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Bristol Channel Divers

One week on a Southern Red Sea live-aboard out of Hurghada

I did it my way

I've been back less than a week and already it seems a blur. My bag still stinks of diesel and I definitely remember the hammerheads � more of that below.

The bus from Bristol to Gatwick left at 05:00 � disgusting but true. It arrived on time and, clearing customs, I wandered as a cloud through Boots and Smiths for sweets and book. Determined not to leave the cafe queue until I had my cuppa meant being late boarding. On the plane I began to spot the rest of my 16 strong party from Bristol's "Extreme Marine" with the head honcho (Chris) safely aboard.

6' 2" into bugger all doesn't go but, bold as brass, a short time into the flight, I dived into a whole empty seat on a crowded plane. What conscience-stricken comfort. It was a lumpy journey � so I didn't get my promised view of the flight deck. The film was as interesting as white sliced.

Tumbling out of the plane into frying-pan heat of the airport tarmac my companions and I began to establish our group roles. The entertainer and the joker first � we and they never tired of their excellent performances. Couples, loners, moaners, mobile phoners (no moaners really but shame to waste the rhyme), young and old, seasoned to taste and all asmile with happy anticipation.

Some bastard had taken my luggage off the carousel � I couldn't believe it!! I tracked her down growling, got her dragged off her coach and wound up to strike; but she was abject in her stupidity and, even with my hard-heart, couldn't deliver my coma inducing verbal blows.

Here we go, here we go

Our luxury liner live-aboard was, unamazingly, unavailable. Diving World asked "Would we make do with 'Greta' � the pride of the Red Sea?" My expected solo cabin had turned into 3 sharing � ahhh! definitely back in Egypt. Actually it was a good boat � with a helpful, smiley crew and a boyish captain who was game for a laugh. The first night crawled by ...diesel fumes and thunderous fan, the gentle swaying (*gulp*). I managed one dive the first day - the very pretty Abu Gota Ramada � before curling into a whimpering ball for 18 hours.

After this misery I slept for the rest of the trip on the top deck under a clear sky with a lively breeze to dry my shampooed hair, my face smacked with a huge grin. The Plough at my feet and a filling moon blotting out a circle of stars.

The start of a typical day: 06:00 � cock crow � 06:30 plop into the warm, clear depths for the day's pre-breakfast underwater adventure. What a life � what luxury � what a way to start the day � what joy!

Yeah � fish, coral, companions and water. Red Sea stuff. Ah ... but Elphinstone WOW! (or VOV! as they say in German). At one point I was undoubtedly risking death. Not from the hammerheads you understand but I stupidly blocked the videographers view � dangerous thing to do � especially at 40 metres. Above the large shoal of reef sharks were about a million hammerheads (I often consider numbers to be my flexible friends), 3 peeled off and one cruised in to check me out as I hung as motionless as possible. At the very last minute it swerved around me as I gazed into it's weird, black and unfathomable eye. The deep, deep pleasure of close contact with a beautiful, wild creature � I'll never forget that brief moment � never ever.

My first-ever turtle clambered onto the reef a couple of arm lengths away while we did our deco after the hammerheads. I thought � "My god � I must have been so good in a previous life".

And still the fun keeps coming

Here it comes � rumbling in the depths before the great eruption. So used to it I can spell it - Diarrhoea. Every bloody time on foreign soil (errr... sea) � Lomotil � a wonder drug. One more bout of sea-sickness � nipped in the bud with Stugeron. My sinuses have settled.

One fine day in the middle of the night

I was openly anxious about my first night dive � what a waste of time worrying so often proves to be. 10 of us � hovering beams. The weird snake-like creatures (cane worms?) didn't strike at my soft and vulnerable underparts, lionfish still dozing under their overhangs. Parrotfish in their pyjamas. Fire coral everywhere � that was Samada. Peace and pleasure.

It's Tuesday � it must be Venice

And they're off ...

Gotta Sharm: No manta (*sob*). So many blue trigger fish.

Shaab Maksur: Big fish. Lovely, black, lacy coral. Towers.

Abu Galawa: Yum Yum. O what a night (dive). Under the front of the wreck a reef shark. 10 minutes; 6 of us � it was crazy for the light � in and out the coral heads � we left it. Two squid at the top of the boat � flash, bang - one was gone after the camera captured it (?) � the other drifted past me � seemingly without a care. The RIB broke down again so we took a shallow tour by starlight while waiting.

Satiah: Our most southerly point. Teeming � absolutely bloody teeming.

Shaab Claudio: At least how our half-Italian guide named it. 2 cave dives. What fun � highly recommended. Divers in front of us disturbed a huge moray � my buddy bubbled his confessions as it tore his throat out in the narrow cave (what an imagination!).

Abu Dahab: 3 dives here. Getting into some of the smaller fish now � like the shoals of remarkable green chromis. Glass fish, goldfish, cleaner wrasse. Even more blue spot rays. Noticed sea pearls for the first time. More lovely, sweetly shy puffer fish. Big croc fish � what beautifully bizarre creatures. Julia's famous shallow, corkscrew ascent to boat ladder.

Shona Reef: WHAT? � A BAD DIVE? It's night now � the water is murky � 10 of us squashed against the reef. Trip's shortest dive at 36 mins. Wonder what we missed?

Same reef in the morning. Plenty of life � viz. still reduced. Batfish, grouper � you know - the usual!

Mangarof: Oh no � don't let it be true! The last dive. And what a dive. It was soooooooo beautiful. My heart! Gorgeous place! Ace number one super-duper! Absolutely! Top recommend!

So long and thanks for all the fish

Ah well! � good while it lasted. I had taken one book � I finished it in the hotel Meridian, Hurghada where we spent the last night. Still gently rocking from the memory of the boat. I've barely mentioned my companions � too many to name � I couldn't have wished for better � looking forward to the photo reunion.

I didn't tell you about so much, including the:

Respect Our Wrecks!