Exploring Egypt: Going deep in Dahab

Maria K , Tuesday 11 Oct 2016

More Egyptians are discovering their own touristic gems and Dahab is a place not to be missed

Dahab
Some of the diving centers would provide you with a GoPro camera so that you can catch the on photo and videos of your adventures yourself. Photo courtesy: Shady [email protected] Seekers

On the surface, Dahab is a quiet and simple town without much glamour or nightlife, as most of what it has to offer is underwater. Diving does not go well with smoking, drinking and staying up late, so a healthy and calm lifestyle is a natural choice for those who search for things that are deep down there.

As Luxor is to pharaonic monuments, Dahab is to diving. This small town has the richest facilities for diving in Egypt, boasting more than 20 world-class diving sites within a small stretch of shore. One of the attractive features of Dahab is easy access to depth. Unlike most other places, you do not need to hire a boat to reach an interesting diving site far from shore: in Dahab, you can start your underwater adventure straight from the beach.

Deep in Dahab
Working people travel regularly all the way from Cairo and Alexandria to spend their weekend exploring the the reefs, Canyon and Blue Hole in Dahab and be back to work on time. (Photo courtesy: Cécile Bagatello)

Deep in Dahab
The Eel Garden and the shallow Lighthouse area are some of the most popular snorkelling sites in Dahab. (Photo: Shady Tarek)

Snorkelling

The very moment you put your face under water a whole new dimension of marine life opens up for you. A smart visitor of the sea kingdom would not touch or break anything, as this will preserve the national wildlife treasures and keep the snorkeler from being stricken by creatures that have every right to protect themselves and their habitat.

Snorkelling requires minimum gear of a mask and a breathing tube called a snorkel, which can be rented on a daily basis or easily found in the local shops. Access to water will be more safe and comfortable with a pair of special rubber shoes, as they will protect the feet from the sharp rocks and sea hedgehogs. More advanced swimmers may like to use fins.

No special courses or instructors are needed for snorkelling, as it is a pastime and not a sport. But cleaning the mask and the snorkel tube can be tricky at first, so get practical advice from someone experienced and try it in shallow water where you still can stand before you go any further.

A snorkeler swims without a diving suit and stays close to the surface, so take care not to get sunburn that can spoil the rest of your holiday. Wearing a T-shirt could be a solution, and ladies in burkinis can feel safe as well. If you opt for a waterproof sun protection cream instead, apply it at least 20 minutes before you go into water so that the cream has time to soak into the skin and start working. Avoid snorkelling in the hottest hours of the day, from 12 to 3pm.

Deep in Dahab
Take your kids along! An 8-year-old will start with a program called "Bubble maker" and go to a 2 meters maximum depth. By 10, they can do an Introductory dive to 6 meters, and go for the Open water certificate after age 12. (Photo courtesy: Shady [email protected] Seekers)

Scuba diving

To try out the most popular water sport in the area, you will need assistance from an instructor certified by an international diving association such as PADI, SSI, SDI or GUE. In Dahab, scuba diving is a highly professional and competitive industry, so there is a luxury of choice between dozens of dive centres that provide high quality service.

Before the introductory dive, a medical questionnaire has to be filled in. In general, scuba diving is allowed for most people starting from 8 years old. Even overweight and handicapped people can enjoy the freedom of underwater movement. Health risks in diving are almost eliminated by safety procedures.

Deep in Dahab
Some of the diving centers would provide you with a GoPro camera so that you can catch the on photo and videos of your adventures yourself. (Photo courtesy: Shady [email protected] Seekers)

When choosing a place to start, aim to get a one-on-one introductory session or a session with no more than two beginners with one instructor. Check the equipment the centre gives for rent: new, clean and well kept gear is a good sign. Take the time to talk to the instructor and see if the personal contact is going well, as psychological comfort is important for diving. Look for additions which are included in the price.

Some centres offer photos and videos of you diving or provide a GoPro camera for the intro dive so you can take clicks yourself. Ask about the duration of the dive; for the same money some centres do 45 minutes while others offer 15-30.

In the introductory dive the beginner learns the basic techniques – such as equalisation to protect the ears from being damaged by water pressure – and gets to dive to a maximum six metres. If you enjoyed your introductory dive and want to continue, the next step is a four-day introductory course, which makes one a certified open water diver. This entry level certificate opens the way to join scuba diving sessions anywhere around the world and continue the training to go even deeper.

Deep in Dahab
The Eel Garden and the shallow Lighthouse area are some of the most popular snorkelling sites in Dahab. Photo courtesy: Shady [email protected] Seekers

Freediving

Diving without breathing gear, just relying on the swimmer's own lung capacity and ability to hold the breath is called freediving.

This activity was introduced to Dahab by foreign divers about 10 years ago as a sport, though it is not totally new to Egyptians, who have been spear fishing since ancient times using similar techniques. Dahab today has four schools and about five freelance instructors teaching freediving, which is more than anywhere else in Egypt. The certifying associations for this sport are SSI and AIDA.

Different types of freediving range from just holding your breath in the water on the surface without moving to see how long you can last (this is called "static apnoea"), to various ways of accessing the deep using fins, ropes, weights and even devices that pull the diver down or up to the surface. Some types of freediving are practiced for fun, and some qualify as competitive sport disciplines.

Dahab has perfect conditions for freediving: warm sea all year round, very few underwater currents and no difference in temperature between the surface and the depth.

Every year, freedivers from all over the world flock to Dahab to meet each other, exchange experience and set new records in professional competitions such as RedCcup and Triple Depth. The last RedCcup, which was held on 25-27 August 2016, attracted about 25 divers from 14 countries.

Deep in Dahab
The first Egyptian female freediving instructor is challenging other ladies of Egypt to try out this exciting sport. She already has four National records in freediving, and just a year ago she could bearly swim! Photo courtesy: Passante Adel

A freediver's introduction course takes one day, and the beginner course is two-and-a-half days. Personal equipment is a suit, a mask, a snorkel, a belt to put the lead weights on to maintain the right buoyancy, and fins. Equipment is initially provided by the instructor or the dive centre, but later on you might want to purchase a set of your own.

Freediving is an extreme sport. It not as easy as it looks, and requires careful application of technique, which include a lot of yoga, breathing and relaxation exercises. Do not try it on your own without professional instruction, just imitating what you see other people do. Freediving can be dangerous and even lethal if practiced without proper safety measures.

Deep in Dahab
Freediving changes the way you breathe, both underwater and in daily life. Breathing with your belly rather than the chest not only allows you to hold the breath for a longer time, but makes the mind more peaceful. Photo courtesy: Passante Adel

Whether you are snorkelling, scuba diving or freediving, your underwater time in Dahab will be an unforgettable experience. Just be sure to take a good diving buddy with you to share the excitement, someone you can literally trust with your life.

"Never dive alone" is a rule, both for safety and enjoyment.

Dahab-Blue Hole
Dahab-Blue Hole, 30 September 2016 (Photo: Eslam Omar)

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Special thanks to divers Passente Adel, Shady Tarek and Omar Abdelmaksoud for their information, assistance and photos

Here is a list of our favourite diving centres

Dahab diving centres

Scuba diving

Scuba Seekers: 0101 280 0555
http://www.scubaseekers.com/

Mirage Divers: 0106 477 0294
https://www.facebook.com/MirageDiversDahab/

Dahab Divers Lodge: +20(0) 693652217
https://www.facebook.com/DahabDiversLodge/

Dive Urge: 0207 1935020
http://dive-urge.com/


Freediving
Freedive Dahab: 2 0109 8730731
http://freedivedahab.com/

Dahab Freedivers: 201095220383
http://www.dahabfreedivers.com/

Short link:

 

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