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Dive Review of Sea Serpent Fleet/Grand SeaSerpent in
Red Sea/Deep South

April, 2010, an Instant Reader Report by Pat Wikstrom, NC, US
Contributor   (14 reports)
Report Number 5580
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Bahamas; Belize; Bikini Atoll; Bonaire; California; Cancun; Cayman Brac;
Little Cayman; Cocos Isl; Costa Rica; Cozumel; Dominica; Dominican
Republic; Florida- (springs, west coast, keys); Galapagos; Indonesia;
Massachusetts; NC;  Palau; Puerto Rico; Roatan; Saba; Socorro; South
Africa; St. Kitts; Thailand; Truk; Turks & Caicos; TVA lakes; Yap;
Yucatan Caves;
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
Water Temp
76   to 77    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 120    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
130ft max, all divers must have 50 dives for southern itinerary, paperwork
enforced for each dive- Nitrox percentage, MOD, time and pressures in and
out, maximum depth, all recorded - Buddy pairs were required to shoot up a
surface marker buoy during the safety stop before surfacing  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
2 stars  
Shore Facilities  
One surprising negative on a dive boat thats been in service for a few
years was the noticeable lack of provisions for photographers. A tiny
closet on the dive deck, labeled cameras, had four or five shelves that
could store a handful of camera rigs. Basically in the doorway to the salon
theres only room for one person to stand at the closet.  No camera table,
no charging station, no air gun. All the photographers charged their
batteries in the cabins and worked their gear on the various tables and
couches throughout the boat. Two small rinse tanks were filled with water
daily and were designated one for cameras and the other for everything else
but that rule was not enforced.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
2 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
3 stars
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
1 stars   
4 stars    
At 41 meters, 134ft, the M/Y Grand Sea Serpent is the second longest
liveaboard in the Red Sea and the flagship of the Sea Serpent fleet.
Launched in 2005 this wooden vessel is painted a brilliant white,
spotlessly clean, and beautifully appointed with shining woodwork,
stainless steel and polished brass fixtures. Unlike many liveaboards with
indoor/outdoor carpet and plastic sunloungers the GSS had teak decks on all
outside spaces and comfortable cushioned seating arrangements just about
everywhere, which make it feel more like a private luxury yacht. Its
unquestionably the most aesthetically pleasing liveaboard of the 20 Ive
sailed on. 

Up top was the Skydeck with the flying bridge, Jacuzzi tub and a series of
curved cushioned seating arrangements with fixed tables placed in the
center. Below this was the Sundeck with both an uncovered area towards the
stern and a covered lounging area where we had our dive briefings. Forward
of this are four cabins tucked into the center with open walkways on each

The cabins were constructed of gorgeous polished wood but werent as large
or well laid out as some Ive bunked in. My sundeck deck level cabin was a
bit cramped for two solo males. The exterior of our large picture window
was fitted with a white vinyl cover that eliminated any view and made the
room a pretty dark place. However this was clearly added on to compensate
for the marginal air-conditioning. Our storage space consisted of a single
closet built into the wall next to the bathroom and a single shelf located
over the inboard bunk. The ceramic tiled bathroom was of the wet variety
where the stand up shower isnt separated from the rest of the room and
drains out in the middle of the floor. Hot water was plentiful and
controllable. My mattress had a bit of a sunken cavity down the middle and
the bedclothes were mysteriously sewn together in a stuff bag arrangement
that was way too hot so I had to disassemble the darn thing every night.
Each passenger was provided an embroidered terry cloth robe and a single
bath towel which was changed in the middle of the week. There were no
additional towels available for after dive use. The majority of the cabins
in the lower cabin deck were equally beautifully constructed, had a bit
more room, but were otherwise identical. 

Down on the main deck going from bow to stern was the bridge, galley, main
salon, and dive deck. The salon has a spectacular inlaid hardwood floor and
was constructed of, and decorated with, exotic polished woodwork and
accented by brass and crystal covered lighting fixtures. Three semicircular
couches and coffee tables provide lounging space with an entertainment
center.  About half the room is separated into a dining area with two
oblong tables seating 12 folks each. All meals were served buffet style
from a long bar at the end of the room. Breakfast consisted of fruit,
cereal, toast, eggs (not made to order), and an assortment of sausages and
cold cut meats. Lunch and dinners were very similar usually including a
green salad, pasta, often a soup, rolls or other bread product, and a
couple of entrée choices. These might include a vegetable dish,
chicken, fish, or beef. Every once in awhile a special dish such as
pizza, or shrimp would be tossed out.  Meals were served in sufficient
quantities that no one was going hungry but I found the food to be bland
and somewhat overcooked. Deserts and after dive snacks were unimaginative
and often pre-packaged; water and juices were included, beer and wine was
extra, coffee was instant, and liquor was unavailable. 

Just outside the salon was the dive deck. Gear stations consisted of a
center island of back to back benches with inward facing benches on each
side and the usual plastic bins slipped below. Wetsuits were hung on a
double rack outboard of the port side gear bench. Divers kitted up, waddled
to the twin stairs leading down to a full width dive platform, picked their
fins off the rack, and either climbed into the pangas or giant stride into
the sea. Twin ladders were deployed for dives ending at the mothership and
a third ladder in the middle of the platform was used to assist divers
coming back aboard from the two zodiac style inflatables. Two hoses were
available on the dive platform for rinsing off after your dive. The boat is
equipped with three compressors, a helium/oxygen blending station, and has
made other necessary provisions to accommodate technical open circuit or
rebreather divers needs. Free nitrox is included for all nitrox certified
divers and 32% was consistently filled to 3200psi throughout the week. 

Our trip departed from Port Ghalib headed for their deep south itinerary
stopping at Elphinstone, Daedalus, Rocky, Zabargad, and St. Johns islands.
My mid April trip produced water temps that fluctuated around 77 degrees
along with spectacular visibility on many sites, often well in excess of
120ft. Currents were extremely variable; ranging from light up to: no way
to swim against that!  sometimes all on the same dive. Drifting along on
wall dives at Zabargad, Rocky and Elphinstone one was torn between looking
out into the blue for the always hoped for pelagic wanderers and the
stunning coral communities along the walls. All throughout our trip we
encountered pristine coral formations with no signs of bleaching or coral
diseases.  Healthy hard coral, giant sea fans, soft coral, wire coral,
sponges, anemones and their Nemo attendants were fixtures on every site.
Clouds of Anthias in a myriad of rainbow hues massed over and within the
formations. Giant clams pulsed their purple mantles, while groups of blue
Suez Fusilliers  raced up and down the reef.  St Johns island group
produced stand out dives at Um-Eruq and St Johns Caves with beautiful
coral pillars and swim throughs, spiky hard coral bushes in blue, white,
and chocolate flavors, cleaner wrasse, fusiliers, anthias, butterflies,
banner fish, tons of lionfish, six ft long morays, and the occasional
turtle or Napoleon wrasse completed the show.

Another well known volcanic site, Daedalus, lies right in the middle of the
Red Sea almost half way between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Here resident
groups of Scalloped Hammerheads along with marauding Silkys and Thresher
sharks make frequent appearances. Our regular schedule had us waking up at
5:30, dive briefing at 6:00, in the water by 6:30, breakfast at 8:00, 10:30
second dive, lunch, 2:30 third dive, snacks, 7:00 night dive, then dinner.
We jumped in for our two morning dives at Daedalus and although all three
signature shark species were present there were just a couple here and
there.  Not everybody got to see them so we waited on site during lunch and
possibly chucked out some chicken, and miraculously we had tons of sharks
circling under the boat for our 2:30 dive. Everyone came up excited after
that one. 

Two inflatables provided rapid transportation to those sites not accessible
from the mothership. Dolphins rode our bow wave during a couple of trips
back to the boat and the driver worked to position the zodiac so we could
fall overboard for a quick snorkel with em. Our two multilingual guides,
Samur and Tossen, were both friendly and helpful on deck. Samur provided
detailed briefings, knew the dive sites, and was on the lookout for
interesting things underwater. Tossen, who led my group most of the time,
was the new guy. He tended to swim off the walls looking out into the blue
and rarely pointed out anything to anybody. Worse was that he didnt know
the sites very well and missed entrances to cave systems and other dive
site features. But we usually found the stuff anyway and he was so affable
that it was hard to be annoyed. Our sixteen divers were split into three
teams which departed in rotating shifts. 

But all throughout the week I had this oddly empty seas feeling. Having
read for years about these highly touted southern sites I was expecting a
lot more action in the water column. Once you got off the reef a couple of
meters there just werent that many mid sized fish. I saw very few grouper
and barracuda, no schools of grunts, goatfish, jacks, tuna, or snapper.
Despite their pristine condition these reefs were surprisingly lacking in
both major predators and prey. Sometimes at the corners of the pinnacles
where currents converged it would be a bit more fishy but in general I
was surprised by the paucity of piscines. I was given several reasons when
I asked about it. The dive guides said that later in the year theyd be
more plankton which would bring more schools of predators, but several of
the Brits whod been here before, in all different seasons, said this was
really fairly typical for the south. Another suggested that for years the
countries bordering the Red Sea had fished out the baitfish with massive
netting operations that provided the fodder for the fertilizer industry. I
do have to note that my itinerary didnt include the famed Brothers Islands
which consistently get higher marks for fish life.

But I had a wonderful time anyway. The weather was spectacular,
consistently sunny with daytime highs around 90 and night time lows a
pleasant 75degrees. Winds were light and seas were mostly calm although the
crossing from Daedalus to Rocky was heaving and rolling enough that a
couple passengers and one of the dive guides got seasick. The Egyptian crew
of nine were all pleasant and service oriented but mostly stayed apart
except during meals or while helping on the dive deck. I arrived very early
and they let me on, readied my room, made me a sandwich plate and  gave me
the run of the ship. The other 14 divers, twelve Brits and two Irishmen,
were a wonderful jovial group who had all come in together on a charter
plane.  Many of them knew each other from dive clubs in England or earlier
trips and the good natured ribbing and sometimes bawdy banter was most
entertaining. I was the lone American and received my fair share of abuse.

I specifically chose a southern itinerary to avoid the crowds of boats in
the north and the reputed negative diver impact on some sites. I was not
disappointed.  Divers must have at least 50 logged dives for these Egyptian
Marine Parks in the south so youre guaranteed a fairly experienced group
on these trips. The last night of the cruise is spent in the Port Ghalib
Marina Hotel, which is included in the trip price. I booked my entire
vacation including two weeks of land touring through Reef and Rainforest,  (800 794-9767). The 8 day 7nt liveaboard was 
$1,562 (although the price shifts with the exchange rate) Egypt is a
bargain for US divers at this time. I found American Express Travelers
checks almost useless (either not accepted or carrying a penalty of up to
30%),  credit cards accepted most places, and a large stock of US $singles
very useful for the endless tipping, baksheesh, which is just a way of

Dont even think about going to Egypt without doing a bit of land touring.
To use an overworked word, the temples and tombs of Egypt are truly
awesome. The extensive remains at sites scattered up and down the Nile
provide an astonishing window into an advanced civilization that lasted for
millennium. Looking through my collection of images I find none that even
begins to come close to doing justice to the immense beauty and magnitude
of these incredible ancient wonders still preserved in breathtaking
splendor after thousands of years.       
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