Mission Blue Hole, a Perfect Diving trip in Dahab
by Lukas Joseph
In 2016, after a long, harassing but enjoyable diving season in Koh Lipe, Lou and I, Lukas decide to visit our former instructor, mentor and friend, who resides most of the year in Dahab. It was an unexpected opportunity for us to visit Egypt, to see old colleagues and to discover one of the best diving destination in the world best diving destinations in the world: the Red Sea. From what our friend said Egypt was a great diving destiation and we wanted to try to dive the Blue Hole of Dahab and the famous Thistlegorm diving Wreck. The objective was also to take a liveaboard trip in the red sea but also to visit the Mount Sinai and other non-diving great places in Egypt
Arrival in Cairo, first difficulties
After a few hours flight from Kuala Lumpur, we finally arrive in the Pharaohs’ country. To enter the country, we had to buy a visa, valid for 1 year which costs, on average, 20 euros. As we were just arriving from Malaysia, we did not have any US Dollars or local money with us. We just had our credit card.But, of course, to withdraw money, we had to pass the customs. After a long discussion with the custom officer, we managed to pass the custom with an officer in order to withdraw money. Once the money is withdrawn, the latter quickly tries to ask us for a tip for the 50 meters traveled in his company. After paying him a tip, the first but not the last of our travel, we finally managed to pass the custom. But the hardest thing was to manage to find a taxi to take us to the bus station. After negotiating long minutes with several drivers, one of them, cheaper, persuaded us to accept his deal. The prices he claimed corresponded well to the long distance of the journey to the bus station. 10 minutes later, a little surprised, we were already arrived at destination. Our driver wanted to buy our tickets but as we felt the trick, we decline politely. It turns out that the price announced by our brave driver and the price finally paid was mysteriously different. After paying a new tip to the driver of the bus to put our suitcases in the hold, we finally embarked for our final diving destination Dahab.
Crossing the desert by bus
The weather in Egypt is hot and dry. Even if our seats were pretty uncomfortable, the trip was still very rather pleasant. The driver gave us Oriental music on the 10-hour journey. Due to recent unrest in the SINAI region, our journey was punctuated by numerous stops with our suitcases being searched by military or police officers. Moreover, for the small anecdote, during one of these checks, one of the sniffer dogs appeared particularly excited by Lou’s bag. The suspicious policemen emptied his bag to discover a piece of forgotten sandwich. Finally, with the same old Egyptian music, we arrived almost unscathed in Dahab.
Dahab, small charming seaside resort
When we arrived at the bus station outside the city, our friend picked us up and took us to the resort. On the road, the most striking spectacle was the number of unfinished buildings which gave the suburbs a ghost town like feeling. Our friend explained that many people in the area had undertaken work to make sure that their land would not be considered as a non-building land. In addition, an unfinished building were not taxed.
The Diving Center “Club Red Sea Dahab” is located on the waterfront on the seaside promenade. This part of the city is, by far, the most pleasant and lively of the small seaside resort. The diving resort in Dahab offers rooms with a view of the magnificent bay and all at a small price. Once set up, we went to discover the small shopping streets full of scents, then we walked along the coast where many restaurants were offering local food and drinks. After a hearty dinner with lamb skewers and various dishes, we were ready for our first dive in Dahab.
Diving in Dahab, our impression
Here are two dives that will remain engraved in my memory for a long time. The first of which I unfortunately forgot the name, is a natural narrow tunnel 30 meters long at an average depth of 35 meters. Few people know this place because the entrance to the canyon is very discreet. Located at about 50 meters from the shore, this dive requires a good level not to raise the sediments in the bottom and thus avoid disorientation. A continuous fault brings light into this lunar gut. The second diving site of dahab, “the canyon” is very famous in the area.
Diving in the Canyon of Abu Helal
The first room, a large dome in which you can dive with glass fish, had to be closed to scuba divers because the bubbles damaged the dome that threatened to collapse. Despite this, the canyon impresses by its length which can take you from 14 meters deep to 55 meters deep through a succession of rooms and corridors. To dive in its entirety, excellent buoyancy and deep diving experience is required. At the deepest exit of the canyon, one falls face to face with a dizzying drop off descending towards the depths. At 70 meters of depth, you can see a natural sculpture in the shape of a throne, simply called “the chair of Neptune”.
We dived the blue hole of Dahab
This emblematic and deep dive requires a lot of preparation and vigilant attention. This dive site of Dahab is unfortunately known as one of the most deadly diving site in the world. Indeed, the Blue Hole can still legally be dived but the special deep dive that we did was forbidden because a lot of people died there. The plan of this dive is pretty simple: you have to dive down to 60 meters quickly, cross the arch and then go up to 20 meters to continue as a normal dive. Our mentor had already dived into the blue hole dozens of times and with nearly 8,000 dives, he was undoubtedly the best guide we could wish for. As for Lou and me, we had done about 600 dives each and had a solid experience of deep diving. We do not advise to try this dangerous dive.This dive being forbidden, we arrived early in the morning, at 6:00 am, when the site was still desert. After we got ready, we got into the water. As agreed, the descent was done in less than a minute, watching each other out of the corner of an eye. When we arrived at the mouth of the large tunnel, the place appeared to be unreal and just magic. An intense blue halo encouraged us to cross the tunnel. 1 minute later, on the other side and still 65 meters deep, after admiring the majestic work of nature for the last time, we began the ascent. Once at 20 meters, without my computer still not in decompression, we continue our visit of the outer reef, which is also of great beauty.
Excursion to Mount Sinai
After a day full of emotion, we decided to spend a day outside the water to visit the surroundings and go on an excursion on Mount Sinai, also called Djebel Moussa. In the heart of Sinai, this mythical mountain, where Moses received the tables of the 10 commandments, serves as a place of pilgrimage for many believers. The ascent begins at night, at 1 am and ends at 5:00 am for the fastest. The ascent of 2,285 meters is possible on foot or on camels for 3/4 of the distance. The spectacle of the sunrise that awaited us, once up the mountain, was breathtaking, a real moment of happiness. Local merchants make this ascent every day to offer tourists all kinds of drinks and food during this ascent. Once descended, the monastery of St. Catherine is also part of the visit. Inside, the must see place is a bush that would be no less than the one mentioned in the Old Testament.
Our Liveaboard in Egypt
On our way to Dahab, the opportunity was too good for a liveaboard in the Ras Mohamed National Park. In this world-famous national park you will find some of the most beautiful diving sites in the world, but also one of the most beautiful wrecks of the world most beautiful wrecks in the world : the Thistlegorn.
Discovered by Commander Cousteau in the 1950s, this vessel is a must for all divers who have the chance to pass through the region. Its exceptional dimensions added to the fact that it sank with its complete load still intact, make it a fabulous experience. This dive site is normally very busy which can spoil the experience somewhat in view of the large number of bubbles escaping from the ship. Luckily, on this day, we arrived among the first. So we hurry to get ready to be the first to throw ourselves into the water. After a fairly rapid descent, the wreck lies lonely and waits patiently for us. A napoleon fish of good size also comes to greet us as we dive along the wreck. The first dive usually consists of admiring the structure of the ship, cut in half by a bomb. A defense cannon always thrusts forward, reduced to silence and impotence for eternity. The second dive is completely different from the first, since it takes place in the ship’s holds. On two levels, there are all the military vehicles of the time: motorcycles, jeeps and other vans. Using our diving lamp, we searched the rooms, looking for artifacts or treasures left there during this remarkable episode of the Second World War. The dive concludes with a last look at this still companion who has given us a wonderful time.
Diving on Yolanda Reef
The last dive of the circuit took us to the reef of “Shark and Yolanda Reef”. This dive site is considered as one of the best diving site in Egypt. The dive starts on a magnificent drop off of 800 meters of depth. Of course, it is impossible to verify its depth and we trust the information found on the internet. Platax and big-headed trevallies keep us company during this underwater journey. Further on the reef, the remains of a wreck containing a strange cargo lie on the ground.
Visit Cairo and the Pyramids
Cairo is a fascinating and gigantic city. As soon as we arrived at the airport, we decided to take a driver for the day to avoid the usual aggressive taxis drivers and the common hustlers. We leave directly for the pyramids of Giza, the last wonders of the world still intact. Our very friendly driver takes us to a side entrance which allows us to access the site still closed at this time of the morning. After having greeted the Sphinx, we make the turn of the 3 pyramids under privileged conditions. No tourist on the horizon, only a few camel hireers ask us if we want to ride one of their animals. After visiting tombs including the pyramid of Cheops, we see in the distance the endless column of buses arriving by the main entrance. After joining our driver, he takes us to other older pyramids located further afield. We will visit it on horseback in the desert.