Dive Safari – Day #8

  • 28 September 2009

Two days without diving have just passed. I’ve spent my time curing my cold and being violently sick. I completely emptied my digestive system and restarted from scratch with an empty stomach and an empty colon. I feel better now and enjoyed the early morning dive at the Jackson Reef in the Straits of Tiran (مضيق تيران). We hit a strong current and had to abort the dive after about 35 minutes. The view of the reef was very fine though. There were lots of corals, at least one lionfish, some big fishes (when looking out into the deep blue, couldn’t identify them because they were more than 10 metres away) and schools of fish accompanying us for a while. There was a lot of wind, meaning quite some waves at the surface. I estimate the wind having gale force 3 or 4, which has quite an impact when climbing aboard a zodiac (a dinghy) that cannot manoeuvre and is slowly pushed against the reef (think stones). Be quick or be in trouble. Fortunately our zodiac captain – the best of the Red Sea – got us out of trouble and into safety (think of encouraging shouts of Jalla! Jalla! and pure heroism). It was quite a struggle, believe me. The current got too strong, we could neither go forward or backward. We put out our buoys and made our safety stop. I managed to launch my buoy at about 10 metres – holding the rope to the buoy – which only has 6 metres. Don’t do this! It gets you in trouble. I should have let go of the rope, but I thought having a buoy in this weather to warn others of me being in the water would be a good idea (there were some passing boats overhead). We had to swim to the zodiac. It was in sight, but the waves periodically blocked the view (above and underwater). Tricky business, especially if you swim like Hell and the dinghy only approaches by millimetres.

The weather might have ruined the dive for an earlier group. We saw them sitting next to the wreck of the Lara, waving to their safari ship. Apparently their zodiac capsized. They had to walk back to their ship over the reef top. The damaged zodiac was carried back by the crew.


I just returned from the upper deck. I watched the sunset, looking towards the Sinai peninsula. We’re headed for Ras Katy to spend the night there. We came through the Gulf of Aqaba (خليج العقبة), down South. Ras Katy is near Sharm El-Sheikh (شرم الشيخ). From the deck you could see Gebel Tiran  in the light of the setting sun. Opposite was the silhuoette of Sinai’s mountains. I’m not sure if you could see Gebel Katherine from here (it’s the highest mountain of the Sinai). Wait, I just checked a map, you really can’t.

Despite the climate it is a really wonderful place. Now image 200 boats transporting divers and snorkelers to the dive sites. That’s about 2.500 to 3.500 divers. Multiply by two, three or four (four being a maximum limit since you also have daily boats with divers who don’t do more than two dives a day) to get the number of dives. That’s only what you get from the boats. There are also divers and snorkelers coming from the land, too. That’s an awful lot of people, and some might not be as careful as sane, reasonable and respectful divers might be. The Sinai Diving Guide has an estimate: Assume that every diver involuntarily destroys 10 grams of coral per dive. This adds up to roughly 15 tons of destroyed corals per year. So protecting the reefs is a prime objective for everybody. The Egyptian government has introduced protectorates in order to control the damage done to the reefs. In theory this is a good move. In practice it works mostly. Nevertheless I saw bottles, plastic items (which can exist for over 100 to 1000 years in the sea) and other rubbish strewn on the sea floor. I also saw divers poking at corals to show something to others. I fully understand involuntarily acts, but this is plain out disrespectful.

Since we’re all so reasonable, picture this: A plane filled with tourists lands. The passengers leave the plane, go through all the procedures and are let loose on the city and the sea. Some of them are drunk, most of them can still walk, a few crawl to the exit on all fours, totally pissed. This is the nightmare of every skipper, dive guide or park ranger.

It gets even better. Imagine a wealthy businessman renting a dive boat all for himself and five prostitutes. The Muslim crew is aghast. The businessman generously puts 2.000$ in cash on the table to settle the manner. The crew is too proud to accept it. I have no idea if this trip ended better than it started. I doubt it.

Respect is important, no matter if you show it towards Nature or other cultures (I use this term in its broadest sense, even fishes and other animals have their social behaviour, not only humans).

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