In this ongoing series, we speak with the people who run dive centres, resorts and liveaboards from around the world about their businesses and the diving they have to offer
What is your name?
Suzanne Pugh, no I really don’t have a middle name.
What centre are you involved with?
I run www.FreediveEgypt.com and mainly teach out of Aquarius Dive Centre at the Marriot in Hurghada as it has a quiet pool for training and boats going out to the reef every day. I also teach in Makadi Bay with I-Dive when we have AIDA 3* courses and need 20-30m as it is easier to go from the beach. For deeper training we go to Sharm el Naga as there is a buoy at 40+ metres and speed boat safety from the beach; it can get a bit choppy depending on the wind.
How long have you dived for and what qualification are you?
I learnt to scuba dive in Bristol in 1994 but hated taking my mask off so was unable to qualify in Stoney Cove and had to make my qualifying dives in Antigua. Really no comparison! I moved to Hurghada on Friday the 13th of October 2000 to do my Dive master, AI and Instructor course with Emperor Divers at the Hilton Hotel. My idea was to stay for maybe six months and get some diving experience. I was given the amazing opportunity to work as a Rep for Regaldive, which meant all my guests were divers so I could go on the boat every day and dive too.
I took my first freedive training in 2001 and competed in Hawaii in 2002 on the UK Freedive Team. I became an AIDA Freediving instructor in 2003 but didn’t really start teaching freediving until 2006 when I gave up the day job.
What is your favourite type of diving?
Freediving is my favourite type of diving especially with dolphins and the amazing marine life we have here in the Red Sea. I enjoy the freedom that freediving gives me to move around in the water without worrying about deco stops or how much air is left in the tank.
What is your role within www.FreediveEgypt.com ?
I am the main Instructor teaching AIDA courses. I am also a SSI Freediving Instructor and PADI scuba diving instructor but now only scuba dive for fun.
What was your most memorable dive in Egypt and why?
I have had amazing dives with a whale shark, hammerheads and thresher sharks in the south of Egypt. My most memorable freedive though was at Dolphin House reef just outside Hurghada. I had a face to face with a dolphin scanning me up and down for what seemed like five minutes. I had never had that experience before or since. I was pregnant at the time but didn’t know it, so guess that was why.
What types of diving are available in this area?
All kinds of diving are available in the Red Sea, beautiful reef dives with bright corals and hundreds of fish swimming all around you. Beginners can have a try dive in the shallow waters next to the reef. There are wreck dives at Abu Nuhas with part of the mast sticking out of the water, which makes them accessible to snorkelers, freedivers and scuba divers. There is also the famous SS Thistlegorm, which is usually dived from a liveabord boat. Technical divers enjoy the drop off at Umm Gamar and Abu Ramada. The Red Sea has it all.
What do you find most rewarding about your current role?
I love seeing people go out of their comfort zone and realising they can do something they didn’t think they could. Maybe it’s a two minute breath hold or diving to 20 metres depth or even just being able to dive in the sea and not be scared. I am also a yoga teacher and I love helping people get into the zone by stretching all their muscles and releasing tension they didn’t even know they had. Teaching people to relax in the water and explore themselves and the amazing underwater environment of the Red Sea is such a gift that I am honoured to have.
What is your favourite underwater creature?
The octopus has got to be my favourite as I don’t see them very often and when I do it is always a game of now you see him, now you don’t. Take your head out of the water to say to your buddy ‘wow look there is an octopus down there’ and look back and not being able to see him anymore until he moves again. They are amazing creatures, changing to the environment they are in and just fitting into the smallest of spaces.
If you could tell people one thing about the Red Sea to make them want to visit you what would it be?
The Red Sea is one of the most beautiful places in the world with a vast array of corals and marine life. We have the chance to dive with wild dolphins, turtles, moray eels and Nemo! The water is warm and has visibility of 20m+ most of the time and it’s only a short flight away from Europe.
New Red Sea Aggressor IV to explore Southern Egyptian Red Sea
Aggressor Adventures® introduces new Red Sea liveaboard in March 2023
On March 4, 2023, the new Red Sea Aggressor IV® dive yacht will cast off from Port Ghalib, Egypt for the liveaboard’s seven-day maiden voyage exploring the magnificent dive sites of St. John’s Reef, Marsa Shoana, Sataya Reef and Daedalus Reef.
Up to 26 guests will cruise the southern Red Sea aboard the 143-foot/44-meter liveaboard, which features the ultimate personal amenities including 13 spacious staterooms, a restaurant serving chef-prepared meals, state-of-the-art dive center with Nitrox fills, multiple open-air lounges with wet bars, two hot tubs and a fly bridge for enjoying memorable sunsets. All scuba dives are safely conducted from three, 21-foot/6.4-meter dive tenders.
The yacht’s St. Johns route is just one of three thrilling, southern Egypt itineraries explorers may choose. The second dive program, Brothers-Daedalus-Elphinstone, begins at the shark-filled waters of the two Brothers Islands, then moves to the Daedalus Reef. The week culminates with stops at Elphinstone and Sha’ab Maksour with its pristine hard coral gardens.
The third Red Sea Aggressor IV® itinerary ventures even farther south beyond Ras Banas. The Deep South dive schedule makes stops at Fury Shoal and Habili Orman before reaching its destination—the remotes sites of Habili Aly, Habili Gaffar and Dangerous Reef. All three itineraries provide guests underwater pelagic encounters with sharks, manta rays and friendly dolphins, and up-close views of the Red Sea’s trademark brilliantly colored soft corals.
“The southern Egyptian Red Sea is a very special place to the Aggressor Adventures® family. It has been an Aggressor destination since 2014 and we are so excited to welcome the new Red Sea Aggressor IV® into our fleet,” says Wayne Brown, CEO of Aggressor Adventures. “It’s a spectacular yacht operated by a five-star staff.”
Saturday-to-Saturday from the Port Ghalib, Egypt yacht marina, Red Sea Aggressor IV® adventures start at $2,699.00 per person and include scuba diving, snorkeling, deluxe onboard accommodations, scrumptious meals, snacks, soft beverages, beer, wine and service from a professional staff.
For more, visit www.aggressor.com
Into the Blue: Part Two
By now, you will have hopefully read the first blog from my recent trip to the Red Sea with The Scuba Place on M/Y Big Blue. If you haven’t, you can find the link to the blog here.
I’ve been diving since 2011, although I didn’t get really serious about diving until 2013. In the November of that year I joined Scuba School on a trip to Sharm El Sheikh to complete my Advanced Open Water course. That was the first time I heard about the famous SS Thistlegorm and its cult status in the wreck diving world. Unfortunately, as I, along with a lot of the group were novice divers, and so we were unable to dive it on that 2013 trip, along with a lot of the other famous wrecks from the North. Little did I know, I wouldn’t return to the Northern Red Sea until this trip in September 2022 with The Scuba Place. The wrecks remained mysterious all those years but I was soon getting the full experience. After the first two and a half days exploring the amazing reefs, it was time to break my Thistlegorm virginity and get the true “lust for rust” experience of the Northern itinerary.
As we moored up at the SS Thistlegorm for the afternoon dive, I got a strange sense of anticipation run through my body. More so than at any other specific dive site. Strange really, as I don’t normally get excited about wreck diving, but here was a site that I’d heard so much about but was still so mysterious. I’d always thought it was a difficult dive and had a slight fear of it, as I wasn’t allowed to do it all those years back. Then, after watching a 20 minute film explaining the story of the wreck and listening to the stories of survivors,. I knew it was a site that demanded respect. As Mo went through the dive briefing, I quickly realised it seemed a lot more simple than I had in mind. I then became more excited than fearful as me and my dive buddy went through our plan.
There was an eerie feeling as we submerged below the gentle swell. The visibility was a lot more milky compared to the clear blue I was used to in the Red Sea. However, the wreck soon came into view as we dropped down the shot line. The first thing that struck me and in my opinion just made the wreck extra special, was the life on it.
Instantly, crocodile fish and scorpion fish were spotted resting on the wreck, as we made our way to the anti-aircraft gun on the stern. I made a quick visit to take some photos before we turned back and penetrated the wreck for the first time. A surreal experience but the numerous glassfish and lionfish at the entry point kept me entertained before seeing the remnants of yesteryear. The different vehicles that still keep their place in the decks are the main highlight, but it was the boots that struck a chord with me: signs of the human lives that were present on the fateful day the bomb hit. I got a real buzz from my first time on the Thistlegorm, with a school of batfish greeting us on our safety stop finishing off the adventure. John and I ascended from a great dive with a high five, knowing I’d fulfilled a special memory.
I enjoyed three more dives on the Thistlegorm, giving me chance to explore a little more and see a little more life. Some cool nudibranch and a cuttlefish making their home inside the wreck added to the array of life I’d already seen. It was the night dive that truly hit the marine life spot. It really came to life at night and I soon lost count of the amount of scorpionfish I saw. The contrast of the dark and wreck against the blue spotted stingrays made their colours really pop as around six or seven were spotted. Eels, lionfish and crocodilefish making up the rest of the weird and wonderful sights on the wreck at night. Amazing memories from my first time exploring the Thistlegorm that will last forever.
After the two morning dives on the Thistlegorm, we headed off to the Barge wreck site for an afternoon and night dive. It’s not much of a wreck when you compare it to the others on the trip. It lies like a flat platform on the seabed with some sides rising out from the reef providing extra space for coral growth and marine life to enjoy. While it doesn’t provide a real wreck fix with penetration, it is a haven for marine life, littered with all types of hard and soft corals. Look closely and the Barge is a great spot for the weird and wonderful. The numerous nudibranch and grey moray eels provided my macro fix on the night dives, while the occasional buzz from huge hunting giant trevally provided the entertainment. A nice contrast of wrecks before moving on to Abu Nuhas.
Abu Nuhas is a really unique place. Its submerged reef has been bad luck for five passing ships, with five cargo shipwrecks lining its northern slopes. While it was more than unfortunate for some, the wrecks have provided fortune for those looking for a wreck diving haven. Our day consisted of diving three of the wrecks – The Carnatic, Giannis D and Marcus/Chrisoula K in that order.
Going into the trip, it was the Giannis D that I was most keen to dive. I’d always admired the wide angle stern shots I’d seen over the years, with it staying pretty much intact and creating a dramatic image as it lies on its side. It was a fantastic dive with some interesting and easy penetration; I also took some shots of the stern in all its glory. A huge grouper sitting inside the wreck provided the wildlife fix, as it floated with ease looking out into the blue from an opening on the wreck. I think it was the Carnatic that stole the show personally though. Her open windows out to the blue that are covered in soft coral were unique, and glassfish dancing in formation inside mesmerised into a truly memorable dive. The Marcus provided the adventure as penetration was a little more difficult to work my way through the wreck.
The day at Abu Nuhas was the best of the trip for me and that wasn’t solely because of the wrecks….. YES!! Once again it was marine life that had me screaming with joy underwater and a buzz through my body like no other. FINALLY!!!!! After 9 years of taking photos underwater, I was able to share the water with dolphins (bottlenose in this instance) and shoot them in all their glory.
Our journey to and from the wrecks on each dive took us through the channel on the ribs, where dolphins were seen on every pass playing in the slight waves. After the second dive, the guides asked if we wanted to try to snorkel with them. It was a resounding yes and as the speedboat whipped up a wave storm, the dolphins headed to the surface to play. I dropped in with no elegance at all, as my excitement took over. I was wondering whether they would stay once we entered, but how they stayed and played was beyond anything I could imagine. Bringing seaweed to us and then, with a flick of their tails, speeding off after teasing with a slow approach. There were nine in total and they even came by to show off the baby of the group. It was definitely up there as one of my greatest moments in the water.
We finished the liveaboard trip with three more amazing reef dives, with the highlight being a small cave full of glassfish and MANY lionfish. I entered to take photos of the glassfish before the lionfish started to sneak out of every crevice and reveal themselves from their camouflaged rest spots.
It got a little hairy but made for a truly interesting moment to finish the week on Big Blue. The fun wasn’t done though, as John eluded to the fact that I was on the same late flight as them on the Saturday and asked if I’d like to join his group for a night at Roots Red Sea. Sounds like a good plan!! Also, if we got there in time, a night dive on the house reef that’s a haven for the weird and wonderful would be on offer. What an amazing surprise end to the trip at an amazing dive resort: secluded, with a beautiful desert backdrop, sitting just metres from the sea. Thankfully, we made it for a night dive and it was as incredible as John said it would be. Reef squid, numerous cuttlefish, a bouncing stonefish jumping over sea moths AND a dwarf lionfish made this one of the best night dives ever, and a perfect end dive to a perfect trip. A final day of relaxation at Roots pool and enjoying the beautiful food finished it in style.
For more information about diving on Big Blue: