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

Sea Serpent Fleet/Grand SeaSerpent, Apr, 2010,

by Pat Wikstrom, NC, US (Contributor Contributor 14 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 5580.

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

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm
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
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 3 stars Food 2 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 3 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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 side.

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, www.reefandrainforest.com (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 life.

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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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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