Home Features RED SEA LIVEABOARD Then.. and now

RED SEA LIVEABOARD Then.. and now

So there we were in the wilderness that is the Southern Red Sea. Our only engine had fallen silent. Bits of the Turbo were spread all over the dive deck and there was a lot of head shaking from Hisham, who’s dancing talents it seemed to us far outstripped his engineering skills. The mainland we were told was somewhere over the western horizon, but anyway was scorching uninhabited desert. If there was any human habitation it was the Egyptian military who would immediately arrest us and throw us in jail, if we were not shot first. Yasser imparted this information with his usual broad grin. I returned the smile although the funny side of the situation wasn’t totally apparent. We had already been desperately trying to contact anyone in the area but the VHF just hissed emptily back at us.

The year was 1996 and we had ventured into the Southern Red Sea on Angelina II, a 22mtre liveaboard with one engine! No one including the skipper had ever been in the area before. And what an adventure it was. We had snorkelled up close and personal with a huge oceanic white tip shark (Well I had, the others had more sense and watched from the boat), and rescued a family of Bedouins marooned when the engine on their faluca failed. We had not seen another living soul (apart from the Bedouins) for two weeks. Eventually we raised David Halal on Sea Surveyor who offered to come to our aid, although Hisham finally fixed the turbo using one of his wife’s nylons. (no we didn’t ask). Finally Yasser our tireless diveguide, who had faithfully and faultlessly guided us through the unknown reaches of the Red Sea dived into the pool at the Hurghada Hilton and split his head open. He has the scar to this day.
How things have changed! I saw Angelina II off Gordon reef a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t really comprehend how we ever termed her as “Luxury Liveaboard “ and dared venture out into the unknown, lovely little boat though she is. But of course she WAS “luxury” compared with most of the liveaboards back then. A typical Safari boat (Safari was the word then, we promoted the term Liveaboard) was a converted day boat. Endearing features were the charming green Astroturf, flaking paint, single rusty ladder, noisy Mariner compressor tied on the dive deck with blue nylon rope, and single smelly deck toilet for all guests and crew.

The boats we operate now are a far cry from those early safari boats. In the early nineties I made a few trips on Poseidon’s Quest, considered to be ”out of this world” luxury compared with her contemporaries such as Lady Jenny and Sea Surveyor. However there is no comparison with today’s sleek powerful luxury vessels.


Today’s liveaboard diver wakes up in his spacious air-conditioned cabin, having cruised all night from the previous site. Takes a piping hot shower in the ensuite bathroom to the sounds of Dido that he has selected on the multi channel music system. He strolls up to the salon bar for juice and coffee. Flicks open his laptop to check for mails through the inboard radio connection and satellite communications. Then out onto the cocktail deck for the dive brief, check that his 32 Nitrox fill that he ordered the night before is correct and picks up the digital camera he’s hired from the dive manager. After the first dive buffet breakfast in the dining room is the same as any 5 star hotel, with eggs and pancakes prepared to order and a wide selection of Continental, European and local fare. After breakfast a thorough briefing on the semi closed rebreather followed by a try dive on the unit. After lunch he checks out the mornings images in the cabin on the DVD and screen provided cabins. After the last dive he relaxes in the spa bath on the sun deck with a cold beer, or watches the sun go down with a cocktail. After a four course dinner with a bottle of wine he settles down in the bar to watch finding Nemo on the plasma screen. He has a discussion with the Tri-Mix Inspiration divers who are telling him about the 95metre wreck dive they made in the morning and then turns in. In the cool of his cabin he drifts off to sleep to the sound of his favourite jazz artist played on the cabin CD/DVD system.
The Egyptian diving industry has achieved a remarkable feat in a few short years. Their boat builders have more than matched the aspirations of their demanding European guests, improving the size, standard and safety of the boats beyond all recognition. Painting and maintenance teams visit the jetty on changeover days to ensure everything in top condition.

The quality of service has also come on immeasurably. Standards of catering and housekeeping are in line with those of better hotels ashore, and today’s boats offer every service for the diver, Nitrox, Trimix, rebreather facilities and hire, digital camera and video hire and courses etc. etc.
I do find it rather curious that some new companies advertise their boats as “Operated and managed by a British company” and “Bringing British Standards to the Red Sea”
The Egyptian Liveaboard industry is now providing it’s guests with boats and service second-to-non in the world. Anyone who has been onboard a boat around the UK coast will for sure not want “British Standards” brought to the Red Sea.

And what for the future? My personal view is that the Red Sea will remain a top diving destination long into the future. Whilst other areas face threats from commercial fishing, agricultural run-off, over population etc the Red Sea is to some extent protected from these pressures. In years to come the Red Sea will become the Serengeti or the Masai Mara of the oceans. A World National Park, where we can still explore a rich marine environment, with all the wonderful creatures that live there.Of course as with any national park on land or sea there are certain measures the relevant authorities must take to ensure continuing conservation of this special area. After the classic monuments the Red Sea is Egypt’s most valuable resource. Things that in my view need attention would include management of the remarkable variety of shipwrecks and restricting the number of boats and operators, as well as making sure the increased tourist population on shore doesn’t impact on the marine environment.
And what is the best way to explore this wonderful marine environment?
Liveaboard of course. 

 

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