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Regaldive Trip Report: Sudan Liveaboard

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Nigel Cass from Regaldive recently enjoyed an exciting Sudan liveaboard trip aboard Royal Evolution. Here is Nigel’s trip report sharing some of the many highlights from what sounds like a simply fabulous trip…

I had wanted to do this trip for years, but the timing was never quite right. Therefore when my partner and I finally booked our 14-night trip, the prospect of diving unchartered or rarely dived sites in Sudan, finally seeing hammerhead sharks, visiting the wreck of the Umbria, Cousteau’s Conshelf II underwater project and Sanganeb lighthouse kept me in daydreams for months.

The day finally arrived and we set off early (very early!) from our home in Derby to Gatwick. Never a pleasant journey, but we gritted our teeth and kept all thoughts positive with talk of the impending trip.

Following an uneventful flight to Marsa Alam airport we were transferred to Marina Lodge, where we would spend our first night before boarding the mighty Royal Evolution the following evening. During the evening we met up with some other Brits who had flown in on the same flight and shared a few beers and some banter about everyone’s salty diving tales.

Photo: Caroline Albrecht

The following day was spent mooching around Port Ghalib, just passing the time until we would be collected by the Royal Evolution team and transferred to the boat.

Boarding the boat was a little more complicated than the usual liveaboard process on account of the boat leaving Egyptian waters. Therefore, guests couldn’t initially put anything in their cabins, as we needed to take everything through the customs office at the port and have our passports stamped. Because of the speed that officialdom moves in certain parts of the world there was a lot of hanging around while we waited until the Customs Officials arrived and were ready to process our departures. The waiting time was spent by chatting to the other guests and Dive Guides, and finalising the admin for the trip, including paying for the Sudanese visa and fuel supplement.

The Officials finally arrived and 24 tired guests marched single file to the customs office and took it in turns to push their luggage through the detectors, have their passport stamped and then drag it all back to the boat. Where, at last we could unpack, set up our dive gear and look forward to the trip ahead…

Apart from a handful of Brits, the guests came from Europe, the US and Russia; all with a good level of diving ability and experience.

The first day we moored at St Johns (still in Egyptian waters) and split into three groups (one group per Dive Guide) and did two checkout dives. It wasn’t Sudan yet, but at least we were all diving, and it gave us a chance to make any last minute adjustments to our setups and get the measure of the other divers in our group.

Two dives down and it was time to leave Egyptian waters and head for Sudan. Because of the distance involved, it meant sailing for the rest of the day and overnight, before passing into Sudanese waters early the following morning.

Photo: Caroline Albrecht

I remember waking up the following day and heading up to the top deck to see what Sudan looked like. A beautiful day greeted me with a stunning view of crystal clear waters with the occasional reef kissing the surface.

We soon passed a larger reef with some small fishing boats nearby and the rusting hulk of a ship that had inadvertently sailed too close. There was plenty of talk amongst us all about finally being in Sudanese waters and what to expect from the trip. Next stop was Port Sudan for more Customs admin before the trip really started…

My expectations and the reality of Port Sudan couldn’t have been further apart. I expected a shack office, a few boats moored up and a couple of Officials with guns. The reality is that Port Sudan can be seen from miles away, looming in the distance, with supply roads and infrastructure running along the coastline long before we arrived at the port.

Before the boat finally moored up in the area reserved for smaller marine vessels, we passed huge dry docks, cranes, container ships, a power plant and warehouses stretching our as far as the eye can see.

Photo: Caroline Albrecht

Finally mooring up, we waited for the Sudanese Officials to board the boat and stamp our passports. The boat refuelled and we all took the opportunity to take photos from the boat (we are not allowed on land) and watch as the life of Port Sudan passed by. We saw a modern infrastructure, brand new buildings and roads, modern cars and locals watching us with the same level of curiosity and fascination as we were watching them.

Once the boat was fully fuelled and all passports were stamped it was time to kit up for our first dive in Sudan: the wreck of the Umbria, lying just outside Port Sudan.

The Umbria was a WWII Italian transport vessel that was scuppered at the outset of the war by the Captain in order to prevent its cargo from falling into Allied hands. Despite the natural deterioration of the ship and its cargo, it is relatively intact, unlike the Thistlegorm which has fallen victim to far too many divers visiting it down the years.

In the holds divers can see piles of bullets, shells, bomb-making equipment, hundreds of wine bottles (sadly all empty!) and even three Fiat cars. We did two dives on the Umbria, one in the afternoon and a particularly memorable one at dusk that gave the boat a spectacular ghostly silhouette in the gloom.

Photo: Caroline Albrecht

Excitement onboard was high as we all discussed our experience of the wreck, shared photos and looked forward to the next 11 days diving in Sudan…

There would be far more diving adventures over the next 11 days, and it would take just as long in describing how simply astonishing the dives were. However, to give you a flavour of how stunning the diving in Sudan is, here are some of my highlights:

My first experience of seeing a hammerhead shark was a huge let down. I had dreamed of diving with hammerhead sharks for years, and when the moment finally came it was a solitary shark. Sure, I was excited, but I felt short changed. Where were the schools that I had dreamed about? On the following dive my question was answered: we hit 30m, came off the reef and looked out into the blue. The Dive Guide started signalling hammerheads and we were joined by a huge school of hammerhead sharks: above us, below us, in the distance, right next to us: they were everywhere. We were all trying to look in every direction at once. When we got back on board my partner said it had been raining hammerhead sharks. We all knew what she meant. We dived with huge schools of hammerheads on many other occasions during the trip, and never got tired of it. Surely it’s impossible to tire of diving with huge schools of hammerheads?

Photo: Caroline Albrecht

At the end of an afternoon dive we were joined at the back of the boat by a dozen silky sharks. These inquisitive sharks kept swimming off and then back again, checking the divers out. Even more surreal was the night dive at the same site: a bit spooky as the silkies appeared out of the darkness as the torch beam hit them.

The self-obsessed turtle that swam right up to a diver’s camera as he was filming her. Whichever way he turned she turned with him, making sure that she could still see her reflection in the camera lens.

A night dive on Conshelf II – the underwater structures built by Jacques Cousteau in order to test how living under pressure affects humans. Diving around SCUBA history felt like we were diving in the footsteps (finsteps? finkicks?) of giants.

Visiting the massive lighthouse at Sanganeb that dominates the skyline for miles. It’s quite an ascent to the top, but the views were stunning and well worth the effort. The colours of the reef were breathtaking.

Photo: Caroline Albrecht

At this point I should give an honourable mention and huge thanks to the Dive Guides and Crew: all of whom went beyond the call of duty to make the trip a memorable one. Their knowledge, attention to detail, sense of fun, level of service, and kindness created the mood on the boat which we all benefited from as divers and guests.

The food was delicious and plentiful, with three main meals each day, plus tasty snacks waiting for us when we returned from the mid-afternoon dive. A bottle of red wine was provided for each table for the evening meal, with some of us (ahem!) benefitting from our neighbours not liking red wine. I’m not a huge fan, but was happy to compromise…

A delicious last night meal and celebrations were followed by the trip video: Roberto – one of the Dive Guides and resident videographer  – took turns to dive with each of the three groups during the trip and compiled footage for each group to take home (supplements apply). So we all gathered together in the lounge to watch each group’s movie and share in the banter of some of the funnier moments.

Photo: Caroline Albrecht

It all finished far too soon back at Port Ghalib the following morning, when we passed through Egyptian customs once more, before returning to our hotel for the day to relax and buy some souvenirs, before flying out that evening.

There was so much more that happened, so much more to tell, but if you really want to find out more about Royal Evolution and Sudan do give Nigel a call, or better still book a trip to go yourself. What are you waiting for?

Nigel enjoyed a liveaboard trip aboard Royal Evolution, a 39m vessel designed by divers, for divers. Royal Evolution was the first boat with permission to operate this itinerary to Sudan departing from Egypt. An extremely stable vessel, Royal Evolution is well equipped for the distance.

This high level of comfort, combined with access to the best that the Red Sea has to offer, makes this a compelling choice for divers. Royal Evolution offers roomy sun decks with plenty of space and choice of seating for relaxing, in or out of the sun. 

To find out more, call the Regaldive team on 01353 659999 or visit Royal Evolution.

Nigel, a Sales & Product Executive for UK-based tour operator Regaldive, is currently a BSAC Dive Leader and working towards his Advanced certification. Nigel started diving in 2002 when he was at a loose end on holiday in Magaluf. He never looked back and now enjoys diving both abroad and in the UK, where he is an active member of his local BSAC club. Regaldive has been organising diving holidays since 1988 and offers liveaboards and resort-based holidays in 25+ worldwide destinations. Find out more about www.regal-diving.co.uk.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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WIN an XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask!!!

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Yes, XDEEP have now officially called their excellent frameless mask the ‘Radical’, and in this week’s competition, we’ve got another one to give away!

The XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask is a large single lens dive mask with a soft silicone skirt and traditional strap. The frameless design brings the lens closer to your face so you get a wider FOV and less internal volume that you have to equalise and clear. The larger nose pocket makes the mask more comfortable and easier to equalise, even with thick gloves.

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 find here), we reported that you can join Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world. But when can you join Reef-Word’s Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020?

Is it:

  • A) 3pm BST on Friday 23rd October 2020
  • B) 3pm BST on Saturday 24th October 2020
  • C) 3pm BST on Sunday 25th October 2020

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

Nautilus Diving XDEEP Frameless Mask October 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, employees of Nautilus Diving and their families, or XDEEP 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 02/11/20. 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.

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