Kind Of Dive Holiday.
Lamaya Resort Marsa Alam Egypt.
by Phil Dewhurst
18th May 2011
always one on every flight and theyre always in the
seats near me, as I go to put my hand luggage into an empty
space in the overhead locker I hear a voice tell me, You
cant do that, Ive another case to go in there.
I look around; theres no reserve sign. Tough,
I should have told the giant of a man with his case poised
in mid air. But I didnt. Instead I find another gap
in the next locker. Whats the point? More to the point,
hes bigger than me. I make myself comfy, daps off, book
stored safe. Sandra has the bag with the earphones, neck-pillows,
eye shades, spare socks, sleeping tablets, tummy tablets,
We take off on time, the plane reaches cruising height, seat
belt sign goes off, theres a rush for the toilets. Nothing
changes. With five hours to go I settle down. The film starts;
Gullivers Travels; its crap but watch-able crap.
Cabin crew come around with their over-priced drinks. We order
two rum and cokes, tiny bottles of Bacardi and mega cans of
coke. Thatll be £11.30 Sir. Who cares,
were on holiday and anyway, Sandras paying. Im
glad weve ordered meals £7.50. Its
standard aircraft nosh but eating helps pass the time.
flight soon passes, we arrive on time. Theres a queue
to have our passports checked then another to go through the
scanners but all goes well and were soon outside in
the hot sun. Its 32c. Thomsons reps direct us
to the coach that will transfer us to our hotel, fifteen minutes
later were at the Lamaya resort.
Check in is quick and efficient. By the time we find our room
the cases have arrived, I tip the boys $5, theyre grateful
for the gesture, were grateful for the air conditioning,
its noisy but efficient. We have a king sized bed, lots
of cupboard space, a shower room and a separate room with
two sofa beds. Sliding doors lead out to one of three swimming
pools. We unpack quickly and within ten minutes were
enjoying a refreshing swim. Dinner is a relaxed affair, afterwards
over several rum and cokes, we chat with Peter and his family
and Mike and Pat Rees our companions for this holiday.
last visit to Lamaya was two years ago, were surprised
by not only how many of the staff we recognise, but how many
of them recognise us. Were greeted like old friends.
I get the feeling I must have been over generous with the
Its the same story at the dive centre and as a result
the formalities are completed in minutes. Im informed
that because Im a returning guest I dont need
to do a pre-dive check. Thank God for that, I store my dive
gear in my locker and book in for a dive.
At the briefing I list my qualification level and number of
dives; 500+. I look down the dive sheet. Some divers have
done ten dives, some twelve dives, some have completed twenty.
I see the others looking at the list. The dive master looks
at my entry, and smiles. Youve been here before?
I nod, and look around the table for re-action; Im a
briefing starts with safety procedures, dive signals then
the plan. I remember the dive site but listen along with the
eight other divers as the guide gives his spiel in English
then German then pigeon Italian. He tries a bit of Russian
but gives up when the guy from Moscow tell him, I speek
We don our suits and carry the kit to the jetty. En-route
I tell the guide this is my first dive this time but my third
visit to Coraya. How much weight do you use? He
Ive loaded my belt with 6 kilos
He looks at my girth. Youll need at least 8,
he tells me.
I dived with 6 in the Maldives, in January I reply
loud enough for the others to hear; theyre kitting up
but I can see theyre listening.
Theres lead on the rib if you need it. He
We load our gear onto the rib. Theres a strong wind.
Outside the bay there are white horses. Put your feet
in the straps and grip the handles, the guide demonstrates;
the skipper checks around then guns the twin engines. Were
off. Its a bumpy ride in the rib but within ten minutes
were at the dive site. Buddy teams had been selected
by the guide, my buddy is a biggish German guy, I smile; he
blanks me. Do I give a toss?
We roll of the boat in pairs, give the ok signal, the guide
gives the thumb down, divers descend, I lift the hose, squeeze
the button, nothing happens. I should be going down but Im
not. I put my head under the surface and see the other divers
sinking to the sea bed. I try again: lift the hose, press
the button to release air from my jacket, hear a re-assuring
hiss, still nothing happens. I look down. The guide is at
10 metres and signalling, Whats the problem?
My buddy is staring up at me. If looks could kill
not feeling so smug now. Mr. 500 dives and he cant even
descend tidy. I look to the boat. The skipper is leaning over
the tubes waving two kilo weights at me; I swim across and
stuff one in each pocket then try again. This time I sink.
The dive is good, we see the usual fish, the usual corals,
same old same old, but its good to be back and good
to be underwater. And the waters warm, my computer reads
25.C. Our dive lasts 50 minutes, back on board the rib I apologise
to the guide. Hes too polite to say told you so but
his expression tells me hes met smug bastards before
all the same. When we arrive at the jetty I add the two weights
+ another one to my belt. Im diving with Peter and Mike
later and cant afford another slip up. The plan is:
lunch then rest then another dive. The reality is: lunch,
one small beer, two glasses of rose wine then sleep. Bugger
The pattern for the week is soon established: get up at 08-00,
breakfast, usually three hard boiled eggs, crusty bread with
lashings of butter, two/three cups of tea then back to the
room for a lie down till 10-00am, down the dive centre at
10-20, get the kit together, briefing at 10-30, journey to
dive site, dive for an hour then back for lunch at 13-00.
I always intended to do another dive in the afternoon but
somehow never did.
did his check dive yesterday afternoon; Peter went along for
the dive. Today were diving together. The plan is to
drop in off the north reef and drift back to the jetty but
the wind is howling so we join a party who intend diving along
the south reef. Its a fifteen minute journey by speed
boat but should be a better dive.
briefing is given in a similar fashion to the one I sat in
on yesterday. We list our qualifications and number of dives,
I note Peters entry reads 1100+ dives and I thought
I was a smug bastard. The guide takes his time with the safety
issues and ends by telling us, Please check all your
equipment before you leave the jetty. After yesterdays
episode I listen and nod. We load our kit onto the rib then
climb aboard. Its a rough ride, the wind has whipped
the sea into a frenzy, we climb the waves and drop down the
other side, the kids think its great, the over twenty
ones hang on for grim death.
the dive site we kit up. Theres a problem with Peters
tank, the valve isnt seating, theres air leaking
you check your gear on the jetty?
roll off the boat, all of us except Peter.
is better, those extra weights have worked, I sink like a
stone and feel very comfy. Mike and I buddy up, we dont
see a great deal but its a pleasant, relaxed dive. After
45 minutes we shoot a dmsb to the surface and ascend slowly.Back
on board, Peter has fixed the problem using his knife as
a makeshift screwdriver. At the jetty he tells us after wed
gone down he sneaked a crafty twenty five minutes on a solo
dive much to the displeasure of the boat skipper.
glorious day and the wind has dropped back, slightly. We meet
at the dive centre and join our group to listen to the briefing.
We load our gear on the rib and climb aboard, everybody else
is kitted up except us three. The guide smiles sympathetically
and sighs. Eet is little ride to site, we kit up first,
save time, I told you at briefing. We smile back. Dont
worry, he says, you can kit up when we stop.
The other divers looked on Bloody Inglis. We kit up at the
site, it didnt make a deal of difference.
Backward roll off the boat, Mike, myself and Peter are a team
for at least five minutes, then Peter finds something worth
with his camera. After that he was a trail of
bubbles somewhere to the rear. Mike and I carried on. Eventually
Peter catches up.
Sunday 22nd May
Were getting into a routine and even though Mike had
said he was having a day off hes there at the dive centre
with his kit. Out guide looks to be about 12 years old. He
gives the briefing then tells us he isnt coming in the
water. We drop to 10 metres then down to another wall at 15
metres. I signal to Mike Im going over, he hovers above.
I descend, 20, 25, I level out at 27 metres, I can see Mike
above me, Peters bubbles rise somewhere in the distance.
Theres not a lot to see, I re-join Mike and we drift
slowly along the reef. There are two other divers in front
of us; I recognise them from the rib. They drift along slowly,
stopping here and there to look. They look so relaxed and
remind me very much of Lyn and Mac from the club.
We see lion fish, puffers, clown fish, moray eels and just
before the forty minute mark a turtle. He was swimming along
in the blue, not a care in the world. I fin over expecting
him to shoot off but he didnt. Mike joins me and we
spend a few moments in his company, I managed to take some
close up photos before he decides hes had enough and
turns towards the reef. Peter catches up with us and we fizz
off at 10 metres amongst colourful corals before ascending
slowly to our safety stop.
I had planned to visit the water park, a-joining the hotel,
after lunch but the beer and the wine. What else can you say?
Monday 23rd May
This is my last but one diving day. Usual meet up and briefing,
theres only the three of us
until a German guy
turns up, hes mixed his days up. But we accommodate
him. Hes only open water qualified so the guide, who
wasnt planning on diving, has to come in the water.
We drop in on what is known as the pinnacles and descend to
29 metres then ascend to keep within de-compression limits.
The colours are beautiful, the fish life stunning. Our dive
lasts 52 minutes.
Todays plan is: lunch, then snorkelling but by now you
have an idea whats going to happen and youre spot
Tuesday 24th May
My last dive; Mike isnt coming and Peter almost
doesnt make it due to a dose of the Pharaohs Revenge.
Two Loperamide later though he thinks hell risk it.
The wind is bending the palm trees double and the bay is a
mass of white horses. Were supposed to be going North
so far Ive only dived South. The guide says we
cant follow the plan; well have to dive south.
What the hell, at least well get wet and theres
no such thing as a bad dive. Briefing, get the kit together,
I could nearly do this blind fold.
Aboard the rib we hang on as wind and waves buffet us. I lose
the strap off my hat and have to ride with one hand on my
head. After ten minutes we stop. Kitting up is a challenge
but eventually were all ready. The guide counts 1, 2,
3. We roll in. Its calm beneath the surface but above
us we can see waves thundering against the reef. Peter and
I descend; 20, 25, 30 metres. Were at the bottom of
a pinnacle. In the rocks banded shrimp play around a mammoth
moray, a giant puffer fish sleeps on the white sand, groupers
lurk in search of a meal. We rise to 20 metres and swim around
a coral garden. The diving here is so relaxed. Our dive lasts
52 minutes. We swim into the blue and send up a buoy.
On the surface theres no sign of our boat. The sea is
rough and Im glad of the 50 bar reserve. I keep my regulator
in my mouth and my mask on. Eventually the boat appears. The
skipper has seen us. Other divers have ascended at different
points, were the last on board. The guide does a head
count, hes relieved to see us all back safe. The trip
to the jetty is hairy but we make it without incident.
For the last time I wash my gear in one of three tanks available
at the dive centre. The sun is beating down. My stuff wont
take long to dry. After lunch I intend to pay my bill, buy
some tee-shirts and pack but two glasses of wine and a beer
or two then a snooze
.I can always pack tomorrow.
Going home today, I pick my gear up from the centre, pay
my bill and say my good-byes. But, Ill be back, I know
spend the day mooching around the hotel, checkout time is
12-30 but they let us keep our room for a bit longer, no charge.
Our cases are collected just before lunch, at 2-30pm we hand
the key into reception; the coach arrives at 3:00pm.
Peter and Mike wave us off. Our flight home is on time and
despite rumours of ash clouds from Iceland we land on time
at Gatwick airport. The temperature here is a chilly 9c.
our stay I did six dives, all from a speedboat, all at sites
about 20 minutes journey time south of the jetty. My bill,
including two tee-shirts came to around 200 euros. I took
all of my own gear but you can hire and the prices are reasonable.
The Coraya Dive Centre is 20 metres from the Lamaya resort.
Its a very efficient and very conservation minded operation
so much so they have sacks available for divers to collect
Diving is either from the jetty, in the bay, or via speedboat
to marks along the north and south reefs. There are also full
day trips each day to visit sites further down the coast.
travelled with Thomson. Our all inclusive package included
flights from Gatwick and transfers to and from the hotel.
The accommodation was superb; the food excellent with plenty
of variety and the drinks just kept coming. There are three
swimming pools, a gym, a spa and a library.
Night-time entertainment is low key but what is lacking in
professionalism is made up for in enthusiasm by a hard working
animation team. Children are catered for but theres
not a lot for teenagers.
flight time is five and a half hours. We booked extra luggage
allowance £17.50 for an extra 5 kilos, and on
board meals £7.50. Our 7 day package cost just
short of £600 each.
For a little bit more we could have stayed for a fortnight
but we had commitments. I like Coraya because its civilised
diving, the Lamaya resort is one place where I dont
feel so guilty going off diving and leaving Sandra on a sun-bed
with a nice cocktail for company.
up in Marsa Alam
By Mike Rees
qualified divers who log their all their dives the 100th is
always a milestone worthy of something special. With 98 logged
dives I was thinking about "something special" when
a rather careless mate mentioned he had just accidentally
dropped the outboard motor from his tender into Cardiff Bay
Marina. Naturally "Tall Paul" and I offered to recover
it. Well, it was not quite what I had in mind as "something
special" but it was different from Stack Rocks etc. and
I had just bought a new semi dry suit which I was keen to
try it out. Well, plans were made. At our pre dive briefing
on the slipway the realisation crept in that it was February
1st, water temperature was 0 centigrade, visibility was also
likely to be "0" and just maybe we might not succeed.
Well after a rather undignified entry from a small, wobbly,
blow up rubber boat Paul bumped into the Honda 4.5 engine
and I fell 4 foot off the yacht to help recover it. With mission
accomplished and dive 99 completed we both declined the chance
of a second "recreational" dive in Cardiff Bay so
dive number 100 would just have to wait.
And so to Marsa Alam!
Phill the Post and Peter Rees had both waxed lyrical about
the diving from the Lamaya resort in Marsa Alam and so we
all booked for the end of May. What a super resort and the
Coraya Dive Centre is the best and most organised dive centre
I have used. The facilities were first class. Lockers, showers,
wash tubs for diving kit, drying room for wet suits and a
free cuppa while we did the post dive briefing. What impressed
me from the start was their professional attitude. Not content
with a thorough examination of your diving credentials / certificates
ALL divers new to them, irrespective of their qualifications,
have to do a check dive with a dive master and demonstrate
your ability to perform some basic skills. At first I thought
that's a bit over the top but thinking about it I was assured
that they were so thorough and not just interested in taking
my money. The day after we arrived, Phil and I strolled down
to the dive centre to enrol and I was given a tour of the
centre and its facilities. As expected my test dive was arranged
for the same afternoon on the house reef.
2pm I was kitted up and ready for the pre dive brief by our
Dive Marshal, Yousef, who is a lovely guy. He explained the
procedure and what was expected. There were two of us on the
test dive, myself and another diver, Michael from Germany
recently qualified. After a short walk to the end of the jetty
we kitted up (bottles, inserts and weights had been delivered
there). The others walked down the steps but I took a giant
step and dropped the ten feet into the water. We descended
4m to see a load of poles and other paraphernalia used during
training courses. In the centre was what can best be described
as an underwater boxing ring on the sea bed. We swam inside
where Yousef signalled us to remove, replace and clear our
masks and then to remove and replace our regs. Simple enough
for trained divers you might think but one of the Michaels
shot straight to the surface immediately his mask was removed!
Apparently a 50% failure rate is not unusual and the reason
why they insist on skills test for newly registered divers.
Before you ask I upheld the reputation of Llantrisant Diving
Club and Richie's training regime. See Photo. So now you know
how I did the ton in Marsa Alam.
Phill has written about our experiences of "civilised
"diving elsewhere so I won't 'dwell on it other than
to say that it has the best potential to combine diving with
a good family holiday. You can dive as often or as little
as you want. I chose to dive most mornings and spend the rest
of the day relaxing around the pools or on the beach with
the wife. Unlike Sharm they are all separate rib based dives
from the jetty so you are not away from 8am to 6pm on a hard
boat. If you are a hard core diver you could still dive three
times a day. The resort is a little remote and if you need
the hustle and bustle of disco/clubbing etc then it is probably
not for you. If, however, you have reached that age when you
like a more "civilised" way of diving then this
could be the answer.
View of the Coraya Medinat
Wed previously booked into the Lawn Guesthouse in Horley
near Gatwick airport www.lawnguesthouse.co.uk
before our flight out to Egypt and again on arrival in Gatwick
before going back home (including car parking; Id recommend
it to anyone flying from Gatwick, the service is excellent)
and I was glad of the opportunity of a nights sleep
before that long drive back to South Wales.