Red Sea Sharm trip Feb 15 – part 1

An eventful morning as we departed from London Gatwick for Sharm el Sheikh, an accident on the M23 made most of the divers about 1.5 hours late.
After a quick pint we soon forgot our woes as we boarded the plane. A spot of turbulence ahead meant that Melvin wasn’t able to leave his seat to relieve himself. I’ve never seen a human being so desperate in my life, some wriggling was followed by some words to the plane crew which was followed by a sweaty forehead and some chair rocking. The rest of us were naturally very sympathetic by making sounds of dripping taps, impression of Niagara falls and I even offered him my empty bottle. Eventually enough was enough and he launched himself out of his chair and ran down the aisle passed all the signs that read ‘keep your seat belt fastened’.
The onboard drinks trolley was made full use of by one or two of the team and Melvin celebrated his release of pressure with a cold beer.
Our hotel the Maritim Peninsula was only a 15 minute ride from the airport, so after dropping our bags off in our humongous rooms we went for a bite to eat in the restaurant followed by some drinks in the piano bar.
The next morning we were met by Hooch, our guide from Red Sea College. After a quick stop at the dive centre in Naama Bay to collect equipment and fill in the necessary paperwork we pottered down to our boat ‘Jo Jo’ at the Jetty.
Our first dive was a local dive site called Ras Katy which in English means Katie’s Head. This is a beautiful but simple dive site to allow everyone to get back comfortable in the water and sort out the right weights. Ras Katy is in a sheltered bay and has lots of pinnacles dotted along the reef plateaux. There were lots of sitings of clown fish, glass fish, lionfish, a scorpion fish and blue spotted sting rays. On returning to the boat we informed Jess that “Hooch wanted a word about her kit”, an old but still funny joke from our previous trip to Sharm.
2nd dive was Ras Katy Corner, slightly further along the reef than our previous dive. This part of the reef has a shoulder that juts out in to the blue. As this an area where the currents can be a little stronger it is often home to some larger creatures that like to hang out in the blue. Out here we saw some snappers and a fusiliers but after 5-6 minute we decided to head back the main part of the plateaux to look at the brightly coloured corals, orange antheas and the other usual Red Sea suspects.
That evening most of had a couple of drinks in the bar followed by some food, a few games of pool and a Shisha in the outdoor bar.
Another early start meant we were soon boarding Jo Jo and on our way to Ras Muhammed, the national marine park. A small pod of dolphins kindly escorted us pat of the way which made for an excellent photo opportunity. The first dive was to a site called the ‘shark obsevetory’ as many years ago people could come here to watch the shark fins from the land. Unfortunately the very same shark fins meant that these sharks disappeared many years ago and sitings are a very rare occurrence these days. None the less it still makes for a fantastic dive site. As you glide along the reef you can stare down in to the seemingly never ending blue below, in fact it’s about 800m to the bottom. Along the reef wall is some stunning typography. Large schools of antheas being stalked by hungry groupers and snappers. The other hi-lights on this dive were a large green sea turtle, stone fish, some Tuna and some Jacks.
During our surface interval we were entertained by 4 dolphins that stayed with our boat for about 10 minutes. One of them was showing off by carrying a large fish he’d caught in his mouth.
Our final dive of the day was to the world famous ‘shark & yolanda’ reef. Shark Reef was made famous by Jacques Cousteau, as it’s where several currents converge bringing in lots of nutrients which in turn feeds the corals and fish, which attracts the larger predators. We were dropped off at anemone City home to Nemo and about 500 of his close cousins. A swim in to the blue took us on a sort cut to Shark Reef. This is a sheer wall that drops down to 800m. Alan and Mel spotted a ginormous moray eel hiding along the wall and there were plenty of other hunters swimming out in the blue. Reaching Yolander we stayed relatively shallow where we came across a couple of well camouflaged scorpion fish, a crocodile fish, nudibranchs and some more eels. Most of the divers didn’t quite make it to the toilets and other bathroom accessories that are scattered along the saddle of the 2 reefs. Just as well as last time I swam here a diver wanted to have his picture taken sitting on a toilet and accidentally sat on a sea urchin, it probably made for a great photo though.
The first couple of days diving have been a real joy and the weather has been idyllic, especially as people are being informed of snowfall back home. The 23 degrees water temperature makes the 3 degrees in Wraysbury seem a long way away.

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