Red Sea Beach Safari with the GODS

GODS: Red Sea Beach Safari Marsa Shagra

Red Sea Beach Safari with the GODS- Marsa Shagra- Dec. 2009

“OK, Phil and Tom, you two, Tent no. 3. Tony and Paula, you’re for Tent 5. Louise and Tony, you’ll be in Lodge number 35. Ronnie, you have no Manuel this time, you have Lodge 30 all to yourself…………” and so on it went, with Shane and Ollie consigning us to our various beachside accommodations. Having experienced the pleasures and discomforts of tent life, set right on the water’s edge, on our previous trip to the Sinai, Manuel and I had decided to treat ourselves to the comforts of the lodge this time around i.e. real beds, air conditioning and en- suite with even a patio, as against the cane bunks and “furniture”, open tent flap, communal showering and toilet facilities, with many night and early morning treks across the soft sand, answering calls of nature. I know that most of you reading this, would have found all that most exciting but for Manuel and me…. “Think we’ll upgrade ourselves to a spot of luxury this time”……… Unfortunately, the Godfather threw a wobbler just days before departure and being hospitalized had to miss out on the trip!

All 22 of us were relieved to reach our destination of the Eco- diving village of Marsa Shagra, just north of the town of Marsa Alam, on the Southern Red Sea coastline on the Gulf of Aquaba. One hour into our 5½ hour flight, the captain announced that he had to return the plane to Gatwick due to some engine malfunction! However, after an hour’s delay at Gatwick we were up and away in a fresh plane. All’s well that ends well.
This is a diving holiday with a difference, arranged for us GODS, as ever, by Shane Gray in conjunction with the excellent Oonasdivers organization, (thank you Lydia), away from the flesh- pots (I love- em) and diving mayhem of Sharm and Hurgada. Here, you may very well have your chosen dive site to yourself and your buddies.
Early breakfast, 6.30 onwards, including my own personal favorite, pancakes with chocolate sauce, pour it yourself (long day ahead, you know), ready up for the dive, then back in time for lunch al fresco. Sun bathe or perhaps a truck dive in the afternoon, back in time for tea and cake. Some hardy ones may very well prepare for an evening/night dive off the beach before the nightly pre dinner gatherings in the bar or in one another’s quarters, this being a great time to produce the duty free hooch acquired in Gatwick. Onwards to dinner then, indulging in a huge choice from the ample buffet and afterwards repair to the bar, sure Bob’s your Uncle! The food is really good and once you get the hang of eating Egyptian food sensibly, i.e. being wary of salads, avoiding ice in drinks, washing fruit and brushing teeth with bottled water etc, you shouldn’t have any problems with the Pharaoh’s revenge, (not too comfortable, I can assure you, in a communal toilet block!)

Food, accommodation and all local diving is prepaid, no cash required, just sign for your Stella beers or whatever. Soft drinks, bottled water, tea and coffee are available free, round the clock!

Local diving on the house fringe reefs is very much go as you please and unlimited, although you sign yourself on and off on the big blackboard in the dive centre for all dives. Alternatively, you can take one of the so called “truck dives”. For these your gear is loaded up on trucks and is there waiting for you when you alight from the accompanying coach to your pre selected dive site up or down the coast. You can do this morning and/or afternoon any day.  Special dives, for a small charge can be arranged (we did) to dive on the wrecked Russian freighter at Abu Ghusoon, enjoying lunch on the beach between dives, this one involved a 7am start. Alternatively, one can go for the big one and undertake a very early morning, long and usually uncomfortable rib trip to Elphinstone Reef with a reasonable chance of spotting some pelagic life and a most spectacular dive thrown in. Some did, I didn’t!

Your typical house reef dive, might involve a rib dropping you off some distance out along the reef face, then “saunter” at perhaps 10, 15, or 20 meters depth, back to base, taking anything from 60 to 80 minutes underwater! You will see the most gorgeous foliage, multi colored coral, beautiful giant blue clams and a selection of fish that even Nemo himself would be proud to show off! I am talking about Turtles, Butterfly fish, stately Emperor Angel fish, Parrot and Puffer fish, Blue Spotted Ray,  Crocodile, Lion, Stonefish and so many more, too numerous for me to identify or mention….. all this with me wearing only a Lidl shorty suit. However, I did wear a hood and also rented hard sole bootees, a necessity for wading through beaches, at a cost of €3 per day, cheaper than the cost of Michael O’Leary’s excess baggage! Anything else you might need to rent is available locally at a reasonable cost. Many divers chose to wear their full suits. For the diver who likes to stretch the limits, rest assured that the on site Hyperbaric Medical Centre/ Recompression Chamber is well equipped and manned around the clock! As for the people working in the eco village and dive centre, I cannot speak highly enough of their 100% helpful and friendly service and dedication towards making our visit as memorable as possible.

Our group was made up of old friends from previous trips and a large contingent from the powerful Naas Club. I think that we all gelled very well and had a great time really. On our final night, the Naas gang all showed up for dinner wearing their red polo shirts which they had specially commissioned for the trip, watch out for yours truly wearing his Naas shirt, gifted to him by good old Phil Brady! Thank you also to Ray and Teresa for the Safari tee shirt, these guys were very good to me. Photos were taken of the youngest diver in the group, newly qualified 16 year old Dylan Haughney and the oldest, nah, you’d never guess! At the sing song which rounded off our last night, Shane’s old pal Denzil told some very funny stories, Ollie sang and Margaret sang, Diane dressed up in her Santa outfit and even old Ronnie did his party piece by trying to sing (which he can’t), a ditty which he composed while stuck in a hospital bed last year. I promised some of the Naas’ers that I would put the silly words up on our blog, so here goes, God forgive me!

“Lament of the Wild Diver”:  (To the air of “the Wild Rover”)
I’ve played the wild diver for many a year
And I’ve spent all my money on black rubber gear.
Now my bottle is empty, my bum it is sore
And I’ll play the wild diver, no, never, no more.

And it’s no, nay, never,
No, nay, never no more,
Will I play the wild diver,
No, never, no more.

I went to the dive shop that I used to frequent
And I told Willie Siddall, my demand valve was bent.
I asked for another, he answered me “No,
Your demand valve’s a Dacor, we sell Scubapro”.

And it’s, no, nay, never etc.

So out I did pull my long diving knife,
While Willie, he trembled in fear for his life.
But boldly he cried “I don’t care what you do”,
I said “Ta very much, I’ll just take one or two.

And it’s, no, nay, never etc.

Then out I went diving from old Kilkee pier
And thought to myself,
“There’s naught doing out here”
But at 22 metres I looked up to see,
Three bloody big lobsters were coming at me.

And it’s, no, nay, never etc.

So, now as I lie on my hospital bed,
While bandaged from arms right up to my head,
I think of my life and my unruly ways
And I mourn the passing of my diving days.

And it’s, no, nay, never etc.

Breaking News !

Crouching Tiger hidden Fire Hydrant !
After presure from the 100’s of media camped outside Tigers house he finally admitted he left his Family, his Fans and his trousers down.
The favoured approach is to apologies to his family then blame the devil and ask his fans for forgiveness and then carry on as if nothing happened.
He maybe in the rough but he’s not out of the woods yet !

Crouching Diver hidden Shell !
Just hot off the press a certain diver went down on his dodgy knee to propose recently.
I believe he in fact when down on all fours, as the ring, hidden in a sea shell, blended in with it surrounding so much so that it nearly went out with the tide.
The rock will certainly be displayed this Sat  – €10 to the first person to guess their CFT no’s.
Other News.
One of Coronations streets favourites passed away.
Blanche(75) died yesterday, she’ll be missed for her dry wit, a trait that Limerick people are also know for.
One of her best lines was “ I’ll have a tonic water and a put a gin in it to brighten it up”.
On Liz McDonald “Skirt no bigger than a belt, too much eyeliner, and roots as dark as her soul”.
No one admitts to watching Corrie but everyone does and any diver that denies this will be charged an extra €10 for their next dive.

For Johnny Hasset, Peter Walsh, Brian Kearney and Doc Tom, who might I add are devoted soap fans and never miss an episode, this is a particularly sad time for them and they plan to hold a minutes silence this Saturday just after the Munster match.