Location: Roots Camp Hotel, El Quseir, Red Sea, Egypt
Overview: There are new dive areas opening up in the Red Sea every few years and this is another good one. Its a 5 hour flight to Hurghada from London and so provides the closest warm water diving to the UK. Pristine reefs with excellent visibility and the chance encounter with dolphins, what more do you want?
Fish Life: I loved the tiny bright blue/green damsel fish which live/hide amongst the branches of the Finger Corals, found all over the reefs l here. There was a good variety of reef fish but not much pelagic, if any, and not as many fish as l expected. Parrotfish were common and l saw groupers and wrasse. Blue spotted rays, eels, turtles, pipefish, lion fish, cuttlefish, octopus, catfish and very luckily dolphins. We saw 5 dolphins at Ras Quseir which was fabulous (video). I especially liked seeing the fabulous small orange anthias that are the classic small Red Sea fish, depicted in photos. We saw a rare Sea Moth fish, quite a bizarre looking thing.
Reef Health: FABULOUS. It was such a pleasure to dive among masses of perfectly healthy hard corals, in many shapes and sizes. Fahti, our dive guide, couldnt wait to show me a huge perfect lettuce leaf coral formation on Serib Kebir reef, just a few miles south. I hadnt seen anything this amazing in years. l loved it. I saw giant undamaged plates (yes plates) of fire coral. Serib Kebir, south side, had sloping walls covered in hard corals of all varieties and sizes, a sight to behold. If you followed the sand channels up it leads to a coral garden nestled behind rock walls which clearly have protected it from the sea. Its only 20’ or so and the light dances through the clear, clear water it almost looks like you’re not underwater. I could have stayed here all day, but l was too cold and had to continue my dive.
Highlights: On the night dive (house reef) l saw an octopus out moving about. I saw 2 ‘Spanish dancers’ which are large nudibranches and called this because they are bright red with white marks on their edges and on their gills at the back. Dolphins at Serib Kebir but one can see them anywhere along the coast, its pot luck. Pipefish littering the sand. I found a pod of catfish which I’ve never seen before huddling in a niche at SK north. Fantastic. (video). The fab vis and breath taking hard corals did it for me.
Dive Centre/Boat Service: I stayed with a group at Roots Camp Hotel complex. There was a 10 minute walk to the beach where the house reef is and where they have all equipment ready for the dive. Unfortunately the main highway south runs in between the two and l found the traffic noise at night annoying. The camp is very well run by an English couple and the local staff were eager to help and please. The chef was happy to make me veggie food and the quality was good. We had a BBQ one night under the stars on the beach with fires, rugs and cushions, very Egyptian! lovely. They have just finished building a few luxury rooms. Would l go back? Maybe, new luxury room, warmer sea water and more sun? Hmm yes I think so. The equipment l rented was good. They took our kit to the dive site of our choice each day and helped us with it. It was cleaned and stored after each day. The dive briefings were informative and helpful. Fahti was an excellent guide, spotting all sorts of creatures and a real character. He was passionate about his reefs and the marine life. All in all the service was very good and fun was had by all.
First Time/Return: I have dived all over the Red Sea over many years but not been this far south for over 20 years. I was looking forward to seeing how the reefs had fared over this time period. I was very happy to see they were in excellent condition.
Current/Vis: Except for one windy day the vis was 80 – 100 feet excellent. It made wide angle photography easier and it gives a wonderful feeling of space. Plus of course the good water clarity lets more light reach the marine subjects and so aids photography. At this time of year (January) the sea is a cold 22º-23ºC and l needed a 5-7mm wetsuit. Plus a hood, but l was still very cold.
Favourite dive site: I would recommend the house reef, Serib Kebir and the Rock. The Rock is 3 flattish pinnacles set in a wide valley at about 60’ at the top. One of them is covered in anemones and clown fish, reminiscent of ‘anemone city’ in Sharm. There must have been 50 anemones and 100’s of fish, stunning. The house reef has small shallow caves on the north side and pinnacles covered in corals, soft and hard. There are pipefish on the sand all over the entrance and further out. Shrimps and blennies have dug burrows in the sand to the north. A beautiful red anemone at 60’ makes a great subject for any photographer, even though the colour red is not caught on camera easily. How can you see red at 60’? Extraordinary.
Other: I travelled on a reasonably priced all inclusive package by The Scuba Place travel company. I was also on a new INON UK Instructors Photography course run by Steve Warren. I run INON Level 1 courses for digital compact cameras from BARBADOS over the winter season.