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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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Wakatobi Offers World-Class Diving and Snorkelling

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wakatobi

Wakatobi Resort is known as one of the world’s premier diving and snorkelling destinations. Set on a small island in Indonesia’s Banda Sea, some 1000 km east of Bali, this landmark destination is surrounded by a private marine preserve that protects some of the world’s most pristine and bio-diverse coral reefs. Five-star guest reviews often mention the pristine condition of Wakatobi’s reefs, as well as the idyllic small-island setting, attentive service, ease of travel and gourmet dining experiences.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

Though remote, Wakatobi is easily reached by way of direct guest flights from Bali to the resort’s private airfield. Wakatobi’s concierge team assist with the details of international arrival, transfers and layovers. On arrival at the resort the staff takes care of everything, leaving guests free to relax and prepare for an afternoon dive or snorkel excursion.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

The Wakatobi preserve takes in more than 40 dive and snorkelling sites. The centerpiece of this protected area is the House Reef, which lies just offshore of the resort’s beach and stretches for more than a mile to either side of the resort. This expansive site includes seagrass meadows and patch reefs that are home to thousands of species of marine life, including unique finds such as pygmy seahorses and ghost pipefish. Some 73 meters from shore, the reef transitions from depths of 1 to 3 meters to deeper water in a series of precipitous slopes and walls.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

A fleet of 21-meter custom-built dive boats provide daily access to dive sites within the preserve. All boats feature  shaded seating, large deck-level bathrooms with freshwater showers and convenient mid-boat water entries. Many sites begin at depths of less than 3 meters and drop into deep water in a series of slopes and walls. This creates ideal conditions for long multi-level dive profiles, while also allowing snorkellers to enjoy the same sites as divers.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

Ashore, guests enjoy bespoke personal service and fine dining. Wakatobi is known for five-star guest experiences, with five staff members for each guest to ensure the highest level of individual attention. Bespoke indulgences include private beach dinners, dedicated personal guide services, spa services and private boat excursions.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

Many guests have described the dining experience at Wakatobi as a highlight of their vacation. Each day the resort chefs prepare a diverse range of culinary offerings that includes international and Indonesian favorites. The kitchen can also accommodate bespoke entrees and fulfill special dietary requirements or wishes.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

Resort accommodations include Bungalows set in a palm grove facing a white-sand beach and oceanfront Villas with sunset views of the reef. Buildings are hand-crafted in regional Indonesian style from sustainable local materials, and carefully sited to ensure both privacy and views. Though traditional in appearance, these spacious accommodations offer a full range of modern comforts, including air conditioning, private verandahs and details such as Asian-style outdoor showers.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

The resort’s latest property enhancement is the completion of the Turtle Beach Bungalows. Set amidst palms with ocean views across their namesake beach, these new accommodations are an enlarged version of the resort’s popular Ocean Bungalows. Turtle Beach is a quiet, scenic stretch of sand located at the southern end of the property, just a short stroll to the Longhouse, dive center, restaurant and dive boats.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

Wakatobi is a recognized as a global leader in private-funded conservation efforts. The resort supports one of the world’s largest privately funded marine preserves and is committed to programs that provide proactive environmental protection and social benefits to the local community.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

Vacationers who have the flexibility to visit Wakatobi in the months following the Christmas and New Year’s holiday find there are some added benefits to booking during this time. These months are known for comfortable mid-range water temperatures and good water clarity. During the first quarter of the year there is a greater chance of securing reservations for a desired week without necessarily having to book a year or more in advance. In addition, peak-season airfares of the holiday season often drop during the first months of the year.

wakatobi

Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

We encourage you to get in touch with a guest experience consultant and discover the opportunities to enjoy Wakatobi at any time of the year.

Contact Robert Parrington, Guest Experience Representative:
Email: robert.parrington@wakatobi.com / Call: +44 20 8393 8511

www.wakatobi.com

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Diving With… Nico, Ocean Earth Travels, Indonesia

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diving in Indonesia

In this ongoing series, we speak to the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer…

diving in IndonesiaWhat is your name?

Nicolas Roos

What is the name of your business?

Ocean Earth Travels

What is your role within the business?

Founder and CEO, but also trip leader and photographer / videographer for some of our expeditions.

diving in Indonesia

How long has the business operated for?

We opened the company in 2018 and started operating in 2019.

How long have you dived for, and what qualification are you?

First try dives when I was 12… then started diving seriously in my early 30s, first with CMAS, then decided to move the the recreational world and became PADI and SSI instructor in 2016.

What is your favourite type of diving?

It really depends on my mood and the location I am at. I love wreck diving and am more attracted towards big stuff. But I also enjoy  macro and muck diving, especially when in the right place and with the right local guides.

diving in Indonesia

If you could tell people one thing about your business (or maybe more!) to make them want to visit you what would it be?

We run trips all around Indonesia. The country has more than 17,000 islands and there is still a lot to explore. So any diver can find what they are looking for. We create unique trips for our guests, depending on their wishes, their level of diving and also their personality. Aside from diving, we also invite our guests to discover the wonders that Indonesia has to offer on land and its very rich culture.

What is your favourite dive in your location and why?

Amed, in Bali, has a special place in my heart. It is a fishermen village with chill vibes. The area offers amazing diving all year long and most dive sites are accessible from the shore. So if I feel like it, I can just call a buddy, grab a tank and my equipment and go diving there whenever I want and go explore a wreck, a deep wall, or spend hours looking for critters . For me, the Amed and Tulamben area is the best value for money you can get in the world.

Another special location is the Banda Sea. Banda Sea crossing trips happen twice a yeasr (around April and October) and are always amazing, with sightings hammerhead sharks and many more amazing encounters.

diving in Indonesia

What types of diving are available in your location?

We are in the heart of the coral triangle and the biodiversity here is truly amazing. From Komodo’s ripping currents to muck diving, Indonesia has it all.

We organize dive safaris between different locations and we also work with many liveaboards, which are the best to explore an area.

What do you find most rewarding about your current role?

I love sharing my passion for the ocean and for the Indonesian culture. The most rewarding thing is the smile on our guests’ faces and when they tell us that they will come back to visit us on another trip.

Just last month, a 71 years old diver from France told me that she most probably did her last dives with us… We just spent an amazing day in Nusa Penida island and saw manta rays and mola molas, so I was wondering why. She told me that coming here and doing these amazing dives with her 2 sons was an achievement for her, and she felt that her job was done… A truly heart-warming exchange.

What is your favorite underwater creature?

If I have to name one, I would say the octopus. Truly amazing creatures, and they come in many shapes and sizes!

diving in Indonesia

As a center what is the biggest problem you face at the moment?

We are based in Indonesia… we are literally sitting between 2 major tectonic plates and surrounded by volcanos… so we have to be aware of the risks of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions which could put a halt in our operations.

Is your center involved in any environmental work?

We are working with NGOs and dive centers doing conservation work. We encourage our guests to learn more about coral reef restoration, and to take part in some actions when possible (coral farming, beach cleanups, survey dives).

Our focus is on education and on supporting operators and NGOs having a positive impact on the environment.

Are there any exciting changes / developments coming up in the near future?

Always! After this high season, we will be exploring some lesser known islands around the country and working with our partners to explore new dive sites in order to take our guests there.

diving in Indonesia

Finally, what would you say to our visitors to promote the diving you have to offer?

We design trips for groups and individuals of all levels. Get in touch with us, let’s have a chat and we will create together a diving adventure that suits you and your budget. We will also advise you and organise visits on land to discover Indonesia’s breath-taking nature, wildlife and meet its amazing people.

Where can our visitors find out more about your business? 

Visit our website www.oceanearthtravels.com, follow us on Instagram @oceanearth.travels and get in touch with us.

My personal Instagram can be found here.

We will be happy to advise you on the best destinations and time to visit depending on your wishes. Talk to you soon!

WhatsApp: +62 819 136 11 770

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