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Dive Review of Aquatours/Sherazade in
Other Locations/Sudan

October, 2009, an Instant Reader Report by Paul Gillespie, WA, United States (1 report)
Report Number 5313
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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

Water Temp
87   to 88    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
60   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
No gloves in the National Park area, except for Italians.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  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  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
2 stars
1 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
2 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
2 stars    
1 stars   
3 stars    
          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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