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Red Sea Tour - Part 3


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#1 Timmoranuk

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Posted 22 August 2009 - 09:49 AM

For many years I’ve been a regular visitor to the Red Sea Diving Safari (RSDS) camps at Marsa Shagra and Wadi Lahami. Excellent diving, relaxed friendly service and good friends have made my annual visits an absolute must. CJ started his open water diving when he was only eight years old on the lovely house reef at Shagra.

Our transfer from the ‘Pearl to Wadi Lahami was bang on time and our brief stopover at Shagra allowed me catch up with my old friend Mahmoud Aziz. An hour and a half later we were bouncing along the dusty track at Lahami.

This remote dive camp is a unique experience. There are no frills at Lahami. Safari tents or simple but comfortable ‘Madyafar’ stone huts built around a single story building which would not be out of place in a spaghetti western movie. Everyone moves slowly and talks softly in the intense and arid southern Egyptian heat which can easily top 40 degrees celcius. On each of our visits, CJ and I have been the only English guests. Most are French or Dutch but English is the common language. Soon, everyone is mixing and getting on like old friends. Many visit Lahami alone. August is low season and you may expect no more than twenty guests but more visit earlier and later in the year when the air temperatures are cooler. The bar tender is a gem. “One tea minfudluck” (one tea please) I ask. “Coffee?” he replies. “La’a, one tea” (no, one tea), “Water?” he asks again. “Tea” I reconfirm. Eventually, he gets it after going through the entire drinks menu. This Pythonesque sketch repeats itself without change and here, it’s all part of the charm…

The day starts at 6:30 am with a simple breakfast. Fast, twin engined 7.5 metre RIBs depart at 7:15 am for a ‘two tanker’. Between dives, tea and cake is served during the hour long surface interval. Take the membrane nitrox as its too easy to nudge into deco on the second dive when breathing 21%. Guests are back onshore by 12:30 pm for lunch and siesta before diving the house reefs at 3:00 pm. A boat night dive is available when Spanish Dancers can be hunted.

Liveaboard fleets frequent the Fury Shoal but confine themselves to the more well known and accessible sites like Sha’ab Maksour, Sataya, Malahi, Sha’ab Claudia and Abu Galawa. The RSDS operation at Lahami has more options available and their dive sites include many which they have discovered and named themselves. Walking, The Bells, Indiana and Jones, Iron garden, G.I. Joe, Mr Jim, Bloomen, Eanie and Meanie are exclusive, pristine sites which are an absolute privilege to dive. World class hard coral formations dominate the largely current free, relatively shallow (15-25 metre) sites. Visibility on the Shoal is excellent. For the afternoon dive there are many house reefs within five or ten minutes by RIB. Habilli Ghazalla is a string of pinnacles, Sha’ab Rour is a large reef with a drop-off and sports frequent dolphin and turtle encounters, Nathan’s Corner and Torfa are reef walls and Ras Bonnie combines both reef and habillis. There’s plenty of entertaining variety for the afternoon dives.

The centre is run by Ross, an Australian, who in the right light could be mistaken for Ayre’s Rock. He opened the camp at Lahami in 2000 and was doing eight dives each day to map and plan the dives. Ross often guides his clients and his laid back style is ably illustrated by his comment “surface with some gas left”. I like Ross.

CJ and I resolved to shoot macro for the week. Liberated from the tedium of swapping ports and strobe arm configurations between dives I was free to allow my mind to enter ‘macro mode’. Maybe it’s the quality of the subjects on the Fury but I was starting to see stuff which I could have easily missed earlier. No longer caught in the powerful currents of Tiran and St.Johns, CJ and I were free to dwell for the entirety of a dive on just a single pinnacle and share delightful discoveries. It was a new experience for me to return to the wreck of the Tien Tsien or the caves at Sha’ab Claudia armed with macro and I saw these sites with fresh eyes. Throughout, we were left alone to indulge our photography. I just put a SMB up after an hour and a RIB was with us within a minute or two.

On our fourth day at Lahami we jumped in over the yacht wreck at Abu Galawa. At 12 metres CJ presented me with his camera indicating the shutter lever was not engaging on his Ike housing. I took his rig from him to examine the problem and found the set screw which acts as a shutter lever was loose and it came off in my hand. CJ immediately indicated that the housing was flooding so I made an emergency ascent keeping the housing orientated port down. On board the RIB we discovered that when the set screw is detached, water pressure forces the control rod into the housing and when the ‘cut out’ passes the o-rings, the housing floods. There’s no fail-safe and Ikelite would do well to incorporate a small modification. Anyway, CJ’s Canon was dry and later, after checking the security of all the hex bolts on both our Ike housings, he was back to triggering images. Although my emergency ascent was made very early in the dive and from a modest depth it seemed to set off the old nerve damage in my elbow, a legacy from a past type one hit. One develops a self-sufficient approach to diving in Egypt’s deep south and some in-water recompression therapy soon resolved that little niggle. Of course, recompression chambers are available throughout Egypt’s diving coastline including the deep south with a facility located adjacent to RSDS at Marsa Shagra. A seven euro insurance premium provides up to 21 days cover.

All too soon our two-weeker was in its last day and I’m writing this closing paragraph during siesta. In the next hour we’ll be saying goodbye to our old friend, the Red Sea, with our last dive on the house reef at Nathan’s Corner. CJ’s diving has really come of age and he’s become a very competent, independent and safe diver who’s skills and experience surpass his JOW. He uses nitrox, leaps from dive decks with his rig and handles his dive profiles like a pro. He’ll walk his JAOW in September, then his Rescue and with three more specialities and he’ll be MSD. I expect it won’t be too long before he realizes his ambition to guide during his summer recesses. He already has two offers of work! Maybe he’ll ask his Old Man along…
· Canon 5D3, 7D & Nauticam housings. Sigma 15mm, Canon 16-35mm, Tokina 10-17mm, Sigma 8-16mm, Canon 10-22mm, Sigma 17-70mm, Sigma 70-200mm, Sigma 120-300mm, Canon 60mm & 100mm
· INON Z-240s & Sea & Sea YS-250 Pros
· SmallHD DP4 monitor & NA-DP4. Fisheye Aquavolt 3500s & 7000s
· Zen DP-100, DP-200 & DP-230

#2 JTemple

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 09:33 AM

A fabulous series of reports! Thoroughly enjoyed all 3. Thanks for sharing.
-Jennifer

#3 stewsmith

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 10:59 AM

What a great read. Glad to hear the camera survived and more importantly your twinge didnt come to anything.

Stew

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#4 diggy

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Posted 23 August 2009 - 10:13 PM

Very well penned a pleasure to read. Thanks,

Cheers,

Diggy

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#5 Timmoranuk

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 11:22 AM

Thank you for your kind comments. I've posted a collection of images from the trips on my Flickr album. CJs will follow in due course. The link is included in my signature.

Kind regards, Tim
· Canon 5D3, 7D & Nauticam housings. Sigma 15mm, Canon 16-35mm, Tokina 10-17mm, Sigma 8-16mm, Canon 10-22mm, Sigma 17-70mm, Sigma 70-200mm, Sigma 120-300mm, Canon 60mm & 100mm
· INON Z-240s & Sea & Sea YS-250 Pros
· SmallHD DP4 monitor & NA-DP4. Fisheye Aquavolt 3500s & 7000s
· Zen DP-100, DP-200 & DP-230

#6 Scubysnaps

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 11:37 AM

Great shots Tim, fantastic close ups! Cant wait unitl I manage to get that close. What macro lens(es) do you use?
I'm really a very crap reader but will read your adventure when I find I have time, do you have a shortened version!? ;)
Cheers
Paul

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#7 Timmoranuk

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 12:14 PM

Great shots Tim, fantastic close ups! Cant wait unitl I manage to get that close. What macro lens(es) do you use?
I'm really a very crap reader but will read your adventure when I find I have time, do you have a shortened version!? ;)


Thanks very much for your kind comments. I use INON UCL's. Either one or two 165's or a 330 on the front of a long ported Ike housing. My apologies if my three reports are rambles...

Edited by Timmoranuk, 17 September 2009 - 12:52 PM.

· Canon 5D3, 7D & Nauticam housings. Sigma 15mm, Canon 16-35mm, Tokina 10-17mm, Sigma 8-16mm, Canon 10-22mm, Sigma 17-70mm, Sigma 70-200mm, Sigma 120-300mm, Canon 60mm & 100mm
· INON Z-240s & Sea & Sea YS-250 Pros
· SmallHD DP4 monitor & NA-DP4. Fisheye Aquavolt 3500s & 7000s
· Zen DP-100, DP-200 & DP-230

#8 Scubysnaps

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Posted 17 September 2009 - 01:22 PM

Thanks very much for your kind comments. I use INON UCL's. Either one or two 165's or a 330 on the front of a long ported Ike housing. My apologies if my three reports are rambles...

cool stuff |Tim, cheers
Woody
Cheers
Paul

*Nikon D90 with Tokina 10-17 & Nikon 60mm, 105mm, Sigma 17-70, Kenko1.4 * 2 x Z240 & 2 x 12 litres...global! *

www.scubysnaps.com >)))°>