Today is our one day on the water.
It takes a long time to sort things out at the dive shop, but the up side of that is that they actually make an effort to find everyone fins and masks that really fit. I ask about a wet suit (John and Cassandra back home told me I would need one), but the staff insist the water has warmed up and that I absolutely will not need one. After I ask a couple more times they tell me that if I really want one, they’ll send one along. I feel like I am being ridiculous, so say no, that’s ok. (A dumb, dumb response on my part.)
Our boat is the Marlin – or the Ma lin, if you are viewing its starboard side – neither of which seems very Egyptian. However, it seems clean and well maintained.
As we wait to leave the jetty, we have time to admire the wide beaches and distant mountains – as well as the over-abundant development crowding the shore.
At last the Marlin heads out under clear blue skies and hot sunshine.
Our destination is a spot along Sha’ab Abu Ramada reef that is known as the “aquarium.”
There are already several other boats there when we arrive, but everyone is reasonably well spread out along the crescent-shaped reef. There are few other snorkelers and the water looks inviting. Even from the deck, I can see brilliant purple and yellow coral and glowing red fish below the water’s surface. Let me in!
But we snorkelers have to wait until the divers are off before we can start out. Then I discover my carefully fitted fins (I tried three pairs before I found ones that actually fit) have been taken by someone else. Grrr. . . It takes awhile to find another pair that fits well enough, but at last I jump into the water.
Oh my god!
I swear it is the coldest water I have ever been in. Damn them for insisting I didn’t need a wet suit! (And myself for letting them talk me out of it 🙂
I gasp for awhile just trying to breath. Can I actually do this? It is SO cold. Hoping it will help me warm up, I swim vigorously to the edge of the reef. Thank goodness the sun is warm. Maybe that will help.
I adjust my mask and put my face into the water. I am stunned. There are brightly colored fish everywhere, swimming singly and in groups through a coral rainbow. It is simply incredible – more beautiful than any other place I have ever seen. It really is like swimming through a giant, lively aquarium!
Unfortunately, I don’t have much in the way of pictures to show you.
I’ve never been happy with the results I’ve gotten using throw-away film cameras on other trips, so this time I am trying one of those underwater camera bags. (Like a giant Ziplock bag for a camera.) Unfortunately, I don’t really have the camera set correctly. (And there is no way to adjust it once I am in the water.) So I am taking pictures at close-range, looking straight down while floating along with the current at a good pace. . . It is a perfect recipe for really blurry, abstract photos.
But trust me, it was AMAZING. The colors are so vivid – the coral is red and yellow, but also brilliant purple and blue and green. The fish are the same, glowing brilliantly in every color imaginable, sometimes all in one fish! It is hard to believe it is real.
Pretty soon I am stalking some of the more interesting fish, following them around the edge of the reef as if I am going to be able to sneak up on them and make them pose for a picture. (They all manage to slip away 🙂
I stay in the water as a long as I can stand it, but I know from past experience that I easily suffer from what seems to be hypothermia. When I can’t stop thinking about how cold I am, it is time to board the boat. Damn. I say goodbye to the fish I have been following and swim back.
I haven’t had nearly enough time. Maybe I can go back for more after I’ve warmed up a little.
Back on board, I stretch out on deck in the hot sunshine. I am exhausted and dehydrated. Soon it is lunch time, but I am still too nauseous to eat the lovely meal that is served. (The spread that came out of the tiny galley kitchen is simply amazing.) I wish I could manage to eat more than a taste of white rice. Dang, everything looks delicious.
I’m finally feeling better by the time we move on to the long, low mound of sand called Giftun Island.
There really is nothing to this island but lots and lots of beach.
Ok, not exactly nothing.
The island also sports a field of thatched beach umbrellas, a souvenir shack, and a beach bar.
There really is nothing to do here except hang out on the beach or in the beach bar, eating one of the last ice cream bars in the freezer. A tropical holiday indeed!
Even our guard loosens his tie and takes off his shoes, rolling up the legs of his suit pants to walk barefoot in the sand. I wonder how he feels about us: Does he resent spending his wealthy clueless charges? I ask him how he feels about spending his days stuck here watching over people having fun on vacation. He says this is a good job and he enjoys it, although he admits he misses his fiancé. I believe him. I suspect he is paid well by Egyptian standards and we are pretty easy charges. Besides, there certainly are worse jobs then watching over tourists on a beautiful, nearly deserted, beach.
Back on the boat, we are taken to an other dive spot. Nancy actually has two wetsuits along and kindly offers one to me, but it is already late in the afternoon and I am finally warm. If I go into the water, I know I will not be warm again until I am back at the hotel.
The guides explain this site has no coral, but is noteworthy for its wide variety of fish, especially big fish. I like fish, but I am also enjoying being warm.
I stay on the boat, as do most of the others. It has been a wonderful, but very long, day.