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Egypt

Egypt

Egypt

Egypt

Egypt

ISSUE 21 ARCHIVE - DIVING IN EGYPT: THE REAL STORY

Egypt has long been the holiday destination of choice for divers looking for an exotic, value for money and exciting diving holiday. Accessible wrecks, clear waters, colourful underwater wildlife and attractions, mean divers of all levels have been putting their trust in Egypt for the perfect diving holiday experience for years.

Covering a mixture of luxury all inclusive stays to basic accommodation options, intensive dive packages or training for novices, this vibrant country is appealing for families, couples and dive clubs alike, plus the lure of liveaboards in abundance, ensure that Egypt is a beacon for enthusiastic divers the world over.

Here at Tanked Up Magazine we have always had a close knit relationship with the diving community based in Sharm el Sheikh and surrounding tourist areas, even producing a special Red Sea edition of the magazine for ex-pats and holiday makers out there requiring their Tanked Up fix.

However in recent years Egypt has had to weather the effects of political revolution and social unrest. As terrifying images of riots, turmoil and violence from Tahrir square and Cairo have dominated news headlines around the world, media scaremonger tactics have left many tourists apprehensive about venturing to the North African country for recreational purposes, and for many others the previously familiar tourist destination has now become tainted with fear and the unknown.

This is why in our dedicated ‘Travel' issue Tanked Up has endeavored to reveal what diving is really like in Egypt today, it would sadden us too much to see this diving hub slowly wilt away into oblivion without digging our noses in to see what the real life, real time situation actually was.

To do this we have asked YOU, our loyal readers, to give us your first hand accounts of your trips to Egypt in the past year. Holiday and tourist operators will continue to gloss over the facts with shiny cut price offers to entice you out there, the same way that the media will bind you to the confines of your living room with lashings of fear of what terrors these foreign destinations hold. Neither party is to be ignored, but we must endeavour to keep our community growing and alive and share our true experiences with each other.

So if you are considering whether Egypt is for you this year, please take a look at what your fellow divers have to say...

Dan, from Peterborough has been to Egypt on various holidays in the past few years, here he gives his impression of Sharm el Sheikh in 2015.

"I went diving in Sharm for 10 days at the beginning of February. I stayed with a friend(DM) who has an apartment in Nabq. We used Sinai Divers and it was a good decision. Great dive centre, great guides and great - dive trip only oriented - boats. Sinai Diver's house reef is beautiful and is an amazing site to have on their doorstep. We dived Tiran, Ras Mohamed and local for the next 6 days with Sinai. During this time we were lucky enough to catch a heavily scarred female Grey Reef at Jackson, a Spanish dancer on a night dive at Temple and some White Tips at a local site I forget the name of.

There was multiple boats going out every day and none of them felt empty. Overall the diving crowd was mostly european, with brits being a minority. There was less Russians around than I expected - I believe this was to do with the Rouble rate being particularly low - although they still felt like a majority tourist-wise on land.

Although Sharm itself wasn't my kind of place - I'd normally prefer lounging around in Dahab - I was really impressed with the diving. I found the health of the coral and the abundance of life underwater to be impressive for the red sea (although I did find that there was a surprising lack of Nudi's - I think I saw maybe 2 the whole trip).

Once we got away from the mixed tourist/diver boat. It felt like a great time to go diving. It wasn't so busy that you were struggling to get on a boat but there was enough diving going on that there was a boat going where we wanted to go every day. I was also in Egypt (albeit on a liveaboard) during the protesting in April 2011. I was in Dahab during the election in January 2012 and I've been to Egypt at a few points otherwise. This time the same as others, I didn't come across any trouble and was made to feel welcome and diving there was safe."

Marcus, an instructor with Divestyle in Reading, visited Egypt in March of this year for 6 days, his trip happened to coincide with an international conference, here's how the increased security presence affected his trip.

"I was in Sharm a week before the Egypt Economic Development Conference with guests including the premier of Italy, John Kerry and the Egyptian president. This resulted in a significant security presence in the area. We happened to be staying in a nearby hotel meaning we had to negotiate the many road checkpoints en route to the marina and dive boats. This you might think would be intimidating, with special forces troops, faces obscured by balaclavas and goggles, waiting behind bullet proof shields or the many plain clothes men seemingly standing about minding their business, each with a handy Glock pistol tucked into a waistband. However, our daily commute to and fro was never a problem or felt threatening.

Sharm was very quiet, very few people about at all, even in the main shopping streets of an evening. Bars and restaurants were empty with only the shop and stall owners outside. The dive sites themselves were quiet with only a fraction of the dive boats normally out this time of year. Talking to the dive guides on the boat, things have been generally quiet, but the numbers are starting to pick up and they were looking forward to a busier season this year.

Our dive group had a great trip and certainly didn't feel unsafe in the area. I would happily recommend that divers choose Sharm for the great dives we experienced. I didn't really see any families with children, but that was probably as it was outside of the school holidays."

Tess, from Bedfordshire and her husband were hesitant about visiting Egypt after the trouble started, however they have since visited numerous times and share their experiences with Tanked Up.

"When the protests and strife started in Egypt a few years ago, my husband and I were a bit hesitant about travelling there, but we've always been bargain hunters and, as foreigners didn't seem to be the target of any animosity, the cheap deals lured us over... repeatedly.

Our most recent trip was a liveaboard in December 2014. We spent seven days exploring the wrecks and reefs of the northern Red Sea and a couple of days afterwards looking around Hurghada.

The diving portion of our trip was spectacular. We couldn't have been any happier with that aspect of the holiday. After we made it through the scrum in the airport to get visas, we were met by a representative of the dive company (Emperor Divers) and taken on the bumpy drive to the marina. Life got slightly less cushioned the morning we left the comfort of our dive boat. The taxi dropped us to our cheap (but pleasant) hotel at the end of a short dirt road in some pretty tatty surroundings. I believe I mentioned earlier, we're travellers with a close eye on the budget, so we weren't bothered by the lack of frills.

A couple of storeys below our room was a small courtyard of hard packed earth containing a sheep, two goats and lots of chickens. It was a Friday, so the call to prayer was relentless from all the surrounding mosques, and every time it started up the sheep would join in, which made me laugh.

Around midday, we went for a walk into the non- touristy part of town. It was extremely busy as everyone was leaving the mosques; men would exit down the staircases while the women would emerge from under them (the stairs, not the men!). Our overall impression was that the city was run-down and very dirty. There was litter everywhere. I did feel that the men looked at me more than I was used to. My knee-length dress may not have been modest enough for a Friday. The little kids were very sweet though; they would wave to us and say ‘hello' very shyly as we walked past.

In the evening, we went out for a walk through the markets and more touristy areas. The hustle and hassle from the shopkeepers was a lot less than we'd noticed in Sharm El Sheikh a year earlier. We stopped and chatted to a few, but resisted going into any shops as we were travelling with hand luggage only, and it was full. The following morning was really windy, so we were glad not to be on the boat right then. When it was time to check out, we encountered our first difficulty of the trip – our hotel would only accept Egyptian pounds (despite their website saying that other currencies and credit cards were acceptable). We were out of local currency, so we had to go and find somewhere to change some cash. While we were looking for an ATM, one of the shopkeepers that we'd met the previous day offered to help us out. He offered us a good rate and rode off on his scooter to get the cash. Back at the hotel, the manager arranged a taxi to the airport for us and, even at the airport, all the shopkeepers were really friendly and chatty, and gave us small scarab beads even though we weren't shopping.

As a destination for a city break, I don't rate Hurghada terribly highly, but I never felt unsafe there (except maybe from tetanus) and the locals are generally friendly and helpful. The area around the marina was not as rundown as the rest of the city,and prices were accordingly slightly higher. As an access point to the Red Sea, it's adequate, but, in my opinion, Sharm El Sheikh is a lot more tourist-oriented and a better place to spend a few days out of the water."

Ashley, a technical diving instructor from Leeds, has just arrived back from a training focused trip and describes his experiences with security check points on the road.

"I was there 23/3/2015-02/04/2015 and spent 7 days in Sharm diving with Pure Rebreather College and 3 days in Dahab diving with Blue Immersion. I felt very safe due to the number of armed checkpoints, which I had no problems with when I was at them. Within Naama bay and at the resort there are restrictions on who can 41 enter in terms of locals and the surrounding areas are very well protected with roadblocks.

Once inside Naama bay you never see police or anything so you don't feel the sense of any of the problems but you also as a tourist have no problems leaving the roadblocks without showing ID or anything.

On my route to Dahab there was no convoy and the journey was without any hassle, there were three roadblocks I believe where I showed my passport to check I had a visa.

Inside Dahab and entering Dahab there is much less of a police presence with one main roadblock on the main entry road but nothing else.

Overall I had a happy and peaceful trip and felt much the same as holidaying in any European country."

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