Diving in Dahab, Red Sea

For those that have read my articles here or on PADI.com/blog it will come as no surprise that Dahab is one of my favourite destinations for diving.  In Fact in the last 12 months I have probably spent a good 5 weeks there.  So makes sense to write an article about this great divers town.

Destination Dahab

Dahab named after the Egyptian for gold is a small resort town on the Sinai Peninsula. This former Bedouin fishing village lies about 1 – 1.5hrs north-east of Sharm el Sheikh and its international airport, the transfer time does vary on the driver, time of day and what state the road is currently in.   After a drive through and over the sandstone hills you arrive at the Dahab check-point and proceed into town.  Now for those that are used to well maintained and manicured resorts the first view of Dahab might be a bit of a shock, maybe not so much as the hustle and bustle of down-town Hurghada can be, but its a proper Egyptian small town not a fake Disney take on it.

Dahab is pretty laid back, friendly and not encumbered with massive hotel developments and bucket and spade type holiday makers, which gives it a  great vibe that will have you hooked in no time.  Every time I go I meet lots of like minded people and make new friends!

The town is made up of 4 parts, Dahab city which is in the south and houses the bigger plusher hotels and the Laguna where the kite surfers find the best wind.  Next is Mashraba maybe  considered the nice part by some with good standard hotels and a number of shops and places to eat, like the great King Chicken!  I though much prefer the Masbat area along the see front with the most dive centres, bars and people I know.   Finally is Asalah where a lot of the locals live and those driving to some of dive sites like Canyons or Blue Hole will pass through.

Dahab has lots of dinning and drinking opportunities spread out along the whole town.  A walk along the promenade can mean you are accosted by a number of touts for each restaurant or souvenir shop, but generally a firm no means they leave you be.  Some of my regular places to eat include, Yalla Bar, Chruchills, Blue Beach, Nirvana and for a cheap and filling lunch the Koshary.   The German bakery with branches in a number of places also provides a good breakfast of pastry, though is a little more expensive then local options.

When it comes to cash points there seems to be a few less then before and often, especially over the weekend they can run out.  Generally I would advise to get out enough cash to cover you for a few days when you get the chance.   There is nothing worse then having to walk from Bluebeach all the way to Mashraba just to find a functioning cash point in the evening while others are enjoying a well earned drink!

Diving in Dahab

If you are reading this then I’m pretty sure you are interested in knowing about the diving.

Dahab Quick Facts

  • Water Temps – 20C to 28c
  • Viz – it does vary on tide and winds but generally 20 – 60m
  • What to see – Turtles, Lionfish, Blue Spotted rays, Napoleons, Seahorses, Jacks.

The diving in Dahab is as relaxed as the town itself, no getting up at dawn to transfer to a boat followed by a 1-2hr boat trip, here many dives start a few steps from the Dive centre.   Dahab is shore diving with the advantage of providing depths for all levels  of diver.   With surprising amounts of coral and fish life within a few breaths of your descent.  The main entry points along the beach front are generally around the lighthouse area, Eel gardens is also great.    A bit further out of town and requiring a taxi ride are some of the best dive spots in Dahab and two of my very favourite dives which offer more challenging dives for those with the correct training (but also fun dives for others).   Blue Hole and the Canyons dive sites are fantastic.

The Canyon is a great dive site, and is essentially a canyon that drops down from about 30m to become a covered tunnel with one or two exits outside onto a wall.   I prefer descending down along the wall to around 40m where the entry up into the canyon is and then up through the canyon – but the other way round is just as good!   The we have the Blue Hole, Dahabs most famous dive site.  The site itself was discovered by the legendary Jacques Cousteau and is about 80 meters in diameter and opens to the Red Sea.   Part of this sites magic is the arch, which is a 26-meter-long tunnel with a roof at around 53ms and is an amazing dive for those with the correct training.  Did I say amazing?  I mean absolutley special!

All Scuba training agencies are well represented and there are plenty of great dive centres to choose from in Dahab catering for your every need from beginner diver all the way to some excellent Tec training, Dahab is also popular with Freedivers (especially the Blue Hole) and Kite surfers.   For those with family or looking to take a break from the diving then there are plenty of activities like Camel rides, trips out into the desert or a visit to the 6th Century monastery of St Catherine’s.

Finally contrary to what you may see or read in the press and TV news Egypt is still a safe and friendly place for Tourists, in fact now more then ever do the Local stores, restaurants and of course all the dive centres and instructors need your support.

Taking things further

Originally post 14 December, 2013 http://www.padi.com/blog/2013/12/14/taking-things-further/

Continued Education and Diving Deeper

It feels like a life time ago, but only 10 months have passed since I was just your average Advanced Openwater Diver looking to progress their diving.

Now as I sit here and type this my thoughts are already on my next trip to finish off my Trimix 65 training.   Anyone else feel there is not enough holiday for all the diving you want to do?

Over the past 10 months I have completed my PADI Tec Deep certification taking in PADI Tec40, 45 and 50 and found a new passion in Sidemount diving.  Its been an amazing journey and one that I had not planned at all.

I had decided to finish my Tec deep on a sidemount configuration, so the first few days were spent tagging along on a recreational sidemount course just as a refresher while my buddy for the Tec course got his first taste of sidemount.  It gave me the opportunity to continue practising equipment setup, getting the equipment on in the water quickly and perfecting my trim in the water all while taking part in some great fun dives.

 

Theory = Knowledge

Even though I had read a lot of the Tec Deep manual during the Tec40 course, I spent much of the 4 hour flight out to Egypt reading over the whole manual again and refreshing my knowledge, I feel its vital to get a firm grasp of the principles as this is your bases for future knowledge development.  I know a lot of people think  that the theory for Tec diving must be hard and complicated, and during my first skim over the manual I thought the same.  But NO!  Actually P02, CNS, OTU and SAC rate are all really simple to grasp, and the way you learn with constant re-enforcement and practical examples really helps make you feel confident of mastering the subject.   Also anyone freshly through the Rescue Diver course will breeze through sections on Decompression Illness DCI / Decompression sickness DCS.

In the evenings during the recreational sidemount dives I spent time completing the knowledge reviews so I was getting quiet eager to get that 3rd and 4th tank on and get in the water!

 

Its all about Trim!

Knowledge reviews done the next day was spent at the buoyancy park.  We took 4 tanks, but started with 3 fine tuning skills from our Tec sidemount as a refresher, and then we moved on to the 4th tank.  Perfecting Trim with for tanks, moving through water and also drills, Out of Air, free flows, NOTOX, staging and then finally deco stops with NOTOX drills along a line..every time we moved too far up or down we started again.  If you’re not a trim Ninja after a day of dives like this then there is no hope for you!!   I don’t know about you, but I find after a good days diving I’m always tired and very hungry so Dahab’s finest King Chicken was on the menu as we sat down to plan our next days deco dive to 45m at possibly my favourite dive site – The Canyons

After the 45m dive we next planned out our 50m dive and followed that one up with the exam.  I’ve always been terrible at exams (well thats what I told my parents all my childhood) but this one I found myself flying through, even turning the page and seeing the long scenario it asked me to work out, wow didn’t even need to think the answer is obvious.  BAM.  Thats the value of good training.  Solid knowledge.

 

Going through the Arch of Awesome

Following the refrain of onwards and upwards or maybe in my case that should be onwards and downwards.  I now took the opportunity to do my 1st Trimix dive.  What a dive it would be, a sidemount trimix dive through the Arch at the famous Bluehole of Dahab.  The evening before we started our planning and getting our tanks ready for blending a 20/20 Trimix  that is 20% O2 and 20%Helium.   The next morning we arrived at the centre early (even Greg Desatnick managed this!!) and started analysing and labelling our tanks and getting the gear ready for our favourite Dahab taxi Mr Mansour.

Once at the site we unloaded and did our final equipment checks before sitting down to have a tea and go over our dive plan with not too many distractions from the Freedivers doing their yoga in front of us.

Blue hole dahab

Kitted up we headed into the water, for what was going to be a truly amazing dive.  This was one of those dives that when not concentrating on your dive plan you brain is just saying whoop whoop – truly amazing. I’d heard so much about the arch and had also dived the rest of the site before as others with the correct training went through the arch.  This time it was my go, and down we went and through the arch, turned hung in there in wonder for a moment then started on our long way back up.  It was one of those “This is Why” moments.  Baring a freeflow on my deco tank on the way up which was quickly and calmly solved using my training the dive was perfect, our plan followed and 3 happy divers emerging from the water equally stoked instructor and students alike.

Diving in Dahab follows its own time, but unfortunately mine was up again, so with many great dives and lots old friends met again and many new ones added I headed back home.

Massive thanks to all the guys at Team Blue Immersion  in Dahab for the great hospitality and dedication to getting their students not just through a course but owning the course.    Also thanks to Erik Brown Staff IDC instructor 285393 for continuing to be my Sidemount Guru and mentor.  Not forgetting Greg Desatnick MSDT 35225 for being a great buddy.  Of course special mention to Trimix the dog  for drooling in my flipflops when ever he got the chance.

I hope this blog gives you the urge to get out there and learn more, take things further and master your skills.  Theres a PADI course out there for all of you, even if you don’t want to go down the Tec route.

 

PADI Tec40 course

Originally Posted by http://www.padi.com/blog/2013/03/24/padi-tec40-course/

PADI Tec40

Having freshly completed my recreational sidemount course and with a week of dive time still ahead of me, I decided why not take the next step and do my PADI Tec40 course.

I’d already learnt and felt comfortable with gas management on my sidemount course and with these skills still fresh in my memory and being in the company of the Tec gurus at Team Blue Immersion in Dahab I decided it was an opportunity not to be missed.  So after a day off after my birthday it was straight back into learning.

PADI tec40 Diver

Look mum 3 tanks

It was with some trepidation that I opened the PADI Tec Deep diver manual and flicked through its pages.  What have I let myself in for I wondered, some of my university texts books were shorter.  It was only after my instructor Erik Brown explained to me that the manual actually covered Tec40, 45 and 50 and I only needed to concentrate on certain chapters for this course – phew!

Tec diving isn’t just about two tanks or more, its about redundancy of the whole system, so we started looking at the equipment requirements.  What does redundancy mean in simple terms?  Two of everything.  Two BCD bladders, two low pressure inflators, two regs, two computers and a spare mask and of course twin tanks (with an additional stage tank added later)

So over the following 5 days of the course we completed 8 dives in total, each one building, reinforcing and perfecting skills. Each evening was then spent nose in the manual and completing the knowledge reviews.

  • Dive 1 – Trim & Positioning.
  • Dive 2 – Trim & Positioning, Out of Air, Buddy checks –  more like  self check routines confirmed with Buddy.
  • Dive 3 – Out of Air, Shut down Drills – identifying which manifold the issue may be.
  • Dive  4 – Stage tank introduced, Shut Down, Deco NOTOX* drills at 12m, 9m, 6m, 3m.
  • Dive 5 – Shut Down, Deco NOTOX Drills at 12m, 9m, 6m, Deploying Marker Buoy for ascent line, Low pressure inflator failure.
  • Dive 6 – Simulated Deco dive on 21% EANx (Enriched Air Nitrox) NOTOX drills.
  • Dive 7 – Final training dive recapping on all skills learnt.
  • Dive 8 – Qualifying Dive 14mins @ 40m

(*NOTOX – Note, Observe, Turn, Orient, eXamine)

The theory included learning about Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate and Maximum Operating Depth (MOD) and diving planning using desk top decompression software (V Planner) and writing my 1st dive plan on my slate.

After the final Dive came the theory exam, which turned out to be a lot easier then I thought, as everything you need to learn is in the course materials and with great instruction from Erik putting the theory into the practices during the water sessions it was amazing recalling facts so easily.

Even if you have no interest in becoming a Tec diver, I would recommend this course to you.  Why?  Well personally it has given me so much confidence in my ability and has improved my general diving skills beyond anything else I have done to date.  My eureka moment came on dive #7 after spending 5mins at 3m perfectly still and only ever having a 0.1m change.  Doing nothing never felt like a bigger achievement.

If you’re interested in taking a Tec course then contact your local PADI center to see if they offer Tec courses or just a discover Tec taster, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

PADI Recreational Sidemount diving

Originally Posted by http://www.padi.com/blog/2013/03/04/padi-recreational-sidemount/

PADI Recreational Sidemount diving

With sidemount diving gaining in popularity and gaining more mainstream exposure, I decided it was time to check it out myself.

Having the opportunity to attend a PADI Tec Explorer event at Team Blue Immersion, Dahab, Egypt. I jumped at the chance to take the recreational PADI Sidemount Diver course (PADI offers two courses – Recreational andTec). For those of you looking to step into Tec or just to try something different, I can’t recommend an event like Tec Explorer enough.

First maybe I should address the question – I don’t cave dive, so why sidemount?

Sidemount has a number of benefits for the recreational diver far beyond merely cave diving:

  • Comfort – Especially for those divers with back issues.
  • Control – Streamlining helps improve buoyancy control
  • Efficient – Takes less energy
  • Peace of mind – More redundancy and more air supply, less stress longer dives
  • Fun – Enjoy your diving!

More then one tank

Coming from a recreational background, the first session of the course brought the biggest learning opportunity – equipment configuration. Obviously going from one tank to two brings with it equipment considerations beyond where the tank is mounted. Split into small groups, we were given all the items needed and given the task of setting up a sidemount configuration from scratch. After some initial floundering and with guidance we soon all had a perfect set up.

By the end of the session, I had gone from never having so much as changed a hose to understanding which ports best fit the different items and which were the best ports to use for the best and most streamlined configuration. In fact, I believe I learnt more about scuba equipment in that single session then I had during all my previous diving. I’m a firm believer in more knowledge makes for a safer, confident and more relaxed diver.

PADI Sidemount Course

 

Into the water

By this stage, we were all raring to get into the water. Our instructor for the water sessions, PADI TecRec trimix and IDC staff instructor Erik Brown, concentrated on the main skills of mounting and moving the tanks in standing depth and in water too deep to stand in before we descended for the first time. The first sessions were focused 100% on skills; trim, gas management (a very new skill to a recreational diver), swapping tanks, out of air and free flow. Hard work, but totally rewarding as we compared GoPro camera footage of the first dive and subsequent ones and could see the improvement in our diving.

With the final qualifying dive completed, we headed to the famous Blue hole in Dahab for our first sidemount fun dive!