Can't get enough of that Red Sea diving! Shortly after getting home from Singapore I was heading east once again and couldn't wait to get in the water. My previous trip to Egypt was on a Liveaboard, a week-long holiday on board a 26-berth yacht, it was great (I'll get round to writing the blog at some point) but I wasn't a huge fan of being confined to a small space for an entire week. The trip this time was planned around shore-based diving and so allowed for better accommodation a more relaxed pace and the chance to get out more.
After some planning and coordination, part of my itinerary was a trip to Cairo; the plan was to join the group for the package-holiday trip in Marsa Alam and leave a day early to travel solo to Cairo for a few days. While Cairo isn't on the list (actually, I'm going to add it), I have always wanted to see the pyramids and thought that this would be a good opportunity to do so. I'd then fly back home to London from Cairo and get back in time to be in the office on Monday. The plan was sound but didn't quite work out, I'll explain...
Landing in Marsa Alam Airport was a very different experience than Hurghada, the airport is tiny and most of the few flights are to European destinations to serve the tourism. After buying a visa at the exchange desk and a 10 euro SIM card it was a 40minute drive to the hotel and dive centre. The roads here are quite perilous, not the worst I've experienced but are pretty sketchy.
We were staying at the Dreams Beach Resort Marsa Alam and diving with the in-resort centre, Deep Ocean Blue. Janine and Tony had been here before so knew what to expect, they are good friends with the owner and have even instructed at the centre before - I knew we'd be in good hands!
Over the week I did several dives with my dive buddy Ant, the house reef was particularly good, it was great to be able to walk to the beach and just dive in. The highlight of the trip was an excursion dive south of the resort where after waiting around in the water we were able to see a Dugong (Sea Cow) which was absolutely fantastic.
The resort was good but not amazing, we were visiting in the low season so there were very few guests in comparison with the size of the hotel. The quality and availability of food was, however, very good, as were the drinks and snacks. Unfortunately, a few days in I was not too well and spent much of the holiday recovering from The Pharaoh's Revenge. It didn't really stop me from doing too much but it certainly wasn't a pleasant experience!
The day ahead of my flight to Cairo I decided that I wasn't well enough so sadly decided to cancel that portion of the trip. Luckily the hotel and flight to London were both refundable, so it wasn't a huge problem. It was a big shame, I was really looking forward to getting to the pyramids and checking out Cairo.
One of the highlights of staying in Marsa Alam was Port Ghalib, a large marina south of the airport where there is a collection of restaurants and shops catering to international tourists. The atmosphere here was very relaxing with great beer, drinks and food available at reasonably cheap prices. behind the major promenade, there is a small street where vendors sell knockoff handbags, watches and shoes. If you're in the market for that kind of stuff, this is the place.
On the last day of the holiday Nader, the owner of Deep Ocean Blue took the group to a restaurant in El Qoseir. The town was a 40-minute drive from the resort in the opposite direction to everywhere else we had been. It was an excellent experience, we ate Egyptian bread, tahini, lamb kebab, chicken and soup. While in El Qoseir I was able to sneak away from the table and buy some unusual snacks and drinks for the way home, including some Egyptian cheese (of course). We spent only a short time in the town but It was very interesting, it was almost completely untouched by tourism, I loved coming here!
A great trip diving, with fantastic company and although there was less diving than the previous trip I really enjoyed being able to relax and get out to see some of Egypt. The pyramids will need to wait!
I visited Marsa Alam in April, 2018