“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
Egypt is known as one of the most popular dive locations in the world, with tropical waters, reasonable flight times from the UK and many itineraries to choose from depending on your experience. Most recently though, the focus has not been on the magical waters, but rather the safety and security of travellers following the horrific Russian Airline bombing in Sharm el Sheikh last year. In February, we flew into Hurghada – our final destination being the dive camp Roots situated in the small town of El Quseir. Many would call us mad for travelling to this country – why risk it? it isn’t safe?, but our mentality has always been, if bad things happen they can happen anywhere and there is no point avoiding living, for fear of dying. Unfortunately, this is not the view shared by most people – Sharm, once a popular holiday destination for £15m tourists, now lies a ghost town.
Our choice to visit Egypt was an easy one, Diving in the Red Sea is incredibly diverse and thankfully it doesn’t take a whole day to get to! Roots Red Sea Dive Camp is a custom built camp situated in the middle of the desert, about 1.5 hours south from Hurghada and 1.5 hours north of Marsa Alam. The accommodation is traditionally built with the budget to boutique rooms offering solutions for everyone. We opted for the beautiful higher end Boutique rooms that offer en suite and plenty of space. Despite being in the middle of the desert the set up is a home from home with the staff offering a real family feel. Steve & Clare who run it are always about, happy to share stories and offer advice for the novice diver/underwater photographer (like me!). It’s funny, there you find yourself, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and oddly enough, it’s exactly where you want to be.
We spent the week diving the house reef, a last minute dive trip to practice using my new camera… to my surprise this was exactly what I needed! The house reef splits into two arms North and South, following a slowly descending mouth. As you enter from the beach the reef is immediately visible with many banner fish as close as 10ft from the shore waiting to say hello. To the left you have the North reef – an easier dive in my opinion because of the shallow nooks of the rocks that allow for endless photo opportunities with lots of natural light. Further along, outcrops bleed out from the wall offering lots of life; one in particular housing two beautiful Anemone fish guarding their young. However, the star attraction is by far and away on the South reef – leading in with a large dominating wall you come to reef that drops to about 30m. As you turn to go along it at about 20m there is a small pinnacle that has one of the most stunning red Anemone’s I’ve ever seen. We must have spent 50% of our diving just documenting this beauty.
Red Anemone, South reef
Another star of the reef is the local Puffer-fish we nicknamed Paul – a Yellow Spotted Burrfish variety who was extremely calm and relaxed around us divers. He is larger than your average, so easy to spot and has saucer like eyes that melt your heart. Safe to say I was smitten with this fella and took many a pic of his cute, spikey face.
Paul the resident Puffer-fish, South reef
There is an abundance of life on this reef but I will admit after 5 days I was restless, so would advise others to take advantage of the day trips on offer. The diving is hosted by Steve & Clare’s dive club Pharaoh Dive Club with trips like Elphinstone and the Salem express offering wrecks and sharks for those who want more variance, as well as other local shore dives.
A fantastic week of winter sun diving in a country that has wriggled its way into my heart and is there to stay. Egypt, once the heartland of diving is now struggling to stay ‘above water’ yet the diving remains exciting and beautiful. With flights not due to resume to Sharm until October you may be considering other alternatives for your next dive trip? Well pause and take a breath – Roots Red Sea & Pharoah Dive Club offer all the best bits of Red Sea diving in a relaxed, luxury setting. Don’t take it from me, check out the links below and discover this hidden gem for yourself…