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Big Blue savings… book up now for 2022/23 Red Sea liveaboard adventures

Red Sea DTA Team

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The Scuba Place, the UK’s exclusive Travel Agent for MV Big Blue, are delighted to announce its post-Covid relaunch with huge savings for 2022 and 2023.

Having been completed in early 2020, immediately before the global lockdown, the British owned and operated Big Blue was launched in Egypt’s Red Sea as Covid decimated the dive travel industry. With Egypt now firmly placed on the ‘Rest of The World’ list, and with the all clear given from the FCDO, travel is now GO GO GO!

Big Blue – she is BIG! At 42m length, she is one of the largest vessels offering Red Sea safaris there is, but space doesn’t mean hundreds of divers! Built by divers for divers, she sleeps a maximum of 24 people in 12 large, air-conditioned cabins. No more squeezing past your room buddy or banging knees as you squeeze into the bathroom sideways!

There are also accessible cabins on the main deck, with doors in and out that are wide enough (and level enough) for wheelchair access.

Then there are the deck areas – the dive deck itself being deliberately over-size, a huge kitting up area that can accommodate twin-set and rebreather divers, camera tables, rinse tanks – all designed for maximum space. For the sun-lovers and for between dives, the other decks are super-spacious too – no jacuzzi taking up unnecessary space, but comfortable loungers, bean bags and cushioned seating, both under cover and in the sun.

The boat is important to all liveaboard divers – there is nothing worse than being crammed into dated, damp and tiny cabins with dodgy blankets and leaking air-conditioning units. Big Blue fixes these issues, but there is then the question of food. As Big Blue is British built and owned, expect quality food, ample quantity, and lots of snacks available between dives too. All soft drinks are provided, including on-demand tea, coffee, juices and sodas. The bar? An important part of any trip, it offers a selection of local and well-known beers and wines at very sensible prices – if you want the hard stuff, bring your own from Duty Free and let us know in advance what mixers you want – they will be provided!

The most important part of a liveaboard trip is of course the diving. Operated by Pharaoh Dive Clubs, owned by the 30+ year experienced Steve and Clare Rattle, you need to expect the totally open and flexible approach to diving. No rigid itineraries, no dictated dive times, no forced guiding – wherever possible, Big Blue operates a ‘Pool is open’ approach – grab your buddy, tell the deck manager, and dive!

The itineraries offered are special too – there is always a plan but the plan is flexible, based not only on the Captain’s decisions and the weather as per normal, but based on you, the diver! Staying on the Thistlegorm for an extra day, following dolphins, sharks or whalesharks in the South for example – everything, within reason and consensus of course, is an option. And there is normally something different offered to other vessels too on each trip – add in Ras Mohammed and Tiran on a Northern safari, dive the Thor Guardian Support vessel at Tiran, or add in a visit to the Salem Express if you are on one of the Southern itineraries – or, specify your own custom-itinerary, and we will build it!

Nitrox is of course included and 15l, extra tanks for sidemount, twinset and even support for rebreather and tech divers can be provided.

Available for part and full charters, and with some sailings for individuals, Big Blue will set the standards for liveaboard diving in the Red Sea. To celebrate the ‘post Covid relaunch’, the team are keeping full charter prices at 2020 levels all the way through to 2023, subject to bookings being made by the 1st December 2021. A sensible deposit secures your charter, so grab your Club or build your own gang of buddies, or even join on of The Scuba Places’ hosted trips – but do it soon!

As a guide, prices start from Just £695 (plus flights) per person in Low Season, including Port Fees, Marine Park Fees, Government Reef Protection fees and Nitrox, based on a full charter for Northern Wrecks itinerary, rising to £925 for a Deep South itinerary, again including all fees and in High Season. Book after the 1st December, and prices will have increased by at least 10%.

See The Scuba Place website for itineraries, or their e-brochure – or even better, just get in touch with the team at The Scuba Place (0203 515 9955 or john@thescubaplace.co.uk) and get planning your trip! They will build your trip to include flights if required, and offer full ATOL Protection.

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Book now for Underwater Video Workshop at Marsa Shagra this November

Red Sea DTA Team

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Improve your underwater video skills while meeting new dive buddies and enjoying a relaxed week of world class diving at this Underwater Video Workshop in Marsa Shagra Village, Egypt from November 19th – 26th 2022.

After the huge success they had with their first live and on location Underwater Video Workshop in Bonaire earlier this year (see what the participants said about the workshop in Bonaire), Matthias Lebo and Sebastian Kuntz from the Underwater Filmmaking School spontaneously decided to host another Underwater Video Workshop, this time in the beautiful Red Sea.

A maximum of 10 participants will be able to enjoy 7 nights at Marsa Shagra Village near Marsa Alam with 5 days of unlimited house reef diving, some trips to the famous Elphinstone Reef, Marsa Abu Dabab and the Dolphin House, all while working on their underwater videography skills.

The Underwater Video Workshop includes:

  • IN WATER COACHING:

Matthias & Sebastian will be actively coaching before, while and after diving with the group, sharing their knowledge, giving tips and helping with any underwater videography related questions that may come up during the workshop.

  • EVENING SESSIONS:

The evenings will be used either to learn about specific underwater videography topics or to review your footage taken during the day. Mini-challenges will help put in action what you learn during those evening session.

  • EQUIPMENT TESTING:

You will have the possibility to test out different underwater camera gear that they will bring with them and will be available to you on location throughout the workshop.

Workshop cost:

EUR 1950.- per person (double occupancy – twin or double)

EUR 2600.- per person (single occupancy)

Included in the workshop cost:

  • 7 nights accommodation for double occupancy 
    (Add 650€ for single occupancy)
  • full-board including normal soft drinks, water, coffee & tea
  • Transfer from/to Marsa Alam Airport 
    (Add 52€ per person for Hurghada Airport)
  • 5 days unlimited house reef diving
  • 2 speedboat trips to Elphinstone (single tank)
  • 1 trip to Marsa Abu Dabab (two tank)
  • Possibility for personal coaching through Matthias & Sebastian during all diving days
  • Possibility to try out different underwater camera gear
  • Daily presentations/mini-challenges/footage reviews
  • Fun filled week with like minded divers
  • Exclusive Workshop Welcome Bag (EWWB)

NOT Included in the trip costs:

  • All flights
  • Any required visas for travel to and within Egypt
  • All beverages (besides coffee, tea, water and normal softdrinks)
  • Travel and Dive Insurance (strongly recommended)
  • Rental Equipment (if needed)
  • 32% NITROX (2€/tank)
  • 15L tanks (3€/tank)
  • Privat 1:1 sessions with Matthias or Sebastian
  • Additional dive trips
  • Personal expenses
  • Gratitudes/tips for the hotel and dive center staff

The workshop is suitable for every experience level, from beginner all the way to experienced underwater videographers.

For more information visit https://www.matthiaslebo.com/live-workshops/ or send an e-mail to bookings@matthiaslebo.com.

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6 Best places to go diving in Saudi Arabia

Scuba Schools International (SSI)

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Saudi Arabia is a land of contrasts, rich in ancient history and dazzling cities with dramatic desert scenery throughout. It is one of the least-dived areas of the Red Sea and offers incredible diving among untouched reefs full of life. There are shallow reefs swathed in soft corals, deep walls and challenging wrecks to discover there. Boasting a wealth of reef and pelagic marine life, plus abundant sharks and mantas, Saudi Arabia needs to be on your diving wish list. Read on for our pick of the best places to go diving in Saudi Arabia before the rest of the world discovers this hidden gem.

Diving in Makkah

The Mecca Province, also known as the Makkah Province, is home to Mecca and the main port city of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah. This historically-rich area offers spectacular Red Sea marine life and is home to some of the best diving in all of Saudi Arabia. This is where most of the cities that offer scuba diving in Saudi Arabia are found.

  1. Jeddah

The coastal town of Jeddah is Saudi Arabia’s best-known dive destination and offers fantastic wreck diving for all experience levels. As well as hosting famous wrecks, Jeddah has thriving reefs busy with vibrant Red Sea marine life.

There you will find the Ann Ann wreck, the biggest wreck in Jeddah. She sunk in 1977 and is a staggering sight, covered in soft corals. This is a challenging dive, but with the right conditions, you can start at the stern at 32 meters deep and work your way up to 5 meters at the bow.

The Boiler wreck is another one of Jeddah’s top dives, offering deep reef and wreck diving from 45 meters deep up to 15 meters. As well as the wreck itself, there are caves, a tunnel, and a reef wall covered in black, pink and bright red corals. On any given day, you have the chance to see sharks, manta rays, and large pelagic fish at this remarkable dive site.

These are just two of the many highlights of diving in Jeddah. You can go diving from shore at Jeddah’s luxurious resorts or explore further afield by day-boat diving. With a range of dive centers to choose from, Jeddah is an excellent place to get a scuba certification and experience some of the best Red Sea diving there is.

  1. Farasan Banks, Al Lith

Al Lith, one of the largest seaports in Saudi Arabia, sits just south of Jeddah and is the gateway to one of Saudi Arabia’s best-loved dive spots; the Farasan Banks at Jabal Al-Lith Island.

Jabal Al-Lith Island is stunning; swathed in white-and beaches and surrounded by mangroves and thriving coral reefs full of marine life. This little island is fast-gaining the attention of tourists and is an unmissable dive spot.

At the Farasan Banks, you can enjoy diving in the light-filled shallows or explore the depths, which plummet down to 500 meters. It’s an excellent destination for novice divers and experienced technical divers alike.

The Banks are well-known for their diverse marine life and boast diverse corals, a mixture of Red Sea reef and pelagic fish, plus numerous sharks. White-tip reef sharks, grey reef, silky, and hammerhead sharks can all be found there.

  1. Five Sisters, Rabigh

Another great city for diving, Rabigh sits between Jeddah and Yanbu and offers excellent coral reef diving. It is most famous for hosting the Five Sisters Reef: a series of five coral atolls just offshore from Rabigh.

The Five Sisters Reef is Rabigh’s most popular dive area and offers outstanding diving. This area is completely untouched, and each atoll has different underwater landscapes, including steep walls, plateaus, columns, and anemone beds. The dive sites are teeming with a wealth of reef life and are covered in corals. Added to that, schools of pelagic fish, hammerheads and mantas are often seen in the blue.

Diving in Madinah

The Madinah Region hosts another of Saudi Arabia’s top dive areas, Yanbu. This ancient port city north of Jeddah dates back to around 500BC and was an important rest stop for traders navigating one of the world’s oldest trade routes, the Incense Route.

Today, Yanbu is a major port and fast-growing tourist destination, surrounded by azure waters, gorgeous beaches, and untouched reefs. With access to areas such as the Seven Sisters Reef, Yanbu truly deserves its nickname ‘the Pearl of the Red Sea’.

  1. Seven Sisters. Yanbu

Seven Sisters Reef is known for one thing – hammerhead sharks. This reef hosts these unmistakable sharks almost year-round and offers excellent reef diving as well. There are beautiful shallow coral landscapes to explore, plus plunging walls patrolled by schools of barracuda and snapper.

  1. Abu Galawa, Yanbu

Abu Galawa is part of the Seven Sisters Reef and is an underwater world covered in corals and visited by numerous sharks, including hammerheads. It is one of the most rewarding dives of the Seven Sisters Reef system.

Diving in Tabuk

  1. Tabuk

Tabuk Province is less well-known for diving than other areas of Saudi Arabia, yet it boasts the longest stretch of Red Sea coastline in all of Saudi Arabia. It is home to the Red Sea Project and NEOM, two impressive coastal development projects that will put Tabuk firmly on the map of enviable places to go diving in the Red Sea.

Go diving in Tabuk before the rest of the world discovers this dive area. You will be rewarded with crystal-clear, warm waters and pristine coral reefs few people have ever dived. If you like exploratory diving, Tabuk could be the place for you.

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Kathryn Curzon, a conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.

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