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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.

Blogs

The BiG Scuba Podcast Episode 180: Dawn Kernagis

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Dawn Kernagis

Gemma and Ian chat to Dawn Kernagis.  Dawn joined DEEP in 2023 as the Director of Scientific Research.   DEEP is an ocean technology and exploration company with a mission to ‘Make Humans Aquatic.’ DEEP’s undersea habitat and submersible systems, combined with multi-phased diver and human performance training, will create the next evolution of subsea science, research, and exploration capabilities.   Dawn is a NASA-trained NEEMO Aquanaut, Explorer’s Club Fellow and Women Divers Hall of Fame Inductee and who is also tasked to establish DEEP’s first US presence in North Carolina.   Dawn has also been a diver with numerous underwater exploration, research, and conservation projects since 1993, including the mapping and record-setting exploration of some of the deepest underwater caves in the world.

https://www.deep.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dawn-kernagis-995383152/

The BiG Scuba Podcast is brought to you by Narked at 90.   “Beyond Technical”   Narked at 90    If you are thinking of moving across to tech diving or completely new to diving, Narked at 90 can advise and guide on the best equipment and set up for your personal or commercial requirements  https://www.narkedat90.com/.  There is currently a code for you to use for purchases and the code is  BIGSCUBA2024.

If you are interested in the INSTA360 action camera we discussed then please click this link:   https://www.insta360.com/sal/x3?utm_term=INRAI8S

We hope you have enjoyed this episode of The BiG Scuba Podcast.  Please give us ★★★★★, leave a review, and tell your friends.   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

We are on Facebook                      @thebigscuba

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.

🎧You can listen to the BiG Scuba Podcast on all major podcast platforms including …. iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify and Stitcher 😀.  ISSN Number 2752-6127

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Butterfly Rays

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

As we’re currently in butterfly season, this month we decided to concentrate on the Butterfly Rays!

Within the family Gymnuridae, there are two genera and 12 species of Butterfly Ray. These species are morphologically different to lots of other rays because of the width of the disc and pectoral fins – in contrast to many other species of Butterfly Ray, their bodies are much wider than they are long, especially considering their very short tail. This gives them the appearance of gliding or flying across the sand.

Gymnura altavela – Spiny Butterfly Ray

Gymnura australis – Australian Butterfly Ray

Gymnura crebripunctata – Longsnout Butterfly Ray

Gymnura japonica – Japanese Butterfly Ray

Gymnura lessae – Lessa’s Butterfly Ray

Gymnura marmorata – California Butterfly Ray

Gymnura micrura – Smooth Butterfly Ray

Gymnura natalensis – Backwater Butterfly Ray

Gymnura peocilura – Longtail Butterfly Ray

Gymnura sereti – Seret’s Butterfly Ray

Gymnura tentaculata – Tentacled Butterfly Ray

Gymnura zonura – Zonetail Butterfly Ray

Spiny Butterfly Ray, Gymnura altavela. Playa La Granadella, Spain, Mediterranean Sea.

Today we’re taking a look at Gymnura altavela, the Spiny Butterfly Ray. Like all Butterfly Rays, the Spiny Butterfly Ray is a demersal species, meaning it spends the majority of its time on the bottom of the seabed. Butterfly Rays are known for their burying behaviour in the sand, a technique they use to camouflage themselves when they are resting during the day. This protects them from predators, in some areas larger sharks. It also aids them in their ambush hunting technique – by hiding themselves under the sand they are able to easily snatch up their dinner – usually crustaceans, molluscs or other small fish – as they swim by unawares. This behaviour can leave tell-tale butterfly-ray shaped imprints in the bottom of the seabed.

Spiny Butterfly Rays can grow up to 260 cm (disc width (wingspan)), although average is around 200 cm. They give birth to live young, and each litter consists of 1-8 pups. This species has also been found to aggregate, likely for mating. One study found that aggregations of primarily females in the coastal regions off Gran Canaria may correlate with the shifting water temperature.

It is estimated that the species has undergone a population reduction of 50-79% over the last 33 years. This is primarily due to fishing pressure – the Spiny Butterfly Ray is targeted and bycaught in both industrial and artisanal fisheries types using a variety of gear types. The species is now Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean and Southwest Atlantic.

Scientific Name: Gymnura altavela

Family: Gymnuridae

Maximum Size: 260 cm (disc width)

Diet: crabs, shrimps, various invertebrates, fishes, small crustaceans, and molluscs.

Distribution: throughout the Atlantic and Mediterranean and Black Seas.

Habitat: muddy and sandy substrates down to 150m.

Conservation status: Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean and Europe, Endangered Globally.

For more great shark information and conservation visit the Shark Trust Website


Banner Image: ©Tomas Willems. Main image: ©Andy Murch

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