Diving in Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh
I had wanted to do my PADI Open Water scuba-diving qualification for some time, when at last, I coerced my rather reluctant boyfriend – he had barely snorkelled, let alone dived – into accompanying me to Sharm el Sheikh, a resort town on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. With clear waters, sandy beaches, about 1000 species of fish and 150 types of coral, the Red Sea is a wonderful place to enjoy some guaranteed winter sunshine and experience the rich marine life there.
Heading to Egypt turned out to be a brilliant idea. It was the second week of October, so the water was still warm and glass-like, but the weather had cooled to a perfect-for-sunbathing 29°C during the day. We spent our first day acclimatising – in the form of reading our books by the hotel swimming pool – and the next morning, we nervously headed down to the dive centre, with which we would become very familiar over the next three days.
The course is simultaneously simple and challenging, as you slowly become accustomed to the unnatural feeling of breathing underwater. Jackson, our dive-master, could not have been a more patient and reassuring teacher. Interestingly, he told us about the ongoing conservation efforts to protect the reef, explaining how they collect the rubbish from the sea floor to keep it pristine.
We only explored one site: the Middle Garden. Here, we saw thousands of dazzling fish in all hues, shapes and sizes. The reef turns into a drop-off, where beneath us and to one side was just blue eternity and to the other was a colossal wall of colourful coral bathed in sunlight. The feeling of gliding along to the eerie sound of your breath, weightless beneath the waves, is extremely calming. Your mind goes blank and a feeling of tranquillity takes over, until a school of fish interrupts it with a burst of exhilaration. On our last outing, a turtle swam past, which was the icing on the cake of an incredible experience.
I now hope to make at least one dive part of all future holidays and I cannot wait to return to the Red Sea to try all the other sites. In particular, Ras Mohammed National Park, south of Sharm el Sheikh, beckons – famous for its 1000m walls, baby turtles, eagle rays, sharks and garden eels, as well as an area called Anemone City and a cargo shipwreck from the 1980s. For those who love diving, this is the place to go.