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A day in the life of Marsa Shagra with Sea to Sky

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Marsa Shagra

Sea to Sky is delighted to collaborate with Red Sea Diving Safari (RSDS), encompassing three distinct diving “villages” – Marsa Shagra, Marsa Nakari, and Wadi Lahami. Each village possesses its own unique charm, and although they share a common ethos of sustainable and eco-friendly diving, they differ in many aspects.

Established by its founder, Mr. Hossam Helmy, in 1990, RSDS’s sustainable tourism model has been well-defined, catering to divers of all levels and experiences. The commitment to eco-friendly practices is a key aspect of the RSDS experience.

Marsa Shagra

Traveling to RSDS can be achieved via two main airports: Marsa Alam Airport or Hurghada Airport. Marsa Alam is approximately a 40-minute drive from Marsa Shagra, while Hurghada entails a transfer of approximately 3 to 3.5 hours. Marsa Nakari is situated 40 km south of Marsa Shagra, and Wadi Lahami is 140 km away. RSDS facilitates all necessary transfers, ensuring a hassle-free experience with friendly drivers and comfortable vehicles, ranging from cars to minibuses based on the number of passengers. This commitment to convenience reflects RSDS’s dedication to providing a seamless and enjoyable journey for its guests.

I’ve been a dedicated visitor to RSDS for over a decade, a testament to the commendable operation they run. Each year, I make it a point to visit one of the villages, and on this particular trip in December 2023, it was heartening to encounter both familiar and new faces. The continuity of the team at RSDS, along with the addition of fresh members, is a testament to the sense of community fostered there. The warmth and friendliness extended to me upon arrival always make me feel like a long-lost friend, reinforcing the familial atmosphere that RSDS cultivates.

My journey began with a visit to a supplier in Hurghada, and I had prearranged both the transfer and accommodation through the head office. Guests like myself are required to use agents for bookings, ensuring a standardized cost structure. Despite not being able to book directly with RSDS, the pricing clarity remains consistent across agents.

Promptly at 10am, my transfer arrived, allowing me to embark on the journey south to Marsa Alam. The drive itself was uneventful but pleasant, offering a straightforward route. A scheduled rest break en-route provided an opportunity to grab a coffee and a bite to eat, making for a smooth and enjoyable travel experience.

Upon my arrival at Marsa Shagra, I was dropped off at the main reception just after 1pm by the driver. Taking charge of unloading my bags, I proceeded to check in, which turned out to be a straightforward process. The reception efficiently gathered my passport details and accommodation voucher. As a Tour Operator (TO), we provide guests with a voucher confirming booking details, and this was handed in at the reception. Once the formalities were completed, I received my keys.

Marsa Shagra

Assisted by one of the staff members, we made our way to my chosen accommodation. Marsa Shagra offers a diverse range of lodging options, including Superior Deluxe, Premium Deluxe, and Deluxe chalets (my choice for this visit). Other options include huts, Royal Tents, standard tents, and accessible chalets. The Royal tent, positioned on the shore, stands out as a popular choice, offering a light and breezy ambiance that truly captures the essence of Egypt. If you’re interested, I can provide more details about the various accommodation options available.

Marsa Shagra

Notably, Marsa Shagra provides an environmentally conscious amenity — an unlimited number of cold water dispensers distributed throughout the villages. Guests are encouraged to bring their own water bottles for free refills whenever needed, reflecting RSDS’s commitment to sustainability and guest well-being.

Marsa Shagra

Once settled in, with a quick shower and dive kit organized, it was time to make my way to the equipment room near the reception at Marsa Shagra. This is where guests check in for their prearranged diving packages, typically agreed upon with their Tour Operator (TO). The most popular choice is the 5-day unlimited house reef diving package, though there’s flexibility for daily unlimited diving as well. There’s a diving package to suit every preference.

Marsa Shagra

Upon arrival at the equipment room, you complete mandatory forms required by PADI and RSDS. You can collect any necessary weights or equipment, get assigned a locker number, and then head over to the dive shade. Managed by Shazli and an exceptional team, including Shekaa, the dive shade staff are always welcoming, cheerful, and highly professional. Shekaa even assisted me in unpacking my dive gear and organizing it in the allocated locker, providing a helpful touch to the overall experience.

The dive shade, conveniently located opposite the equipment room, is equipped with all the amenities and facilities a diver might need. This includes changing rooms, clearly labelled clean tanks for equipment, fresh water, and more. The layout is well-designed and well-thought-out, contributing to a seamless diving experience.

Marsa Shagra

It’s worth noting that all guests are recommended to attend the daily morning Orientation talks at the dive office at 9am. These talks provide detailed information about RSDS Marsa Shagra, covering procedures, offshore excursions, diving operations, night diving, reef topography, speed boats, dive profiles, and more. In addition and as part of the diving package, two orientation dives are included accompanied by a dive guide. It’s a valuable session for understanding the workings of RSDS.

One of the standout features of RSDS, particularly at Marsa Shagra and Marsa Nakari, is the concept of unlimited diving. The flexibility to grab a tank and explore the underwater world at your own pace, either with a buddy or using the buddy board to find one, adds to the appeal of the RSDS experience. It’s a great way to make new friends and fully immerse yourself in the diving community.

Marsa Shagra

After my visit to the equipment room, I made my way to the restaurant for lunch, passing by the cafeteria and dive office where I exchanged greetings with Basta and Marie, who, alongside Maher, efficiently manage the dive operation with a focus on safety and professionalism.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a buffet style, and I was truly impressed by the extensive choices available. The spread included around 20 different salads, 10 hot dishes, assorted bread, soup, and a variety of fresh fruits. The culinary offerings at RSDS cater to diverse dietary needs, accommodating intolerances as well as providing options for vegans and vegetarians. No one would leave hungry with such a variety on offer.

Marsa Shagra

After a satisfying lunch, I leisurely made my way to the cafeteria for a Turkish coffee. Soft drinks, teas, and regular coffees are complimentary, though diet drinks and Turkish coffees come with a separate charge. Following the delightful Turkish coffee experience, I headed to the dive shade to gear up. As a certified Self Reliant instructor, I had the flexibility to dive on my own. For the day, I aimed to complete a check dive and ensure all my equipment functioned properly.

Equipped with my stage, two masks, two computers, and two DSMBs, I added my name to the diving board, signalling to the staff that I had entered the water and indicating the expected time of my return. The water temperature was a comfortable 25 degrees, considering it was December. The highlight of Marsa Shagra undoubtedly lies in its house reef. The reef’s profile, running from North to South with an entry through a sandy sloping bottom, is ideal for confined courses. As the sandy bottom gradually deepens, you’re compelled to dive, and the healthy reef teems with millions of beautiful fish and marine life. My first underwater encounters included a free-swimming peppered moray and a turtle, making it a truly magical experience.

The profiles at Marsa Shagra is such that with the unlimited diving package you have use of the Zodiacs, so can opt for 6 different profiles of diving, whether it be shore / shore, Zodiac / shore or Zodiac / Zodiac, on either the North reef or South Reef.

After completing my check dive, I emerged from the water, removed my name from the board, and rinsed all my gear. Once I stored my equipment in the locker and hung up my wetsuit, I headed to one of the hammocks for a well-deserved rest, accompanied by the soothing sound of the sea lapping against the shore—pure bliss. A short nap later, I went to the dive centre to sign up for the 6am Elphinstone trip. Afterward, I returned to my chalet for a shower and change of clothes, then made my way to the chill-out area near the dive shade to socialize with fellow guests and enjoy a refreshing Stella beer, a fitting reward for completing my check dive.

Marsa Shagra

Dinner, starting at 6:30pm, proved to be another culinary delight. Marsa Shagra offers themed main courses each night, and on this particular evening, it was Egyptian night. Freshly grilled chicken, koftes, and a variety of sides graced the menu. The real star, however, was the dessert selection—mind-blowing in terms of variety, flavours, and presentation. Satisfied and anticipating the Elphinstone trip the next morning, I retired to my chalet.

The next day began early at 5 am. After a cup of coffee, I headed to the dive shade to prepare my gear for the Elphinstone trip. Our guide, Kareem, also the freedive instructor and a friend I’ve known for years, led the trip. Kareem, affectionately known as the “shark whisperer,” provided a thorough briefing on the trip, the dive profile, and how to behave in the presence of white tip sharks. A 15-minute boat ride took us to Elphinstone, where, after checking the current, we embarked on an exhilarating and safe dive with encounters with white tip sharks. We returned to Shagra in time for breakfast.

Marsa Shagra

Breakfast, like lunch and dinner, was served buffet-style, offering fresh eggs cooked to your liking, felafel, foul, pastries, and fruits. The food and variety were impeccable.

In summary, my day at Marsa Shagra, a diving eco-village built for divers by divers, was a slice of heaven in southern Egypt. With excellent amenities, a dedicated staff, and a commitment to sustainable diving, it’s a unique and enriching experience. If you’re a diving enthusiast, Marsa Shagra and RSDS offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore the stunning and healthy reefs of the Red Sea. Don’t just take my word for it—go and experience it yourself and revel in the beauty of Marsa Shagra and RSDS.

Join Sea to Sky and embark on new diving adventures! Visit www.myseatosky.co.uk for more information.

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Solo Travelling and Scuba Diving

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solo scuba diving

Solo traveling elicits strong reactions, with some relishing the freedom it brings, while others shy away from the idea. The dichotomy lies between the autonomy of solo journeys and the comfort of companionship. Scuba diving group trips for solo travellers emerge as the perfect synthesis, offering a unique blend of freedom and camaraderie.

Embarking on a solo scuba diving adventure is a thrilling journey into unparalleled freedom, new discovery and self-discovery beneath the waves. However, solo travellers should be mindful of considerations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, especially those diving abroad, taking precautions before leaving their home country is crucial for a safe and enjoyable journey.

solo scuba diver

“I started travelling solo by chance”- my wife recalls- “I joined a group from the diving club planning to travel to Tobago, people pulled out at the last minute and I decided to go ahead alone. I did enjoy the freedom: I could travel at the times I wanted, to the destinations I wanted, no need to negotiate when and where to eat and the air conditioning temperature. Diving is a social sport anyway, and the divers one meets are by definition like-minded people. It’s an opportunity to make new friends, often from different nationalities. I’ve gained so much in self confidence and interpersonal skills, way more than on corporate training courses J. However, as a woman solo traveller, I’ve always had to be mindful of personal safety in circumstances where one simply doesn’t know what to expect. I remember the apprehension I felt on the boat ride alone from Batanga to Puerto Galera in the evening. Also the same feeling whilst waiting in Dubai for someone to pick me up and drive me 2 hours to Musandam. This someone is now a dearest friend. The best thing for me is always to book through someone that has made the same journey, lived the experience directly and has close personal links at destinations.”

In essence, scuba diving trips for solo travellers offer a harmonious blend of autonomy and companionship. These journeys transcend traditional group travel challenges by uniting solo adventurers with a common passion.

The first question and one of the most important, as the answer usually determines your location is Liveaboard or Shore based, and there are Pros and Cons to both:

Liveaboard

solo scuba diver

Pros

Immersive Dive Experience: Liveaboards provide uninterrupted access to dive sites, maximizing your time beneath the waves.

Varied Destinations: Journey to remote and pristine locations, exploring a range of dive spots during a single trip. Usually these site are only accessible by Liveaboard

Community Experience: Forge close bonds with fellow divers on board, fostering a sense of camaraderie.

Cons

Limited Amenities: Space constraints on liveaboards might limit facilities compared to resorts.

Community Experience: Liveaboards forge a close-knit community of divers and individuals, which may not be conducive to everyone’s character, particularly for people who enjoy some time alone to charge the batteries, or those not keen on negotiating group dynamics in a somewhat confined environment.

Shore based

solo scuba diving solo scuba diving

Pros

Comfort and Amenities: Resorts offer a comfortable stay with various amenities, including spas, swimming pools and restaurants.

Flexibility: Choose daily dives or explore at your pace, enjoying the freedom to create a personalized itinerary.

Onshore Exploration: Besides diving, resorts often provide opportunities to explore local culture and attractions.

Cons

Fixed Locations: While convenient, resorts limit you to specific dive sites accessible from shore.

Time Constraints: Day trips or tight schedules may impose time restrictions on your underwater adventures.

Flexibility: Unless you are certified as a solo diver then you have to dive with a buddy or with a private guide, which could be a costly option.

Considerations

Personal Preferences: Evaluate your preferences for accommodation, community engagement, and the overall pace of your dive experience.

Destination Exploration: Assess whether you seek the thrill of exploring multiple dive destinations on a liveaboard or prefer the convenience of a single resort location.

Choosing between liveaboard trips and dive resorts hinges on your desired balance of adventure, comfort, and community. Whether you opt for the dynamic exploration of liveaboards or the leisurely pace of resorts, each option promises a unique and unforgettable underwater journey.

solo scuba diving

Dive Destination – Research and Planning

Conducting thorough research on dive destinations is crucial. Understand its culture, local customs, and any travel advisories. Always check government advice, BUT also consider joining Facebook or similar groups and get some real-world advice from like-minded divers.

It’s essential to opt for reputable dive operators with a strong safety record. Sea to Sky, a trusted name in the industry, places a high priority on guest safety, offering comprehensive services, advice, and recommendations.

Ensure you are aware of any health risks or vaccinations required for your destination. Carry a basic first aid kit, if weight allows and any necessary medications. We would advise not to take any over the counter medications aboard, as most are readily available and in a lot of cases cheaper. If you are prescribed medications, please ensure that your country of entry allows your medication, and in all cases please take a doctor’s letter/prescription.

Solo divers should be mindful of diving in secluded or challenging dive locations.  Opting for familiar, well-monitored locations where assistance is readily available if needed. Sea to Sky takes a personalized approach, considering guests’ experience and certification levels to suggest optimal dive locations within their limits.

Being cautious about equipment is paramount for solo divers. Rigorous gear checks to ensure everything is in optimal condition are essential. For those renting equipment, Sea to Sky ensures that the dive centre or liveaboard operator’s gear is regularly serviced and up to date. Please self-check all equipment, we are happy to advise on what to and how to check any equipment.

Safety and Security

Invest in comprehensive travel insurance and Dive Insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and potential diving-related incidents. Keep a digital and physical copy of your insurance details. Secure important documents like your passport, travel insurance, and diving certifications in a waterproof pouch. Consider making digital copies that you can access online.  Share your itinerary and emergency contact information with a trusted friend or family member. Keep them informed about your whereabouts and any changes to your plans. We personally use Nord Locker to store all relevant information, including copies of passport, accessible via the cloud (No affiliation, it’s just what we use).

solo scuba diving

Financial Preparedness

Inform your bank about your travel dates to avoid any issues with your credit/debit cards. Carry a mix of local currency and cards. We can advise country by country what cash to take, as in some destinations Euros or Dollars are the better option.  Be cautious when using ATMs and choose secure locations (inside banks for example). Keep a small amount of emergency cash separate from your main funds. This can be invaluable in situations where card payments may not be accepted.

Communication and Connectivity

Consider getting a local SIM card to stay connected. Check the network coverage in your destination and inform your loved ones about your contact number. We also use an ESim called Airolo (Again no affiliation) but some of the charges can be quite high especially in Egypt, but for peace of mind it’s great.  Carry a portable charger for your electronic devices, including your phone and any underwater cameras. Also check with the country you are travelling to ascertain what plug is compatible.

solo scuba diving

Cultural Sensitivity

Familiarise yourself with the local culture and customs to show respect. This includes appropriate clothing, gestures, and behaviour, both on land and underwater.

What sets Sea to Sky apart is the personal relationships developed with its suppliers and its commitment to providing 24-hour telephone contact for guests, offering reassurance and assistance around the clock. Solo travellers can dive with confidence, knowing that expert guidance and support are just a call away.

In essence, while solo scuba diving opens doors to incredible underwater experiences, travellers must exercise caution, conduct diligent research, choose reputable operators, and prioritise safety.

For any information or assistance you require please feel free to contact the team at hello@myseatosky.co.uk.

Join Sea to Sky and embark on new diving adventures! Visit www.myseatosky.co.uk for more information.

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The BiG Scuba Podcast Episode 172: Dr. Joseph Dituri

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Joseph Dituri

Gemma and Ian chat to Dr. Joseph Dituri. Dr. Jospeh Dituri lived undersea for 100 Days in a mission combining education, ocean conservation research, and the study of the physiological and psychological effects of compression on the human body.  

Dituri enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1985. He served continuously on active service upon various ships and shore stations where he was involved in every aspect of diving and special operations work from saturation diving and deep submergence to submersible design and clearance diving. Now that he is retired from 28 years of active service to the United States, he is the president of the International Board of Undersea Medicine. He also volunteers his time as the CEO of the Association for Marine Exploration. He is an invited speaker on motivational, sea and space related topics.

Fuelled by his passion for exploration, discovery, adventure, and making the greatest possible positive contribution to the world, he is fighting for change in a big way and with great enthusiasm.

You can listen to Episode 172 of the BiG Scuba Podcast here.

www.drdeepsea.com

We hope you have enjoyed this episode of The BiG Scuba Podcast.  Please give us ★★★★★, leave a review, and tell your friends about us as each share and like makes a difference.   Contact Gemma and Ian with your messages, ideas and feedback via The BiG Scuba Bat Phone    +44 7810 005924   or use our social media platforms.   To keep up to date with the latest news, follow us:

We are on Instagram                     @thebigscuba  

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We are in LinkedIn                          https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian%F0%9F%A6%88-last-325b101b7/

The BiG Scuba Website                  www.thebigscuba.com

Amazon Store :                                https://www.amazon.co.uk/shop/thebigscuba

Visit   https://www.patreon.com/thebigscubapodcast and subscribe – Super quick and easy to do and it makes a massive difference. Thank you.

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