By dive instructor Steve Kehoe (now reinstated in his rightful place in Sharm)
If you have ever visited Sharm on a diving holiday you may have heard the expression 'Sharmed out'. There's no Oxford English dictionary definition of 'Sharmed out' but basically it means you are fed up of taxi drivers, shopkeepers and not being able to get pork products. After three years or so that was me. So how did I relieve my 'Sharmed out' affect? Easy, move back to the UK. That'll work!
So I did and worked in the dive industry there. What a fantastic move or it was for the first couple of hours! During my 10-month exile from Sharm I sampled the various delights of UK diving, making my decision to return to Sharm all the easier.
So how was I going to end my exile? In a moment of inspiration, I emailed my very good friend Penny and asked her opinion. Penny made some enquiries about my return and it all pointed in the right direction. All I needed to do now was email Duncan and wait for an answer, I had left on good terms but would he welcome me back?
I didn't have to wait long, thankfully Duncan replied very promptly and the answer, well I think you know the answer.
On my first day back at Emperor I was full of apprehension. I have to admit I was worried about the reception I would get. I needn't have, I was overwhelmed by how I was welcomed back by everyone and my exile was over.
When we arrived at the jetty the greetings from the boys on the boats was heart warming! I grabbed myself a minute to reflect on my first day back, sentimental nonsense you may think, but I'm a simple man with simple tastes who takes nothing for granted. The welcome I received from everyone at Emperor exceeded my wildest dreams.
Time to do some work. Kit is assembled, briefings done, time to dive. I had worked for years and holidayed here but as I descended, the visibility shocked me for a moment or two, twenty or thirty meters vis, outstanding and the veritable array of colours. To coin a phrase used by myself and Mohammed (the skipper of Marcus) when everything is great, it was definitely a "ker-plunk" moment. I signalled OK to the guests and off we went.
That was four months ago and now those friends who welcomed me back are possibly getting fed up with my stories of being up close and personal with manta rays, whale sharks (several of) plus a leopard shark, white tip reef shark, grey reef shark, eagle ray and turtles (BIG turtles!) There's no removing the smile from my face. So am I happy to be back? It's a rhetorical question!
I know you hear people saying that diving in Sharm is not the same as the old days. It probably isn't; man has had an effect all over the world but it's up to us to try and educate people about the way we interact with life whether underwater or on land. Sometimes we have to remove our blinkers and a whole New World will open up.
So the diving is great but what about the taxi drivers and shopkeepers? Well everybody has to earn a living. I just smile and say La Shoukran. As for pork we now have a real pork butcher. As you realise from this article I am more than happy to be back and enjoying the diving more than ever. So I really look forward to seeing you out here!
Photo by Bill James
Photo by Vicky Forsyth
Steve's marine life 5-day diary
Day 1: First day for many guests, the northern sites are out of bounds because of the dignitaries that are in town so we head north to Temple. Briefing and weight checks are completed and we descend. Within five minutes we are greeted with the magnificent site of a manta ray and a big fella he is. As you can expect everyone is very happy, we also see a turtle during the dive.
Dive two: Ras Umm Sid and it's as glorious as ever. The gorgonian fans look better than ever. The bigger pelagic fish sit out in the blue waiting for the next meal.
Day 2: Tiran - my favourite area. It's a bit bumpy on the way out so decide to go straight to Jackson Reef. Whether its summer or winter Jackson is always a fabulous dive and we have the coral garden to ourselves, no other divers anywhere at all.
Dive two: Thomas Reef and it's running in reverse so we stick the reef to our right-hand shoulders and drift along admiring the beauty as we go. Two beautiful dives and some guests want more. Because of the travelling time we head to a local site.
Dive three: Tower - we head out towards the blue to try and spot mantas. Just as we think our luck is out one of these majestic creatures comes into view and shows how things should be done underwater, show-off! We all have huge grins.
Day 3: Ras Mohammed. Shark & Yolanda is our first dive and it's doing its usual thing -up-currents, down-currents, it's a roller coaster of a dive, but we come out smiling.
Dive 2: Something less frantic. We are rewarded with the most amazing 15 minutes. We descend on to a Leopard Shark quietly sitting on the sand and approach cautiously. It lets guests take photos until he decides enough is enough. We then see the biggest green turtle; it's huge. More photos and then he's off. We then have three hawksbill turtles, one of them joined by the green turtle, free-swimming moray eels and then a graceful spotted eagle ray. We don't know where to look next.
Dive 3: Tower again as people are keen to see a manta ray. This time round we put the reef to our right-hand shoulders and head out into the soup towards Pinky's Wall. Eyes are darting all around for a glimpse and our patience is rewarded when right in front of us he appears. He is that close I could have hugged him - that is if I had a four-metre arm span.
Day 4: Tiran. It's flat and the currents are favourable so we are able to do the tip of Woodhouse, an absolutely glorious dive with beautiful corals, and we are rewarded with a silky shark.
Dive 2: Jackson over the coral garden and round to the Lara, this time a grey reef shark appears before we disappear around the corner. Guests are now clamouring for Pinky's Wall. So that's where we do...
Dive 3: It's still soupy and out of the gloom emerges a big fish. As it gets closer I realise it's a whale shark. We stare in awe at this magnificent creature, the footage the guests get is fantastic. After he disappears a manta takes his place this really can't be happening! I'm in shock.
Day 5: Ras Mohammed Shark Observatory is dive one and it's an extremely pretty dive. Lots of nooks and crannies to find smaller creatures. A lot of the bigger fish sit in the blue waiting for a meal. A very graceful spotted eagle ray appears, what an athlete.
Dive 2: Anemone to Shark and onto to Yolanda. The batfish are grouping, there's snappers waiting for their photos to be taken, big Napoleon Wrasse and round the back of Shark, a leopard shark. By now everybody wants to go back to Pinky's Wall. I warn them lightning never strikes twice. Actually it does and we have another whale shark. I will wake up in a moment and realise I'm dreaming.
I know it may not happen every week but they are out there waiting to be found, you just have to put yourself in the right place and go for it.