Friday 31st July
Finally the day has arrived. The annual OV Red Sea Live aboard holiday. This year we are heading deep, DEEP south….. Down towards the border with Sudan keeping an eye out for pirates on the way!
The trip begins in Hurghada were we are met by some familiar faces, one being Scuba Girl Chrissie who was a perfect dive guide on our trip last year! We are directed swiftly to our coach for a 3hr trip through the night down to Port Galib to meet MV Blue Horizon. We arrive at the boat at 12.30 am (yawn) and sit down to watch the boat briefing, fill out the usual paperwork and unpack our kit. Chicken curry is on offer for those hungry people and finally bed beckons at 2am. A long day but at least tomorrow (later today) will be more relaxed with these mundane tasks out of the way.
The OV crew is a mixture of familiar and new faces, a good mix of personalities so there should be plenty of giggles on this trip.
The routine of egg eating starts promptly at 8.00 so we are fuelled ready for our first day and the familiar rhythm of dive, eat, sleep begins…..
Abu Dabbab 3 is our first stop and a large pod of spinner Dolphins play around the boat as we moor up. This would be our check dive and balloon party location…… We all hoped the Dolphins would stay to join the party! My buddy is broken after lugging heavy bags around the airport so I join another buddy team who look after me very well and we have a lovely, although dolphin free, dive!
Balloon Party over, we set sail further south.
Our second dive will be Sha’ab Marsa Alam and the location of a sunken live aboard from a number of years ago. My usual buddy is on the mend so joins me and my camera for a bimble. This is my first dive with my new camera set up. I am now the proud owner of a new strobe with the required strobe arms to make my rig neutrally buoyant. All this extra stuff makes my little Canon Powershot look huge…. I could be mistaken for someone who knows what they are doing!
Click, click, click, flash… I try to remember all the things I learnt on my course…. Manual white balance, F-stops, shutter speed, ISO. I try different lenses and my strobe….. fiddle, twiddle, snap, where’s my buddy? repeat!
I find a Blue Spotted Ray that allows me to get really close to get a picture using my strobe. This picture will be amazing. Unfortunately I forget to change to Auto White Balance and end up with a very pink ray……thank goodness for photo editing software!
It’s a lovely easy dive shared with another group of divers from a different boat who provide something else to observe……. Unfortunately kicking fan corals over is not what we want to see…..
After the dive I review my photos……. lots of school girl errors but I am beginning to at least understand my mistakes which I console myself is a positive and definitely progress!
Today there will only be 2 dives as we have a long sail overnight. Diving done for the day it is now beer o’clock and time to settle down for the long sail……..
The boat engines finally grind to a halt at 5.15am. The knock at the door comes shortly after at 5.30 and we muster, bleary-eyed on deck for our dive briefing. First up is Gota Soraya which is a short rib ride away as another live aboard has pinched the prime parking space. After a long night we decide to give it a miss and save our energy for the next dives. As we relax on the deck we hear an all mighty splosh as one of the team misjudges the rib entry!
Once everyone is back and has eaten breakfast we set sail for the next location within the St. John’s Area. Habili Jaffa is next. A gorgeous circular reef covered in hard and soft coral. This is to be a training dive for my buddy’s Inon Level 1 course. He had completed the classroom session in the UK but not done the practical exercises so this was to be an awesome place to play. It also meant that he would be distracted with his camera so I can practice with mine too. Perfect!
It was a lovely reef and we clicked our away round with strobes flashing for 60 mins….. Well I did. Unknown to me my buddy’s batteries ran out after 33 mins…. Oops! As we shallow out the dive the light on the top of the reef is fabulous and we see swirls of antheas and a couple of nudibranchs on our safety stop.
Back on the boat there is much excitement and repeated use of the word Hammerhead accompanied by the rubbing of clenched fists either side of the head. Yes, some of the OV crew have been lucky enough to see a hammerhead shark, not too deep either and there is photographic proof! Wow. Some even saw some grey reef sharks as well. Never mind, we enjoyed our dive with lots of pretty, small stuff.
We sailed again after lunch and moored up on Dangerous Reef…..at the briefing it is renamed ‘Not so Dangerous reef’ to allay any fears…. Apparently named from the time when they thought any uncharted water was ‘Dangerous’. A bit like when they thought the world was flat I suppose….
This reef has some lovely swim throughs and we are advised of the one way system to avoid chaos under water. We are diving as a buddy five and my buddy is doing more camera stuff so I happily click away. Another beautiful reef covered in soft coral and anemones – I love anemones! When we reach a large section of anemones we ascend the reef to the start of the section of swim throughs….. The light is streaming through the cracks in the rock ceiling which is beautiful. Unfortunately no one had told the other live aboard about the strict one way system so it all gets a bit squashed, the sandy bottom is kicked up but still beautiful.
This will also be the site of the first night dive of the trip. Feeling tired, I decide to sit this one out but wave my buddy off for a bimble around. The dive deck quickly fills with waving torches and flashing strobes as a respectful turn out musters for the first night dive of the trip.
Over dinner we are informed of another overnight sail….. Engines starting at midnight to travel even further south.
The night sailing is smooth and doesn’t disturb our snoozing too much and we are all up and ready for another days diving. Thank goodness for noise cancelling headphones!
The first dive is Habili Abu Fandera but as we kit up my buddy’s back is sore again so I pair with another OV diver. The site has a number of pinnacles in a sort of line which you can swim between. The visibility is a little milky so the other pinnacles are not clearly visible so we hang out on the first which is the bigger of the group. The light is lovely on the soft corals and we spot 3 different types of nudibranchs. We gradually swim round the pinnacle and work up the walls clicking away and waving at the other OV divers as they pass. A beautiful dive site with lots to see.
After the morning consumption of eggs is complete we set sail again to move to the next site for the day which will be Fasma Abu Fandera which is being billed as better than the last site. Can’t wait!
We use the surface interval to review photos and catch up with filling out our log books. We aren’t as diligent as some of the other OV divers who capture all the highlights of their dives as soon as they surface. Note to self – this blog would be much easier to write if I did that!
My buddy is feeling better again so is up for Fasma Abu Fandera which is a channel dive with loads of pinnacles and coral blocks to navigate around.
There are lots of hard and soft corals with loads of fish life. We meander round the blocks taking pictures. It is a beautiful site……
After lunch the Blue O Two shop opens so we can purchase our clean t-shirts for the journey home. The saloon is all laid out with a variety of hoodies, t-shirts and cuddly toys. There is much debate about what to have, what to take home for significant others and what to have embroidered on them.
During the retail therapy the boat has moved to its final spot of the day which is Torfa Abu Fandera. We would do the afternoon and a dusk dive here to look for bump head parrot fish, but there is still a bit of time for a cheeky snooze before the tank check bell rings.
We jump in to the 30 degree water and I have to concede to leave my lava core top behind as the water is officially warm!
Torfa is a reef dive and I have to say after the previous 2 sites is a little disappointing. The best stuff is above 10 metres. There is plenty of fish life and we see some morays and a small bump head parrot fish. A nice dive but didn’t inspire me to jump for the dusk dive so we chill out on the back of the boat and crack open the duty free Pimms!
We relax listening to a collection of Human League and Bob Marley and wait for the dusk divers to return…..
Apparently, somewhere between none and forty bump heads have been seen!
Every one back on board, the boat is unmoored and we await the dinner bell…….
Tonight’s dinner is a celebration for one of our younger divers who has clocked up 100 dives and the chef has baked a huge cake commemorating the achievement – yum!