Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Southern Egypt Safari - Fifth day

I woke as usual at early dawn. Through the night there was very livid wind, and at times I felt I need to fight for my blanket. Otherwise I felt refreshed. I looked up and discovered that the number of people sleeping on the deck increased (the first night it was just me, then me and Itisik, and now Avi, Tal, and Yossi joined, each in a different corner of one of the two decks).

Standing up it felt like the wind could lift me up. The sea was restless but without big waves as much as I could see. I got myself a coffee and sat on the upper deck on the ledge and watched the sun come up.

We started with Panorama Reef, one of the outer most reefs in the Safaga area. Here again one might hope to see open water fish (sharks and such). We had a nice dive, but didn't get to see much action in the blue.

We did see many corals and reef life. Piet found us a large stonefish that was tucked away in a hole in the reef. 

When we came to the south side of the reef there was an area with large sea anemones that hosted big clownfish.

Toward the end of the dive we had a cute encounter with a small turtle, that looked at us, and after a while took off.

Dive #17: Panorama Reef, 200-40, 59:50min, max 28.7m, avg 13.1m.

It felt like we could stay here for a bit more, but that morning we decided to aim to spend few dives at the Thistlegrom, and so had to start going north. And so after the dive, we had breakfast and started north to the Hurghada area.

We stopped at Carless (also known as Careless) Reef. This is a small reef that come out of the the deep ocean floor. The general shape is like a mountain top with few pinnacles on it.

The dive plan was to go around the reef and visit the different pinnacles. At some point we run into a bit of a current, but that did not last for long and once we got around the corner of the reef we were sheltered from it.

At some point Piet led us through a hole in the reef to emerge on the other side. In retrospect that more interesting direction was opposite as the entrance was nice and colorful and the exit a bit of shadowed cave. When we got out of this hollow, we suddenly noticed three large Tuna fish that swam in the blue across from us. This was very quick encounter.

Toward the end of the dive I was low on air, and stayed a bit up from most of the group. Avi was in a similar situation. This meant that we hovered in the blue with the background of bubble screens of the divers below.

Playing with the camera to check whether the flash was working resulted in an unintended self portrait.

Dive #18: Carless Reef,  200-20, 51:40min, max 25.3m, avg 12.8.

From Carless we continued north to Sa'ab Abu Nuhas. A large reef that created a lagon. This reef sits on the Jubal straits, and therefore a hazard to the busy shipping lanes to/from the Suetz channel. As such the outer face of the reef "collected" several wrecks from different times.

We moored on the inner, protected, side of the reef. Here the water was beautiful aquamarine, indicating a nice sand bottom. The zodiac took us around the reef to the Ghianis D, a Japanese (?) cargo ship that crashed into the reef in 1983 with a cargo of timber.  As it was getting late in the afternoon it took a while to located the site (this was done by seeing the shape of the wreck below us). But after few rounds of searches, Piet told us to get ready and go. And indeed we went down directly on the rear of the ship.

The first thing I saw going down was a school of large batfishes, which are relatively rare in Eilat, but seemingly common in wrecks.

Piet took us into the ship itself. We went up through some chambers, and then found ourselves in a big engine room.

The inner chambers had schools of cave sweepers going around in the dark. At some points we could look up the cargo doors and see the immense number of fish.

Going out of the ship interior we started traveling toward the bow of the ship. The sheep is broken mid-way and so this was more of a jumble of ship pieces.

It was getting dark and so the shadows of the hull created mysterious atmosphere.

In the end we returned toward the rear. Piet lifted an air tube and we hang below it to perform the obligatory safety stop. When the zodiac arrived, Piet sent us up in pairs. Only when one pair was picked out of the water he would send the next. I went up last with him. By now it was almost dark and the ride back through the waves was fun.

Dive #19: Ghianis D,  200-50, 47:40min, max 22.6, avg 13.7m.

We later found out that the second group (that left after us) didn't find the ship and went down on a wrong spot. They returned after we were already back and dry. Turned that they performed a night drift dive along the reef all the way back to our boat.

After resting a bit, four of us went down for an easy night dive on the inner protected side of the reef, just below the boat. We saw a very large moray and few crabs. six-legged (!?!) starfish, and few other sea life. I did manage to see, and even photograph one, banded snake eel, which I don't recall when I saw before.

Dive #20: Sa'ab Abu Nuhas,  200-100, 46:50min, max 18.9m, avg 11.3m.

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