Rob Atherton recently went diving with Emperor Sharm and wrote this great blog for easyJet, which we’d like to share with you here...
When I left for a week’s diving in Sharm el Sheikh with Emperor Divers, I wasn't really sure what to write about so I decided to let Egypt surprise and inspire me. I've dived in Sharm many times over the last eight years and I'd always felt that for anyone in search of smaller 'macro' subjects to photograph, the resorts of Taba and Nuweiba further up the Sinai were a better option. However, this was a week that the dive sites of Sharm really delivered for me and my trusty underwater camera.
I could write about the Manta Rays we saw at the local dive sites of Tower and Middle Garden or perhaps the encounter with the beautiful white Rissos dolphins. I even found the elusive Longnose Hawkfish, which hides in the Gorgonian Fans, not once but twice. This shy little fish is normally skittish and hard to photograph but the one I saw on Thomas Reef in the Straits of Tiran was virtually posing for photos.
While these experiences were all part of a wonderful week with Emperor Divers, the most amazing thing for me was the variety of nudibranchs, flatworms and the like I discovered.
The most common of these colourful little slugs I've found in the past is the Pyjama Slug (or Chromodoris Quadcolour). It is a colourful creature with yellow, white, black and blue stripes and can be found on all the dive sites in Sharm. If my memory serves me correctly, I've only ever seen two or possibly three different varieties of nudibranchs but in just five day’s diving, I found 14 different varieties.
As a diver who takes a lot of photos, I think Nudis are great. They are colourful, so look great in pictures, they are , making them much easier to take pictures of than fish and a lot of divers don't always see them making my pictures look a bit more impressive. Last October, I had my first diving trip out to the Far East where Nudis are plentiful so on this trip to Sharm, I was determined to seek out more.
Over the course of the week, the dive boats took me to the Straits of Tiran, Ras Mohammed National Park and the local dive sites close to Na'ama Bay. Many people ignore the local sites but I've always found them to be excellent places to see marine life. My first day was in Tiran and although I had a good couple of dives, I didn't find any nudibranchs. The next day in Ras Mohammed, the Nudis were out in force.
The first nudi I saw was a Chromodoris Africana. It looks similar to a Pyjama Slug but after looking at photos that evening, I realised it was in fact a different species. I've probably made the same mistake a number of times in the past but never noticed. From this point on, I was seeing nudibranchs on most dives, many of which I'd never seen before.
A big advantage of taking pictures of the nudibranchs is that the colours are much more striking than seeing them at 20m on a dive site. Of the 14 varieties I found, my favourite was the Big Horn Nembrotha, which was the most beautifully coloured of them all that I've seen in Egypt and elsewhere. Even though, I've dived in Sharm many times over the years, it has once again turned up plenty of new discoveries and surprises. I'm already looking forward to my next trip.
PS And a big thank you to Emperor Divers’ Facebook friends who helped me ID this nudi that had me flummoxed! Yvette Tucker spotted the Hallaxa indecora. Not easy from this pic!