Welcome to our second installment of our diary from our recent exploratory and technical safari.
We have arrived! After a peaceful 11 hour travel over night we eventually arrive at the most southern point of the Red Sea within Egyptian waters. There are so many reef systems within this area it is difficult to decide on where to start! Sonia decides that we are going to explore a longer more finger shaped reef that we discovered on our last trip. We are hopefully looking to find some Pelagics in the area, fingers crossed, but for my student he has more on his mind than fish spotting! We are planning on making a 40m no decompression Advanced Nitrox dive on the northern tip of the reef.
With our back gas loaded with a light nitrox mix of 24% and armed with a 40% stage tank James has to prove to me that he can follow a simulated decompression plan, safety make a gas switch and other skills that I may surprise him with.
After 10 minutes of being in the water we catch sight of the recreational divers who have smiles beaming on their faces (yes you can see this even though they have regulators in their mouths!) Why are they so happy, the distinctive Hammerhead hand signal that they are all showing reveals why! Right, James and myself go off in the hunt but to no avail! We have to settle for some Tunas and Barracudas, not a bad consolation price.
Once we are back on the boat a hearty breakfast is awaiting us. ( I do usually put on maybe 2kgs after these trips!). After making our debriefing and planning for our afternoon dive, we have time to sit back and relax a while.
Our second dive in the afternoon takes us to the southern plateau of the reef system.
The plateau is not very wide and drops to depths that I can only imagine. We plan to make a slightly shallower dive with some extra skills thrown to challenge my student. James is handling himself very comfortably in the water, too comfortable, I need to make this more challenging. I think a mid water gas shutdown with a flooded mask may be on the cards! I do like teaching fellow instructors the first technical course as it really brings them back to ground. Suddenly the easy diving tasks that they are doing day in day out take on a different light. Surely a PADI SMB Speciality Instructor should be able to send up a SMB from mid water and not lose control of their buoyancy, surely! We as instructors hate it when things go wrong, and in an expected fashion James has multiple excuses for why his SMB deployment was, let’s say, slightly messy!
There is nothing more frustrating on a dive than hearing Dolphins continuously but not actually seeing them! Argh! For 60 minutes their high pitched squeaks was driving me crazy, they must have been so close, but yet not close enough! Our shark count is still on zero, but I am confident that we will be rewarded at some point.
Once back on board, and after lengthy discussions about SMBs still (he won’t let this one drop!!) we sit back to cover some more of the theory of decompression diving, and to look more closely at decompression planning software. Tomorrow we take a break from the course as I need to leave my student! Where I am going is a bit too deep for him! On our last trip to this area we found a large wreck. One mission of this trip is to find the bottom of the wreck and to map the wreck!! Myself, Ben and his guest who is also a trimix diver sit down to plan our deep dive.
Shaun, my wonderful odd job man, gas blender and CCR guide is going to be staying at around 50m to explore the
mid section which has split into two pieces and will also act as our support diver if needed. I have estimated that the bow of the ship should be between 75m – 85m, with the stern at a more reasonable 20m. The boys plan a 90m dive just in case it is deeper than I can remember, I plan a slightly shallower one at 75m as I want to spend more time mapping the wreck rather than reaching its maximum depth. Let’s hope the weather holds up and we can dive it tomorrow.
Since we left St Johns no boats at all have been sighted, not even a fishing boat. This is a luxury that is becoming a rarity within the Red Sea on safari routes. I think we all appreciate how lucky we are.