Being office bound now, I am always after any excuse to go for a dive and spend the day on the boat. Usually I try to convince my boss that I can go and take a few pictures. One sunny day in March was no different.
I headed off on the Camel Tribe boat with some very smiley divers from the UK, Germany, New Zealand, Greece and Malaysia to the beautiful nearby Coral Gardens, just 20 minutes from the harbor in Na’ama Bay (where both Camel Dive Club and my office are located).
In my usually chatty way, I set about meeting my fellow companions for the day. At this point, I met a lovely couple Russell (British) and Kelly (New Zealander), who travelled from the UK to get some quality diving in Sharm el Sheikh.
Russell is a diver and a wheelchair user who chose to celebrate his recent 40th birthday with a trip to Egypt. After a brief intermission in Cairo, where Kelly and Russell went to explore the Pyramids and the Museum of Antiquities, they arrived in Sharm el Sheikh to complete their SCUBA Refresher course with us here at Camel Dive Club.
The first day, they met their instructor Amr Shawkat, who is a PADI Master Instructor with many years of adaptive teaching behind him. There was going to be some serious refreshing and adjusting for both Kelly and Russell. Kelly had not dived since 2004. Russell had stopped diving after he sustained a spinal injury leaving him paralysed from the chest down in 2006 after falling from a branch during his employment as a Tree Surgeon.
Their refresher course spread over two days so that there was no rush to reacquaint themselves with the underwater world. The first day, enjoying some theory and pool time, right outside their room at Camel Hotel. The second day was spent diving from the boat.
After the first dive at the delightful Fiddle Garden where we enjoyed seeing the hunting lionfish on the many glassfish pinnacles, I got the opportunity to ask Kelly and Russell some questions, as we get less travelers than usual from the UK due to the lack of direct flights.
They told me that they had chosen Sharm el Sheikh after a friend, who is also a wheelchair user, recommended the location to them. After some further research on the internet they discovered that Camel Dive Club “ticked the boxes of their requirements” for an enjoyable, easy holiday.
Both found the trip to Sharm el Sheikh easy and uneventful, despite the connecting flights. “The ground crew of the airlines were amazing,” Kelly told me.
Our conversation then turned to the more exciting topic of the dive that we had just completed together under the watchful eye of Amr.
How was it to be back underwater after so long and also having to alter the style of diving that was learnt initially? Russell answered my question honestly, telling me it was a bit nerve wracking at the beginning, but once below the surface, he said it was amazing to be back underwater. They both hope to make it a regular thing and promised to not leave it so long until the next time.
We then enjoyed a well-deserved lunch on board Camel Tribe, which features a number of wheelchair friendly facilities that are unique in Sharm el Sheikh. These include an accessible bathroom and saloon area, spacious dive deck for gear preparation and a low dive platform. This, combined with the boat crew, which have many years of experience assisting divers with disabilities, makes water entries and exits a breeze.
Feeling fueled up after our tasty lunch, we geared up and headed off for a superb second dive at Near Garden. We were treated to a huge moray eel, humphead napoleon wrasse and a vivid red anemone, complete with anemone fish.
To end the day, we headed back with a short wander to Camel Dive Club & Hotel where the dive centre is based and where Kelly and Russell were staying. The hotel is situated in the heart of Na’ama Bay and features wheelchair accessible rooms, restaurants, the dive centre and most importantly for some, bars.
We celebrated the day with discussions of the fish we saw whilst drinking our beers well into the sunset.
Cheers to you all. There are no excuses as to why you cannot all come and enjoy Sharm el Sheikh today. As Kelly told me, “Just do it!”
Inspired? Take a look at www.cameldive.com and book your trip!