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Mar
21
 
 RED SEA - From the surface to the depths!
 H&R Magazine
Jacques Cousteau once described the Red Sea as the “Corridor of Dreams”, the deep crevice between the Arabian Peninsula and the African continent is home to colorful and spectacular coral reefs that teem with marine life. The Red Sea has fascinated travelers for centuries and is still one of the most visited seas on the planet.

The Red Sea is one of the smallest and
most enclosed seas of the world’s oceans, but at the same time, it is also one of the most fascinating. It is unique and famous for its endemic marine life, its corals that completely cover the submarine landscapes, its deep walls and the numerous wrecks that lie on its seabed.

The Red Sea is a sort of heaven under the surface and that is why a great part of it is a Marine Park, under supervision of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA).

In the last decade a lot of organizations have been created to safeguard this sea and encourage coral growth. New artificial reefs have been created to give shelter to fish life, to encourage the growth of coral on its structures and to create new dive spots. Other important aims are those of saving natural reefs and wrecks from pirate moorings, fighting the poachers and protecting particular sites.


For example Marsa Abu Dabbab, located near Marsa Alam is the natural habitat of dugongs and giant turtles. It became too crowded by divers and snorkellers, with zodiacs dropping them close to the shore and creating a lot of noise over the animals. This area was then closed to the boats in order to reduce the traffic in the area and was filled with signs encouraging people not to touch the dugongs and the giant turtles.
Thanks to these actions that aim to protect and preserve its natural treasures, the Red Sea is one of the most loved destinations by divers from all over the world.

There are over 650 dive centers registered in Egypt and they offer divers everything they need or desire. You can begin from making an introduction to diving, just to taste if diving is for you, then the choices are numerous: from the basic course to the instructor course, learning all you need to know to be a good and responsible diver.

If you are traveling with your children they
can snorkel from the boat or if they are 8 years old they can get familiar with the underwater world with the “Bubblemaker” experience or, after 10 years old, they can take a Discover Scuba Diving course. If they enjoy it and want to do more they can continue their training to complete the junior open water course. If you are already qualified and you just want to discover the wonderful marine life of the Red Sea you have different options available.

You can choose to have a full day trip with two dives and lunch on the boat, you can decide to dive a “house reef” directly from the beach without taking a boat or you can spend an entire week on a liveaboard to fully experience the Red Sea.

DAILY TRIPS
The coastline of the Egyptian Red Sea offers visitors a chain of isolated and breathtaking reefs with dramatic drop-offs and plateaux teeming with characteristic marine life. There are a lot of different sites that can be reached in less than two hours of sailing and divers can find sites to suit all tastes, shallow lagoons, deep walls, plateaux and wrecks.
With a daily trip guests can reach sites in the middle of the sea where marine life is richer and where it is not difficult to observe the passage of pelagic life such us tuna or even sharks. You can also reach one (or two) of the several wrecks lying on the bottom of the Red Sea.

By sailing on a daily boat divers can be in touch with the sea, feel the waves, enjoy the wind and it is not unusual to meet schools of dolphins playing around the boat!

A day on a daily trip boat begins in the morning, around 9 o’clock, when the boat leaves the jetty. Guests prepare the equipment, which can also be rented at the diving centre, and then enjoy the sea while sailing to the dive spot.

have lunch, some time to relax, tanning or just sleeping. While the divers relax the boat moves to a new dive spot where there is
the second dive of the day, before going back to the jetty.

All diving centers give tanks and weights included in the price. Tanks are 12- litre aluminum, but 15- litre steel tanks are available upon request.
The same boats are also used for night dives. Usually you drop off the day passengers back at the jetty and then head back out to the reef, which is usually less than a 45-minute sail from the shore. You reach the dive site to have the briefing before it gets dark and allows you to enjoy the sunset over the sea. A night dive is an amazing experience and is a lot quieter than a day dive. It is a magical time when the day
fish are getting ready to go to sleep and the nightlife is preparing to wake up. This is an exceptional dive not to be missed.

After the dive you can enjoy lying on the top deck looking up at millions of stars in the silence of the night, a really special experience you won’t forget.

HOUSE REEFS
Lots of hotels and resorts have their own “house reef” and you can go for a dive directly from the beach, not far from your room. Sharm el Sheik and the resorts in the area of Marsa Alam have a lot of house reefs while in Hurghada most of the hotels have sandy beaches with reef areas located further from the shore.

There are two kinds of house reefs: those starting from the beach with a sandy canyon which allows divers to enter the sea without touching the corals or those which are a barrier between the beach and the open water and which go deep in the sea after having crossed them. In the past these house reef, where divers looked for the wonders of the Red Sea marine life, were paradoxically not protected: everybody walked on the reefs, touched the corals and tried to play with fishes.

This behavior did a great deal of damage to the marine life, as delicate corals were killed and the inhabitants could not find the right environment to live. In a few years a rich colored and crowded fish reef could become a submarine desert. This is why hotels and resorts began to build long jetties to avoid people walking and destroying the corals and its inhabitants. Today the majority of house reefs are gaining new life as hoteliers and tourists gain a new environmental awareness.

In Hurghada and in the nearby resorts there are some good examples of house reefs of both kinds. For example at Sheraton Soma Bay, around 50 km south of Hurghada, a 420m jetty extends directly from the dive club to the reef, with golf cars that are available for carrying equipment and divers for effortless access to the reef. A large turquoise-blue lagoon lies at the front of the reef and provides sheltered waters ideal for
training. This “House Reef” boasts a spectacular array of marine life from the smallest to the largest creatures.

With sightings of large pelagic like barracuda, turtles and eagle rays being more the order of the day than rarities. You will be transported down the long private jetty in one of several club cars. On arrival at the equipment assembling point, you can strap on your tank and then it’s just a case of jumping in over the side of the jetty.


Once in the water you will be captivated by the abundance of fish this incredible hard coral fringe reef has to offer. This coral growth starts directly below the surface, so is ideal for snorkeling and gradually drops down to 40m+. Frequently spotted species include giant morays, colorful nudibranchs, various large groupers as well as porcupine puffer fish and turtles. Sharm el Naga too is famous for its house reef with beautiful coral
reefs and crystal clear water. This peaceful bay lies 40km from Hurghada and is perfect to visit for a relaxing day on the beach.

Any time during the day divers and snorkelers can explore the reef with its unharmed corals. The bay is like a huge pool. Starting from a sandy bottom it gradually goes down to more than 30 meters with drop offs to about 80 meters: the ideal diving site for beginners and experienced divers to enter the water directly from the sandy beach.

LIVEABOARDS
There are plenty of reasons experienced divers choose a liveaboard holiday. A weekly liveaboard trip is an easy way to dive. When you arrive on the first day you assemble your equipment and then for the rest of the week you just have to roll out of bed, into your kit and into the water. You wake up early in the morning, go out on the platform, and you are on a new dive site, which very often is deserted with only your
boat! There are some exceptions, for example the Thistlegorm wreck. It is one of the most famous wrecks in the world, sunk on the west of the Sinai Peninsula in October 1941, and it is often full of daily boats. But being on a safari boat you do not have to go back to the jetty before sunset and so you can chose to dive when you want, when all the others are having lunch on their daily boats for example! So you manage your time and your dives to get the best from your holiday! As safari boats are often very beautiful and have all the amenities you desire, your week will be perfect. You will spend your time tanning on the sundeck, sleeping in your cabin, reading a book in the salon, enjoying the company of your friends while having breakfast, lunch and dinner together, watching the sea with all its nuances. And when it’s time to dive, after listening to the detailed briefing of your dive guides, you wear your suit and your tank and jump into the water!

Some dive sites in the Red Sea are only accessible with liveaboard: the Brothers Islands, Zabargad and Rocky Islands, Daedalus Reef and all the dive spots of St. John’s reefs, in the deepest south of the Egyptian Red Sea. What you will see under the surface is really unique: crystalline water with forests of corals and gorgonian fan corals, big schools of fish, passage of tuna and sharks, manta and if you are lucky (and
you must be) whale sharks!

It is not true that to try a liveaboard you must be a really good and experienced diver, but before organizing your holiday, you must check the routes. Even open water divers can make some trips as they can dive in calm lagoons or in easy dive spots. Other routes are a bit more challenging with currents and conditions and divers must be more experienced to avoid accidents. This is why the Egyptian Government set some rules for some Marine Parks such us Brothers Islands and Daedalus: divers need to have at least 50 logged dives or a advanced certification.

The Red Sea is characterised by reefs that emerge from the water or are semi-submerged allowing tranquil and complete observation of this extremely rich environment and it’s inhabitants, even to those that limit themselves to swimming on the surface. The first few metres of reef are the richest in life and colour and where a large amount of fish life is concentrated in this shallow area. By freediving just a couple of metres holding your breath you open yourself up to see inhabitants hidden in caves, under table coral or on the sandy bottom. If you gain greater freediving experience and training you can then dive deeper and swim in deeper waters to encounter larger animals such as moray eels, turtles and dolphins which are easier to approach while snorkelling as you are more silent without bubbles to disturb the experience.

With minimal equipment of a good mask, which fits your face securely and is watertight and a snorkel you can begin your exploration, add fins and you can move more effortlessly through the water and cover a greater area of the reef with minimal effort. Depending on the time of year you can wear a t-shirt to protect your back from burning or a full wetsuit to protect from both the sun and the cold
water. It is obviously important to apply waterproof sun tan lotion to protect particularly the backs of knees and bottoms that quickly tan with the added reflection of the sea speeding up the burning process.

Whatever root you choose to enter the water by paddling and looking down at the fish, snorkeling, taking part in a try dive, completing a full course or a week on a liveaboard you will discover there is a whole new world under the waves of the Red Sea with a lot of experiences to offer.
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