Subscriber Content Preview
Only active subscribers can view the whole article here
Dear Fellow Diver,
Had the recent liveaboard accidents in the Red Sea, including the deadly June 11 fire aboard the Hurricane, occurred before I left for my May trip, I might have reconsidered. However, I've been to the Red Sea before and know how to pick a reputable dive agency and liveaboard. That's why my editor, Ben Davison, asked me to write an article because Europeans (I live in London) use boats hardly advertised in the U.S. and with lower prices (perhaps without a hot tub and a few other amenities). For $2000, my trip included a five-hour direct flight from London Gatwick to Hurghada and seven days of diving. In comparison, it's about $2700 for seven days aboard the Red Sea Aggressor, no flights included. And my booking had an ironclad financial guarantee if something goes wrong (see sidebar).
For the diving industry, nowhere is as busy as the Egyptian Red Sea, with more than 175 registered liveaboards and countless day boats. With so little plankton in the water, visibility consistently exceeds 100 feet. Deep thermal vents from below and desert sunshine from above provide warm water for fish and corals to thrive. On my late May trip, the water was 79°F.
I've been to the Red Sea many times, and this time three friends booked the Vita Xplorer (aka the MY Vita 2). It's a sleek Egyptian 130-foot liveaboard accommodating up to 24 passengers in 12 cabins. I booked one of the four upper deck cabins for a modest $60 more. My cabin had two comfortable single beds and plenty of hot water for the shower, with limited storage space, but I know to pack light for liveaboards.
After boarding late Saturday, the dive guides checked our logbooks or C-cards, we signed waivers, and were briefed on the boat, which included a look at the forward emergency exit past the two dive guides' cabins below decks. Early Sunday morning we departed and made our first check-out dive at Sha'ab el Erg, a not particularly auspicious reef as Red Sea reefs go, but it was only 40 feet deep, cluttered with lemon butterfly fish and crowds of bannerfish. It gave me a chance to get my weights right with the aluminum 80s that came equipped for both DIN and International A-clamp regulators....
Subscribers: Read the full article here