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Egypt – Underwater Magic in the Red Sea

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“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

Egypt is known as one of the most popular dive locations in the world, with tropical waters, reasonable flight times from the UK and many itineraries to choose from depending on your experience. Most recently though, the focus has not been on the magical waters, but rather the safety and security of travellers following the horrific Russian Airline bombing in Sharm el Sheikh last year. In February, we flew into Hurghada, our final destination being the dive camp Roots situated in the small town of El Quseir. Many would call us mad for travelling to this country: “Why risk it?”, “It isn’t safe!” – but our mentality has always been that if bad things happen they can happen anywhere, and there is no point avoiding living for fear of dying. Unfortunately, this is not the view shared by most people – Sharm, once a popular holiday destination for 15 million tourists, now lies a ghost town.

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Our choice to visit Egypt was an easy one; diving in the Red Sea is incredibly diverse, and thankfully it doesn’t take a whole day to get to! Roots Red Sea Dive Camp is a custom built camp situated in the middle of the desert, about 1.5 hours south from Hurghada and 1.5 hours north of Marsa Alam. The accommodation is traditionally built with the budget to boutique rooms offering solutions for everyone. We opted for the beautiful higher end Boutique rooms that offer en suite and plenty of space. Despite being in the middle of the desert the set up is a home from home with the staff offering a real family feel. Steve & Clare who run it are always about, happy to share stories and offer advice for the novice diver/underwater photographer (like me!). It’s funny – there you find yourself, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and oddly enough, it’s exactly where you want to be.

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We spent the week diving the house reef, a last minute dive trip to practice using my new camera… which to my surprise was exactly what I needed! The house reef splits into two arms North and South, following a slowly descending mouth. As you enter from the beach the reef is immediately visible with many banner fish as close as 10ft from the shore waiting to say hello. To the left you have the North reef – an easier dive in my opinion because of the shallow nooks of the rocks that allow for endless photo opportunities with lots of natural light. Further along, outcrops bleed out from the wall offering lots of life; one in particular housing two beautiful Anemone fish guarding their young. However, the star attraction is by far and away on the South reef – leading in with a large dominating wall you come to reef that drops to about 30m. As you turn to go along it at about 20m there is a small pinnacle that has one of the most stunning red Anemone’s I’ve ever seen. We must have spent 50% of our diving just documenting this beauty.

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Another  star of the reef is the local Pufferfish we nicknamed Paul – a Yellow Spotted Burrfish variety who was extremely calm and relaxed around us divers. He is larger than average, so is easy to spot and has saucer like eyes that melt your heart. Safe to say I was smitten with this fella and took many a pic of his cute, spikey face.

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There is an abundance of life on this reef but I will admit after 5 days I was restless, so would advise others to take advantage of the day trips on offer. The diving is hosted by Steve & Clare’s dive centre Pharaoh Dive Club with trips like Elphinstone and the Salem express offering wrecks and sharks for those who want more variance, as well as other local shore dives.

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A fantastic week of winter sun diving in a country that has wriggled its way into my heart and is there to stay. Egypt, once the heartland of diving is now struggling to stay ‘above water’, yet the diving remains exciting and beautiful. With flights not due to resume to Sharm until October you may be considering other alternatives for your next dive trip; well pause and take a breath – Roots Red Sea & Pharoah Dive Club offer all the best bits of Red Sea diving in a relaxed, luxury setting. Don’t take it from me, check out the links below and discover this hidden gem for yourself…

Roots Camp Trip Advisor

Pharoah Dive Club Trip Advisor

www.rootsredsea.com

For more from Hayley, visit www.blackmantaphotography.com.

Hayley is a passionate scuba diver, travel blogger, and underwater photographer, travelling the world with her partner Richard to complete the team at Black Manta Photography. A qualified TEC50 and sidemount diver, she's dived everywhere from Truk Lagoon to deepest Indonesia and loves nothing more than exploring new and exciting places, documenting her experiences with her camera above and below the water. As divers, Hayley feels we are privy to a secret beauty and by capturing it, hopefully, we can encourage more people to protect and cherish it.

News

The Rescue – available on Disney+ tomorrow (Watch Trailer)

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If you missed the recent cinema debut of The Rescue film, you can watch it on streaming channel Disney+ from tomorrow December 3rd.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), The Rescue is the edge-of-your-seat account of the rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave system in 2018.

The Rescue chronicles the dramatic rescue of the boys and their coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Academy Award®-winning directors and producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys. An outing to explore a nearby system of caves after soccer practice transformed into a two-week saga of survival and a story that would capture the world’s attention. With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, the film tells the story of the imagination, determination and unprecedented teamwork displayed during this heroic edge-of-your-seat mission with life-or-death stakes.

Check back for our review of The Rescue soon!

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Guardian investigation finds endangered sharks for sale in Taiwan

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A field investigation into Taiwan’s shark fin industry was conducted by Shark Guardian between December 2020 and March 2021. The investigation obtained documentary evidence of fins from endangered shark species being openly offered for sale by over half of all shark fin traders surveyed in Taiwan’s southern fishing port of Kaohsiung.

Of the 13 shark fin processing and trading companies visited, more than half were found to be trading CITES- listed fins, and seven had shark fins from CITES Appendix II-listed species as part of their product range. One company saidthere was no difference in selling protected or unprotected species. Protected sharks’ products usually create a problem for international shipping only.”

The new report details how seven out of thirteen traders surveyed in Taiwan were found to be selling shark fins from silky sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, mako sharks, thresher sharks and great white sharks in broad daylight – in contravention of Taiwanese and international law.

Over a three-month period, Shark Guardian investigators witnessed multiple shipments of shark fins from endangered species being unloaded at Donggang fish market which is in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung.

Alex Hofford, Marine Wildlife Campaigner with Shark Guardian, said “To save sharks and the marine environment, Taiwanese authorities should implement an immediate crackdown on its cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade, and should tighten up local laws to ban the domestic sale of shark fin as well as better enforce its international obligations under CITES. It is also high time that the Taiwanese government should rein in its out-of-control distant water tuna fishing fleet, who are a major supplier shark fin to Chinese markets. Whilst Taiwan is a beacon of democratic and progressive values in Asia, it is allowing its unsustainable and often crime-ridden fisheries sector to rape and pillage our ocean with impunity. This must stop. Taiwan needs to show leadership in environmental protection and must quickly clean up its act as regards its sleazy shark fisheries and trade sectors.”

During our investigation, Shark Guardian also found evidence of Taiwan-based online retailers selling fins of endangered species of shark in contravention of local and international law.

According to WWF, a third of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, yet fishing and trading in unsustainable shark fin remains a highly profitable, but environmentally destructive, enterprise for Taiwanese companies operating out of Kaohsiung.

Brendon Sing, Co-Director of Shark Guardian said “Clearly more must be done to protect sharks globally. There are over 500 known shark species with only a handful of them listed under CITES. Even then, CITES listed sharks are still traded illegally where monitoring and enforcement lack any power and expose loopholes in the system. As long as this continues, there is no real protection for any shark species regardless of CITES listing or not. Taiwan must be responsible and take positive action in response to this report.”

Shark Guardian believes that excessively large profit margins are the main reason why Taiwan has never acted to rein in its shark fisheries and trade.

Shark Guardian hopes that Taiwan can apply its progressive values towards preserving the marine environment by imposing a comprehensive ban on the physical and online selling all species of shark fin in Taiwan. Such a ban would go above and beyond what is required under international law, and Taiwan’s domestic laws can be changed with public support.

For more information about Shark Guardian visit their website by clicking here.

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Competitions

Egypt | Safaga, Brothers & Elphinstone | 27 January – 04 February 2022 | Emperor Elite

Jump on board this famous Red Sea liveaboard and enjoy diving the famous wrecks of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer.  Emperor Elite offers a contemporary living space combined with the best itineraries available in the Red Sea.

Price NOW from just £975 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from London Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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