Elin & Bruce's Egyptian Holiday
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A Diving Trip to Egypt's Sharm El Sheik
Most people go to Egypt to see the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Luxor and the other cultural immortals. We decide to skip that part and fly directly to Sharm El Sheik, a scrap of shore on the Sinai Peninsula that has nothing to offer except luxury resorts, sunshine and some of the best preserved coral reefs in the world, and sunshine, and first-class scuba diving, and... sunshine. Our feeling is that the Pyramids will be there forever, whereas the coral reefs will be toast in a decade.
Okay, so it looks like we could not give a toss about Egypt's awesome past. Not completely true. Heck, we go right ahead and buy some very authentic looking papyrus watercolors in the souvenir market, Don't we?
Sharm El Sheik is a synthetic environment. There is no real town -- no real anything. But this is not a bad thing. Our resort is an adult Egyptian Disneyland. Sculpted into the khaki rocks along the azure shore, it re-creates the feeling of an Egyptian village. The architects outdo themselves echoing the ruins and ancient towns of the real Egypt. The entire compound is a white-washed concrete wonder. Not an authentic mud brick in the entire place. We love it.
The spacious air-conditioned rooms are stacked three high in individual Middle-Eastern style villas that line the curved begardened alleys of the place. Bougainvillea tumble out of the corners everywhere. We have a sea view from our squash-court-sized balcony.
The resort is fully loaded. There are two swimming pools, a Mexican Restaurant, a wonderful Moroccan restaurant (We eat there a lot.) a five-star breakfast, a full health club, a beach restaurant, a beach bar, a Bedouin-style beach coffeehouse, and all kinds of other cool stuff.
The Garden Reef, after which the resort takes its name, stretches along the hotel' s manicured beachfront. It is one of the most perfectly preserved reefs I have ever seen, period. The fact that it is just off of a hotel beach is astonishing. The two snorkel swims we make along the reef wall are some of the best ever.
But wait, there's more... Our package (seven nights in this fabulous Intercontinental resort plus our round-trip tickets from Kiev) is so cheap we are ashamed to say how little it costs. So we don't.
We get off to a good start. When the staff at Sinai Divers learn that it has been two years since our last dive they put our safety first and insist on a rigorous full-day refresher course before we go out on the boat. This makes good sense to us. Although we have our PADI open water licenses it has been some time since we last dived and we acutely feel the need to re-establish our skills. Our instructor proves to be a master diver who by choice and inclination specializes in teaching diving to the inexperienced. She is as enthusiastic and kindhearted as a kindergarten teacher. After a day of instruction in Nema Bay, which includes a terrific sunset dive off the beach, we are ready for the big plunge off the boat. Woo hoo.
As it turns out our first boat dive is at our own hotel
reef. Ironically, we drive into town only to motor back in the dive boat
to our house reef. We can see our balcony from the deck. No matter, it
just reaffirms that our hotel is well located. After the dive briefing
-- this is to be a drift dive along the reef wall -- we strap on our buoyancy
control devices, tanks, flippers, masks, weights, (Did I forget anything?)
do a buddy check and jump in to make our descent. Nothing I have heard
prepares me for the spectacular condition of the coral, the richness of
the undersea life and the superb visibility.
All in all we log six dives during our seven-day stay. All of our dives are splendid and go very well technically, although both of us have a tendency to suck down more air than a street cleaning truck. Neither of us considers ourselves ready to dive the famous sites at Ras Mohammad or Tiran because the currents are reportedly very strong. This is good because the dive master doesn't consider us ready either. There is a tide at Tiran called "The Washing Machine". Enough said. But, the local reefs around Sharm El Sheik are more than enough to keep us challenged and entertained.
So, if you are thinking of going to Egypt take it from us: there is no real need to put up with the chaos and traffic of Cairo or the crowds at the Valley of the Kings. Who needs authenticity when you can have a safe, clean synthetic experience overseen by the highly trained hospitality professionals of Sharm El Sheik.
Love from us,
Bruce & Elin
Intercontinental Garden Reef Resort
~ Photos ~
Now it's time for you to scroll down the page and browse the resort photos. This is page one of three in this gallery. Tip: Use your back button to navigate if links are not apparent.
Note: Before you leave the site don't forget to check out the dive photos in the other gallery of submarine stills. These photos are snagged from an underwater video of our dive at the Temple Reef. Temple is so named because of the limestone pillars that characterize the place. The underwater topography made for some interesting swim throughs.
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|Evening light on the Garden Reef inlet.||Panorama of the resort's upper pool.||Mock village lane in front of our room..|
|We love to advertise for free.||Ooops, wrong flag.||Walk like an Egyptian.|
|Check out the cool fort behind Elin.||Our resort as seen from aboard the Ghazala III.||Plans to use all five tanks on next dive. You can't have too much air.|
|Awwwwwww.||Manicured desert.||Ahhh, the obligatory palm tree silhouette.|
|Years of study to master these. What ARE they?||Garden Reef Inter by night.||Just the two of us.|
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