It’s been a crazy year! And by that, I really mean this year so far. We’re only on week 12 but so much has happened already, enough to last the whole year. I’ll talk more about it on another post as it may get pretty emotional and I really don’t want to kill the mood while I’m writing about our last holiday and my latest achievement!
I had all the intention to start the year right so I decided to plan a holiday, one that’s really long overdue – a SCUBA diving trip! My sister has been persuading us for the longest time to come with them to one of their trips to Curacao. They go every two years or so to go diving and she’s been convincing us to start diving, too. So last year I suggested we should go to Egypt this winter so Joan and I can learn diving in the Red Sea. Sure, it’s not the Carribean, but it’s the best option we have for a week-long trip, and she and her boyfriend had been wanting to go to Egypt sometime anyway.
We opted for the Open Water Diver qualification because it’s the best and most efficient among the basic options and it normally takes just four days to achieve it. But since we only had a whole week in Egypt, we thought it’s best to for us to shorten our course and start our sessions here in Germany. The first two days would have comprised of four pool dives and we found a diving school here in Berlin with a great instructor and they were able to accommodate us. After completing the sessions, they wrote a referral to the diving school in Egypt so we could start with our four open water dives right away, taking up only two days of our holiday.
But our plans went anything but smoothly. It started with our flights being canceled and having to rebook and take off from an airport that is quite far away from home. But once we managed that and finally arrived at our destination, we just wanted to make the most out of our stay. It’s our first time with an all-inclusive hotel package, something we may or may not want to try again. There were also some delays in finishing the OWD that we tried to not let ruin our holiday altogether.
The Dive Base
We chose Coraya Divers for our base. It’s located very close to Marsa Alam airport (10-minute drive), right on Coraya Bay which has a beautiful reef – perfect for learning and exploring the underwater world. There are a handful of hotels by the bay that all belong to the same group so choosing which one to book is just a matter of preference. My sister and her boyfriend were staying at the hotel next to ours but we were allowed to dine at each other’s restaurants so we can all be together.
I always thought Egypt has a hot climate all year round. How wrong I was! Temperatures of 23-26C under the sun by the beach can be quite misleading. It was windy on some days, so much so that it was unbearable to sit by the beach or the pool without a jacket. This was early February, and the area also wasn’t all too crowded. This will change in the summer months though, and a crowd is to be expected. The dive center gave us a 5mm wetsuit for the lessons but I used my sister’s 6.5mm wetsuit and a Lycra overall for additional insulation. I was quite comfortable diving in this combination with 21-23C water temperatures and two dives a day.
On our first day, we just went snorkeling to check out the house reef and we were shocked by a wave of jellyfish by the reef. We only saw them on that day and we’ve been assured they’re harmless. But if you’re not comfortable having them all over your body (your face and the top of your head when you come up included), this might be a problem for you. During the lessons and the dives after that, we were able to spot a lazy turtle, a Muraena, some clownfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, angelfish, a huge old pufferfish, and so much more but these are the only names that I remembered. On one dive I was able to see eight blue-spotted rays that I was sure I don’t need to see more in my life for a long time (although on the next dives I still kept pointing at them because wow such beautiful creatures!). Corals, of course, are a huge attraction and one of the reasons I wanted to start diving is because of them.
Diving with a Camera
I was a student on most of my dives so I did not bother bringing a camera with me. Once I got my OWD, I was able to do two dives with my sister, her boyfriend, and a guide as required by my inexperience. On the first dive, I did not bring a camera so I can concentrate on practicing. On the second dive, I decided to bring our GoPro and was able to take a few videos. Most of them did not turn out so good as I was too shakey and I consumed way more air than I usually do. Controlling my depth was also a challenge while multi-tasking underwater, but they say these skills will get better with more experience.