Hurghada really is the arse end of bum fuck no-where. We spent two nights there either side of our Red Sea liveaboard with Emperor Divers. It’s a strange place full of construction sites giving off an abandoned ‘post-coup’ vibe and souvenir shops that all display signs declaiming ‘No Russians’ (apparently they’re big fans of holidaying here). The heat in July/August is truly oppressive, being outside for any amount of time is draining and there is very little reason to leave your hotel, I would advise you stay in the pool and the cool for your own sanity. We stayed at the Green Resort Apartments which were completely unknown to every taxi driver we spoke to, so be sure to take a map with your hotel on it if you go.
The trip was set to be an epic adventure, myself and 17 other intrepid Kiwi’s were heading off for 6 days breathing compressed air in the Red Sea. We had a whole range of experience levels from total newbies to divemasters, either way it was going to be the best diving most of us had ever done. We were on the South and St John’s itinerary departing from Marsa Ghalib, this route would give us the opportunity to get 21+ dives and see a variety of sites from shallow coral gardens to wall dives that dropped away into the blue.
We arrived to Marsa Alam via bus – a transfer that Emperor had organised for us from Hurghada. We packed into the boat and were assigned our rooms, briefed on general rules and told how the trip would run. Our guides were a Spanish couple called Ana and Sergio and running the whole show was Sonia who harked from Switzerland and was the most passionate diver you could ever hope to meet. She had a habit of walking around before each dive calling ‘Briefing Briefing Briefing’ in a loud sing-song voice, we all immediately adopted this call for the remainder of the trip.
We were kitted out in whatever gear we needed, you can take your own, but buying dive equipment can be expensive so most people hired full kits. I would recommend bringing your own torch if you want to do all of the night dives as there aren’t enough for everyone on the boat to do every dive. Once everyone had got intimate with the neoprene we sat down to our first meal on-board. It never fails to amaze me what they are able to produce from such a tiny kitchen, the entire trip we were treated to buffets full of sometimes unrecognisable but tasty dishes. We even had a cake in the shape of a shark one night which was a crowd pleaser.
This trip was probably going to be the most intensive week of diving I had done since my Rescue Diver in Koh Tao. There was the opportunity for 21 dives in total, 4 per day for 5 days plus a sneaky one on the final day before docking, for anyone that doesn’t know – that is a shit-load of diving. We would be up at 6 for a dive before breakfast, then on the boat for food and a nap, another dive would follow before we were back on the boat for more food and more sleep, this was followed by yet another dive before dinner and you may have guessed by now but yes there was more food and more napping to follow. After dinner those that were feeling really adventurous would head back in for a night dive before finally retiring to their beds. I made it to all of those dives bar one. I wanted to sit on the sundeck and drink a gin and tonic instead ok? don’t judge me…also my torch batteries had run out on the dive previous and silly me hadn’t packed any spares (don’t do that).
We wound our way around the Red Sea following that routine for 5 glorious days. The temperature doesn’t feel so extreme when you have the sea breeze wafting about your ears and you’re in the water at least 4 times a day. My logbook tells me that I saw turtles, scorpion fish, a shrimp making a goby hole and a toilet that had made its escape from a ship wreck. It also notes various underwater hijinks such as:
- Chris losing an SMB from the boat
- Getting a tiny bit stuck swimming through an abandoned picture frame
- Watching another member of the party almost touch a Lion Fish (big Ow if you do)
- Swimming out to play with dolphins
- Being accosted by a huge Napolean Wrasse on our safety stop and followed all the way to the boat
- Watching an Octopus moving around and being convinced that these creatures will take over the earth one day
The diving was truly spectacular, a wonderful mixture of sites and a so much marine life to marvel at. The conditions are so favourable as well, there is nothing like hopping off a dive deck in your bikini and bobbing around a beautiful swimming pool for an hour. It’s a far cry from NZ where you struggle into an 8ml suit and hood before plunging through 5 metres of washing machine water to hold onto a rock and stop yourself being swept to Chile.
Check out this video of our trip made by the talented Chris Campbell.
All too soon we were back at port and went out for our last night with the crew and our new friends, the most memorable being Gabe, the sweatiest man that has ever existed. We proceeded to drink too much and make the DJ play kiwi classic before all lining up in choir formation to give a decidedly average performance of Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. The next morning, somewhat worse for wear, we were on the bus back to our favourite destination, Hurghada.
We now had 24 hours to kill before we could get on a plane home. We had heard talk of a water park out in the desert but were dubious about the quality and whether or not it would actually be in operation. We approached a tour operator on the boardwalk to enquire and weren’t blown away by the sales pitch, consequently most of the team bailed to go back to the pool and the air conditioning. A lonely trio of us pressed on and got in the mini van that had pulled up outside. Fairly certain that I was in a people mover heading for slavery I was very pleased when we pulled up outside what appeared to be a totally legitimate, functioning water park. A fun filled action packed day was then had by the three of us feeling very smug that the gamble had paid off. If you’re in Hurghada, go to the water park, go diving, and then go home, that’s all, don’t do anything else, just that…trust me.