2 German Guides: Jules and Simon

Eventful trip to Marsa Alam!!

Week Two: 4th November
Coral Beach Diving Hotel, Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam
Day boat diving – Elphinstone Reef with Oceanic White Tip Sharks!!

Week Three: 11th November
MY Amelia – Deep South Itinerary from Port Ghalib towards Sudan Border.
Wrecks, Sharks and Reefs.
Sea temperature: 25 degrees near Marsa Alam 28.5 degrees at St Johns. Oh Yes! Guests: 2 Swedish, 7 Dutch, 3 Austrian, 3 Germans and me (British!)
Guides: Jim and Ute

Warning: This trip report is very long. Many cups of coffee required.
Strong language warning 🙂

I booked my friend Marhair to take me to Hurghada and also for a week’s time to Marsa Alam because he is the only Egyptian taxi driver I know who drives slowly!! Problem was his car was involved in a big crash recently, after three mini buses came head-on towards him, so the car is just back on the road with a new (old) engine. Enroute to Hurghada the front tyre exploded and no spare as it was his third blow out that day!! Luckily a friend came to our rescue and we were soon on our way again. I kept asking him if the car would get us to Marsa Alam in a week. He kept saying “No problem”!!

MY Golden One Liveaboard

I arrived Friday evening onboard and met the other 16 British divers and 2 German divers who I would share the diving and boat with for the next week. Luckily I had a twin cabin all to myself as the boat was not full.

Saturday Dive One: Gota Shab el Erg Our first dive was at 12.40pm which was a slow start but beautiful reefs and marine life which I won’t go into details with just the highlight of a turtle.

Dive Two: Umm Usk As the sun sets by 5pm this was going to be a dusk and night dive.

Sunday Dive One: Wreck of Carnatic, Abu Nuhas Sail, steam, cargo, passenger ship bult 1862. 1,776 tonnes. Sank 14.9.1869 after collision with reef. Just a skeleton of the ship left but very atmospheric as the sun streams through inside.

Dive Two: Wreck of Ghiannis D, Abu Nuhas Cargo ship built 1969. 2,900 tonnes. Sank 19.4.1983 after collision with reef.

I have dived this enormous wreck a few times before but this dive we penetrated deep inside the engine room which was interesting with all the rocker arms, springs and valves. Explored the bow then up to the bridge and inside the rooms around there.

After this dive we should have crossed the shipping lane of the straights of Gobal but the wind was too strong and the waves too high so we headed further north.

Dive Three: Bluff Point Patrol Boat Wreck

Monday Bluff point drift dive followed by two hour very rough crossing across the Straights of Gobal!

Dive Two:
Wreck of the Thistlegorm Cargo ship constructed 1940. Tonnage 9,000. Sank 6.10.1940 from air raid.

This wreck is awesome!!! I have dived it before but it never fails to impress. It was on its way to the 8th army in North Africa during the 2nd World War with supplies and was hit from the air mid section.

We dropped down onto the bomb damaged section and headed for the stern with 120mm cannon and heavy fixed position machine gun. We then followed the outside round to the other side of the damaged section and armoured vehicles, aerial bombs, cases of anti tank mines, ammunition, hand grenades and an enormous Napoleon Wrasse. As we rose up towards the decks we were joined by two dolphins swimming on our left. It doesn’t get much better than this!! Thistlegorm on your right, dolphins on your left!!!

We swam round the railway wagons then dropped down into hold no.2. This is full of Bedford trucks, BSA and Norton motorbikes. We swam through a hole into hold no. 1 with Lee Enfield Rifles, spare parts, campbeds, tyres, rubber boots, Morris cars and BSA bikes.

Above this hold are two tank trucks. We then explored the bridge and Captain’s bathroom.

Dive time 47 minutes. Max. Depth 26.6 metres.

Tuesday Seghira Fasmaa Reef (Small Crack)
Dive Two: Wreck of Dunraven Sail, steam, cargo ship constructed 1873. Tonnage 1,800. Sank 1876. Collision with reef. This wreck is completely upside down with the deck and masts smashed. You enter a hole in the stern at 28 metres and swim inside like a cathedral ceiling until you pass the boilers and come out towards the centre.

Dive three Siyul Kebir
There was a pinnacle here that was completely covered in glass fish doing a continuous Mexican wave that was like a thousand Christmas lights sparkling on and off.

Wednesday Dolphin House
I have dived Dolphin House many times before as it is close to El Gouna but never seen dolphins here! Today was different! We were joined by eight dolphins including a mother and young. It was amazing. they spent 20 minutes swimming among us, spinning, circling, surfacing then swooping down. If you keep your fins together and mimick their movements they come along side and swim with you making eye contact then speed away as if they want you to race with them. It was just wonderful. And to see everyone’s face back on deck grinning from ear to ear was a picture!

Dive Two Umm Gamar
There is a cave at 28 metres but never anything in there. I entered the cave just with my pocket torch and my buddy followed without a torch. It is very dark and the cave goes off to the left and right. When I shone the torch and swam to the right I illuminated a big moray eel! I tried to show my buddy and do the sign in the torch beam for moray followed by a sign for “Let’s get the **** out of here!”

Wednesday evening was the end of Ramadan celebrations so we had a big feast on-board followed by a party on the sun deck with Arabic music, drum and tamborines and plenty of dancing.

Thursday
A dive at Erg Sorraya then the last dive at Gota Abu Ramada which was a very pretty dive close to Hurghada. We then headed back for the marina at the Hilton Resort and went into Hurghada to the Liquid Lounge for our last night party and BBQ.

THE JOURNEY TO MARSA ALAM!!

Friday morning Marhair was due to pick me up at 10am. He arrived one and a half hours late as his car had broken down (water pump I think) but assured me it was fine and knew where my hotel was and we would get to Marsa Alam without problems!

We started the journey fine along the deserted coast road and stopped for petrol at Quesier. About 100km from Marsa Alam the fun began! We started kangarooing down the road the the car sounded awful. Marhair stopped and tied to repair the car but we were still jumping along. He stopped many times to strip the carburater and clean the plugs. The road was quiet but many people stopped to offer their assistance. The petrol bought earlier was full of sand and water!

We got going eventually but after a while we stopped again and Marhair was wrapping black tape around a tube and there was steam pouring out of the radiator which was now empty! Again many people stopped and there was some discussion about putting me into another car. Marhair then disappeared off down the road in search of water from a construction site in the distance and one of the guys that had stopped started waving down private cars to see if they would take me to my hotel! I was then told to get in this private car with a man called Ashraf who didn’t speak any English. But I was moving South again!

Marhair called me and was upset because I hadn’t given him any money but I had left a message saying I would pay him in Hurghada. He then had several conversations with the driver. After about 15 minutes the driver stopped and turned the car around and we were heading back north again. He started thumping the steering wheel in anger which made me feel a bit uncomfortable! After a while we saw Marhair and he stopped the car and my bags were taken out and put back in the taxi. “What’s going on now??” I asked. “The driver doesn’t know where your hotel is!!” And neither did anybody else!!

A few telephone conversations and breakdowns later we eventually arrived at the Coral Beach Diving Hotel at Port Ghalib around 5pm kangarooing up to reception!!


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CORAL BEACH DIVING HOTEL, PORT GHALIB
This is the only building finished in Port Ghalib. The marina and whole area including the airport is owned by a man from Kuwait who has a ten year plan to build a town like El Gouna. There is a lot of construction going on around the marina and more hotels due to be finished early next year. There are many, many safari diving boats using the marina.


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The hotel is wonderful. It is built in an Egyptian style with big chandeleirs, low seating and tables and so much character. There are enormous swimming pools on two levels but they are freezing! There is a small gym but nice bars and roof terrace and that’s about it. The rooms are lovely with arches and Egyptian furnishings and I had a great view of the marina and mountains. It was perfect to relax for a few days after an exhausting safari week at sea. It was, however, very expensive. The price I pay in El Gouna for a bottle of red Obelisk will only get you a glass at the hotel. The internet was 10 Euros for an hour, water LE15. Luckily I had booked my room through Emperor Divers and had an all inclusive rate.

THE DIVING (and sharks!!)
I booked two days boat diving and the first day was to a local reef which was OK. We saw an eagle ray. The boat didn’t move for the second dive so we just went in the opposite direction.

For the second day I decided to pay a 30 Euro supplement to go to Elphinstone Reef. It was a 5.50am start but we had a good journey out in under two hours. When we arrived the wind had picked up and the sea was very rough and there was no shelter at this reef. The boat was rocking and rolling all over the place. Getting from the kitting up bench to the end of the boat to the dive platform with a 12 litre cylinder and 3 litre pony cylinder on my back and 6kg of weight around my waist was not fun and rather than doing a giant stride entry I managed a very unelegant belly flop with my mask full of water.

We swam along the reef which was quite dark and drops steeply below to 80 metres and more. It was pretty uneventful apart from a Napolean Wrasse. When we reached the southern plateau we were low on air but saw an Oceanic white tip shark circling around the boats. My buddy and I surfaced and decided to surface swim back to the boat as it was quite close. As we were thrashing along through the current and rough swell with our heads in the water we could see two Oceanic sharks ahead. They passed again much closer. It was great to see them so clearly and they were huge. Then one turned and started to swim towards me. It came closer and closer and oh sh1t, oh sh1t, oh fock…………..hold my breath, freeze every muscle in my body………………..exchange very close eye contact……………exhale and swim like buggery to the boat!!!! Wow!! To be that close to a large shark like that was so exhilerating. But I skipped up that dive ladder pretty damm quick.

The second dive we were dropped on the other side of the reef and soon travelled along to the southern plateau again. This time we had plenty of air and just hung there around 10 metres watching two white tips coming in and out of visibility as they circled all the dive boats and zodiacs and many divers bobbing up and down. They came quite close to everyone just looking curious. My buddy and I then surfaced and the zodiac was there to pick us up. I passed up my weight belt and dive kit and was just about to propel myself up into the zodiac with my fins when someone said there was a shark behind me. I turned round and stuck my face in the water to have a look. Sure enough there was one shark heading my way. “It’s coming towards me” I said and put my face back in the water. “Sh1t it’s coming straight for me”. Put my head back in the water. “Get me on this boat NOW!!!”. I have never got into a rib so quick landing on the floor on my back with legs and fins pointing skywards and the shark bumped the rib and swam away! I am sure they have never attacked any divers despite the many legs dangling around every day but I certainly didn’t want to take any risk of being the first 🙂

WEEK THREE MY Amelia
This safari boat is moored at Port Ghalib so I boarded the boat around 4pm and met all the other nationalities as they arrived either from Marsa Alam or Hurghada airport. Again I was lucky having my own cabin as the boat was not completely full.

The next morning we left around 8am and dived near Marsa Alam at Ras Shona and Abu Dabab I and II. There is a wreck of a dive boat here. Its divers were in the water when there was a fire onboard and an oxygen tank exploded and the boat sunk!! Guess the divers had trouble locating their boat after the dive or found it on the sea bed!!

That afternoon and night we had to travel the long distance down to St Johns Reef towards the border with Sudan. Luckily it was a smooth journey but the plan was to be in the water by 6am the next morning due to the distances we would be travelling and the fact the sun sets before 5pm.

I woke up very early and the bulb blew in my cabin so it was pitch black. We then arrived at the mooring and the boat started rocking steeply from side the side. I was trying to keep the bathroom door open to give me some light but it kept crashing closed then open. Then the toilet seat and lid flew off and they were sliding up and down the bathroom with the toilet bin. Followed by my bedside cupboard opening and the contents rolling up and down my still dark cabin. And I have to be in the water by 6am!!! Not a good start. We made it by 6.11am. My buddy on this trip was from Holland and a keen photographer. A bit too keen though and spent most of his time looking through or at his camera and spending ages photographing everything many times which at six o’clock in the morning was really winding me up. If it wasn’t for the fact he looked so good in a wet suit I think I would have changed buddy. Anyhow we had plenty of shark action on this dive to wake us up properly.

All the reefs at St Johns are stunning. We visited Gota Soraya with Sharks and Caves, Dangerous Reef with caves, Habili Jaffa with sharks and St Johns Paradise with very small caves. We also had a lot of dolphins swimming along the bow of our boat throughout our journey and after one dive we snorkelled with a group of around 50 dolphins. They didn’t come very close, just passed by but to look down into the blue bottomless sea below and see so many swimming past was spectacular.

The itinerary then took us up to Fury Shoals reef system at Gota Sataya and Sha’ab Claude, again with caves and tunnels to explore. Every morning was a 6am dive so early to bed each night.

Abu Galawa Soraya was my best scenic dive. It was stunning. First there was a small sailing yacht to explore which had lots of new corals growing on it and full of glass fish. The reef is four enormous coral blocks in a square and coral garden in the centre with a shoal of black snappers hovering near the entrance to show you the way in. It is stunning. Like diving into a fairy grotto. The huge steep corals rise above you and the colours and way they blend together are so beautiful. It is like an enormous landscaped garden without a gap or overcrowding all growing there naturally.

As we headed back north to Shiriniat the temperature was dropping back to 25 degrees in the water and the sea was getting rough again. We dived Sha’ab Sharm and a rough journey to Elphinstone reef for more close encounters with the Oceanic White tip sharks.

The last night onboard was a big dinner on the sun deck followed by dancing and Arabic music.

Our last day we dived Marsa Abu Dabab then one of the guys surfaced and he lost all feeling on the side of his face. Decompression sickness was suspected so he was immediately put on oxygen and we had to skip breakfast and our last dive and head through the now very rough seas to Port Ghabli to get him to a recompression chamber. Luckily on route his ear popped and the feeling in his face returned. It sounded like a reverse block in his ear which had trapped a nerve so it was an enormous relief for everyone and when we arrived at the marina he went off to the chamber just to get the OK.


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CORAL BEACH DIVING HOTEL
Our final night was in the Coral Beach Diving Hotel and a wonderful dinner and belly dancing show.

The whole trip was booked through Emperor Divers direct and I cannot recommend them or their boats highly enough.

I am definatly planning a trip with them next spring to visit the Brothers Islands, etc.
Fantastic 🙂
Georgina from El Gouna

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