August 2008 Archives

Producers from Endemol UK have filmed a new online travel series, The Gap Year, and chose Emperor Divers to put two gap travellers through their PADI Open Water course in Sharm El Sheikh.

Amy goes diving!Amy O'Connor (Australian) and Cara Cioni (American) had their experience of diving the warm Red Sea waters filmed on two videos; one filmed by Director Liz Madeley, the other by Director Saffron Jackson.

Join the girls at these direct links to the two diving videos on The Gap Year site:

Amy also wrote a 'from the heart' blog, which you can see here - or read it right below...

An underwater PADIdise by Amy O'Connor
Amy O'Connor with Gap Year buddie and Duncan, Sharm dive centre managerIt's easy to see why we know more about the moon's surface than we do about the ocean bed... the sea is a wondrous underwater paradise.

Completing my PADI open water diving certification has been one of the most rewarding achievements of the Gap Year yet...

Breathing under water for the first time was magical - and achieving neutral buoyancy felt like flying. Diving gives you permission to defy the rules of nature - it is the closest a human being can come to having superhuman

Being underwater is the most relaxing place to be. You breathing slows down, your senses are amplified and you notice detail that, in today's hectic life, generally passes you by.

On ascent from our final open water dive, I took one last breath from the regulator before surfacing and felt a real sense of accomplishment. I gained not only a certification to add to my name, but an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.

And the best part of all - I got to share this incredible experience with my friends, Cara and Matty.

Cara Cioni with dive guide Terry and teamThank you so much to Emperor Divers, in particular Duncan and Terry, for looking after us so well - your energy and fun spirit made the experience all the better!

Diving guest Freddie Forsyth reports on his best dive ever

This is the seventh time I had dived with Emperor and the week's diving, as usual, worked like clockwork, which is down to the terrific amount of effort from everyone at Emperor. I felt that I had to write to fully recommend the "Tiran Hammerhead Overnight" trip that we went on this year.

We arrived at Jackson Reef and it looked like the first dive off of the back of Jackson was touch and go because of the swell. After much deliberation it was decided that we could jump. We were fully kitted waiting for the ok to jump and I could hardly contain my excitement, which I am sure was accelerated by the adrenaline as we were bouncing about on the swell.

The brief was short and sharp, get in get down and swim out into the blue keeping the guides in site all the time. If the Hammerheads are there one will come up and suss us out and if were interesting enough to them then the rest of the group would appear.

Hammerhead shoal.jpgAfter about 20 minutes it happened! We were surrounded by about 30 Hammerheads! (this figure will no doubt get bigger as the years go by) They swam with us for about 20 minutes, which was the most exhilarating 20 minutes that I have enjoyed whilst diving. Sadly we had to leave them as we were getting a bit low on air. Fantastic!

By the time we jumped the second time, the swell had gone but sadly there was a bit of current which took us away from where we needed to be, so we never saw any this time! We then retired to the shelter of the Lagoon to have our night dive, where we were joined by some dolphins. This was a lovely gentle night dive that rounded off the perfect day.

After a fantastic meal onboard and a few well earned beers we retired to get ready for a 0600 jump on the back of Jackson again to find our Hammerheads. Sadly this time the swell was too big and we had to admit defeat. Still it was mission accomplished on the first dive!

All was not lost however as we jumped on the front of Jackson, and being the first boat there, it was a totally different dive than usual. This was rounded off perfectly with a Zebra shark making an appearance about 20 metres below us when we just getting ready for our safety stop. After another nice dive - this time off of Woodhouse Reef - we made our way back stopping at Ras Nasrani. Having achieved what we set out to do and dive with Hammerheads, my buddy and I nearly never jumped. A combination of "it's the last dive of the holiday" and "you never know what we might see" changed our minds. A decision that I am very glad we made.

My buddy and I were bimbling about at 5 metres on the safety stop with Dennis, when I looked behind me only to see another diver in our group going absolutely bananas and making some very unusual signs. Signs that you will never see in any PADI Manual. When I managed to follow his pointing, we were only being joined by a Whale shark! What a fantastic end to a fantastic week! Our guides for the trip, Dennis, Carol and Dav, made a good trip into an excellent one!

If anyone reads this and is in two minds to go on the Tiran Hammerhead trip, I would only say that you would be absolutely mad not to! Either that or you have seen loads of Hammerheads already!

Cheers, we will be back.

Freddie Forsyth, Keswick, England

Safety at Sea in Sharm

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By dive guide, Susanne Rumpel (Susi)

"What is SAR...not some tropical disease but a life saving institution!

Susi.JPGHave you ever asked yourself what happens when an emergency arises out at sea? Who is out there 24/7 in case of an emergency? Answer - the Search and Rescue Team in Sharm! It's their priority, their will and spirit. So who are they? To find some insight to this, I went to speak to Dr Osama Abo El Fotouh, General Director of the Search and Rescue Team (SAR) here in Sharm.

SAR was founded in August 2001. They function as a First Aid Marine Centre, public service and a marine ambulance at sea as well as on land and are able to co-ordinate all medical emergencies as well as evacuations from Dahab to Cairo. Dr Osama is a physician who graduated in 1996. He worked as the head doctor at the Intensive Care Unit at the Sharm International Hospital and joined the SAR in 2004. He has a well-established and dedicated team of whom he is very proud. Each team member is qualified under the American National Institute of First Aid and the American Heart Association and each has undergone First Aid, Basic Life Support, Risk Assessment, Near Miss Operations and Fire Fighting training. Refresher medical training is carried out at least three to four times a year.

SAR teamOne of the team members is Mr Wael, who co-ordinates land operations and is the link with the necessary authorities like the sea operations, hospital, hyperbaric chamber etc. He, like Nasser, (who is one of the most experienced RIB pilots), used to be Rescue personnel in Alexandria working on the North coast of Egypt as Life Guards on jet skies. This gave them valuable experience and on-the-job training in the Mediterranean Sea. Then there is Ahmed H, an ex-Navy Serviceman who spent two years on a Navy Vessel in the Red Sea and is an excellent pilot. During daytime there are three pilots, three rescuers and three to four land operators. Accommodation is provided at the centre so that members are on stand-by 24/7. An operational clinic is available at base to assist with minor to moderate cases.

SAR is equipped with three RIBs with fibreglass unsinkable hulls and separate airtight compartments made from heavy-duty material. They are designed to have a self-righting system in case of capsizing and can reach speeds of up to 42 knots. To Ras Mohammed it takes roughly 12-15 minutes and to Tiran 25-35 minutes depending on the sea conditions. When out on an emergency run they are equipped with floating marine stretcher with back board suitable for air lifting; spider straps; air splints for all kinds of fractures; AED-defibrillator; neck collars; suction pump/aspirator; DAN oxygen kit with an MTV 100 regulator and a full first aid medical kit. Other equipment includes GPS; compass; night vision goggles; communication devices such as a VHF radio; satellite phone and mobile phones. On an emergency run the RIB carries a pilot, a doctor and an assistant. The base is also equipped with a workshop for repairs on the RIBs.

SAR teamAll equipment and training obviously comes at a great cost. With no government financing, SAR is solely dependent on the fees from its members. Last year they were shut down for two weeks by the Egyptian Military for not having the correct permissions to operate. This created an anxious time for all marine and has now created a 10% drop in memberships. Membership costs are 275 Egyptian pounds a month and are mainly made up from the diving centres in the area and some smaller marine users. This drop has a serious implication as this reduces SAR's funds for more training and equipment. Taking into consideration that, although every rescue situation may be different, there is still a sizeable financial repercussion to running this sort of facility.

 After an insightful and interesting visit with Dr Osama at the SAR centre, I have found myself with the utmost respect for what this operation is doing for the benefit of all in Sharm. Records show that rescuers have been carried out for all nationalities and all types of marine users. I would therefore hate to see this excellent service cease to operate. It is in everyone's best interest in the area to give the men of this service their full support and respect."

Sharm - always delivering 'the unexpected'

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Report by dive guide, Tammi Stoneham

'How long have you been in Sharm?' and 'Don't you get bored diving the same dive sites over and over again?' are two of the many questions asked by guests. My answer to the first and most frequently asked is 'Almost six years now', and to the second ' never know Tammi.JPGwhat you might see'.

There is so much out there to be seen and I have only seen a small percentage. There is what we call the 'usual suspects' - the butterflyfish, angelfish, parrotfish, puffers, triggers, etc - the ones we expect to see on dives. But the reason diving the same dive sites is not boring is the unexpected sightings, the stuff that cannot be guaranteed, that which sticks in your memory as you might only be witness to it the once.

Take the local dive sites, often only visited by guests on the first day of their diving holiday and by students on their first open water dives. These have provided me with some amazing and unexpected sightings.

In June this year at Ras Katy, whilst doing my safety stop I had my first underwater sighting of a whale shark. I had spent the previous weeks listening to the other guides report on their whale shark sharm 0608.jpg_sm.jpgnumerous viewings of this creature. I did inform them that they were being rather selfish and should learn to share. But then it was my turn. To say I was excited is an understatement (my three previous encounters had been from a boat). And a 'yes' to the guest who asked when we surfaced, 'was the whale shark the really big thing with the white spots'. When asked later what size it was I had to reply that I did not know as the only thoughts going through my head at the time were 'There's a whale shark...I'm looking at a whale shark...I can't believe it...there's a whale shark....'

Just a few weeks previously, whilst doing Open Water dive 3 for two students, Ras Katy provided us with a free-swimming zebra moray. According to the Debelius Red Sea Reef Guide - which I had to refer to in order to identify this black and white stripy moray - 'the entire animal can only be seen at night.' Not for my students and was our first dive of the day.

Night dives on Ras Katy have lead me to view, for the first time, the anemone hermit crab (only two sightings since), the clamdigger (only one subsequent sighting) and a multi-bearded brotula/reef cusk eel. Again, according to Debelius, this is 'rarely seen by the average diver' and I must admit I have never seen another but I keep looking.

I spotted my first sea horse whilst doing the open water dive for a Discover Scuba Dive (DSD) in Naama Bay. I was pottering along minding my own business when I spotted this weird bit of sea grass. On closer inspection it was a sea horse...very well camouflaged. manta wray sharm 0608.jpg_sm.jpgIt was on a DSD open water dive in Shark's Bay that I saw my first manta pass by. I was far more excited than my students who seemed very nonplussed about the encounter.

Last year I had my first (and to date, only) sighting of a guitar shark during Open Water dive 1 at Shark's Bay. On arrival one very nervous student asked 'Why is it called Shark's Bay?.' 'Don't worry,' I replied 'there are no sharks here'. And I did tell the truth...the guitar shark just happens to look a bit like a shark My student did get back in the water and finish the course with no more 'sharks' making an appearance. Though during our next dive, a comb sea star (Collins Red Sea Reef Guide 'Buried by day, active on surface by night') ambled through the middle of the group - who were at that moment showing me they could fin pivot - and then promptly buried itself in the sand.

A couple of years back on Ras Ghamilla I was shown a pair of robust ghost pipefish (note: I was shown and did not personally spot). So bizarre...leaves with eyes. I have never spotted any more but they are so well camouflaged that I have probably swum over loads without realizing. I do keep an eye out but there are lots of leaves in the water especially those of the non-seeing variety.

Further a field, Ras Mohamed has provided me with a fair number of unexpected sightings. My first Spanish dancer (this was five years ago but I still remember) was at the back of Yolanda reef, in the lagoon...and it was 'dancing'. Four years ago, Yolanda was also where I saw an ornate ghost pipefish for the first time. My second sighting of this strange but beautiful creature was this July in Middle Garden. I was again mesmerized.

And how can I not mention the mako shark. I was halfway through a dive site briefing when my fellow guide shouted 'dolphins'. The boat turned and the briefing was abandoned. On approach and closer inspection of the scene it became apparent it was half a something. On further inspection it was a marlin and not a dolphin. appeared...the mako. It grabbed hold of the remains of the marlin and dragged it under the surface. After a moment the marlin's remains resurfaced...then the mako (oblivious to our presence) appeared again taking hold and dragging its lunch under the surface. We watched this action happening again and again for ten minutes within metres of the boat. A sight I had only ever expected to see in a TV documentary. And yes there was video evidence.

These are just a few off the unusual/unexpected things I have seen and there is still a lot of stuff out there. I just have to go diving and keep my eyes open. Who knows what will show itself to me on my next dive. It's for this reason why I don't find it boring to dive the same dive sites again and again.

P.S. I am still waiting for my first sighting of the hammerheads this year. I have seen them before but will not be complaining if these bizarre looking but amazing creatures put in an appearance. I'm presently keeping my fingers crossed that I get assigned to guide in Tiran and it's calm enough to go around the back of Jackson reef.

Marsa Alam - dolphins on the doorstep

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Thanks to guest Anthony Ivins for this picture showing dolphins swimming in the Port Ghalib marina. It goes to prove that even the wild life knows this is the place to be!

Fabulous Nuweiba shore-based digital photo course

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21 September - course starts 23 September.

Emperor's Nuweiba Dive Centre has teamed up with Ocean Visions for this superb trip in an underwater photographer's paradise. This is a great choice for beginners to underwater photography, as it gives you the chance to really focus on one site at a time rather than moving on with a liveaboard route.

Course cost: 120 Euro per person

For more information and prices, email

Let's hear it for the oldest divers

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Last month, we told you about Aubrey Humphrey who held the record for being Emperor Nuweiba's oldest diver. We did ask you to let us know of older divers and that's exactly what Roy Monk and Derek Oldham did forthwith.

Roy is a sprightly 83 this month. Roy tells us, "I discovered snorkelling gear in the south of France in 1950 and started diving in 1953 as a founder member of No 2 Branch of BSAC in Manchester in the days when we made our own gear - demand valve from a calor gas reducing valve, U tube as a depth gauge, wet suit out of 3mm rubber hospital bedding protection..."

Derek and his instructor, Janice Humm

No 2 Branch is now in Oldham and Roy has the privilege of being their President.

Derek Oldham wrote and told us, "Thanks to Terry and Janice at Melton Divers I have nearly finished the Advanced Open water course in my fourth year of diving at 78 and 6 months old." Derek's other element is the air as he is also a fully licensed pilot with some 600 hours clocked up - and riding trials bikes (not in the air)! All this in between running his Vauxhall dealership in Melton Mowbray.

And as this newsletter goes out, Derek will be returning from a liveaboard holiday with Emperor aboard Superior heading for Elphinstone and all the Brothers. Derek has promised a report and photos for our next newsletter! 

So, there is life in the old divers yet and what a fantastic achievement. Keep them coming!

Does anyone know of any diver older or who has been diving as long? Drop me a line at or visit Emperor's Forum and have your say!

Lie in, dive late, then sunset cruise and night dive - Sharm delivers again!

Diving and skiing holidays have generally one thing in common - late social nights followed by those dreaded early mornings. So far, Emperor in Sharm hasn't really found a way to solve this problem...until now. Private groups have for some time been able to ask for late starts on their own boat but not individuals, so here's your solution.

Once a week a 'late start' boat will be on offer but with a twist as it will combine a night dive. You will leave Travco jetty at around 10.00-10.30 and will only do two dives during the day in Ras Mohammed. You then cruise along the Sinai coast as sunset approaches to be in situ for the night dive. How fab is that? A lie in, late start, sunset cruise and a night dive. What a great way to spend a day (and sober night!).

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

September 2008 is the next archive.

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