If racking up as many dives as possible is on your travel wishlist, you can’t cram in much more than going on a liveaboard.
Our latest dive trip to the south of the Red Sea marked our third liveaboard holiday (if you’re new to the term, it means you live aboard the boat, spending days at sea, exploring the best dive sites and sometimes reaching reefs and wrecks that day boats can’t easily access).
Your first experience of it may be getting used to being in close confines with 20 strangers for a week, but as this was our third liveaboard, we embraced the dive, eat, sleep, repeat routine. That is all you do. Bliss. Well, it is if you love diving. If you’ve come to appease your other half and only want to do the odd dive, bring a well-stocked Kindle and don’t work out how much each dive is costing you.
A liveaboard is the only time you’ll get me out of bed at 6am on holiday every day. Sometimes 5.30am. I’m really not a morning person and when I first got into diving, I recall being a very grumpy mare with my boyfriend when he set the alarm for 4:30am to dive the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea. But it was my birthdaaaaay.
I’ve come a long way and even got a knowing wink from the other half when I said as much. I don’t moan about getting up anymore – but that’s helped by the Blue O Two cabin crew, who wake you up with a cup of tea. That’s the selling point, folks. Forget the pictures of pelagics, this should be in bold font all over the website – “The crew bring you a brewwwww!”
And getting up with the sunrise was well worth it this trip – I can honestly say this is the best dive trip I’ve ever been on. But that might be because I saw this fella at St. John’s…
Seeing a Manta Ray was on my bucket list. And it was as breathtaking and mind-blowing as you could imagine: my mask may have got a bit watery when I saw this beautiful creature, flying towards us like an underwater bird.
He was as playful as I’ve heard mantas are, circling around us and barrel-rolling, enjoying the feeling of our bubbles tickling his belly. Swimming right above my head, he was close enough for me to see the spots that uniquely mark every single Manta. I looked right into his eye as he swam past and wondered what he made of us lot. The only snag was that Mr. Adventure Girl (hee) got a cold and missed this dive, no! Oh, and some turdburger touched the Manta, prompting it to swim off. Livid.
Check out the magic manta as it happened…
And it didn’t end there, we were treated to hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks, white tip reef sharks, dolphins, hawksbill turtles and all the wonders of the Red Sea fish I’ve come to know and love. I’ve never seen so many of the higher trophic fish levels before, or ‘the big stuff’. So unusual is it for us to spot the big guys, that I usually had my eyes trained on a little nook in some hard coral, scouring for tiny crabs in pocillopora, when I’d feel a frantic tug on my fins to look into the blue.
This was the farthest south we’d ever ventured in the Red Sea and we’ll definitely be doing the Deep South itinerary again. The Blue O Two schedule covers St. John’s and Fury Shoals, balancing offshore reefs with magical swimthroughs and pinnacles. Check out the way that light streamed through the fissures in the reef to create an ethereal experience.
A huge selling point for me was that our dive guide, Elke, was extremely knowledgable and gave the most detailed dive briefs I’ve seen. It helped that she’s a marine biologist and so is an expert in the underwater environment. Plus, she records data on sharks for her conservation charity redseasharks.org, meaning that everyone can do some good on the trip, by sharing photos of sharks they see on their dives.
We were also fortunate to experience little to no current throughout the week, meaning that we actually slept during the overnight boat journeys. This itinerary covers a lot of distance, so there isn’t much moored-up sleeping. Of course it also meant that the diving was pretty gentle; no head-down finning and air guzzling.
Right, so it was an amazing week and one I want to do again. And again! But it’s important you’re prepared for the trek to get to this liveaboard. The boats depart from Port Ghalib, so you’d look at the map and see that Marsa Alam airport is the obvious choice, as it’s just minutes away.
But oh no, flights from the UK to Marsa Alam only operate on Wednesdays and the boat changes over on Fridays. So, you fly to Hurghada and then take a three-hour transfer bus down to Port Ghalib. And if you’ve been to Egypt before, you’ll know that you’ve got a good hour of faffing with visas and getting through passport control. Now, I’ll fess up here and reveal that we decided to go at Easter – no we’re not teachers, we’re just a pair of plums who didn’t check school holidays. So it was particularly manic, but still, from get-up at Gatwick Premier Inn to arrival at the boat took 17 hours.
We’ve figured a way round it for the next Deep South trip – fly out on the Wednesday, have a couple of nights in a hotel and get on the boat rested and ready for that 6am brew alarm.