Sharm for one

posted 29 Apr 2012, 06:20 by George Taylor
Ok, so it has been a while since i got back, things have been a bit busy.

At the beginning of august I went on holiday to Sharm el sheik in egypt by myself, this is a bit of a summary of what it was like, and my thoughts about the place.

Pool Bar
well, to start i booked the holiday through Regal Dive and i have to say if you ever want to book a diving holiday, they were brilliant, they had all the information, were really helpful and everything was organised perfectly.

The build up to the holiday was slow and long coming. Since i hadn't been diving in ages i was quite excited. I went out and got a new camera and diving mounting so i could get some good pictures to remember the trip by.

I booked into the hilton sharm dreams, which according to all the web sites i looked at it was shown as a 5 star hotel. When i got there it certainly look like it as well. Well to cut a long story short, other than the look of the place which i do have to admit was really nice, it did lack some of the more noticeable 5 star requirements. there was nearly no entertainment at night other than 2 very dodgy belly dancers that would come on for a couple of songs on random days. The food i know i shouldn't really be too surprised about, i did pick an all inclusive package, but for a 5 star, there really wasn't a lot of variety. By the end of the holiday the food had got so bland from being the same that i was struggling to eat much other than the salads. As for the drinks, those that know me know i do like a nice glass of wine, ok, i never expected a great wine, and the house white was ok, but i could only have wine with lunch and dinner, at the pool bar, or the evening bar i could only have beer or cocktails and even though i do like a cocktail every so often, and same with a beer, some of the nights i really did have a craving for a nice glass of wine (or even the house white).

the first day was nice and relaxing after arriving at the hotel around midnight the night before it was good to be able to relax by the pool. It was a hot day, think most of the days tended to be around 40, so i did spend a lot of the time in the water, or sitting by the pool bar.

Ray sitting on the bottom
My second day of the holiday was my first day of diving, i did my review course, have to admit doing it in the pool wasn't great but i suppose it is something i had to do considering i hadn't been diving in 4 years. In the afternoon we went to shark bay for lunch, then my first proper dive of the holiday. We started on the beach which was a bit strange wading out with scuba gear on in the middle of a bunch of kids in their snorkels, but as soon as we got down below the boats it was great, considering we were no further than 50 metres from the beach it is amazing how much life there is on the reef there. I did my diving with Emperor Divers and again, if you are diving in the egypt, i would recommend them, not only were they professional, their gear was all in excellent condition, the instructors and guides were all really friendly, helpfull and obviously knew what they were doing. You could tell from the first day that they weren't a bunch of cowboys like some of the dive companies in the area. 

The good thing with egypt is that even at 5pm when i got back to the hotel it was still lovely and sunny, and being late in the day, getting a deck chair by the pool was nice and easy. I spent a couple of hours sitting in the sun, topping up my tan (ok, my sunburn) having a couple of drinks at the pool bar and chatting with some people i had met the day before.

The next couple of days were amazing, other than getting up at 6am so i could have some breakfast (and yes the breakfast was the best meal in the restaurant) I would get picked up at 7:45 to go for my diving, usually on the boat by about 9->9:30ish. It was particularly quite so most of the boats i went on there were only about 8 people on, and especially for the first few dives, there was only me, my dive buddy and 2 guides (one was doing his trainers course) the dives in the red sea are pretty spectacular, there is always so much to see. My first real dive i was a bit nervous, and i stuffed up my mask so that i couldn't really see as well as i would have liked, I was surprised when i got back on the boat that i had actually taken some ok photo's. I can never ever say that i am a good photographer, so taking a camera under water was always going to be a bit of hit and miss, but when i look back on the photo's i took while i was there, I was really pleased. Most days the schedule was 2 dives in the morning, lunch on the boat (the food was really good, i was pleasantly surprised) there was always an optional dive in the afternoon, and since i was on holiday and really enjoying the diving, i did most of the afternoon dives. The boat would get back to the dock about 4ish, and i would be back in the hotel anywhere from 4:30 to 5:30. Since i had to walk past the pool to get to my room, i always ended up sitting by the pool for an hour or so, reading my book, going for a swim and yes, sitting at the pool bar for a nice relaxing drink or 2 ;)

I was really surprised at how tiring the diving was, but then i know i was not in the best shape, even after going to the gym constantly for a few weeks before, i know i am still very unfit. The evenings while i was diving were pretty quite, i would go to dinner, the waiter was pretty good, as soon as i turned up he would have a table ready for me (not hard to find a table for one) and get me a couple of glasses of wine (no it didn't matter that it would get warm, they didn't chill the white wine anyway :( ) I did spend alot of the time in the restaurant, and around the pool watching people. I know it is a strange hobby, but when you are by yourself on holiday, you don't really have much else to do.

There were not really that many british people in the hotel, there were a few families there, but alot of the people seemed to be italian, russian and yes egyptian. It always amazes me how people act when in an all inclusive environment. The hotel did have a dress code, and i did even see them tell some people that they couldn't come in (usually when the guys tried to come into the restaurant in their speedo's. Ok, i am not a good one to talk about fashion, but when i go to a restaurant for dinner i do like to at least be dressed smartly, and yes i do know that i was on holiday, and you dress more relaxed on holiday, but there were some people at dinner that came in wearing shorts and tank tops. There were some people that did dress up (as i said i don't really know fashion, but wow there was some real bad fashion there) Again, i am amazed when people come away from the buffet with a plate so loaded up that a family of 5 couple probably eat off it. I don't know what it is about a buffet that makes people think they have to pile so much onto their plates. Ok, i know i do like my food, but i tended to have small amounts of things, i wasn't there to gorge, and i do really hate wasting so much food, and yes most of what i saw piled onto plates did end up going back to the kitchen uneaten.

It is very strange watching people, i only met a couple of people while i was there, most of the rest of the time i did keep to myself as is pretty normal for me, between reading my book, as i said i did like to watch people. I do find watching body language to be an interesting study. There were so many people there that just didn't look happy to be with the people they were with. Yes there were those people that were obviously having a good time, and enjoying the company of those around them. I know i would never know what people were really thinking, but there were times when i had to wonder why people were there together as some of the couples didn't even seem to talk to each other.

I did take a break from the diving on the saturday, partially because there was meant to be an "international" show on the friday night that the hotel had been advertising, and i was knackered from 3 days of diving. The international show was a bit strange, but also enjoyable. On the saturday i took the advantage of not having to go diving and slept in really late before going for breakfast and attempting to find a spot next to the pool. I think that is one area that i had an advantage of being there by myself, there were quite often times when there were 3 people together, so there was a few spare single deck chairs for me. My tan was starting to come along, and i was actually starting to get a bit of brown instead of the red i got on my first day.

When i went back to the diving, i was feeling a lot more relaxed, and yet again enjoyed each dive i did. One of the instructors approached me after my first day back diving and asked if i had considered doing my advanced open water, and since i had missed out on seeing a red anemone that day because it was at 25 meters and i could only dive to 18, i considered doing it, i had a few more days diving and other than a bit of theory all i actually had to do was dive. As i was on holiday, and probably wouldn't get the chance to go diving for a while, i signed up for the advanced open water course to start the next day. 

Turtle only a few meters away from me
To complete my advanced open water i had to do 5 adventure dives, only 2 were compulsory, the deep dive and the navigation dive, the rest i could choose which dives to do. The 3 optional dives i did were the drift dive (easy as i had already done some drift dives), computer and multilevel (again easy as i had done computer dives in my open water) and fish id (ok, still easy, and by that time i actually knew a few of the fish families) The course only took 2 days, the deep dive was great, it was the first dive we did, and after that i was allowed to go to 30 meters even before i completed my qualification. I was really surprised when the instructor stopped us on our descent, and told us to look at our gauges, mine said we were at 18 meters, so i was ready to go down to 30, my gauge was a tad on the faulty side, and we were actually at 28 meters (made sense now why i thought we had been so shallow on my previous dives). the red sea is an amazing place to dive, and visibility was incredible, if it wasn't for the fact that i could see the depth on the instructors computer, i would never have guessed that we had gone that deep. The only shame was that because we went that deep, we were only allowed to do a 20 minute dive (for non divers, that is the longest you can stay at that depth alone and not have to have a stop before coming to the surface) My next dive was the navigation dive, we had to do a few exercises in that one, it started well with us seeing a blue spotted ray swimming close to us where we went down to start. On that one we had to take our instructor back to the start point, ok, we got a little lost, but we managed to get back to within about 20 meters of where we came down, so i was quite pleased about that.

Toilets from the ulanda
We did the fish id course in one of the most amazing dive sites, one of the people on the boat said it was rated in the top 10 dive sites in the world. It is part of the Ras Mohammad national park, there are 3 reefs all close together, the only part of the dive i didn't like was having to write on the slate all the types of fish i could see and why i thought they were what they were :). The dive site was called shark and yollanda reefs, i assume shark is called that because there are sometimes sharks there, yollanda was the site of a wreck 40 or so years ago. The yollanda was taking bathroom fittings to Sharm for the newly being built resorts. It was quite strange to dive and see toilet's and bath sitting on the reef, but they have been there so long now they are a part of the reef with coral growing on them. That site was so much more spectacular than all the others, the fish that were there were much bigger, there were sooooooo many more, at times it was really like swimming in an aquarium, the fish didn't mind us being there, and would just swim around you, sometimes close enough to touch. The coral was amazing, lots of purple coral that looked so fine. It is really hard to describe how amazing it is to be under water with so much to see. I know the photo's i took really don't do it justice, but it is great to look at them and bring back memories of what i saw and experienced.

On the final day of diving for me, i went back to ras mohamad, unfortunatly i wasn't feeling well so only did 2 dives as i had a bit of an inner ear infection that was making me feel like i was on a boat all the time, luckily when i got into the water the feeling went away. We had a video guy on the last dive, which again made me a bit self concious, every time i turned around it seemed that he was shooting in my direction. He was making a promotional video for the dive company, and we saw an early edit of it at lunch time, and i was quite pleased that my diving actually look ok.

The rest of the holiday the days kindof blurred into the same thing, get up early (i had got so used to waking up at 6 i just woke up) go have breakfast and put my towel out on a deck chair. sit by the pool, read my book, go for a swim about every 1/2 hour to cool down, sit at the pool bar, not just for the drink, but because it was both in the water and shaded. They were a nice relaxing couple of days. Lunch was usually around 2ish followed by more of the pool, i would always go and use the internet for 15 minutes to check my mail, it was strange to only have the internet for 15 minutes a day, it was actually quite refreshing to not be sitting at a computer all day, and since virgin don't seem to have any agreements in the area, i was virtually un contactable for the entire 2 weeks. I have to say even though i don't get contacted alot, it was quite nice to not have to bother having any way to be in contact with anyone.

By the end of the holiday i spent alot of time trying to get a good tan (and get rid of the panda eyes, i really do have to remember to take my sunnies off when sun bathing) You could tell how hot it was, one day i went for a walk into the local town area and my sandles melted, yep it WAS that hot.

Security in that area is quite strange, there are checkpoints all over the place, and most hotels have scanners (that they never use) the police checkpoints just seemed to be places for the coppers to sit and rest as i never actually saw them doing much else (i am sure they did). When the car came to pick me up to take me back to the airport the security outside the airport seemed to be overly strict, they had to check the car, my passport, but then the guard started quizzing me on where i was going which was a bit strange as they had a couple of buses come through that they only gave a cursory glance at. The airport was far from being anything spectacular, because it was ramadan, and i arrived at the moment they could all eat, they closed everything for 1/2 hour so everyone could have some dinner. When i finally got checked in and through security there wasn't much there, a couple of duty free shops and a burger king.

I arrived home at 2:30am, and unfortunately had to go to work the next morning so i stayed at the airport hotel for the night and then trudged into the city with my broken suitcase (long story but one of the wheels wasn't working), that was the end of my holiday. There were some really amazing times, I met some really nice people, and actually came back really relaxed, and i am proud to say that 3 weeks later, the tan hasn't faded that much ;)

Now i need to start planning the next holiday, as i still have 2 weeks to take before the end of the year :) Well, i might take a week over as i have been invited to go skiing again in january, hopefully this time i won't come back on crutches.

well, again, thanks for reading, not sure when there will be anything of interest to write about in my life, so untill it does, have fun :)