As you know from browsing through my website, travel and scuba diving are my second greatest passions after photography. If you've read my blog post about our 2019 trip to Indonesia, you might be wondering where else have we been on holiday since then.
Right after we came back from Raja Ampat in 2019, me and Matt were on a high. Not only we had just been to one of the most breath-taking places on Earth, we also gained our first scuba diving certification and a new world of opportunity had just opened up for us.
So we did our research and booked another diving holiday almost right away. After the coral triangle in South East Asia, the Red Sea was second on our diving bucket list. Coral reefs there are unique and very healthy. They are accessible from multiple countries in North Africa and the Middle East but we picked Egypt because we heard of Red Sea Diving Safari, an excellent Egyptian eco resort with three different camps, which has been operating since the very inception of scuba diving in the region.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
For obvious reasons we weren't able to travel in 2020 and we patiently waited for 2021, but that didn't happen either because of government restrictions. Finally, after postponing the trip three times, we managed to fly to Hurghada in May 2022.
Red Sea Diving Safari is one of Egypt’s leading environmental activists and a pioneers of sustainable tourism development in the Southern Red Sea. Their locations consist of three eco resorts along the southern Red Sea coastline, close to Marsa Alam. These are Wadi Lahami, Marsa Nakari and Marsa Shagra (the oldest).
We decided to go for Marsa Nakari because even though we heard great things about Shagra, we were still too unexperienced for some of the dive sites near it (the famous Elphinstone, to mention one) and Wadi Lahami was too far south arriving from Hurghada. That said, we would definitely like to come back via Marsa Alam and dive some of the more remote dive sites around Lahami and experience the larger and more crowded Shagra - apparently their house reef is amazing!
I recommend flying in from Marsa Alam instead of Hurghada unless you have no other choice. Even though it's a bigger airport and the resort sends a driver to pick you up, it's a really long and fairly boring drive to Marsa Nakari, especially if done at night like we did. It is quite bumpy and there is nothing to see, the desert is pitch black at night. Of course if you can sleep through anything, then go for it!
On the way back we drove during the day but aside from a few views of the reef and villages, the rest is desert, abandoned resorts and more desert. Unfortunately the coast is not as interesting as the rest of Egypt unless you are there for the sea. The presence of many 'eye sores' aka unfinished resorts scattered along the landscape, is a sad reminder that it's only the money brought by foreign tourists that pushes development in the area and the pandemic certainly caused as much disruption there as anywhere else in the world.
When we finally arrived in Marsa Nakari though, we were amazed. The eco resort is shaped like a small village on the beach, with various types of accommodation that cater to all budgets. We were in a chalet, which is a traditionally Egyptian dome-shaped room with a private bathroom and small patio (all other options have shared bathrooms and these days we are not too keen on that, although I've done it in the past, no problem!).
The bay itself is absolutely beautiful and you can see the coral reef from the surface, fringing both sides and continuing along the coast. There are a reception, diving center, restaurant, cafeteria and small gift shop. There is a swing on the beach and a couple of shelters with rags on the floor if you want to take a nap or just relax and soak in the views.
The dive centre is equipped with freshwater basins to rinse the scuba equipment, as well as showers and hangers on which to hang your wetsuit, booties and BCD to dry. The village is very efficiently operated by the RSDS staff, all Egyptian, who are also extremely friendly and kind. Overall, the camp is run as sustainably as possible with reduced waste and energy use. The food is varied and delicious.
We had two main goals on this two-week holiday. The first one was to gain our Advanced Open Water certification, which allows us to dive deeper, up to 30m. The second one was to finally get a chance to dive more consistently and improve our skills and knowledge. Scuba diving is more of a technical sport rather than physical in my opinion. It's a bit like driving a car, you have to learn the theory and practice it a lot and often in order to get better at it and minimise the risks. Scuba diving can definitely be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. If it's been too long since the last time you dived and you don't remember the basics, you should 100% do a 'refresher course' and get back into it at a slow pace. That's what we did.
Regardless of how much I love scuba diving, I used to be extremely anxious before dives. I felt like a complete beginner (which I was) and not in complete control of what I was doing, which in turn made me feel very worried for my safety. Diving for two weeks in a row in the Red Sea massively improved this. With the house reef at our complete disposal, we could go scuba diving at least 2 times a day every day. At 38 logged dives - 40 for Matt because he did two more than me some time ago, when I panicked during a UK dive - I am now still in the beginner range but I reached a whole new level of confidence.
We didn't just dive in the house reef of course, but also joined a few trips to explore the more unspoilt reefs off-shore. My absolute favourite was Sataya reef, which is horseshoe-shaped and it's the home of a huge pod of spinner dolphins. Then there were Habili Nakari and Shaab Nakari, with absolutely stunning coral pinnacles reaching the surface and covered in schools of small, bright orange Anthias. We saw countless amounts of animals on our dives such as the loggerhead sea turtle, giant moray eel, masked and spiny puffer fish, reef octopus, dogtooth tuna, white-tip reef sharks, Red Sea clownfish, blue-spotted stingray and various species of nudibranch, trigger fish, parrot fish, gobies and squirrel fish, just to name a few. It's impossible to remember them all, not to mention the various types of soft and hard coral.
Finally, I'd like to mention our great dive instructor Ibrahim, who was so incredibly patient with us (especially me!), encouraged and supported us throughout our stay and basically transformed us from beginners who didn't quite remember what diving was like after the pandemic, into confident divers who can now dive together as buddies without a guide. Well, at least in the house reef that is!
I definitely recommend Red Sea Diving Safari if you want to dive in the Marsa Alam area. In the meantime, we are looking forward to our next dive trip, so expect another blog post in 2023.
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