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Words from a Red Sea Dweller

I’m an ex-pat, which is a posh way to say immigrant, and have been for the past seven years. I like the quiet life, so as soon as I set eyes upon Port Ghalib on the south of Egypt’s Red Sea coast, I knew it was where I wanted to call ‘home’. It has a small community, a smattering of bars and restaurants and a very simple landscape of vast yellow desert and even vaster blue sea. It is such a sleepy place, that in my seven years the most threatening thing to have happened was a brief dust up between a few dive guides and a couple of amateur boxers in (the once popular but now closed) TGI Fridays. And a donkey once gave me a peculiar look. Frightening stuff.

You’ll know Port Ghalib if you’ve been on one of the many liveaboards that depart from here, often going to Brothers Islands or Daedalus and occasionally further south. Or, you’re one of the relatively few divers that have been this far south on a land-based trip. For those that don’t know, it is a small private, modern development right next to Marsa Alam airport (RMF), almost exactly 200km South of Hurghada (HRG). It has never been inundated with holidaymakers, mainly because the airport does not receive many flights (only one per week from the UK) but divers have usually been savvy enough to find a way down via Hurghada. Those that come are rewarded with exceptional coral reefs, regular sightings of the rare dugong, and pelagic encounters on famous reefs like Elphinstone.

Dugong feeding in Marsa Alam HR copyright _ description (Medium).jpg


I came to Egypt in early 2009 to begin my career as a Dive Instructor having cut my teeth part time in the UK as a Divemaster (playing dead in the corners of Stony Cove, waiting an age for the next Rescue Diver student to locate me and inevitably flood my drysuit with icy water while they grappled me to the surface). The full time job paid the bills but the diving was what I lived for and so the opportunity to combine the pleasure with the pay was too much to resist – quit boring job, rent out apartment, store possessions, pack bags, go. Oh, and bring the missus.

Since 2009, I have seen three major news items hit the TV about this country, each one rocking the tourism industry; the Arab Spring of 2011, the ouster of the Islamist presidency of summer 2013 and most recently the plane incident on Sinai in October 2015. I’m not even going to include that recent (January 2016) nonsense in Hurghada that should have barely made national news, let alone front page international “news” (I’m being kind to the Daily Mail there). Thankfully for the latter incident, the Foreign Office and credible news outlets waited for the facts to come out before splashing their opinions all over the place, and rightly ignored it as the scuffle it was. So back to the three major incidents, and how I viewed them as a resident and insider. Not surprisingly, I saw events unfold in the exact same way most Brits would have, namely clutching a cold beer and watching the TV. Probably the only difference being I was wearing flip flops and shorts.

Cairo is a long, long way away from the Red Sea, the closest resort being Hurghada at a mere 280 miles or so, Marsa more like 400. I know this, as I recently had to travel there to go and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (hey, I was born in 1978 and I’m called Luke – what choice do I have?). My options were either a seven-hour car journey or a one-hour flight, hardly next door. So to be worried about whether events in Cairo would spill over, while sitting in a bar in a Red Sea resort, would be like someone in Seahouses (if you’ve not been there, you haven’t done some of the best UK diving on offer!) worried about the London rioters knocking on their door in August 2011. For those who worked in the Egyptian diving industry during these events, the worry was never safety. I never saw a thing firsthand that would have told me anything was amiss in Cairo. The worry was, and still is today, what will be the impact on the number of divers coming out?

Oceanic whitetip shark at Elphinstone, Marsa Alam HR copyright_description (Medium).jpg


The latest incident regarding the plane downing in Sinai late last year caused a response by the Foreign Office to put flights into and out of Sharm on hold, while the cause was investigated alongside a review of Egyptian airport security. The effect on Sharm has been colossal with many hotels and some dive centres closed at least temporarily whilst some have packed up for good. It’s a little bit difficult to watch and this well written article in the Gulf news by a British journalist makes some very good points about the scale of the reaction to that incident and even has a poll at the end (you have to pick an answer to see the result), which shows to me that most people really do have their heads screwed on right: .

It’s difficult for those who have never been to the Red Sea before to visualise the Egyptian Red Sea as a peaceful and welcoming place since the media has inevitably tarred the whole of Egypt with a very large brush. I’m sure those that have been before know, when they stop to think, that a trip to Sharm, Hurghada or Marsa Alam would be safe but are still maybe hesitating. We are very  good at focusing on ourselves and our own (sometimes inaccurate or misled) intuitions instead of facts; it’s for that reason for example that people often find it difficult to intuit that in any 23 random people, there is a greater than 50% chance that two share the same birthday. It’s true, look it up. And so it is, if you find yourself hesitating about an upcoming Red Sea dive trip, it’s the misleading part of your intuition at work. 

The facts about the Red Sea are clear. It is the closest warm water coral reef diving to the UK at five hours by plane. It is one of the best value diving destinations available to Brits. There are world class events to be seen such as the fish schooling of Ras Mohamed, as well as possible encounters with sharks, mantas, dolphins, dugong and turtles to name but a few. The visibility is usually a spectacular 30m+ and the water temperature ranges from 22C to 30C. There are wrecks of every shape and size to suit divers of all ability. There is a phenomenal tourism infrastructure, hotels of every class, liveaboard vessels, dive boats and transportation on hand everywhere. The diving is regulated and safe, with professional licensed outfits available in all the main resorts as well as a large network of hyperbaric chambers should one need. The local people are always hospitable and are especially welcoming to British nationals who traditionally have supported Egypt at times when other nationalities have not. And, most pertinently, it is safe to holiday here. As I said, I am sure most of you believe this deep down anyway but for those who don’t, just look at the Foreign Office advice . Hurghada – green. Sharm El Sheikh – green. Marsa Alam – green. Even Cairo – green (which suited my cinema ambitions). They quote “Over 900,000 British nationals visit Egypt every year. Most visits are trouble-free”. The same is true for all the major European advices; Germany, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy etc. I’m no mug; I wouldn’t live here if I doubted my safety.

Schooling snapper at Ras Mohamed, Sharm El Sheikh HR copyright_description (Medium).jpg


Unsurprisingly the national response has not been covered in the international press as widely as the incidents themselves. Boring news does not sell papers. Egypt needs tourism; it is a huge and vital part of the country’s revenue. And so while I think you would have to go a long way to find someone in the Egyptian government who considers the sudden drop in tourism fair or justified, they have been forced to react positively. I bashed the Daily Mail earlier, so it’s only fair to include an article they ran somewhere in their back pages recently: . As well as an investment in resort security, there has been work behind the scenes on airport security. British government representatives have recently been over to Egypt and have voiced their approval at the decision to use an international private company, Control Risks, to audit and strengthen security at airports, although you have to dig very deep for this news

Since Egypt also recently finalised their democratic government with the first session of parliament for three years, another British government delegation which was there to see the inaugural session, “affirmed they would recommend the resumption of British air flights to Sharm El Sheikh upon their return to the UK”, which again was hardly reported

Thresher shark at Little Brother HR copyright_description (Large).jpg

For you, the savvy diver, this is all good news indeed, albeit news you probably would not have seen.  So, Egypt is safe as the FCO advises, yet it is spending significantly to further secure its resorts. Egypt has also shown a quick and welcomed response to improving airport security to eradicate the one ban that does currently apply at Sharm airport. Diving in Egypt in the past few years has just got better and better; 2015 must go down as one of the best ever, certainly in the past 10 years. Ras Mohamed had fish schools of epic proportion, Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone had near ever present shark sightings (hammerhead, whale shark, grey reef, thresher and oceanic whitetip to name a few) from May to December and even Rocky Island in the far south had tiger sharks for two months.

It could be asserted that perhaps there were too many divers in the years leading up to 2011 with reports of overcrowding on popular reefs and wrecks and nowhere near as many pelagic sightings as we have had recently. Since the masses will be hesitating about coming to the Red Sea, there is an opportunity for savvy divers in 2016 to experience the resorts and diving like never before. Reefs should be uncrowded, deals should be plentiful, and the diving spectacular. You can book for Marsa or Hurghada right now and expect the Sharm airport situation to be resolved in time to allow summer (which is the prime time for the Ras Mo fish schooling) trips there.

There are no guarantees in life, but if you look at the facts rather than the tabloid tales they chose to sell papers and decide rationally rather than intuitively, then you will see that rather than thinking to give the Red Sea a miss for the time being, it is exactly the time to come and dive here. If you do, I’d love to share a cold beer with you. Bring your own shorts and flip flops.


"What is Feefo?"

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Feefo is a global ratings and reviews provider of genuine guest feedback. Unlike some reviews platforms that have made the news for allowing fake and malicious reviews to be published, Feefo has never allowed this to happen.

Feefo generates feedback from guests and delivers real reviews from real customers that have actually used the services of Emperor Divers and are therefore qualified to give a view. Feefo generates feedback that you can trust.

In 2015, Emperor received the 'Feefo Gold Trusted Merchant' Award.

Make the most of our Autumn Sale - ends this Friday

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Autumn Sale


You've got until 6 November to make some super savings on your Red Sea and Maldives diving.

Great value on day diving and liveaboards in the Red Sea and liveaboards in the Maldives.

Red Sea diving from £26 / €35 per day
Red Sea liveaboards from £444 / €599
Maldives liveaboards from £1014 / €1369

» Click here! Hurry as it closes on Tuesday 6 November.

Autumn Sale now OPEN - not just for the dive show

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Autumn Sale

Join us at the Dive Show and find out what warming Autumn Sale offers we've got lined up for you.

And it's not just the Red Sea but the Maldives too!

Red Sea diving from £26 / €35 per day
Red Sea liveaboards from £444 / €599
Maldives liveaboards from £1014 / €1369

Can't make the Dive Show? Then visit here instead!

Hurry as it closes on Friday 6 November.

Early Bird Offers - Red Sea and Maldives

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Early Bird Offers

Book before 15 September for smiley savings...

  • Dive from €35 / £25 a day in a choice of Emperor resorts
  • Liveaboards from €599 / £420

» Click here for more info...

Last Minute Summer Offers

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0715 people jump summer offers.jpg

They're here...our last minute summer offers!

Choose from:
El Gouna, Hamata, Marsa Alam, Sharm El Sheikh and liveaboards in the Red Sea and the Maldives.

Book before 31 July for smiley savings:

  • Dive from €40 / £29 a day in a choice of Emperor resorts
  • 7 night hotel/dive packages from €231 / £164
  • Red Sea Liveaboards from €599 / £426
  • Maldives Liveaboards from €999 / £710

» Click here for the full happy picture...

The Hamada in Hamata - Sport Diver article

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Read this fascinating article from the April issue of Sport Diver magazine.

"Marsa Alam and Hamata both offer pristine dive sites away from the madding crowd but Mark Evans was most excited about exploring a shipwreck midway between the two which sank in mysterious circumstances."

» Read Mark's adventures here and photos are by none other than our very own Luke Atkinson.

Zum Artikel bitte hier klicken:

"Das Zabargad Berenice Resort ist einer der letzten touristischen Außenposten an der ägyptischen Rotmeerküste. Und es lässt, wegen relativ unberührter Tauchplätze, das Herz von erfahrenen Tauchern höher schlagen."

New route to Rocky Island, Zabargad & St Johns

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Rocky Island, Zabargad & St Johns

11 - 18 November 2015
Emperor Asmaa
£736.57 / €1009.00

Here's a route with a difference! Sailing to the outermost reefs of Rocky Island and Zabargad, you leave Hamata and dive the sites at Fury Shoals and St Johns on the way.

Often spoilt for choice, your guides will pick sites they know to be the best for this time of the year and can find excellent alternatives should the weather affect the normal route. The actual number of dives in the Fury area will depend on the conditions as you'll want to spend as much time as possible at Zabargad and Rocky.

Discover more here or email for more information.


See you at LIDS this weekend

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It's this weekend! We're at the London International Dive Show at Excel on 14th and 15th February.

We're sharing a stand with Diverse Travel, Stand 300, so there's lots to look at and lots to discover.

We'll have some exclusive offers, the latest news on Red Sea and Maldives diving and a little prize draw for you to enter. You could win some fab Red Sea divingfor two!

And discover our super saver diving deals – or just read on as you can book them right here too!





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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Hamata category.

General Red Sea Info is the previous category.

Liveaboards is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.