After a run-up filled with worries of covid restrictions, positive tests and the possibility of a cancelled trip, 8 of us finally managed to fly out to Hurghada, board the Blue Melody liveaboard and spend an incredible week diving around the northern Red Sea. Escaping the UK’s winter, we were greeted with incredible coral reefs, world-class wrecks, a huge amount of wildlife (including dolphins!) and a mountain of food from the ship’s chef.
Arriving on New Year’s Eve, we saw in 2022 on the top deck with a couple of drinks, watching fireworks in the distance before heading to bed to get some shut-eye for the following day.
Our first dive (and on New Year’s Day!) was a shake-down on Poseidon Reef to get our weighting and kit right for the rest of the trip. It was also Harry and Matt’s first time diving outside of the UK, and it’s safe to say they thoroughly enjoyed it! We had spectacular visibility on the reef and saw a huge Napoleon wrasse (the first of many), moray eels and the usual suspects that can be found on the Red Sea’s impeccable coral gardens.
The second dive was on the wreck of the Chrisoula K, a cargo ship that sunk carrying a load of tiles from Italy. There was ample opportunity for wreck penetration, but unfortunately the diver recall alarm went off towards the end of the dive, cutting it slightly short for some. We surfaced to very choppy seas as a thunderstorm passed overhead, but thankfully this was the only real bad weather of the trip. Blue Melody upped anchor and set sail for a more sheltered location.
With a couple of great dives, there couldn’t have been a better way to start the year!
This was the first of many 6am starts, and I can confirm that they didn’t get any easier. After a 6:30 am briefing, we were carried in the boat’s RIBs to a nearby dive site for a glorious morning drift dive along an enormous coral reef wall. As we slowly made our way around the reef wall, we could admire the colourful schools of fish and the gorgeous fanning corals. Once out and back on the RIBs, we patiently waited for Chris and Ellie to surface, who said to have gotten distracted by a sea turtle. Thankfully, the eagle-eyed skipper spotted the turtle as it came out for air and brought as close to it for all to enjoy.
The second and third dives of the day were at the Jackson reef in the strait of Tiran. More beautiful sights to enjoy, helped along by a mild current, which turned out to be not so mild towards the edges of the reef. We saw trigger fish, puffers, nudibranchs and even managed to spot a giant moray who had left its hiding place to go for a little stroll, probably jealous of all the divers prancing around. Unfortunately there was no night dive either due to the increasing current, but it was safe to say that we were more than satisfied for the day. More and more food, rude travel scrabble and some card games topped the day off.
Today was our first 4-dive day of the trip, including our first night dive! We were lucky enough to spend the morning diving inside the Ras Mohammed marine park with stunning coral gardens and wall dives. The first dive was a serene meander through Jackfish Alley, starting with a hint of cave diving which quickly opened out into coral gardens, pinnacles teeming with life and some bigger life hanging out in the current. The dive featured barracuda, bluefin trevally, bluespotted ray, cornetfish and thousands of anthias.
Our second dive in the park was at Shark and Yolanda, two reef walls with the Yolanda wreck featuring toilets (with stingy fire coral inside) at the end! After a swim into the blue searching for the reef wall there were some cool encounters with napoleon wrasse, moray eel, batfish, nudibranchs and a possible giant trevally. Chris and Ollie were the only ones to make it to the toilets after an epic frogmarch.
In the afternoon we moved to the reef of Sha’ab Mamoud, getting a lay of the land before repeating the dive at night. The first dive included lots of moray eels and lionfish, plus a shoals of jacks and yellow snappers and bigger fish stopping for a spa day with the cleaner wrasse. At night all the shrimps, crabs and feather stars came out to play and, as usual, the lionfish were delighted and got a few extra fish for dinner courtesy of our torchlight.
An epic day of reefs before wreck day!
An early morning (as usual) start saw us driven along the reef we were moored at by Zodiac to the SS Duraven, a small wreck with easy penetration. We were told to dive the wreck and then head along the reef, keeping it on our left, until we were low on air (and then the Zodiac would pick us up). The wreck itself, although upside down, is easily penetrated through large holes and can be swum all the way through, with lots of glassfish towards the stern. After this we then headed out back towards the liveaboard, where we saw a large grouper hanging out near the bow, and a fight between two morays too! I may have decided that we could actually make it back to the boat and swam hard (although the current was not in our favour towards the end of the dive), so when we surfaced we were towed back instead of getting onto the Zodiac…
After this, we of course had breakfast whilst the captain motored us to the SS Thistlegorm (the most famous wreck in the Rea Sea). We were told we were going to do 4 dives on it (?!?) although as the weather changed during the day we in fact ended up doing 2 (which I think for us was more than enough). The first dive was (mostly) an outside dive, with not much penetration, swimming the entire length and back and able to see most of the wreck. There was hardly any current, luckily, so it was relatively easy. Lots of life around, including plenty of stonefish and crocodile fish, as well as the batfish hanging around the top of the wreck.
The second dive after lunch saw the current picking up a lot. Once we were inside the wreck it was easy swimming although to get there meant flagpoling on the line on the way down. Unfortunately this time there were a lot of other divers inside the wreck meaning some of us were caught up in queues to get through doorways, although dodging the crowds meant we were still able to have a good wander around all of the cargo (motorbikes, trucks etc). Coming back up the line meant another flagpole (with a quick dash to the line when we exited the wreck), although Ollie and Ellie managed a ‘Zodiac of shame’ after being forced to ascend on another liveaboard’s line.
Snack time! And then onwards, as the wind picked up, back to Abu Nahas for the night dive. We were just diving the channel near where we were moored. There were a couple of other boats moored near us, although Matt and I managed to escape the crowds during the dive by going the opposite way to everyone else. Lots of sleeping fish, a shy cusk eel , and a very small cuttlefish out and about! And of course lots of bioluminescence and a chance to try Matt’s UV torch out (which illuminates all of the sponges, weirdly).
Diving over, we wolfed down dinner and went straight to bed (as our night dive was later than usual), ready for the next day!
When the fifth day rolled around everyone was in the swing of things. By then the 6am starts were beginning to become more bearable and being woken up with our drink of choice was very welcome. We started the day with a wreck dive on the Carnatic, an old ship which sunk in 1869. Because of her age all of the wood had rotted away leaving only the iron supports which created beautiful lighting as beams cascaded through the hull. There was also some good life including a thorntail stingray, a shoal of glass fish and a quick meeting with some dolphins.
Following on from a great breakfast we dived the Giannis D, a ship which sunk in 1983 carrying a cargo of wood. Despite being a newer wreck, coral had grown all over hull which attracted some great life. There was also a chance for good penetration as the stern was fully intact and the group explored the corridors finding the large engine room and tight gaps where Ollie had to detach and carry is bailout through.
The next dive was in a reef called Dolphin House and it didn’t fail to live up to expectations. The group spent 70 minutes watching a pod of eight dolphins playing, investigating and being very photogenic. Ellie was happy she hadn’t missed them for the second time and Chris celebrated by dancing next to a clown fish in his anemone, who must’ve thought Chris was going to steal his son. This truly was one of the highlights of the trip and everyone was ecstatic after the dive.
The night dive was on the same site as we saw the dolphins, however they didn’t grace us with their presence this time as they were probably tucked up in their little dolphin beds. This was one of the more mundane dives during the trip as without the dolphins there was little life on the hard coral reef. We did end up seeing some moray eels and shoals of wrasse but everyone was still buzzing from the first dive and didn’t seem to mind.
We began the day with a third dive at Dolphin House. After such an incredible first dive the day before we were all very hopeful the dolphins would have returned after a night of hunting in open water. We were dropped off on the far side of the reef by the Zodiacs and bimbled back to the boat. We started as one big group, like the day before, but after 10 or so minutes of no dolphins we began to split up. We ended up seeing a few nudibranchs, a pair of cruising lionfish and two napoleon wrasse, but no dolphins. It was still a very fun dive and a very relaxing start to the day.
The last dive of the trip was El Mina, an Egyptian minesweeper sunk in 1969. We descended on shot line onto the wreck and were reminded of UK diving when we hit a 19°C thermocline around 20m. Since the wreck is in Hurghada harbour there was very little coral growth on it, which meant it was still in very good condition but there wasn’t much in the way of life. We did however spot a nudibranch, a pipefish and even a tiny octopus! There was another wreck of a fishing boat about a 2-minute swim away that some of us went to, which happened to be where an army of around 20 lionfish were gathering but not everyone had enough gas to see it. All in all, a nice end to some amazing dives!
The last day was spent relaxing by the pool in the Marriott hotel that’s adjacent to the dock whilst we waited for our transfer to the airport. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to dive in the pool, which made Chris very sad.
Thanks everyone for a fab trip!