Friday, October 22, 2004

Sharm El Naga, Egypt, October 2004

Red Sea shore diving.

trip blog

Egypt - info sheet

VisumA visum is required! In Copenhagen, a one month visum can easily be obtained from the Egyptian embassy within two working days. Besides your passport you must bring one picture, fill in an application, and pay 188 DKK. With some charter companies it is possible to obtain a visum upon arrival.
Transport• Charter flight from Copenhagen to Hurghada: 5h
• Transfer from Hurghada airport to Sharm El Naga dive resort: 1h
TimeHurghada winter time = Copenhagen summer time
They change to winter time beginning of October in Egypt, but end of October in Denmark.
WeatherAir temperature: around 30°C. Warm and dry, blue sky, mild north wind. Water temperature: 27°C.
Currency1 Euro = 7.5 E£ = 7.5 DKK
LanguageEnglish is spoken by some.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Free diving

With clear water and a sand bottom invitingly sloping down between the corals, I just had to try and see how deep I could swim using fins and only one breath of air. A big amphora being the tempting goal down below. Thereby discovering the great feeling of free diving and setting a new personal record - a rather easy thing to do when it's your first serious attempt.

As I reached the point where my lungs were just too compressed to squeeze any more air out of them to equalize, the amphora seemingly only an armlength away, but out of reach nonetheless, I turned around and looked up at the surface high above... what a sight!

Then I started finning up, slightly worried about shallow water black-out. This is not something you want to try without a buddy watching you from the surface, ready to dive down and pull you up should the worst case scenario occur!

Fish let you come much closer, even letting you swim among them, when you're not blowing expanding bubbles all the time, at least as long as you don't frantically move your arms around, using just your fins in stead.

So now my head is buzzing with free diving jargon like: constant weight, static and dynamic breath-hold etc. I definitely have to look for a low volume diving mask... besides training my breath-hold capability and improving my underwater swimming & finning technique.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

There's nothing like being under pressure

During our one week stay, we only did two boat dives: Sadana point, a rather disappointing steep sloping wall, and later on, just to make at least one more boat dive, Green gardens, a beautiful hard coral reef - that is, if you can find it without breefing. The wind caused waves made the boat rides, although not very long, not very pleasant either.

So we ended up choosing for the house reef in stead, diving it 10 times, including 2 night dives, and appreciating it more each time.

The beach entrance with its sand slope is a great place for lazy crocodilefish, just lying on the bottom while waiting for a meal to present itself to them, scorpion fish blending in with the corals and pretending not to be there, lionfish resting underneath overhangs, flounders and blue-spotted stingrays.

The left side has very nice hard corals, with pairs of masked butterfly fish slowly swimming around here and there, but there's more marine life on the right side, where we saw schooling fish like fuseliers and sergeant-majors, a big barracuda getting its teeth cleaned for a more snappy bite later on, a turtle minding its own business and a squad of seven squids hanging out in the blue, performing -at a safe distance- a little razzle dazzle show of changing colors and threathening postures.

During our night dives, we saw two small cuttlefish, getting pretty upset with us trying to take a picture of them, a few shrimps, lots of long spined sea-urchins and crabs decorated with anemones according to the latest fashion, unless of course it's just for camouflage and self-defense. All the while with an escort of two not-to-be-pushed-away lionfish, using our lights to successfully hunt by, thus having adopted the frequent intrusions of divers to their advantage. Twice I guiltily witnessed the swallowing of small out-of-luck fish by the bigger fellow - thereby making me, I confess, an accomplice to cold-blooded feeding.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Sharm El Naga

About 40km south of Hurghada lies the Sharm El Naga dive resort, located in a quiet little bay with a beautiful house reef easily accessible from the beach.

The dive center's former managers having left recently -in apparent discontent- to start their own business in Safaga, the place isn't as well run as it should be. The temporary dive crew lacks enthusiasm and knows little or nothing about the dive sites, all maps and buoys having been taken away, resulting in boat dives not really being promoted.

Each day, from 9am to 4pm, the beach is invaded by day tourists, brought from Hurghada resorts by tour busses, as this is the only beach with a snorkable reef in the neighbourhood with full amenities like rinsing showers, toilets, bar, fairly decent restaurant and fully equipped dive center offering rental gear, discover scuba classes, etc. Unfortunately, all those snorkelers also use the rinsing basins meant for the dive gear :o(

The AC bungalows are located away from the beach and have wind sheltered private terraces. We switched the AC off and just left the window wide open, enjoying the quietness and peacefulness of the desert, the silence broken only by the gentle surf of the sea...

• 8days/7nights half-board w/o diving = 175 Euro
• 8days/7nights half-board with 5 diving days* = 345 Euro (* 2 boat dives per day + unlimited shore dives)

For full-board add 40 Euros to the half-board price. But unless you're a big eater, it's not really worth it, as that includes a big lunch (worth 40 E£), which is just too much food. A sandwich or salad is fine and only costs about 20 E£.

If you plan on doing mainly shore dives, and only a couple of boat dives, it might be worth reserving for half-board only, and pay for the dives separately. A 1.5l bottle of water costs 7E£ as does a can of soda or juice.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Yucatan, Mexico, April 2004

Inside five very different cenotes between Tulum & Coba.

Mexico - info sheet

VisumBelgian citizens, among others, automatically get a three months visum upon entry. No departure tax. Nor immigration control when leaving. Which strangely means I got an IN stamp but no OUT stamp!
Transport• Shuttle mini-bus from Cancun airport to Tulum pueblo (35 USD/person): 2h
• Taxi from Tulum pueblo to the beach (30-35 Pesos): about 4km
• MAYAB stop bus from Tulum to Playa Del Carmen (20 Pesos/person)
• ADO direct AC bus from Tulum to Playa Del Carmen (31 Pesos/person): 1h. Remark that the ADO bus does not stop in the tourist bus terminal on 5th avenue (= the shopping street), but several blocks away from it!
• Direct AC bus from Playa Del Carmen to Cancun airport (65 Pesos/person): 1h. Leaves from the tourist bus terminal located on 5th avenue - close to the Playa-Cozumel ferry terminal.
TimeCancun time = Copenhagen summer time — 7 hours
WeatherAir temperature: 30°C hot and humid. Partially overcast and relatively windy, with an occasional thunderstorm. Nights are usually cool during the winter months but were abnormally so now too.
Fresh water temperature: 24°C (in the cenotes).
Currency1 USD = 10.5 Pesos
LanguageEnglish is spoken. But knowing a bit of Spanish is recommended when you don't know your way around.