Phil (The Post) Dewhurst
journey to Gatwick was un-eventful. We left South Wales at
4.00pm. Picking up at Tonteg, Llanishen, and Newport then
onto the wide black ribbon that leads to London. Our party
of 12, spent the first night at the Lawn Hotel, a small but
pleasant guest house, on the outskirts of the Gatwick. After
dinner and several pints of London Pride, we retired early,
tomorrow would be busy.
6-45am. Friday, full English breakfast, and a short minibus
trip to the airport. There was the normal crush at check in.
Time ebbed away fast and it was almost boarding time when
we finally arrived at the departure lounge. We boarded, and
a short delay of 30 minutes followed as the pilot coped with
congestion on the runway, but we were soon in the air and
settled down to a pleasant flight, arriving some five hours
later in Hurghada. The weather was a shock to the system;
a cold northerly wind greeted us as we left the plane. I was
wearing a fleece, and was not overdressed.
Following customs and passport control we were met by a courier
who escorted us to our transport and introduced us to Coral
Queen's dive guide, Tricia. A five hour journey across the
desert to Marsa Wadi Lahami passed quickly as we chatted together;
Tricia whetted our appetites with tales of sharks, manta rays
and turtles. At journey end, a rather rough jetty, we were
ferried out to Coral Queen via zodiac, where a welcome hot
meal awaited us. It was now very late and we retired to our
comfy bunks for some well earned sleep. Coral Queen is a well
appointed dive boat. The twin berth cabins are pleasantly
air conditioned, and all come with en-suite facilities.
morning. We are up early, looking forward to our first dive.
Stab. Jackets and regulators had been assembled onto 11 litre
bottles the night previous. There was a cold northerly wind
blowing making conditions unpleasant. The boat had motored
through the early hours, and we were now tied up off Fury
Shoal, where we were to spend our first day's diving.
3 mil wetsuit seemed woefully inadequate as we kitted up on
a rolling deck. The sea looked dull and uninviting. Tricia,
our dive guide, had warned us that 3 mil might be insufficient,
but a discussion the previous evening about hiring thicker
suits was soon abandoned when she discovered there were no
suits to hire!
with Peter Swarfield. We cross checked our equipment and stepped
into the clear waters of the Red Sea. I'd been warned, but
was unprepared for the shock. The cold hit hard, causing me
to gulp a lungful of air, - would I stick the pace? This was
a shake down dive, a chance to check that all of our equipment
was working, that our buoyancy was OK, and also gives Trisha
an opportunity to quietly assess our diving skills.
There was plenty to see in perfect visibility, and the initial
cold was soon forgotten as we swam amongst shoals of colourful
reef fish, and beautiful soft and hard corals. After 40 minutes,
I started to feel the cold, and signalled to my buddy that
I was going to ascend. We did our safety stops and surfaced
at the boat.
Climbing up the dive ladders, our kit was taken off our backs,
leaving us to quickly reach the comfort of a warm shower.
It took me ages to get warm, so much so that I decided not
to do the second dive. The third dive of the day, (my second)
I managed much better. Trisha, seeing my discomfort, lent
me a hood, and I had donned a tee-shirt beneath my wetsuit.
Socks under my fins, completed the getup, I managed much better,
and continued to kit up like this for the rest of the week.
was superb! Throughout the week, I was amazed how well prepared
and varied the food was. Breakfast consisted of cereal, an
egg dish, lovely pancakes and syrup, and fruit salad. There
was plenty of warm toast, and a choice of beverages always
available. Lunch was soup, followed by a fish or meat dish;
there was always a vegetarian alternative. Dinner was similar
to lunch, with the addition of a dessert.
the weather, the first part of the week was windy, causing
the boat to rock back and forth and side to side, we managed
very well. There was some illness, though nothing too serious,
and Trisha volunteered remedies from her box, and sympathy
when needed. Thankfully conditions improved, in fact Wednesday
was spectacular. There were wall dives, caves, caverns, and
pleasant currents, each giving us opportunity to see the wonders
of the Red Sea. Visibility was good all week. Trisha held
a briefing prior to each dive. This was well illustrated and
described in detail. She was good, very good, ensuring that
all divers were well informed, and adequately kitted out before
entering the water. She accompanied us on most dives, and
led by example.
day would start at 6.30am, with a wake up call. A cup of tea,
the briefing and then into our suits for the first dive. Breakfast
then a sensible surface interval during which time the boat
would move onto the next mark, and our second dive would be
around 10.30am. Lunch was 12.00 and our third dive would be
at 3.00pm. This schedule allowed time to relax, catch up with
our log books, and for the hardy ones, some sunbathing! The
technical types would tinker with their cameras; the rest
of us took time to chill. The evening dive would be followed
by dinner, and afterwards we would chat, listen to music,
and drink our beer, wisely purchased at the airport. Many
topics were covered, and we put the world and Llantrisant
Dive Club to rights each night before retiring to bed around
week was not without incident. Peter Swarfield's bag containing
all of his clothes but thankfully not his dive gear somehow
mysteriously disappeared between the airport and the boat.
Trisha volunteered some tops and sweaters and the rest of
us contributed toiletries. He managed alright, and his bag
was waiting for him at the airport when we departed.
On one of the dives,our oldest member, Phil the Flute somehow
managed to bang his head on the bottom of the boat whilst
ascending, losing his false teeth in the process. The shock
put him out of action for the rest of the day, but he recovered
and was soon back in the water. There were minor equipment
malfunctions which were ingeniously rectified using joint
effort. We had all dived together previously, and this no
doubt helped ensue a real team spirit throughout the week.
The female members of our party took any male banter and the
occasional language slip in their stride. In my opinion, their
presence enriched a very happy and enthusiastic atmosphere.
soon our week was over. The return journey through the desert
to Hurghada was uneventful, and the flight back, thankfully
on time, brought us safely back to the UK around 11.00pm Friday
night. We were back in South Wales by 2.30am. Saturday.
I go again? A resounding YES! Though I would definitely suss
out air and sea temperatures, and kit up accordingly.
we see? Manta, sharks, dolphins, flying fish, turtles, plus
a host of reef fish, eels, and invertebrates, all captured
on video, slides, and stills that will be passed around at
Club meetings for weeks to come.
Thank you Peter Rees our Diving Officer who as trip organiser,
shepherded us through customs and the surly Egyptian passport
controls. Thanks also to Trisha our Dive Guide who not only
provided detailed information and assistance, but also acted
as medic, mechanic, and mentor when needed. She was good,