Llantrisant Sub-Aqua Club
www.llantrisantdivers.com


Southern Egypt
2004

Aboard
MV Coral Queen


by Phil (The Post) Dewhurst

The minibus journey to Gatwick was un-eventful. We left South Wales at 4.00pm. Picking up at Tonteg, Llanishen, and Newport then onto the wide black ribbon that leads to London. Our party of 12, spent the first night at the Lawn Hotel, a small but pleasant guest house, on the outskirts of the Gatwick. After dinner and several pints of London Pride, we retired early, tomorrow would be busy.

Up at 6-45am. Friday, full English breakfast, and a short minibus trip to the airport. There was the normal crush at check in. Time ebbed away fast and it was almost boarding time when we finally arrived at the departure lounge. We boarded, and a short delay of 30 minutes followed as the pilot coped with congestion on the runway, but we were soon in the air and settled down to a pleasant flight, arriving some five hours later in Hurghada. The weather was a shock to the system; a cold northerly wind greeted us as we left the plane. I was wearing a fleece, and was not overdressed.

Following customs and passport control we were met by a courier who escorted us to our transport and introduced us to Coral Queen's dive guide, Tricia. A five hour journey across the desert to Marsa Wadi Lahami passed quickly as we chatted together; Tricia whetted our appetites with tales of sharks, manta rays and turtles. At journey end, a rather rough jetty, we were ferried out to Coral Queen via zodiac, where a welcome hot meal awaited us. It was now very late and we retired to our comfy bunks for some well earned sleep. Coral Queen is a well appointed dive boat. The twin berth cabins are pleasantly air conditioned, and all come with en-suite facilities.

Saturday morning. We are up early, looking forward to our first dive. Stab. Jackets and regulators had been assembled onto 11 litre bottles the night previous. There was a cold northerly wind blowing making conditions unpleasant. The boat had motored through the early hours, and we were now tied up off Fury Shoal, where we were to spend our first day's diving.

My 3 mil wetsuit seemed woefully inadequate as we kitted up on a rolling deck. The sea looked dull and uninviting. Tricia, our dive guide, had warned us that 3 mil might be insufficient, but a discussion the previous evening about hiring thicker suits was soon abandoned when she discovered there were no suits to hire!

I buddied with Peter Swarfield. We cross checked our equipment and stepped into the clear waters of the Red Sea. I'd been warned, but was unprepared for the shock. The cold hit hard, causing me to gulp a lungful of air, - would I stick the pace? This was a shake down dive, a chance to check that all of our equipment was working, that our buoyancy was OK, and also gives Trisha an opportunity to quietly assess our diving skills.

There was plenty to see in perfect visibility, and the initial cold was soon forgotten as we swam amongst shoals of colourful reef fish, and beautiful soft and hard corals. After 40 minutes, I started to feel the cold, and signalled to my buddy that I was going to ascend. We did our safety stops and surfaced at the boat.

Climbing up the dive ladders, our kit was taken off our backs, leaving us to quickly reach the comfort of a warm shower. It took me ages to get warm, so much so that I decided not to do the second dive. The third dive of the day, (my second) I managed much better. Trisha, seeing my discomfort, lent me a hood, and I had donned a tee-shirt beneath my wetsuit. Socks under my fins, completed the getup, I managed much better, and continued to kit up like this for the rest of the week.

The catering was superb! Throughout the week, I was amazed how well prepared and varied the food was. Breakfast consisted of cereal, an egg dish, lovely pancakes and syrup, and fruit salad. There was plenty of warm toast, and a choice of beverages always available. Lunch was soup, followed by a fish or meat dish; there was always a vegetarian alternative. Dinner was similar to lunch, with the addition of a dessert.

Considering the weather, the first part of the week was windy, causing the boat to rock back and forth and side to side, we managed very well. There was some illness, though nothing too serious, and Trisha volunteered remedies from her box, and sympathy when needed. Thankfully conditions improved, in fact Wednesday was glorious.

Diving was spectacular. There were wall dives, caves, caverns, and pleasant currents, each giving us opportunity to see the wonders of the Red Sea. Visibility was good all week. Trisha held a briefing prior to each dive. This was well illustrated and described in detail. She was good, very good, ensuring that all divers were well informed, and adequately kitted out before entering the water. She accompanied us on most dives, and led by example.

A typical day would start at 6.30am, with a wake up call. A cup of tea, the briefing and then into our suits for the first dive. Breakfast then a sensible surface interval during which time the boat would move onto the next mark, and our second dive would be around 10.30am. Lunch was 12.00 and our third dive would be at 3.00pm. This schedule allowed time to relax, catch up with our log books, and for the hardy ones, some sunbathing! The technical types would tinker with their cameras; the rest of us took time to chill. The evening dive would be followed by dinner, and afterwards we would chat, listen to music, and drink our beer, wisely purchased at the airport. Many topics were covered, and we put the world and Llantrisant Dive Club to rights each night before retiring to bed around 9.30pm.

The week was not without incident. Peter Swarfield's bag containing all of his clothes but thankfully not his dive gear somehow mysteriously disappeared between the airport and the boat. Trisha volunteered some tops and sweaters and the rest of us contributed toiletries. He managed alright, and his bag was waiting for him at the airport when we departed.

On one of the dives,our oldest member, Phil the Flute somehow managed to bang his head on the bottom of the boat whilst ascending, losing his false teeth in the process. The shock put him out of action for the rest of the day, but he recovered and was soon back in the water. There were minor equipment malfunctions which were ingeniously rectified using joint effort. We had all dived together previously, and this no doubt helped ensue a real team spirit throughout the week. The female members of our party took any male banter and the occasional language slip in their stride. In my opinion, their presence enriched a very happy and enthusiastic atmosphere.

All too soon our week was over. The return journey through the desert to Hurghada was uneventful, and the flight back, thankfully on time, brought us safely back to the UK around 11.00pm Friday night. We were back in South Wales by 2.30am. Saturday.

Would I go again? A resounding YES! Though I would definitely suss out air and sea temperatures, and kit up accordingly.

What did we see? Manta, sharks, dolphins, flying fish, turtles, plus a host of reef fish, eels, and invertebrates, all captured on video, slides, and stills that will be passed around at Club meetings for weeks to come.

Finally, Thank you Peter Rees our Diving Officer who as trip organiser, shepherded us through customs and the surly Egyptian passport controls. Thanks also to Trisha our Dive Guide who not only provided detailed information and assistance, but also acted as medic, mechanic, and mentor when needed. She was good, very good!

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