Scuba Diving ~ Just Follow the Leader
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Diving the Red Sea - Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
Part Two: Did I Really Need a Private Dive Guide?
While I was doing my endless research before taking off for the Great Pyramids, Luxor, and the Red Sea for diving, I reached out to Girls that Scuba on facebook for a bit of guidance; which areas to dive, dive centers, wetsuit in October, that sort of thing. I mentioned that I was a new diver, just 24 dives at that point, but was comfortable on dives in Fiji, Honduras, and the Caribbean thus far, toting my camera along on every dive. Nonetheless, I was not sure what diving would be like in the Red Sea off the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, i.e. the level of diving skill needed, the types of dives I would encounter, etc.
Leveraging flyer miles and playing the game gets you there in style ~ Qatar QSuite
Based on the high marks and good reviews, I booked a week of diving at Camel Dive Club and Hotel in Sharm El-Sheikh. I also reserved a private guide at $130 per day, for at least 2 of the days, noting that I am a photographer and felt I would get better results, i.e. photos, if I were not relegated to staying with a large group of divers. The idea was that the guide would point out marine life that I might not see or be aware of since they know the area and what to look for. Well, that was my idea, anyway. Prior to this trip I had never had a private dive guide.
One of the gals on Girls that Scuba, a super active facebook group of passionate divers from the world over, questioned my comment about hiring a private guide and suggested I just stick close by the divemaster guides. But because of the aforementioned reasons, I did the private guide thing.
Before the dive portion I spent time in Giza with the Pyramids
After checking in, filling out forms, I met my guide and we chatted, and met the following morning to board the bus to drive to the marina to board the boat. If you read my last blog post about the camera turmoil, I was already hugely distracted, but was relieved to find my camera bag onboard the boat. I mention this to perhaps understand myself why I wasn’t more clear in my discussion as to why I had hired a guide (slight language barrier may account for my reticence to continue with much chatter… really don’t know). It wasn’t to concentrate on particular dive skills, although that’s always excellent and an added bonus.
Fun with Camel Selfies
While diving I noticed she stuck quite close to me; our fins touched many times during the dives. (Did she think I would spot something and take off like a dolphin?) That was curious enough, and at one point I was so distracted by this that as I attempted to put a few feet between us, my fin touched the sea floor and the reef, a real no-no in scuba world. Another guide noticed this and came up behind me to point it out. More on that in a bit.
Hindsight tells me that dive guides are not necessarily photography guides, even though that is what I was specific about when I reserved a guide. We worked on bouyancy, always great, but she had me hover for 15 minutes in one spot, and she DID say to me that I am “a good diver”. Which makes the rest of the story ever weirder.
Stay nice and still and wait for the Batfish to complete your composition
Back at the dive center that afternoon, the other aforementioned guide said he wanted to have a word with me. I sat at the table with him and my guide, and he chewed me out for my fin touching the reef, and he told me I was not allowed to bring my camera in the water the following day. Stunned at this directive, I just stared at both of them. He was irrationally unhinged over the minor incident and left me speechless.
This is where it would have been so great to have the support and backing of a travel buddy. I’m sure they would have had something to say in response to this instead of my ‘deer in the headlights’ look, and we probably would’ve been on the internet looking for a change of dive venue very quickly, of which there are many in Sharm. It was extremely upsetting, but since I had paid for the week in advance for diving and accomodation, I stayed.
I had the guide for 3 days and in the evening they ask if you are diving the next day to confirm your spot on the boat. Yes, I say. A few minutes later one of the guides asks me if I’m going to reserve my private guide again and I say no. He comes back to me a couple minutes later and says if I don’t reserve the guide I cannot go on the boat. Keep in mind, my guide had already told me I was a good diver. Once again I’m stunned, and after looking at him for ten seconds I just said, “You know what? I’m done”.
When diving out of Sharm El-Sheikh, your boat goes to different areas every dive, usually 3 dives a day. Because I did not know what the next area would be like, I kept the guide for the 3 days. The diving was no more difficult than in Fiji, Honduras, or Grand Cayman, and surprisingly, a bit more boring, hardly any fish, at the two locations at Ras Mohammed Park. Point being, I didn’t see any point in spending another $130 for a guide when the diving seemed all pretty normal to me. I asked why, and he said there could be currents, yada yada. But we were going back to the location of the first day, which was not challenging for me.
Travel to parts unknown is always a challenge. I’ve traveled solo to all 7 Continents, walked down dark paths and walkways in third world and developing countries, and dared even to make my way back alone to the train station after an evening of ballroom dancing in New York City on a dark and desolate street, save for the two men walking a short distance behind me.
June and a Camel, Great Pyramids in background = )
Egypt proved my undoing. 8 flights, a thousand security checkpoints (airports, hotels, boats), scams and ripoffs in Giza (especially at the Panorama Pyramids Hotel), including the ‘Sahara Sunset Ride’, a horrifying ride on both camel and horse through the nasty backstreets of Giza, complete with a dead horse and detached camel leg lying on the street, arriving at the top of the dunes after the sun had set, with a guide who ran around with my camera as if a fashion photographer leaping about a set, producing not a single shot I can use. Ridiculous. A mysterious camera ban, yet cameras walking all over Sharm and right outside the dive center, an imperious dive guide’s directive for me to leave my camera onboard the boat, and simply said, I do believe Egypt is a one and done for me. This is the sad part of the trip of two weeks. There were positive times, and while my photos (posted on this website, FB, and IG) may look like they were downright fun, moreover it was interesting to see the pyramids and other antiquities, and I think it’s the last time I attempt a dive trip alone.
Keywords: dive guide, dive trips, egypt, giza, june jacobsen photography, long island photographer, pyramids, red sea, scuba diving, Sharm El-Sheikh, solo traveler, underwater photographer
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