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August 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 33, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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MV Tempest, Red Sea, Egypt

great diving on a liveaboard wed never recommend

from the August, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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Dear Fellow Diver:

Look at a map of the world, and Egypt's Red Sea coast looks closer to the trouble spots of the Middle East than Chicago is to Los Angeles. But I am not scared, and neither are other European scuba divers, who keep coming back. Why? Because it's incredibly inexpensive, the locals are friendly and welcoming to strangers, and it's got some of the best and most wide-ranging tropical diving anywhere in the world. Plus, thanks to huge numbers of unmarked reefs along its borders, the Red Sea is a diver's playground for finning around shipwrecks, dating from the 19th Century to present day, that offer lots to look at, including old toilets . . .

MV TempestThe wall dive at Ras Mohammed Marine Park, at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, has unpredictable currents, so you never know which direction you're going to dive until you arrive there. For our 6 a.m. dive, we stepped, bleary-eyed, off the back deck of the MV Tempest, then the crew motored off to deeper water. Musa, our Egyptian divemaster in his mid-30s, announced we'd go in at Shark Reef and exit at Jolanda Reef. I stuck close to the reef wall at 80 feet and, pushed along by the flow, admired colorful soft corals waving gently in the current, Napoloeon wrasse guarding their territory and massive moray eels poking out from crevices. Huge schools of batfish hovered close to the wall, along with magnificent bohar snapper, which congregate en masse in springtime. Out in the blue, barracuda spiralled in a silvery vortex.

The final reward came as I ascended -- a cargo of plumbing materials, including piles of toilet basins on the saddle between the reefs. That bounty was a spill from the MV Jolanda, a 1980s wreck that has long since tumbled down the reef beyond the reach of divers. (Don't drop anything here. At more than 2,000 feet deep, nobody is going to fetch it for you.) The RIB drivers always knew which way we went and, like clockwork, the boat was waiting there when I surfaced.

But whenever they drove us back to the mother ship, I couldn't stop myself from feeling disappointed and yes, a little angry....

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