In the early summer large schools of snappers, batfish, unicorn surgeon-fish, barracuda and trevallies swirl off the southern tip of Sinai, at Ras Mohammed. Nearby there are shallow reefs and a treasure-trove of World War II military paraphernalia in the wreckage of the SS Thistlegorm.
Alex Mustard regularly runs an excellent workshop based aboard one of several large and comfortable live-aboard dive boats. This year he was joined by Alex Tattersall, demonstrating (certainly not forcing sales on us with his usual skill) new and exciting ideas from Nauticam.
The winds died down, after blowing us away from the shoals of Abu Nuhas, and the diving began:
Three weeks and sixty dives in Truk: I wonder if I have a job to return to?
I travelled out from England last month, and had the usual frustrations in Manila's endlessly rebuilt but never air-conditioned airport, but arrived relatively unscathed at the Blue Lagoon resort, to dive sequentially and promiscuously with Americans, Australians and, later some rather aloof Englishmen (but not the Germans, who frowned at a photographer's acceptance of the actuality, if not the intention, of solo diving), guided by the superlatively knowledgable and experienced Trukkese guides. Two weeks at the Blue Lagoon, and a week on the "Odyssey", a byword under JJ for both organisation and diving tolerance.
I had made the reacquaintance of the Fujikawa Maru and some other old friends when a new adversary claimed my attention, and my camera: the San Francisco Maru ate the glass dome off my port. I have to acknowledge a debt to Shannon Conway, who brought out a new D800 and a fisheye lens from Australia, and Nauticam who sent a 230mm dome.
... 50m to the deck, and ruled by jealous local gods (JJ claims that its title, the "million dollar wreck", comes not from its impressive military cargo, but its appetite for cameras). My own appetite for an image of its tanks and trucks kindled, it took five dives and many cylinders of gas to get this wreck out of my system.
I shouldn't forget the other stars: the sagging but still impressive Fujikawa Maru, the famous "R2D2" air compressor now protected, not by small corridors and stairwells, but dangerous and unstable corroded decks and tangled pipework; the beguiling Shinkoku Maru, the introspective and shrouded Kensho Maru, the bold Nippo Maru, rescued from ignominy as a water tank to a new life as an historical monument, the doomed aircraft, the equipment that never left the Hoki Maru to build roads and runways, the engine rooms of listing, twisted and inverted ships...
I travelled out to the Maldives as a result of BSoUP's 2012 "Splash-in" competition, joining the MV Sea Spirit and its faithful dhoni to cruise the well-travelled but surprisingly interesting Thilas and channels of Ari Atoll.
The boat looks small, until you realise that all the dive gear stays on the dhoni with the compressor and Nitrox. It's actually as comfortable as the much bigger and superficially more impressive boats that ply the Red Sea and Indonesian waters.
There are still shoals of fish, sharks of all kinds (somewhat oppressed by crowds if they venture too close to the bigger resort islands), rays, turtles and pretty reefs, largely, I suspect, because of the intermittently fierce currents that squirt in and out of the atolls.