This is the fourth Project Shark diving holiday we have run in conjunction with Blueotwo and the Red Sea Shark Trust. In previous years we have had mixed successes, some years we had lots of hammerhead sharks and other years lots of oceanic white tips. This added to the excitement of not know what you were going to get.
Unlike previous years the trip to Port Ghalib was pretty uneventful. The usual refreshments in the pub at the airport and purchases of duty free. This years duty free collection was pretty impressive with a vast array of whiskeys, rum, gin and vodkas.
On arrival to Blue Melody, our luxury yacht for the week, we unpacked our bag, had a bite to eat and set up our dive kit.
Early the next morning the bell rang, and we made our way to the saloon for our first dive briefing. We went to a local dive site where we adjusted weights and checked our kit. For many of the group this was their first Red Sea experience and they couldn’t believe how much marine life there was, the colours, the pristine corals, how warm the water was (30 degrees) and how good the viz was (30m plus).
At the end of the dive everyone got to have a practice at inflating their SMB’s as they would be required later in the week. Needless to say it was mayhem, inflated sausages flying everywhere.
A second local dive meant that people had a nice chilled dive and could get to know the Red Sea creatures closer and more personally. In the evening we went for a night dive, again a new experience for many in the group. Hunting lionfish were the star attractions and many of the group sang their praises for diving under the moonlit night.
After the night dive and a feast of a meal we sampled the delights of the bar we had created on the sun(night) deck. Lots of tired faces meant that only a few of the harder/more foolish divers stayed up til late.
Having sailed through the night we awoke the next morning on another cloud free sky to see we had moored up at Daedulus. This tiny island about 70 miles from land is surrounded by reef walls that drop to depths in excess of 300m. The isolation means that the currents that surround the island are nutrient rich which in turn brings in lots of coral and marine life. In previous years we had seen lots of hammerheads schooling here but alas no such joy. Following our 3 dives and a few reef grey reef shark sightings the boat hoisted in the ropes and we headed through the night towards Elphinstone. Despite the lack of sharks everyone were still very happy having dive one of the most stunning reefs in the Red Sea.
Elke aka ‘the shark lady’, our cruise director and guide for the week gave her first shark presentation. Elke, a keen marine biologist set up the Red Sea Shark Trust to ascertain how many sharks were left in the Red Sea and how their numbers were changing. These Project Shark trips provide her with much valuable research and her talks are really interesting and make you appreciate these apex predators.
Some of the group made the most of the starlit night and waded in to the duty free for some R&R on the top deck.
The following morning, we woke up at Elphinstone. Similar to Daedulus but a little closer to land and buried a foot beneath the waves. As we were being briefed on the dive we were pleased to see our first oceanic white tip circling the boat. As the zodiac left to take the first group of divers Maddy noticed that Veni must have ‘borrowed’ his dive boot. As hers was 3 sizes smaller, in typical good spirit he took the news well and didn’t complain at all (hmmm). During our 3 dives here, we encountered around 3 oceanics and with very mild currents it allowed us to explore the reef walls and take in the millions of fish that make up this tropical marine paradise.
It also acted as a fantastic backdrop to complete the Deep Diver specialty courses for Kim, Tom, Joao and Alistair – 40m dives on Elphinstone – whoop whoop!
At the end of the final dive of the day the last group getting on to the boat were lucky enough to have a small pod of dolphins swim right past them and under our boat. The rest of us watched jealously hanging off the side of the boat.
After some delicious pizza the boat headed in towards shore for a cheeky night dive on a local reef. From here we were on our way to the Brother Islands.
The first day at Brothers was spent at Big Brother. Around 100 miles from land and not a phone mast in site this small island is recognisable by it’s lighthouse. As the ropes were tied an Oceanic White Tip welcomed us and circled the boat for several minutes. The three dives here gave us plenty of opportunity to explore the reef walls that were teaming with life, even more so than Daedulus and Elphinstone. Everyone had a lengthy and up-close-and-personal shark show and camera SD cards were soon filled. In total we counted 5 separate oceanics at one point there were three of them weaving in and out of the group near the back of the group at once.
For our group we headed 40m to the end of the plateau were we had a lovely close up sighting of a Thresher shark. These shy creatures are easy to spot as their tails are as log as their bodies. There were also a couple of large grey reef sharks pottering around which most of us clocked.
At the other end of the island a group of us were fortunate to get a close swim-by from a lonesome hammerhead. She was duly chased off by John and his GoPro – I have the video to prove it.
After 3 deep dives the bar remained relatively untouched and we all enjoyed a well-earned rest. Some of the party went in doors to watch ‘John Wick 2’ on the 60” TV.
Next day we made the short crossing to Little Brother, small enough that you could probably make it round the whole island if the currents were favourable. Again, we were blessed with an Oceanic White Tip show at about 5 metres off the back of the boat. A 60-70 minute dive meant that you could really take in these stunning creatures. Elke with her big strobe sent electrical pulses flying through the water which appeared to excite one or two of them who gave her a little nudge and wink. Nothing to worry about though.
Marco and Rosco (aka) Zippy both completed their 100th dive here. On one dive I just saw a naked bum swimming beneath me (slightly upsetting) and then on the next dive Marco dressed only in a tiny see-through thong (very upsetting).
From the boat we saw some more Dolphins heading around the island on their way to the hunting grounds.
During the night the boat had come free from its moorings and had ended up on the reef. The hull remained relatively damage free except for a crushed propeller. Despite the commotion of the crew running around and the engines frantically start the majority of us just slept through the whole incident.
For our final day of diving we went to a local dive site near Hurghada called Small Giftun. This is a beautiful reef with a huge gorgonian fan coral garden. This gently drift along the reef made for some exciting sightings of some of the Red Seas other famous inhabitants; rays, clown fish, antheas, file fish and an octopus. As we neared the boat we found Peter and his two sons Tom and Chris enjoying a family dive together. Tom and Chris were dressed as batman and superman and made for an excellent family photograph.
Our final day of the holiday was spent soaking up the sun at the Marriott Hotels’ outside pool. With some slightly unstable tummies many of us choose to move our sunbeds close to the loos.
This was another fantastic holiday with a great bunch of people and one that will be etched in to the memories for everyone who went. There’ll be plenty of stories for the grand kids in future years and the work colleague back home.