Due to the sheer distance from land we were internet and phone signal free for the majority of the rest of the journey. Most of us took this as a welcome break, however Raj was a tad gutted as he was unable to update his Facebook (now renamed Rajbook) status every 31.5 seconds.
After our initial dives in the local dive sites (see previous blog entry) we headed over to the Brother Islands, often regarded as one of the Red Sea’s top dive sites. The 8 hour crossing through bumpy seas made a few people feel a little green but we still managed our pancakes that morning. Our 6am briefing soon had us climbing in the zodiacs to head over to the far side of Big Brother, the larger of the 2 islands. A roll-back negative entry in to the blue had us soon swimming down to the reef. It wasn’t long before we encountered our first Thresher Shark, one of the most recognisable of all the shark species. There are only a few places in the world where you can spot these pelagic sharks as they tend to live at depths unreachable by most divers. After a decent current sped us along the wall we soon reached the end of the island where we turned the corner to bring us around the sunny side of the island, here many types of colourful soft corals could be found, and out in the blue some of us spotted a 2m long Grey Reef Shark.
We stayed on Big Brother for the second dive but this time we headed up to the top of the island where the remains of a ship that sank 30 years or so ago. The top of the wreck lies at almost 40m so we could only spend a few minutes before we headed up along the reef wall back towards the boat. A few encounters with Grey Reef Sharks, Tuna, Jacks and other pelagics made this an incredible dive. Alex’s air gauges must have been faulty that dive – you can ask him why!
The highlight for many of the divers was the fact that Melvin (one of our instructors) lost his brand new torch. Raj especially took the mickey much to Melvin’s annoyance.
For the third dive of the day we spotted that there were only two boats on Little Brother so we quickly nipped over there.
Another briefing and the anticipation of seeing more Sharks we boarded the Zodiacs and made our negative entry in to the blue once again. Again the majority of us saw at least one Thresher Shark and one or two Grey Reefs. The shallower part of the dive allowed everyone to explore the pristine corals and get in amongst the smaller critters that many divers miss due to the distractions of the larger fish.
We moored in Little Brother for the night which given it’s 100 mile distance from the nearest shore gave a few of the team a chance to witness the bright stars in the cloudless sky. A few slurps of Sakara (the local brew), rum, gin and JD soon had everyone buzzing about the days diving.
The following day we did three more dives on Little Brother due to the plethora of sharks in the area. Philippe spent the whole day in his cabin having come down with a tummy bug (plus he’s a bit of a big girls blouse). During the second dive I managed to track down Elke (the Shark Lady) who had found a Thresher swimming around a cleaning station, I managed to get a good view of it before my gauge read 100 bar meaning I had to head back towards the boat.
Raj decided to explore the deep part of the ocean by lowering his brand new Go Pro 100m down, however as it wasn’t planned hadn’t tied a line to it so lost it the crabs and other bottom dwellers.
Later that night the crew untied the mooring lines and we headed over to Daedulus for 3 dives the next day. The tummy bug that hit my room mate Terry decided to pay me a visit, a game of tag with the bathroom ensued throughout the night meant we both missed the morning dive. Still feeling under the weather I dragged myself to the sun deck to hear the Melvin had seen the only Hammerhead of the week. Feeling as weak as a kitten I forced myself in to my dive kit for the second dive and went for the worlds longest distance dive with Jeremy and Alex.
Trey’s diving was becoming much improved having been referred to earlier in the week as his diving being like that of ‘Usain Bolt chasing an angry wasp’.
The next morning we awoke at Elphinstone which is still one of my all-time favourite dive sites. Unfortunately there were no Oceanic White Tips circling the boat, unlike our trip to the same reef the previous year. Myself, Jeremy, Trey and Jessica went to the far tip of Elphinstone to complete their Narcosis test for their Deep Specialty course. I am happy to report that there were all still able to function. The reefs are still in great condition and there were hundreds of fish of all shapes and sizes (except sharks) that kept us entertained.
After breakfast the dive guides gave everyone a vote to stay Elphinstone or head towards shore for a ‘Sandy Bottom’ dive. Having lost the vote last year I didn’t think for a second that people were stupid enough to vote for the Sandy bottom again. How wrong can you be?
So, after leaving one of the world’s greatest dive sites we steamed towards Marsa Mubarak. After jumping in off the back of the boat it hit home to everyone why I was so against this dive. During a 60 minute dive we saw some sand, some grass, some more sand and lots more grass. We did bump in to a couple of Green Turtles (that Melvin missed) but it still didn’t offer much consolation (how spoilt am I?). Much to my annoyance a couple from another group decided to abort the dive after a few minutes due to boredom. As they climbed on the boat the boat crew spotted a Dugong, so they quickly grabbed their snorkel kit and jumped back in.
On the final day of diving we did a couple of nice reef dives along the coast which meant people could get lots of snaps of Stonefish, Scorpion fish, clown fish etc to fill their photo albums. On Thursday night we reached the jetty where we moored for the night. Everyone except Raj headed out to the Marina for a few drinks and some food. Jenny and Alex peaked a little too soon and after a few sniffs of red wine grabbed an early cab home. Those in my taxi were slightly surprised to find our driving kicking us out half way back to the boat as it turned out he wasn’t a taxi driver at all so couldn’t drive us past the police checkpoint.
On our final morning we were allowed to use the facilities of the Marriott hotel which meant we could spend a few hours taking in some rays by the pool.
Overall it was an amazing adventure that left a group of people making many new friends for life. Melvin sited it as the best liveaboard trip he’s ever been on – fine praise indeed. So, a massive thanks from Oyster Diving to everyone who came along including; Alex (Mr One Bar), Jeremy (Mr G&T), Akvile (Julie), Philippe (Mr OCD), Jenny (The Goat Herders Assistant), Nat (The Master Trumper), Melvin (Can’t Torch This), Jessica (the Finger Wagger), Trey (Mr Usain Bolt Chasing An Angry Wasp) and Raj (the Pool Boy). Also thanks goes to the other non-Oyster Divers on the boat who provided great entertainment and we hope to see you in the water again soon.