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Nick & Caroline meet Hesham Gabr – Founder of Camel Dive Club & Hotel

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Whilst on our recent trip to Sharm el Sheikh we got the chance to have lunch with Hesham Gabr, founder, owner and Managing Director at Camel Dive Club & Hotel. We chatted about the early days in Naama Bay, the success of Camel Dive Club, the current situation and his hopes for the future.

Hesham first came to Sharm el Sheikh in 1982, when he was just 22 years old. He had dropped out of his university course in Cairo after becoming disillusioned with life in the city, which was crowded, noisy & polluted. Instead, he dreamed of being one of the pioneers in developing the “unknown” Egypt – the Sinai Peninsula. He was lucky to have a friend with a geologist father, who travelled along the coast and had access to scuba diving equipment. Hesham’s first dive was done hanging onto his friends tank and buddy breathing from their only regulator – but he was hooked.

At first Hesham tried to buy a piece of land in Nuweiba, but this fell through. He returned to Sharm, donned a mask and snorkel to see what the reefs off Naama Bay had to offer, and decided to stay. At the time, there were only three, Israeli owned, dive centres in the region. He got a job filling tanks at one of them, working in exchange for learning to dive properly. In 1983, Hesham became a PADI diving instructor, and decided that he should also go back to university to finish his degree in Anthropology. He divided his time, using the midnight bus that ran from Sharm to Cairo, between his studies, and teaching his fellow students to dive.

In March 1986, Hesham Gabr successfully bought his plot of land in Naama Bay. His new diving centre was opened in December of that same year, but as the lawyers were finalising all the paperwork, they phoned Hesham to say that everything was in order apart from one thing – what was the name of this business going to be? Hesham had given no thought to this idea, and as he glanced out of the window, a lone camel wandered down the street past the new dive centre. That was it – “Call it Camel Dive Club,” and with that this historic scuba business was born.

In 1994 they started work on the hotel. The architects suggested knocking down the dive centre and building the new joint operation from scratch, but Hesham wanted to keep the centre and ordered them to build around the original site, so the stone walls you see today at the dive centre are still the originals. The hotel was finished in 1997. Now the Camel Dive Club and Hotel offers diving, hotel, food and, of course, the famous roof top bar where divers have always met to discuss their adventures over a cold beer.

The scuba diving business boomed in the 90s and continued to grow for another 20 years, seeing divers flocking here for the great diving, warm, all year round sunshine, clear blue waters and a vibrant social scene. However, with political changes and a terrible terrorist attack, numbers coming here have plummeted. If you look down the main streets, it is like a ghost town, but as we talked to Hesham about these troubled times, we were delighted to hear some optimism from him. Many divers are now returning, particularly with from mainland Europe as they are able to fly directly once again; they are returning to a destination they have always loved. Many have never stopped, with loyal Camel Dive Club customers finding a way to come visit throughout. But, flight capacities are limited and even when the UK finally does give Sharm airport the all clear, it will take some time for the travel companies to add flights onto their schedules. Hesham expects 2017 to be another tough year, but not quite as tough as the last two years. But, he has high hopes for 2018.

The positive news right now is that the dive sites are uncrowded, the reefs have been under less pressure and are, as a result, in spectacular health. In our next feature for Scubaverse we will talk about how you can get there right now, fully insured and with some great deals on offer.

www.cameldive.com

For more from Nick and Caroline, visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Competitions

WIN a Beuchat Air Light Bag!!!

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For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Beuchat to give away an Air Light Bag!

The Air Light Bag from Beuchat is a practical travel bag that takes up minimum storage space.

  • Material: 600 denier and 1,000 denier nylon/PVC
  • Soft roller bag, easily stored in its mesh bag
  • Internal retaining straps
  • Zip fastener with eyelets for padlocks
  • Side compartment for fins
  • Outer document pocket with coated zip and carry strap
  • Backpack style straps concealed behind the foam back-plate
  • Drainage vents
  • Red over-moulded wheels; detachable wheel block

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can read here), we reported that the Philippines have been recognised as the World’s Leading Dive Destination at the 27th World Travel Awards. In the article it states how many islands make up the Philippines… how many are there?

Is there:

  • A) 7,209
  • B) 7,532
  • C) 7,641

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Beuchat Air Light Bag December 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, or employees of Beuchat and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 13/01/21. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
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Gear News

Quick Scuba Tips #1: How To Prep A New Mask for Scuba Diving (Watch Video)

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How To Prep A New Mask for Scuba Diving. Can’t I just take my new mask diving straight out of the box? Well, actually, no. It needs a little work to make it dive ready.

In this, the first in our new scuba diving quick hints and tips series, I’m going to show you how to prepare a new mask for scuba diving with three quick techniques, all aimed at stopping your scuba mask from fogging.

Yes, this link is an affiliate link. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Dive safe, dive often!

James


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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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