GUEST ARTICLE: The view of the landscape as we were flying into Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport was amazing! Golden desert sands flanked some of the bluest pristine waters we have ever seen – the magnificent Red Sea. After landing we were met by our hotel pickup and then began our short one-hour journey to a little famous snorkeling and diving spot called Dahab, located on the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula.
The air was extremely dry and hot. Thankfully our driver had some water on hand for the trip. The well-kept highway meandered through some beautiful rugged mountain terrain and vast desert plains. It was late afternoon by this time so everything appeared draped in a warm light.
The highway was pretty much deserted besides a few wild camels and scattered Bedouin settlements. We also had to go through a number of small security checkpoints (looking for Illegal’s I suppose?). The guards didn’t really seem all that interested as most were either sleeping or sitting around tables engrossed in a game of sorts.
As dusk was setting in we pulled into the quiet little town of Dahab. It was a very picturesque place nestled against the Red Sea. Stark white buildings stood throughout as well as a plethora of unfinished building sites. We drove through local areas where numerous mangy looking goats and camels roamed the dusty streets.
Our hotel Dahab Paradise was situated just north of town. We thought the location was excellent, not too far from the local action and close to some of the best snorkeling and diving spots.
The hotel itself was very nicely done with a quaint little outdoor restaurant and a beautiful pool surrounded by deckchairs, all situated on a small hill overlooking the beach. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and set up in a charming room overlooking the sea with Saudi Arabia in the distance.
During our stay we would especially come to like the nights there. The winds were warm and the sky became a myriad of oranges, yellows and reds as the sun set behind the mountains. Once night had truly set in we could see thousands of stars shining brightly in the desert sky.
Dahab is renowned for its diving and snorkeling and that really was our main reason for being there in the first place. Because of the recent Egyptian Revolution we had almost canceled our trip but in the end we thanked our lucky stars that we didn’t. We actually ended up benefiting from the situation because the tourists still hadn’t come back in full force therefore making our stay pretty carefree in the tourist sense.
It was fairly windy every day so we weren’t too positive about our snorkeling chances but luckily the spots we went to were fairly sheltered. According to our dive shop guide it’s actually better for water clarity when it’s like that, go figure? For our first snorkel we went to a place called Three Pools, located at the southern end of Dahab. For 100LE we got a return taxi for the day.
We passed through town and started our way down a very bumpy dirt road until we finally came upon the little beachside settlement of Three Pools. Surrounding us were giant desert mountains and a pebbly beach lined with Bedouin tents. They offered us lunch there but it looked a bit too rustic for us so we thought better to be safe than knife in your gut sorry. Off for a swim!
Our hotel’s dive shop set us up with all the equipment we needed along with some heavy-duty wet suits. We thought that was strange seeing as how hot the air temperature was surely the water was warm? “Not!” The water was actually pretty chilly but in the end we only used the suits once. We estimated the water temperature to be about 24 degrees – not so cold but when the air is 34 degrees, you feel the difference!
Our first glimpse underwater was awesome!! The water was such a deep blue and strikingly crystal clear. The corals were abundant and teeming with bright colored little fish. We saw some impressive looking Lionfish and lots of little Nemos guarding their Anemones. I took some excellent pics that day in and out of the sea (still loving my Sony DSCTX10 camera!).
The next day we went to one of the world’s most dangerous diving spot called ‘The Blue Hole.” It is around 130m deep and has 26m tunnel located 52m down called the Arch. Many people have died trying to pass through the tricky Arch even though there are multiple signs stating that it is highly advised against some people still try it regardless. I guess it must be like a divers Everest but personally I couldn’t think of anything more asinine to do.
After settling ourselves into one of the Bedouin tents (as ya do there) we set off for an entry point called The Bells. Along the way we passed numerous memorial plaques for the diving lives lost.
After a short walk along the rocky shore we found our spot. Here the water was exceptionally clear and boasted deep shades of blues and greens. We entered into a cavernous type of coral shelf it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Once in we swam along the never-ending coral ridge lining the shore. We couldn’t believe how far down we could see and how vibrant the coral was along this point. Even better yet we were all by ourselves.
Soon we came upon the Blue Hole and found a few divers exploring below. This spot is also a favorite for Free Diving and luckily for us there were a few there that day. Men and women each wearing a giant Monofin took turns gently gliding down as far as they could toward the ocean floor on one big breath.
We were really impressed by the depths they reached. The visibility in this particular spot wasn’t the best at that moment but it was still exciting to watch. Overall though I think our favorite spot in all of Dahab was along the shelf at the The Bells entry. We didn’t see any big fish but lots of beautiful coral and reef fish.
After that excellent snorkel we headed back to the Bedouin tent and relaxed with some tea and Apple Shisha. Shisha is a big water bong with hot flavored apple embers and tobacco. We actually don’t smoke but liked the taste and smell of the shisha all the same. Some hours later after a relaxing time we gathered our things to head back home.
As we got into ‘our’ hired car we suddenly had a group of ‘certain’ tourists trying to jump into our truck to hitch a free ride. They didn’t even ask or offer to chip in and even started to try and bully our driver into it. Unfortunately for them we aren’t the bend over types and in the end left them in our dust.
Unless they are the local Bedouin people where hitching is the norm we weren’t having it. When we got back to our hotel we heard that this was a common thing for these particular tourists to do. So if you do end up going to these places make sure you get paid and not bullied by people looking for a free ride.
The remainder of our trip was spent just doing all of the above. One day I thought I’d get my first Egyptian massage. Mora was great and very strong… Let’s just say she could give the drummer Lars Ulrich a run for his money and in the end I was 100% tenderized. Luckily she said that I would only need one of her treatments, well thank god for that or I’d be walking like Quasi Motto for the rest of the week…ouch!
It was only on our last night that we ventured into town to have a look. We got our driver to drop us off at the town’s landmark little bridge by the sea. Scores of restaurants and shops lined the beach. The merchants were pretty aggressive in their selling technique so if you’re soft you’re in trouble. I never knew I had so many sisters and brothers out there! Lol!
We found a few good things to take back home and for dinner we ended up getting reeled into a nice restaurant called Nemo situated on the beach. Fittingly we ordered a real Egyptian meal consisting of all kinds of dips, vegetables and homemade bread and that was just for starters.
For our main we had some delicious bbq chicken and lamb kebabs accompanied with rice. After dinner we had some Shisha again but this time our waiter wanted to know if we would like a ‘special’ one…hmmm? We had heard that hashish is commonly used there but we didn’t know it was acceptable to smoke openly like that?!? In the end we stuck with the good old Apple Shisha… : D
They weren’t kidding when they dubbed Dahab one of the world’s best underwater recreation spots. We had a fabulous time and loved the sea life and especially the color and clarity of the water. The people were really friendly and we made some good friends while we were there. Most things were really cheap, especially food and hotels. Dahab is a beautiful relaxing place to explore, enjoy and unwind.
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!