Almost 8 years ago to the day I visited the Red Sea for the first time from Sharm El-Sheikh. I was a novice diver completing my Advanced Open Water course while also deciding I wanted to be an underwater photographer (Yes, I was trying to run before I could walk!). I was in awe of the colours underwater in the Red Sea and how beautifully clear the water was. It prompted me to return the following year in June 2014 for my first Red Sea liveaboard. The trip was a little bittersweet. Although the diving delivered some incredible encounters, I was left a little disappointed by my ability as a diver at the time. I’ve been eager to rectify with a return on a Southern Red Sea itinerary. After a 7 year hiatus I found myself back in the Red Sea on a southern route liveaboard.
Scuba Scene liveaboard is the vessel I was lucky enough to join. After a 5 hour EasyJet flight from Luton organised as a package by the guys at Oyster Diving, it wasn’t long before I got my first glimpse of this incredible boat. I’m no Red Sea liveaboard expert by any stretch of the imagination, having only completed one previously and that was 7 years ago. However, it was the size of the boat that struck me initially. Certainly a lot bigger than my previous trip and from the general consensus on size you get from people when discussing Red Sea liveaboards. At 43m long and 9m wide, beautifully laid-out over 4 decks, she is certainly big enough to accommodate 26 guests onboard.
I arrived onto the boat from the stern, entering a spacious dive platform and then up some small stairs to my first glimpse of the dive deck. Again, a generous space allowing ample room for a full charter to kit up ready for a week of diving. Two benches of five cylinder spaces at the end of the deck with two benches of eight spaces back to back in the middle allowing for 26 dive guests. A small four space bench is set just to the side for the guides onboard. Before entering the dining salon from the dive deck there are also two camera tables either side with numerous shelves and charging points accommodating a large number of photography guests should they be onboard together. As it happened I was the only “photographer” onboard this trip and certainly enjoyed the extra space that afforded.
Now was the time to settle in and check into my room. I was in one of the eight twin rooms on the lower deck and was extremely happy with the space of both the room and en-suite. That’s where I also got my first sign of the little attentions to detail that spoilt me throughout the week and really heightened the experience of life onboard Scuba Scene. A small Galaxy chocolate left on my pillow was a sign of things to come. While the chocolates continued throughout the week, it was the hot towel wrapped around my shoulders after every dive that was the gift I didn’t know I needed. Wow, heaven… especially during the cooler winter weather in Egypt. A hot chocolate in my hand after every night dive and a rehydration drink after every day dive added to my favourite small pleasure of the week – a towel poncho provided for each guest, I lived in mine for the whole week! Many thanks to Gad for always being there with the towel and drink; I definitely felt spoilt.
Life onboard continued to be a pleasurable experience throughout the week. Dinnertime in particular was a surprise when compared to previous liveaboards I’ve done around the world. While breakfast and lunch were the typical buffet style I was used to (except one particular morning with an extravagant fruit platter adding a splash of colour to proceedings) it was dinner that left a lasting impression. A four course sit down set menu each night was served with a smile to the table and was always perfectly timed. Soup to start was always delicious, followed by a small cold dish before the main course that was always incredible. The beef and lamb were my favourites, so tender and succulent, cooked to perfection. A change of dessert each night really finished off the amazing meals.
Overall it was an incredible week onboard Scuba Scene with a crew that couldn’t do enough for you and were always on hand with a smile. There was plenty of comfortable space to relax between dives with three sundecks equipped with padded loungers and seats accompanied by bean bags for extra comfort. I spent a good few siestas on them, while soft drinks were readily available on the upper and top deck. The spacious salon was the perfect area to take a break from the heat or wind and was the scene for Red Sea shark specialist Elke Bojanowski’s informative shark presentations. There were four presentations in total and each provided great information on sharks and, in particular, the sharks of the Red Sea. A shark week trip should be the trip of choice for any shark lover.
I’m guessing by now you’re wondering how the diving delivered as that’s what we’re here for right? Well I can certainly say it delivered in abundance, so please keep an eye out for the next blog instalment tomorrow highlighting the diving for the week.
I’m certainly looking forward to the day I can return!
Sean Chinn travelled as a guest of Scuba Scene Liveaboard and Oyster Diving. Scuba Scene is available to book exclusively through Oyster Diving. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0808 253 3370 to find out more or reserve your space!
6 Best places to go diving in Saudi Arabia
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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
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.
Kathryn Curzon, a conservationist and dive travel writer for SSI (Scuba Schools International), wrote this article.
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