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JOURNEY TO THE LIGHTHOUSE REEF

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My name is Carole, I have been diving for 18 years and I’ve been a PADI Instructor for 17 of them. Today I am the Technical Manager at Fantasea Divers, responsible for overseeing the dive operation and working with Chris Harding, who together with Ema Louis is a partner at Coral Hotel & Fantasea Dive Center, located 90km North of Sharm el Sheikh.

Like me, when asked what inspired them to start diving, many divers of my generation relate their thirst for the underwater realm to that of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, who in his time was a trailblazer and conservationist for the underwater world and its inhabitants.

When the time was right and an opportunity arose to realize one of my dreams, I learnt to dive. Little did I know, way back then, it was just the start of the journey I was to undertake after completing the PADI Open Water Course with James & Mac at Barracuda Dive Centre in Hurghada.

That said I was absolutely not prepared for the tedious & boring hours of theory we had to sit through in the classroom. I really wondered what the hell I was doing when out of the window all I could see were other tourists around the pool enjoying themselves knocking back the Stella……… but when the time came & we were jumping off a boat into the clear blue waters of the Red Sea I was instantly hooked – I loved it and could definitely see myself living this life.

In fact on my return home I joined a dive club called Dive Force Marine and started working my way through the PADI courses up to Instructor. I experienced the delights of the popular UK training sites such as Stoney Cove, Swanage & Gildenburgh to name but a few.  Every opportunity I got was spent under water. Within the year I was on my way to Malta with a bunch of other wannabe Instructors under the tutelage of PADI Course Director Gary Mawson and his entourage of IDC Staff.

Soon after I successfully passed the IDC IE, the company I was working for was relocating and I was given two options – I could continue with the rat race, or alternatively accept voluntary redundancy and a wad of cash; a no-brainer really! My dream was coming true and without hesitation I took the wad, tied up loose ends and flew back to Egypt, a place that has felt like home like no other.

 

I arrived in Dahab in March 1994 quite by chance. I originally went back to Hurghada to look for work, but it was their winter season and most places were fully staffed and wanted German speaking Instructors.  Having spent a couple of years in Germany with the army I only knew the most important phrases that mattered to me, ‘zwei bier bitte’,  ‘ein  kaffee bitte’ & my all time favorite used at Macdonalds in Paderborn, ‘keine zwiebel bitte’ – none of which was really going to get me far!

One evening, after consuming a large amount of the local brew in Peanuts bar in Hurghada, a plan was hatched to go to Sharm el Sheikh to look for work. Everything looks doable after a few bottles of the local brew!  However the boat trip from Hurghada to Sharm the next day was not something I had prepared myself for.

The stomach-churning  journey seemed to go on forever and the sea conditions only added to my discomfort.  I was secretly thinking we are all going to die and at some point had wanted to. It was hellish with no shade, no loo & no refreshments. I had not given any thought to bringing water with me to offset the dehydration effects caused by the previous evening’s happy hour and I certainly wasn’t happy at that moment in time.  Lesson’s 1 & 2 learned there and then! On arrival to Sharm I had had enough of it immediately and was talked into a taxi headed for some place called Dahab.

On arrival I honestly thought my new friends had stitched me up. I was shocked at the basic surroundings, unfamiliar food (turned out to be the best diet ever), funny smelling smoke that wafted out of the beach restaurants  (I use the term ‘restaurants’ loosely there) and the communal feel of Dahab. I spent the first week sleeping in my wooly bear as the camp rooms did not provide any bedding and I didn’t know that Egypt like anywhere else, as it turns out,  was really rather cold in the winter (I’m ex-army & a city girl at heart and had never travelled that far out of my comfort zone in those days – and yes, I roughed it whilst in the army on occasion, but at least they fed you & gave you a blanket and a pillow).

I got over my initial thought process of “What the bloody hell am I doing here” and knew I had to make the best of it. I had sold my home, most of my worldly possessions & against the advice of my family & friends said goodbye to everything that was familiar to me, so I got on with it and set about looking for work.

Dahab back then was a small fishing village populated mainly by the Bedouin and had only 8 Dive Centers, and it was a backpacker haven. The attraction for divers of course was not what was on the surface (stoneheads & hippies may beg to differ), but what awaited you underwater.

Even though I was a new Instructor, I had worked hard to become an experienced diver, so after a short interview I made my teaching debut at Adventure Dive Club, uniquely run by three Egyptian sisters who had a passion for diving & business. This Dive Center was situated next door to the well established Fantasea Divers, owned by my now good friend Chris Harding, it was there I met Ema who was working on the Dive Counter at the time and who was to become a lifelong friend. Both Dive Centers were located conveniently in front of the Lighthouse Reef, in a time when there was no restriction on how close the buildings could be to the sea.

When it came down to it camp life did not suit me at all and as luck would have it a couple of Instructors from Fantasea were leaving  and I ended up renting their house on the beach within a compound owned by a Dutch Instructor, who at the time was the Manager at Fantasea Divers. Life was looking good.

 

For the next nine months the Lighthouse became my home and I got to know it extremely well. I taught so many Open Water & Advanced Courses back to back, mainly to backpackers of all nationalities. South Africans, Aussies & Kiwis were a dream to teach; they were born to be in the water. Spending so much time at the Lighthouse working gave me the passion to want to dive and explore all the other dive sites in Dahab during my precious leisure time.

So let me tell you about my beloved Lighthouse Reef. Firstly it is called the Lighthouse because during the Israeli occupation there was an actual Lighthouse structure there; after they left it was re-located further up the beach, and if you know where to look you can just about see the top of it as it reaches above the date palms that now surround it.

The Lighthouse Reef is as diverse as it is beautiful, as it offers many shallow & deep dives both to the North & South. Even though Dahab is renowned for its wind, one can dive at the Lighthouse reef at almost any time of the year, day or night, because of its sheltered position.

The Lighthouse dive site is suitable for beginners, experienced & more recently Technical Divers alike. The easy entry & exit hosts a gentle sloping bottom that leads to a subtle drop off. The first shelf is perfect for confined water and other training dives. Around the inner reef heading North you will find large coral pinnacles that loom from the sandy bottom @ 10m – 18m absolutely teaming with marine life. As one travels along the reef, large bright green cabbage corals can be seen sprouting from the seabed. An overhang juts out, which houses a bright a red sponge and a delicate fan coral, which is an absolute favourite hangout for Crocodile Fish & Blue Spotted Rays. Passing this, there are a couple of dead pinnacles to the left & right, leading to a saddle,   which is best crossed at 16m. This area is rich in flora and fauna and looking carefully stone & scorpion fish can be identified blending in with their surroundings, ready to pounce on their prey. Napoleon fish and a Turtle can also sometimes be seen here. If there is a current present it feels like you’re flying over the saddle; coming back however requires some effort and good buoyancy control.

The deep dive to 30m is usually made on the outer East facing reef. By following the sloping bottom to the outer reef there is a sprawling mass of large coral pinnacles rich in marine life. One of the pinnacles has a little cave in it that you can easily sit in and watch the blue for passing Pelagic, including Mantas & Eagle Rays. Some people get a bit twitchy at the mention of sharks! Swim further on and you come to the bottom of the saddle where at 27m a large gorgonian fan coral can be found, however due to a very bad storm a few years ago it fell over. Efforts were made to re-position it. It is still there but no longer upright & majestic as it should be.

 

 

 

 

The Southern dives, deep or shallow, offer some of the most fascinating sightings of marine life you can imagine. These dives offer the same gentle sloping descent. There are a mass of manmade terracotta pots that have been sunk at 16m to deliberately add interest to the vast sandy bottom, which encourage coral to grow & marine life such as moray eels & octopus to inhabit. The sea grass that is prevalent in that area has recently seen a sea horse population boom, and it is not unusual to see turtles grazing there, or ghost pipe fish milling around. At 9m just past the confined area there used to be the remnants of an old jeep, encrusted with coral which was a haven for lion & stonefish,  although sadly over the years this little gem has all but disintegrated, and only the chassis remains.

At 12m there is training area complete with varying sizes of triangles to help perfect buoyancy control. Further along you come to Banner Fish Bay, so named because of the masses of the like-named fish that hang there above the small coral blocks. Swimming at a right angle from this spot to about 30m you can find a large sandy ridge running East; this ridge was caused by a huge storm when its waters rushed down from the mountains and swept a few shops and a dive center into the sea. One of the shop’s that was swept away was a jewelers and legend has it that it’s gold lies there somewhere. Many years ago I was blessed to see two guitar sharks resting on the bottom there.

After leaving Adventure Dive Club it was time to dive with the big boys at Nesima, then a 5 Star IDC Center,   where I would put my knowledge & experience of the Lighthouse and other dive sites around Dahab to good use and make new friends for life.

Today Dahab has changed enormously from when I first arrived here. There are now over 50 Dive Centers along the coastline of Dahab. The Bedouin & Egyptian now work side by side, and there are good restaurants offering everything from Italian to Sushi. The infrastructure built over the last ten years provides a more comfortable lifestyle. There are still a few camps left and back packers still come, but not in the numbers that they used to. These days most tourists prefer a package holiday as more and more families are venturing here & taking the plunge at the Lighthouse.

Don’t just dream it, Do it! Has always been my mantra. The risks one takes to achieve the dreams held dear can pay off if you can take the rough with the smooth, and don’t  get bent out of shape should the internet go down for more than an hour! There’s always the Lighthouse Reef.

The Lighthouse Reef holds many good memories for me and to this day I still love to dive there, given any opportunity.

Carole Tansley is a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor and the Technical Manager of Dive Operations at Fantasea Red Sea in Dahab, Egypt. To find out more about Fantasea Red Sea, visit http://www.fantasearedsea.com/

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Diving with Frogfish in Costa Rica: A Hidden Gem Underwater

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In the vast and vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica, there’s a peculiar creature that often goes unnoticed but holds a special place in the hearts of divers: the frogfish. This enigmatic and somewhat odd-looking species is a master of camouflage and a marvel of marine life. Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is not just a dive; it’s an adventurous treasure hunt that rewards the patient and observant with unforgettable encounters. Let’s dive into the world of frogfish and discover what makes these creatures so fascinating and where you can find them in Costa Rica.

The Mystique of Frogfish

Frogfish belong to the family Antennariidae, a group of marine fish known for their incredible ability to blend into their surroundings. They can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, red, green, black, and white, and they often have unique spots and textures that mimic the coral and sponges around them. This camouflage isn’t just for show; it’s a critical survival tactic that helps them ambush prey and avoid predators.

One of the most remarkable features of the frogfish is its modified dorsal fin, which has evolved into a luring appendage called an esca. The frogfish uses this esca to mimic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, enticing unsuspecting victims close enough to be engulfed by its surprisingly large mouth in a fraction of a second. This method of hunting is a fascinating spectacle that few divers forget once witnessed.

Where to Find Frogfish in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is dotted with dive sites that offer the chance to encounter these intriguing creatures. Bat Islands (Islas Murciélagos), Catalina Islands (Islas Catalinas), and the area around the Gulf of Papagayo are renowned for their rich marine life, including frogfish. These sites vary in depth and conditions, catering to both novice and experienced divers.

The key to spotting frogfish is to dive with a knowledgeable guide who can point out these master camouflagers hiding in plain sight. They’re often found perched on rocky outcroppings, nestled within coral, or even hiding among debris, perfectly mimicking their surroundings.

frogfish

Diving Tips for Spotting Frogfish

Go Slow: The secret to spotting frogfish is to move slowly and scan carefully. Their camouflage is so effective that they can be right in front of you without being noticed.

Look for Details: Pay attention to the small details. A slightly different texture or an out-of-place color can be the clue you need.

Dive with Local Experts: Local dive guides have an eagle eye for spotting wildlife, including frogfish. Their expertise can significantly increase your chances of an encounter.

Practice Buoyancy Control: Good buoyancy control is essential not just for safety and coral preservation but also for getting a closer look without disturbing these delicate creatures.

Be Patient: Patience is key. Frogfish aren’t known for their speed, and sometimes staying in one spot and observing can yield the best sightings.

Conservation and Respect

While the excitement of spotting a frogfish can be thrilling, it’s crucial to approach all marine life with respect and care. Maintain a safe distance, resist the urge to touch or provoke, and take only photos, leaving behind nothing but bubbles. Remember, the health of the reef and its inhabitants ensures future divers can enjoy these incredible encounters as much as you do.

Join the Adventure

Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is just one of the many underwater adventures that await in this biodiverse paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or taking your first plunge, the waters here offer an unparalleled experience filled with wonders at every turn. Beyond the thrill of the hunt for frogfish, you’ll be treated to a world teeming with incredible marine life, majestic rays, playful dolphins, and so much more.

So, gear up, dive in, and let the mysteries of Costa Rica’s underwater realm unfold before your eyes. With every dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re embarking on an adventure that highlights the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our marine ecosystems. And who knows? Your next dive might just be the one where you come face-to-face with the elusive and captivating frogfish. Join us at Rocket Frog Divers for the dive of a lifetime, where the marvels of the ocean are waiting to be discovered.

About the Author: Jonathan Rowe

Are you looking to make a splash online? As a seasoned diver and digital marketer, I specialize in crafting bespoke websites and innovative marketing strategies for dive shops worldwide. With my expertise, your business will not only be seen but also remembered.

From deep-sea to digital depths, I navigate the complex waters of web development and online marketing, ensuring your dive shop stands out in the vast ocean of the internet. Contact Scuba Dive Marketing for more information.

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Solo Travelling and Scuba Diving

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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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Experience the Red Sea in May with Bella Eriny Liveaboard! As the weather warms up, there’s no better time to dive into the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Join us on Bella Eriny, your premier choice for Red Sea liveaboards, this May for an unforgettable underwater adventure. Explore vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs Enjoy comfortable accommodation in our spacious cabins Savor delicious meals prepared by our onboard chef Benefit from the expertise of our professional dive guides Visit our website for more information and to secure your spot: www.scubatravel.com/BellaEriny or call 01483 411590 More Less

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