Scuba Diving In The Red Sea; Incredible Dive Certification Spot
As an archaeology student, I was always intrigued by the field of underwater archaeology. Even though I had read books and even took a course on underwater archaeology, I had never gone diving before.
I daydreamed about diving and finding ancient shipwrecks, but being apathetic, I never took any initiative to learn how to dive.
This past year, I studied abroad in Cairo and discovered that there were many diving destinations easily reachable in the Red Sea Region.
One spontaneous Thursday, I bought a bus ticket and headed to Dahab for my open water certification. I contacted a diving instructor a friend recommended beforehand, and arranged to meet him around noon the next day when the bus was to arrive.
As I stepped off the bus, a pick-up truck pulled over and asked if I needed a taxi. Evidently the taxis in Dahab are communal pick-up trucks. I climbed onto the back of the truck, where there were a few other people, and the driver raced down an empty desert road at full speed.
Dazed and blinded by sand, I got off the truck as it pulled into the center of town. I followed the directions my diving instructor had given me to find his house, where I would stay for the next 3 days.
Surprisingly, I found his house—unexpected because his directions were to turn left from the main square and follow a dirt road until I saw a door with a sticker on it.
I knocked on the door and a skinny surfer with a blonde ponytail opened the door. He was Joe, my diving instructor, who took me to the diving center within 20 minutes of my arrival.
Slightly disoriented by the speed at which things were going, I buckled on my BCD and waddled toward the shore with Joe.
Once I got into the water, rather than panicking, I relaxed and started to enjoy myself. I was distracted by the clear water and marine life right in front of me—it pays to have a short attention span.
Even the ordinary fish close to shore, such as goatfish and lionfish, were fabulous because they were wild and not dead in a fish market. While practicing my buoyancy control, I was actually staring at a lionfish drifting slowly in front of me, and a goatfish that swam under me, scavenging for food with its two whiskers.
The water was calming, and even though my body was unaccustomed to the environment, I survived my first dive.
“So, what’d you think?” Joe asked me as we disassembled our equipment.
“Amazing! I love the goatfish! They’re so cool!” I spazzed.
“Ummm…those are everywhere and really normal.”
Joe gave me a strange look, and then grinned, “Dude, wait till you see the actual coral reefs.”
The next day there was a slight current which gave me some trouble as I swam with Joe toward the coral reefs. This time I rented an underwater camera to remember my first coral reef adventure.
Little “nemos” poked their heads out of anemones, playing hide-and-seek with each other, while an octopus watched them from behind a rock. I came within a few inches of giant sea clams, which I thought only existed in “The Little Mermaid”, saw the largest puffer fish in my life (it was about a foot long), and swam past eels that snaked along the bottom of the sand, hiding in their holes as we neared them.
It was surreal seeing all these fish and sea creatures alive in their natural habitats. Diving really brought them to life for me, and when I had fish for dinner a few days later, I hesitated for the first time. I learned to appreciate marine life for something other than food.
In addition to marine life, I enjoyed the silence of the ocean. Hearing only my own breath was disturbing because it reminded me that without any of my equipment, I was just a few seconds from death. However, this concept was oddly fascinating at the same time, as the thought of being 18 meters underwater provided an adrenaline rush each time I dove.
After three days of diving instruction, I received my PADI certification, said my goodbyes to Joe, and got back on the bus for a long ride back to Cairo, salty but satisfied after my final dive that morning.
Scuba diving in Dahab convinced me that underwater archaeology was what I wanted to specialize in, but also taught me a lot about marine life, and provided me with incredible memories I will never forget.
I am happy that I chose to go diving when I did, because a few months later I was evacuated from Cairo due to the protests. I do not know when I will be able to go to Egypt again, but the Red Sea will always hold special memories for me.
Thanks for the story. Scuba diving in the Red Sea is definitely on my "must-to" list.
Were you really able to take a camera out on your certification dive? I would love to see some pictures since what you see there can be so different from what we usually see in this part of the world.
For instance, we mostly dive in the Caribbean so we don't get to see "nemos". I saw them when we dove in Thailand, though, and loved watching them.
Thanks again for your story and would love to see some pictures if you still have them.