So returning from Hurghada on March 13th 2020 I was dreaming about my upcoming trip to the Maldives in April, however we all now know that was not going to happen as on 23rd of March we entered our first lockdown and any thoughts of getting into the water again evaporated quicker than salt water on a bcd in the Egyptian sunshine.
So my gear was packed up and stashed away with a heavy heart, I did manage a couple of trips to Vobster in the interim but it was a poor substitute for the Red Sea, my mates, friend Sahid and his family at Scuba Hurghada.
When Boris announced Egypt was off the Red list in early October the whoop from me as I drove to work could be heard on the Isle Wight. My long suffering wife was immediately on the net locating our favourite hotel and ten nights were booked that evening. It was only then we realised the FCO had not changed their advice for travel to Egypt.
However as predicted that changed prior to half the term and we held our breath until the day of departure. So on the 5th of November with kit packed and clothes all packed into 20 kilos, clutching our COVID passes and travel insurance we checked in at Gatwick and off we went. Maybe I would wake up but no, we were really off.
I had spoken to my buddies in Egypt and arranged to dive every other day, so my first day was spent burning by the pool. The following day I was up and of to brekky early and waited patiently outside the hotel with my gear stuffed into my posh ikea dive bag. The taxi duly arrives the mandatory 10 minutes after the agreed time but hey that’s Egypt. Ten minutes later I was clambering on the boat. I even remembered to take of my flip flops off so as not to mark the scrubbed teak deck. One thing you must be sure of on any boat is to stow your kit carefully. Nothing winds the crew up more than mega dive bags strewn around the deck. Sahid pointed towards my box and I quietly began assembling my kit (recently serviced of course). Oh did I mention I also had treat myself to a shiny new D5 with pod thanks to Solent Divers.
Shortly after the engines sprung into live and off we went. 40 minutes later I was standing on the back deck running a BWRAF in my head after being buddied up with a Dutch guy who was to be my buddy for the next 4 days. Giant stride and there I was back in the water looking down at the reef below, still not believing I was actually there.
Quick check and down we went ears popping and quietly refreshing my skills as we went. Believe me two years out the water you do become rusty. The reef teemed with life and I was impressed by the volume of small fish that seemed to be everywhere. The colours of the coral popped even more than I remembered. Maybe during the lock down and the lack of visitors has benefitted the sea life. It certainly seemed so. Oranges, blues, greens, a real assault on the senses. Of course we encounter the usual large inhabitants, green and yellow mouthed moray which lurked menacingly out of there homes, stone fish and octopus but the small fish were simply stunning and all to soon we were watching our contents gauges and my shiny new D5 was telling me that it was time to go hanging around on my safety stop. I reflected just how privileged I was to be part of that environment and I was just a visitor who needed to show respect.
Lunch on board consisted of the standard carb loaded pasta, salad, chicken and potatoes was scoffed and after an hours surface interval we donned our damp uninviting wetsuits ( The Red Sea gets chilly in November) and did it all again.
My skills came back and the for the next ten days the routine was repeated. Up at 7.30 and back to the hotel at 4 ish. Covid was ever present but act sensibly and behave as you do at home and you will be fine.
Complete your passenger locator in good time and the passage through the airport homeward was straight forward, well as straight forward as Egypt can be. Landing at Gatwick we were straight through the airport and found our wheels in the North Car park. Of course we had swapped our shorts and T shirts for jeans and sweaters.
Relieved it all went well, we arrived home about midnight and flopped. Oh did I mention I’m of to Sharm in January (Thistlegorm inbound). My love for all thing under water has been re kindled.
So anyone thinking about getting out there. Do it. Follow the rules, do your paper work and get your kit serviced. It’s been sitting around some time and it will be worth it. The world is opening up so get there and get in the water.
My thanks to Sahid and the team at Scuba Hurghada. Anyone thinking about going out he is on Facebook