On a recent trip to Egypt (more on that later) we signed ourselves up to a Scuba diving day in the Red Sea.
The Red Sea which is famed for it’s clear waters and Finding Nemo-like displays of vividly coloured fish.
There are areas here in the Sinai Peninsula that are ranked as the world’s best dive sites and thousands of divers visit every year to dip their toes in the water, so to speak.
And as an adventurous family, we HAD to do it!
At nine, Mia was too young to have a go, but actually she was happy with snorkelling.
Dan had previously tried scuba diving in a local pool and this was his chance to put that to the test and dive in open water. What a cool thing to do when you’re 12.
This was an adventure that came courtesy of all-inclusive holiday specialist First Choice, who sent us to Egypt to share what we made of their resort for families.
They’re kicking off an #allyoucan campaign this week designed to show just what you can do on one of their all inclusive holidays, but I wanted to share this one exciting experience first of all.
Marine life in the waters of the Red Sea is amazing. Truly amazing.
The colours seem cartoon like, as Nemo himself flits out from the cover of an anemone and a rainbow of sea life go about their daily business before your very eyes.
The coral is magnificent. Your dive instructors treat it with great reverence – they know it’s their bread and butter and they need to preserve it.
Our adventure started two days before with a ‘try dive’. Literally you get to try out diving with a tank on your back in the safety of your resort’s swimming pool for free. We also paid a visit to the dive centre to measure up for wet suits.
Then it was the day of our dive.
An early start, a 20 minute drive in a minibus to the port. And by port I mean jetty with a makeshift security walk through and onto our boat; one of about 10 all lined up like white sardines ready for us all to join.
It sounds chaotic (and it was) but it all added to the Egyptian charm. The crew was charm itself; helpful, friendly, brilliant with the kids.
We sailed for about 20 minutes to our first destination. During this time all divers get a thorough brief on how to dive successfully. And I mean thorough; our instructor was brilliant at covering everything, breaking it down into easily understood bitesize chunks and doing it all with a sense of humour.
The key to scuba diving? The absolute MUST that will mean the difference between a great dive and a rubbish one? The ONE thing to remember? Relax. Relax relax relax. I’m really good at that so I’m thinking I’m going to get it in one.
So it’s time to suit up into the wet suit, put that tank on your back (it is SO heavy), flippers on, face mask on and join up with your dive instructor, who will take you and one other down, hold your hands, explain everything again if you need him to and guide you the whole time you’re under water.
It’s time to dive in.
It is amazing down there. We managed to go to nearly 10 metres and saw a magical new world.
I found it really quite easy and yes, relaxing totally is the key, because if you breathe long and deep it’s a walk in the park.
There was a nervous girl on the trip with us, probably in her mid-twenties, who was chattering at ten to the dozen the whole time we were sailing because she really didn’t know if she wanted to do it.
She worried that she was too overweight, that her tank wouldn’t work, that her history of asthma would prevent her enjoying it.
The instructor told her to relax, chill out, breath. She came out of that water after her first dive with THE biggest smile on her face. It was a joy to see.
It was time to get back onboard and move onto our next dive site.
It’s not far we’re told, but the water might get a bit choppy.
And here I fell out of love with diving just a little bit.
The sea was so choppy if you looked out of the back of the boat you could see sky, then sea, then sky, then sea.
The pictures on the wall of the cabin rocked too and fro angrily. Anything on a table flew off like a bullet. It was actually like a scene from The Perfect Storm, except the sun shone down and sky wasn’t angry.
It was so bad Mia was sick off the back of the boat, where two crew members sat with her, held her hand and hosed her down.
But just look at the sea on the photo; green as emeralds and then beyond the wreck, blue as azure. Absolutely beautiful.
And once again here, the underwater life is teeming with colour and tranquility.
This time we really feel like we’re divers. We totally get it.
We moved on to a third dive site but by this time we were tired and just wanted to chill out.
We eat a hearty lunch prepared onboard (chicken strips, rice, salad, pasta, pita) and then lie in the sun and take in the view.
As we head back to the port the moon hovers over the oncoming buildings and it looks stunning. Just a few minutes more and the sun is setting and the landscape is fabulous.
1. Wrap up warm.
Even though you’re in Egypt and it gets very very hot, when you’re moving through the water at pace it gets cold up there on deck, so a towel or a hoody is a must.
2. When you come out of the water after your first dive you have to take your wetsuit off. It gets put in a crate until the next dive. Yes you have to put that thing back on while it’s sopping wet. And COLD. Suck it up.
3. Taking photos is difficult.
You’re called to dive quickly once you arrive so it’s difficult to stop and take photos. It’s even harder to take them underwater (I took a GoPro and failed miserably).
If you can, get someone to take photos for you when you’re getting ready, jumping in etc.
You can buy a disc of photos from the crew (someone goes on the dive with a REALLY good underwater camera) which costs about £35. They will have photos of you along with some generic underwater shots.
This is part one of our adventures in Egypt with First Choice holidays who sent us there as part of their All You Can campaign.
Find out more about it on the First Choice Facebook page or using the hashtag #allyoucan. And you can watch the A to Zs unroll every day over on the First Choice blog.