Ah, Dahab! Scuba divers paradise, idyllic red sea town, and addictive haven of relaxation! We planned to spend about 5 days in Dahab, and then move up the coast and eventually into Aquaba in Jordan to check out a few different dive spots.
However, after 5 days in Dahab, we just weren't ready to leave. We loved the dive centre we were with and our accomodation, and had met a fabulous vunch of instructors, fellow travellers and divers. (The place we stayed was called Red Sea Relax: Dahab Dorms and the dive centre was Red Sea Relax - both highly recommended. The dorms were bright and roomy, and worked out to $4 cdn per night, including breakfast, and on the days we dived it was free. The dive centre also gave us great discounts.) Also, we weren't quite finished our advanced dive course, and we heard that women would most likely be uncomfortable beaching in Aqaba (because of local costom of dress) so we changed our plans substantially and ended up staying in Dahab twice as long as planned. Thank god for the glorious flexibility of long trips!
The first dive we made was just outside of our hotel, a location called the lighthouse. Since I hadn't dived in so long, I started out with a refresher dive, during which we reviewed skills from the open water course and then finished diving. So we did some buoyancy work, finpivots, mask clearing, etc. and then went on a dive along the coral reef there. I was extremely rusty, and actually pretty nervous about being in the water. Also I didn't equalize well and was a bit stuffed up so after the dive I discovered that I'd had a nose bleed under water. (Nothing was remotely dangerous - we didn't go very deep and an instrustor and a dive master were there the whole time in any case.) I also had trouble not drifiting up to the surface, so for the next dive we added additional weights. (The Red Sea is actually very salty and a lot of people need more weight than at other places.)
Rose was absolutely fine, but because I was a little shaky, we decided that we would do a few fun dives before going on to do our advanced course with PADI. So we went south for two dives the next day to Um Sid and the Coral Gardens. I really enjoyed both dives, especially since at Um Sid there were a lot of table coral, and you would see various fish sort of lurking under the "table-top" part of the coral. There are loads of lion fish in the Red Sea, and we saw a lot of them under the table coral, as well as in little crevices in the reefs.
We started our advanced PADI course a couple of days later (taking time to beach and relax in between), after which you are certified to dive to 30 meters, as oppossed to the 18 meters with your regular Open Water diver certificate. For the course you have to do several manadatory and several optional module, so we did a navigation dive (using a compass under water - I'm not even a fan of using them on land, but it was ok) a naturalist dive (learning about flora and fauna, and not to be confused with a naturist dive), a deep dive, a drift dive and a night dive.
The deep dive was made in a place called the canyon, which is this big crevass in the ocean floor where you can descend and do some skills (ie see how much slower your reflexes are at that depth due to slight increase in nitrogen in the blood) and also look up and see this amazing view of the top of teh canyon opening up to reef and still under about 18 meters of water. You use air a lot quicker at depth, and we were all just a bit nervous about going deep, but it was great in the end and no problem for any of us.
For the drift dive, we started at a sort of 3-sided chimney through the rock and coral where you do a straight down descent of about 28 meters, and then swim along the coral wall, gradually ascending over time and letting the current take you to a different exit point than your entry point. The coral wall was incredible- so many fish and so much life there! And when you turned the other way, all you could see was deep blue ocean and schools of fish. On that dive, a couple of cornet fish followed Rose and one other girl, Ann-Sophie, very closely, almost right by their faces. We don't know if they thought out bubbles were the silver fish they usually eat, or if they were trying to use us to sort of lurk behind to hunt, or if they were just fascinated for some reason. Anyway, it was cool. (We did this dive again a second time because we liked it so much, and on that dive, a cleaner fish tried to clean out Rose's ears - I guess it thought we were dirty!)We ended up at what is called "The Blue Hole" which is pretty famous - basically, the coral wall forms a large circle here, very close to the shore, and it is popular with snorkelers, scuba divers and skin divers alike. There is an arch at about 50 meters, which technical divers or skin divers can swim through (too deep for rec divers) and it is amazing to watch skin divers make attempts at this - it is incredible how long they can control their breath and how deep they can go with no gear whatsoever!
Aside from the diving, we spent a couple of days beaching as well as a few nights out, drinking rum and smoking shisha. Now, normally I neither smoke nor drink rum (being a vodka or gin girl) but after sampling the local vodka, which tasted like it was mixed with traces of both tequila and mouthwash, I was not tempted to try it again. The rum was the best of a bad lot - the Egyptians are not know for their spirits after all. And in terms of the smoking, well, smoking shisha is a national pastime in Egypt, and really quite enjoyable. The tobacco is flavoured, and very smooth - it is basically smoked through an eloborate water bong and I partook of it several times in Dahab. It's kind of nice and social to sit on the cushions at a low table and share around a shisha at the waters edge, looking across to Saudi Arabia and fending off cats (who want your food) and Bedouin children (who want to sell you bracelets) - these things are a staple of a trip to Dahab.
We met a lot of great people during our time there - Roz, Harri and Seb from England (I'm going to go visit Roz during the past portion of my trip, when I'm in England) Jay and Tony from Edmonton, (Tony knows Carley Humber Flaws and was in her wedding party - small world!) Mike, Keith and Becky from Nottingham (they grew up in Leighton Buzzard - small world!), and dive masters and instructors Scottish Paul, Dutch Paul, Achmed, Tom, Jason, Phil, and loads of others who are now in our pictures and holiday memories forever!
We finally managed to tear ourselves away, and have now continued our trip into Jordan.