Diving in Sharm el Sheikh
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
It was the 10th of August, 2001 and my nephew, David, and myself had decided to book a diving holiday in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, for two weeks in October. David has dived for a few years now and I learnt to dive in Australia two years ago but I had not dived since. The holiday included flights, bed and breakfast and 10 days diving and the cost was £830 each. We booked and paid for the holiday not realising that in the next few weeks the world would change in an instant.
I was in the Isle of Man on a golfing holiday with a group of friends on September 11th when we heard of the atrocities in the USA. We all sat and watched the TV in disbelief and our thoughts went out to the families of all the people who were killed or hurt.
After returning from the Isle of Man my nephew and I wondered if our holiday to Egypt would still be able to go ahead. We checked the Foreign Office website every day for information but nothing was forthcoming to say that we should not go. We never for one minute thought of cancelling our holiday and we were determined to go and have a great time.
We flew by British Airways on the shuttle from Manchester to London Gatwick. We then checked in with Excel Airways for our flights to Sharm el Sheikh. It was a five hour flight and took off right on time. As is usual with charter flights, the leg room left a lot to be desired but it is a small sacrifice when you consider what we paid for the holiday. I just want to mention that on our return to the UK we stopped overnight at The Lawn Guest House, which was five minutes from Gatwick Airport by taxi. The room and breakfast were excellent and the owners even ran us to the airport in the morning to catch our flight to Manchester. I will certainly stay there again when I next fly from Gatwick.
We arrived in Sharm at 1:00 a.m. and then followed the bureaucracy of trying to get into Egypt. Queue for your visa, then queue to get your visa into your passport, then queue to go through immigration. We then had to run the gauntlet of the porters. They insisted on getting your luggage off the carousel but of course they wanted paying for it. We had no small change with us so we literally grabbed the luggage before the porters could get to it.
The accommodation included in our package was at the Red Sea Diving College (or www.sinai-services.com). They have twin bedded rooms or mixed dormitories. We were in a twin bedded room with en suite facilities. Now you have got to accept that the rooms cost $25 per night including breakfast and therefore it was not “The Hilton”. The rooms were clean but basic, but the situation of the College more than made up for the few niggles that we had with the room. You literally walk out of the college onto the beach. You can snorkel within 50 yards of the beach and the sea life was great.
You can hire diving equipment at the college or take your own as we did. The staff were always very friendly and helpful. I e-mailed them a couple of times from the UK and I always received a prompt reply. If you’re staying at the Red Sea College and are going to e-mail before you go, then ask them if you can bring them anything in the way of biscuits or sweets. They will be your friends for life.
As we walked out of our room for the first time the heat hit us. It was about 32°C which is not particularly hot but is a bit of a shock after just coming from the UK.
Our first job was to get our diving organised. I needed a check dive because I had not dived for two years. This was organised for the afternoon with three other new arrivals. We had both taken our own diving equipment with us so all we needed to hire was the weight belt and the tanks. I had my check dive straight off the beach, which was a new experience for me but it was interesting. As soon as we were under the water I felt as if I had never been away. The one thing that I did struggle with was my buoyancy and in fact it took me a couple of dives before I eventually got it somewhere like right.
Tuesday was our first day on the dive boat. We were on Dream 1, which was a super boat. We were diving on the mainland sites – which is a couple of nice easy dives to start with. Now I am a bit of an air pig so I found it frustrating when I had to come up and everybody still had plenty of air left. I think a lot of this was apprehension and I told myself that I would get better as the holiday went on. My air consumption did get better and I actually managed to stay down for more than an hour in one dive. The water temperature was 28°C but this did drop to 26°C towards the end of the holiday and some of the dive instructors were starting to wear dry suits (big softies)!
During the 10 days diving we visited many sites in the Red Sea. We went to Tiran five times looking for hammerhead sharks to no avail. One of the famous dives from Sharm is to the Thistlegorm, which is a ship that was sunk in World War II. Unfortunately I was in bed with the Pharoah’s Revenge the day of the trip so I will have to save the Thistlegorm until next time – and you can be assured that there will be a next time. My nephew went and he said it is a “Must See”.
Sharm el Sheikh is primarily a dive town but there are a lot of people who go there just for the sun and to do a bit of snorkelling, so if you do not dive don’t let that put you off. There are plenty of restaurants and all the hotels serve very reasonable meals as well. We ate at The Hilton quite a few nights. I know that this sounds very grand but in fact the buffet, including a large selection of starters, main courses and sweets, cost about £10. The buffet had a different theme every night so you never got the same thing two nights running. For the children there are also McDonald’s, KFC and The Hard Rock Café.
We visited a few bars in the town but the ones we went to most of the time were The Camel Bar and The Tavern. Saturday night at The Tavern is Ladies Night where all the drinks were £5.
For a change one evening we hired quad bikes and went on a two hour excursion into the desert. It was good fun and I would recommend everybody to have a go. When you get out in the desert you realise what a desolate place it is and I would not like to be left stranded out there. Whatever you do, make sure you a pair of sunglasses or glasses as the dust is terrible and you need to protect your eyes.
We made many friends whilst we were in Sharm and I’m sure we will meet up with some of them again. The Egyptians were fantastic and could not have been more helpful or friendly. I would certainly recommend Sharm el Sheikh for anybody wanting a reasonably priced holiday with great diving and fantastic weather.
If anybody would like any information or a bit of advice then please feel free to contact me at golf.diving4fun at virgin dot net.