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Status Report Egypt 6.8

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Status Report Egypt 6.8

Over the years in Egypt my path has crossed with John Liddard’s on a few occasions. He is a journalist from DIVER magazine in the UK. First we met when he was writing an article on the diving in the Red Sea while diving with Easy Divers during my time there. Next time he came to write a reportage on the tec-diving in Colona while I was working there. This time Jane has brought him back to write about rebreather diving and wrecks in Safaga plus the fantastic daily Diving in Fury Shoal. By coincident I’m present in the periphery again and when asked I jumped in the chance to go and do some recreational diving for my own amusement. The prospect of dive rebreather again was of course an alluring factor.

Hamata is a village in the very south of Egypt, slightly north of the peninsula of Ras Banas and Port Bernice. Right outside the coast is an area known to many divers as Fury Shoal which contains some of the more spectacular dive sites in the Red Sea. These sites used to only been accessible by liveaboard from Marsa Alam or Marsa Ghaleb but there are some developments in the area that give divers the option of daily diving as well. Hamata itself is hardly more than a mosque, a school (financed by USAid), a coast guard office, some camels, a few donkeys and a bunch of goats and most important; a jetty for the dive boats. Just south of this metropolis a resort called Zabargad (named after the island) is located. This is where Orca Dive Club operates.

I had been on BlueOtwo’s boat Blue Fin, guiding a group of English diver on the wrecks and reefs up north for a week’s liveaboard during the first half but I was back just in time to go with Jane to pick up John in Safaga and tag along to Hamata. We had a nice road trip due south and 20 minutes before we arrived we passed through Wadi Gemal National Park. This is indeed an intriguing place, long stretches of mangrove along the coast separated by beautiful beaches, this almost walking distance from the two only hotels. The National Park is one of the world’s best places for bird watching as I understand and with an exceptionally large population of sooty falcon. I have to admit that the thought of taking a tank for a quick dive-stop on the way back. Or maybe stay on land one day and take my kit on a camel ride into the park for a dive in the mangrove. Hmmm… tempting…

Zabargad Beach Resort has their own time zone and set their watches one hour ahead of the rest of Egypt. Being as secluded as it is I suppose it make sense to use some sort of “daylight saving hour” since there is no interference from the rest of the country. This means that we have to get up one hour earlier to get on the transfer to the boat. First day our Austrian dive guide Petzi takes us to Abu Galawa Kebir. This is where Thien-Sin, a Chinese tug boat, sunk in 1943 while deployed to help another boat in distress. Today it’s a nice little wreck with the stern resting on a flat sandy seabed on 17 metres an the bow almost sticking out of the water next to the reef. Jane and I had a very relaxed and nice day and made two dives, one on the wreck and one in a small lagoon in the main reef. To get into this lagoon you swim through a narrow tunnel in the reef wall and end up in a cathedral ambience with flat sandy bottom surrounded by coral walls and a coral tower reaching for the surface in the middle. Spectacular!

For day two we’ve signed up for a “special trip” to Sataya, Dolphin-Reef”. The distance is somewhat longer and we start 06:15 (05:15 normal time). We have breakfast on the boat and head south. Both Jane and I feel a bit warned down. Soar throats and snotty… We wake up after a nap while sailing and Jane decides not to dive which is probably wise. I kit up and jump in with John and promise not to be in his way when he’s taking pictures. “I might need some photos with a diver as well” he says and ads “Why not use the Swedish super model”. The dive site is Sataya south east corner, a site I know well since my time on Rosetta. It’s starts as a wall and transforms into a sloping coral garden which merges with a plateau. I have to say it’s amusing to act as a model and I think there might be one or two shots from that dive that might go into frames for the walls in my newly renovated flat.

After lunch we slowly cruise through the horse shoe shaped reef system to see if there are any dolphins around and as most times there are. These are not the common bottle nose dolphins that you normally encounter all over the Red Sea but the slightly more infrequent spinning dolphins. A big pod swims past including a few juveniles, jumping and spinning… as they do… The guests are happy and take pictures to show friends and family back home and I can’t avoid thinking that the majority of photos will probably be as clear and as good for evidence as most of the photos of the Loch Ness Monster. Blinding!

Petzi has planned Shaab Claudio for the second dive of the day, which just happens to be one of my absolute favourite dive sites in the area, if not THE favourite. It’s a reef ascending from a flat seafloor at 19-22 metres and full of caves like a Swiss cheese. The arrangement was that I would again model for John but as Geoff, one of the guides on the boat was new and had never dived the site, I ended up taking a group of divers instead. No worries though. I had a nice dive. We were swimming in and out through the maze of caves and tunnels and even if the wind and waves created weird surges inside the system the guest were happy in the end.

Tuesday: Neither Jane nor I feel 100% when we wake up this morning. She’s still got problems equalising and I feel like I’m coming down with something. Since I’ve got to be fit for fight when I get back to Hurghada and work I reckon it’s better not to push things. We get up to have some breakfast and let the dive centre know that we’re not coming and then we head back to bed and put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Later we have lunch at the dive centre and when some divers comes out of the water from a dive on the house reef we hear that they’ve seen grey reef sharks… cool…

So Last day of diving and I’m going on my open circuit. We have no expectations since we’re going to two more “local” dive sites. We have a few people who are doing their first day so it’s going to be a “check dive” place. I’ve been so much in Fury Shoal and Wadi Gemal so I don’t really mind. Jane and John are always happy so it’s no problem there either. We go to Shaab Bohar and Shaab Hamam. I have to say that if this is the check dive sites I’m more than impressed. The hard corals are in mint condition and there is an arch and a canyon on Shaab Hamam iin absolute world class. The north side is absolutely covered with soft corals and gorgonians. Spectacular!

So… All in all… We had three very nice diving days in Hamata. I which it had been a week but then again, I’m going back to work diving in the Red Sea so I’ll be OK. One thing is sure though. I will go back to Hamata for some more relaxed shore diving in Fury Shoal.


Anders Jälmsjö
Anders Jälmsjö 2007-11-29 08:20:33
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