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 'No...you never know what 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 numerous 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 me...it 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. It 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. Then...it 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.