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Dive Review of Aquatours/Sherazade in
Other Locations/Sudan

Aquatours/Sherazade, Oct, 2009,

by Paul Gillespie, WA, United States ( 1 report). Report 5313.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Indonesia, Philippines, Palau, British Columbia, Galapagos, Thailand, Colombia, Panama, Puget Sound
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 87 to 88 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 60 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions No gloves in the National Park area, except for Italians.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? no

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 1 stars Large Fish 2 stars
Large Pelagics 2 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 1 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 2 stars Food 1 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 2 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 2 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments A few years ago I met an Australian divemaster who had worked the Red Sea, and recommended liveaboard diving out of Sudan as the best of the Red Sea. I booked a trip with well-known Tony Backhurst travel from the UK, diving in October, through some sort of affiliated company, Aquatours.
First, the boat Sherazade was good size, and the cabins were spacious, but couldnt be classified as luxury. The bathrooms in many cabins smelled, the showers were only handheld spigots, and the towel allotment for the week was one to dry off with on the deck, and one to use when showering. Of the 18 guests, 9 of us came down with food or water illness (the culprit was never fully identified), complete with vomiting and diarrhea. Fortunately a number of us had packed Ciprofloxin, the third world travelers stomach saver. The food was mostly bland, the salads being the most interesting fare.
We made two to three dives per day. While there was quite a bit of fish life in 60-100 feet of water, including schooling barracuda, the reefs seemed under stress in the 88degree water, with bleached coral, missing morays, and one lone turtle. On many dives, the goal was to find schooling hammerheads, and, in order to do so, required dropping below the thermocline into cooler water, below 120 to 130 feet. Many dives went to 140 feet, and one diver recorded 55 meters/180 feet. Yes, we saw the hammerheads, but all divers entered deco times, and after 10 to 15 minutes at depth, it was a race to ascend to have enough air to complete the decompression stop. Once a tank had to be lowered for a diver who ran out of air, and several of us came close. I surfaced often with only 200-300 psi left. For this kind of diving, which on some days amounted to repetitive deco diving, extra full tanks should have been carried on the zodiacs, but were not. Nobody got bent, which was a good thing, since the nearest chamber was 36 hours away in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (visa required?) or in southern Egypt possibly. Oh, and does dive insurance cover incidents arising from diving below recreational scuba limits? Often there was current. Shallower dives were made on the remains of Jacque Cousteaus underwater lab/experiment Conshelf II, and the outstanding wreck from the early days of World War II, the Umbria, which still houses bombs, artillery shells, wine bottles, and cars.
At one site we snorkeled to observe 4 surface-feeding mantas, all 18 of us.
The 2 divemasters were excellent and very professional. The ships crew was friendly, helpful, and highly competent.
While Im happy to support developing countries in maintaining their natural underwater life with park and administrative fees, upon arrival at the boat we were informed that the natural park fee for a week of diving had gone up to 197 Euros, payable in cash only. Euros! ($281) This unusually high fee is obviously going to provide hard currency for the pariah government of Sudan, not likely to the maintenance of healthy reef systems, and had gone up twice since I booked the trip.
Though we were often the only boat at a dive site, I dont think that the diving trip was good value for the money for someone from North America, particularly considering the dangers involved. After all, its possible to see schooling hammerheads in 70 feet of water in The Galapagos or Cocos Islands, and tons of fish, healthy reefs, and many sharks in Fiji or Indonesia for what this trip cost.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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