One week on a diving boat in sunny Hurghada, in unknown waters, together with many new and friendly faces. Here we go!
Jud: After a longer vacation and diving time-out, you finally had a diving vacation in March 2017. This time you traveled to Hurghada, Egypt. How did you get to that trip?
Alexa: A good friend of us has a diving school in Cologne and regularly offers diving vacations. This tour to Egypt was his second one. He was so enthusiastic about Egypt last time that we had to go!
Jud: How many people traveled with you?
Alexa: The group consisted of a total of 20 participants; including our dive instructor and his two assistants. Additionally, three other experienced divers, who sometimes help as assistants in the diving school, were with us. The majority of the group consisted of students, as Matthias offers his diving training mainly through university sport.
Jud: Did you know all the participants before?
Alexa: No, not really. We just knew the diving instructors and assistants. We have seen some of the other tour members at several diving school events, but most of us were not known to us until then.
Jud: A whole week with many strangers on a small boat. This is not for everyone. How did you go with that?
Alexa: Yes, this is true! At first, I was concerned about whether I would be seasick or whether the boat might be too small for 20 people and that we’d go on each other’s nerves after a short time. But my concerns were absolutely reasonless. We had so much fun! The team on board was well organized and helped wherever it could. Everyone was friendly, attentive and funny. The guides really knew the best spots and never gave up looking for dolphins, for us. It made me feel a bit sad to hear that they can only work so little. The next safari tour would take place three weeks after we had left. During this time, of course, they earn nothing. It was particularly fascinating to hear about the Arab Spring and how they have experienced the whole time, what changes have been made - positive, but also negative things.
Jud: Do you think the Arab Spring also affected Hurghada?
Alexa: Well, I can imagine that. I had the feeling every third hotel was a ruin. They probably have begun to build them when tourism was booming and now the building owners are waiting for the situation to settle down and the tourists come back before they finish the hotels. The beaches we could see were full of rubbish; deck chairs were broken and unusable. Hurghada itself was not very beautiful, too. At the coast, hotels were stringed together. Many stores were locked, maybe because it was still pre-season. I noticed the high presence of police officers and the military. In fact you have always seen somebody with a machine gun. Especially the controls at the airport were extreme. I remember we had to present our passport and our flight ticket about 4 times. When we got out of the airport building it was shocking for me to see that we apparently were the only machine with tourists. There was no one else to see at the airport, except the staff. It was almost deserted.
Jud: Luckily you did not go on a classic beach holiday but on a diving safari. How often did you dive?
Alexa [laughs]: That’s true! There were four dives daily. An early morning dive, before lunch the next dive, in the afternoon the third one and a night dive. Since we have used the time to simply relax from our everyday stress, we have made a maximum of three dives a day. So we managed to do the early morning just once!
Jud: And what about the night dives? Did you do that too?
Alexa [laughs]: Hehe, no! The “deco beer“ in the evening was just too tempting. After two to three dives a day there has to be a “finishing time”. In the evening it was partly cool. There was always a wind blowing. To wear the wet diving suit again would have been a torment. Even though I've planned it every evening, I could not end up doing it. Especially the mood in the evening at sunset on the boat was too glorious. This was pure holiday for me.
Jud: Cool and windy? Does not sound like a nice holiday weather, does it?
Alexa: But clearly! The weather was constantly warm at about 26 to 28 degrees during the day. Only in the night, it was somewhat cooler, I suppose it was about 18 to 20 degrees. The water had between 18 and 26 degrees, depending on the depth and location. In the morning and in the evening it was always windy. One morning the divers of the early morning dives brought my bikini and my beach towel. Both were blown away by the strong wind. Thank god they were found underwater!
Jud: Lucky girl! Speaking of underwater. How is the underwater landscape in front of Hurghada?
Alexa [grins]: The underwater landscape was actually as expected. A lot of colourful fish. No, seriously.
I was amazed that the coral reefs are so well preserved. I have always thought that much more would have been damaged by the whole mass tourism. We dived at a couple of great wrecks, which were well maintained and beautifully overgrown. And we had some great drift dives along steep walls. In addition to that, we have seen dozens of different fish swarms. The many giant morays were truly fascinating. Unbelievable how big they can get! But we have also seen a few more exotic animals, such as a trembling ray or the spotted snake eel. Of course the dolphins were not missing, we sighted them at various spots.
Jud: Well then I'm curious what fish you remember. Can you tell me what you saw?
Alexa: Oh my god, that was a whole lot. Where should I start? Ok, I just start with the biggest. Dolphins, sea bass, giant-morays, tunas, blue spotted stingray and electric rays, snake eels, trumpet fish, barracudas, mackerels, porcupine fish, blowfish, coffer fish, marine angelfish, tangs, parrotfish, anemone fish, sand perches, butterflyfish, basslets, coachman, triggerfish, filefish, goatfish, porgies, wrasses, scorpionfish, dragon's head, stonefish, sand perches, cardinalfish, coral hawkfish, batfish, cerithiids and all kinds of slugs … But I bet I have already forgotten half of them.
Jud: And did you see sharks?
Alexa: No luckily not! I prefer other fish.
Jud: What would that be? Do you have a favourite fish?
Alexa: We do not have a favourite fish. I think cuttlefish are quite great, but unfortunately we did not get to see some of them during our dives. Parrots are also beautiful to look at. We had much more of that. Otherwise, blowfish are still quite cute, because they grin so beautiful.
Jud: You brought some pictures for us, but you have not been able to make as many as you can! What happened there?
Alexa: Yes, unfortunately! Stefan's camera has been flooded under water on the second day. This was really not funny and makes the holiday much more expensive. Luckily the others made a lot of great pictures.
Jud: And as a “thank you” gift you brought some T-Shirts?
Alexa: Sure! Of course, we had packed different shirts for the group. They are - as always - very well accepted. In fact, everyone was super happy about the gifts. And of course, we did not miss the chance to take a few photos with the people, our shirts in front of a fantastic scenery.
Jud: Does this mean you can recommend this diving trip?
Alexa: Yes, in any case! The team and the people were great! We had a lot of fun and I always felt safe. And the food was a dream. But the very best was: one week walking barefoot. I hope we can repeat this very soon!
Jud: I keep my fingers crossed!