The highs & the lows
We asked readers to share their Red Sea experiences, the very good and the very bad. Heres what they said...

Wait, Ill get a camera
I have dived the Red Sea many times, some more memorable than others for different reasons. One of the sites I visited recently was Elphinstone, and while on the southern plateau we noticed some oceanic whitetip sharks.
I saw one in the distance, and a lot of divers piled over towards it, but I stayed put, just watching these amazing creatures.
For some reason, I turned round and looked down, only to find that one was coming up directly towards me. I kept thinking to myself that it was going
to turn, but it didnt! It brushed right past my face.
I was wishing I had a camera with me, as no one would believe this encounter, so later, after reading through a lot of the reviews in DIVER, I brought a simple point-and-shoot unit, a Sony W7 with an Ikelite housing and a filter.
I went on a lovely boat called Hurricane, heading towards St Johns, and one of the sites on this itinerary was Elphinstone.
Again I had a close encounter when one of the oceanics decided to nuzzle the front of my camera - but this time I got the photo to prove it!
This was on the first day of my holiday, and thanks to the dive guides, the crew, and my fellow-passengers this was a great holiday, probably the best Ive had to date. I love diving in the Red Sea, with its lovely clear water and so much life. Ill be going back again soon, to an area I havent dived yet.
Rachel Jones

Opening the window
Dahab was the place, and 10.04am the time I finally fulfilled my ambition to scuba dive in open water.
For 30 years, snorkelling had been as far as I went, but a new work colleague, a divemaster, had opened a window of opportunity that had begun with pool training.
I had felt clumsy and restrained kitted up, but once in the pool I was free. The sensation of breathing at the bottom seemed strangely familiar and comforting.
I can only relate the sense of weightlessness coupled with breathing through a tube to how it must be for an unborn child.
Perhaps the sensation triggered this long-forgotten memory to make me feel secure in this alien environment, but I was only in 3m of pool water. How would I feel in the sea
Dahab is shore-diving country and a fantastic training ground for baby divers like me. I prepared to take the plunge from the beach at a dive site called the Lighthouse.
My friendly instructor had brought her nephew on a diving holiday and I had cheekily asked if I could tag along to complete my PADI Open Water course.
I waddled after my friend and my teenage buddy until we were deep enough to put on our fins.
No problem for her, but an amusing sight when two baby divers are being bumped by the swell.
After a few wobbles and one topple I was ready to fit my mask, wrap my mouth around the regulator and descend. I was excited and breathing a little fast, but I soon relaxed. It was all about buoyancy as I fought to stay down but off the bottom while also attempting to equalise.
This was fun. My right ear was being stubborn but I had perfected the jaw wiggle, swallow and nose-blow techniques by the time we reached 7m.
Ears comfortable, buoyancy controlled, I finally had time to look towards the reef. It towered beside me, teeming with life.
Fish of all varieties and colours burst forth like rugby fans leaving a Harlequins game. Deflated pufferfish plodded as striking sailfins darted and sergeant-majors patrolled the living rock. A lone barracudas stealthy meanderings contrasted with the nip and zip of goatfish.
Parrotfish portrayed boredom. We found Nemo and his friend aggressively guarding their anemone despite their diminutive size. Its a strange experience to laugh with a regulator in your mouth.
After 20 minutes my buddy was getting cold, so we finned back to the shallows. My mind echoed with the one word expressive enough
to contain the experience in one short blast - wow!
If I had felt like a baby in the womb in the confines of the pool, the open water can only be described as the ultimate womb with a view.
Lucy Tanner

In the Deep One
I enjoyed a memorable, if frustrating, dive on Abu Kafan, the Deep One.
It began quietly around the erg at the southern end, where I snapped away happily at the reef life with my camera, delighted by the superb soft corals and gorgonians that festoon the site.
Later, we were entertained by two splendid moray eels that posed like professional models until the sight
of me raising the camera turned them into shy hermits.
Eventually, when film and air were running low, we ascended to 6m and began a leisurely fin back towards our boat along the lee side of the reef.
With a mere 30m to go and only four shots left in the camera, I noticed a hollow full of sweetlips. I finished the film and turned back to the boat.
Straight away, a photogenic old turtle with cratered shell and liquid eyes glided past, no more than an arms length away. I finned to catch my buddy, who had just passed a cleft through the top of the reef.
As I drew level with it, I glanced up.
I was face to face with a hammerhead! Which one of us was more surprised Im not sure, but the shark completed
a U-turn in its own body length and shot back over the far side of the reef, leaving me to goggle and make incoherent noises.
I had never been so close to a large shark before, and couldnt properly estimate its size, other than that it looked pretty damn big.
Our boat was casting its shadow on the deep as we surfaced and swam towards the ladder. It felt eerie staring into the dark abyss, wondering what else might be lurking there. I reached the boat with a nervous burst of speed and a tremendous sensation of excitement, marred only by the fact that my buddy hadnt seen the great fish.
And, of course, that Id run out of film.
Martin Wilkinson

The cruellest cut of all
Exactly halfway through a weeks liveaboard holiday last year, we were doing a night dive on the Thistlegorm. I had descended the shotline, and turned round to look for my buddy, not noticing a piece of the guard-rail sticking out.
I managed to impale my leg, causing some muscle damage, and met my buddy going back up.
He was surprised when I still insisted that we did our three-minute stop, especially as we had been watching a DVD that included Cousteau chumming for sharks shortly before entering the water.
We were tied in for the night, and the only way to have returned to Sharm immediately would have been to call out Search & Rescue. My leg was sore and bleeding a lot, but I didnt think my injury merited that.
So it was around 15 hours before I arrived at the medical centre.
The skin around the cut had died, and there was nothing left to stitch, so I was left with a hole to dress.
End of diving for this trip.
Until you try it, you wont understand the torture of spending three days sitting with your feet up, watching your 13 boat-mates diving from a liveaboard. Despite their best efforts, they couldnt curb their natural enthusiasm after a dive.
And of course, the photographers were downloading their pictures onto laptops. I wouldnt wish that experience on my worst enemy.
Dougie Kerr

A kick in the teeth
My wife and I were on a fortnights holiday to Sharm el Sheikh. I thought she would be on the sunbed from sunrise to sunset, with me either snorkelling the house reef or propping up the beach bar. But fate saw me signing up for a PADI Open Water course.
The first few days in the pool went quite smoothly, except for one slight problem - I kept floating away.
No matter how often the instructor grabbed me and dragged me back to the bottom, the slightest water movement and I would be drifting off again, much to her amusement.
Then came my first open-water dive. On the way to the dive site we checked our gear and reported anything we thought was wrong with it, then sat back chatting and giggling excitedly, like school kids. We arrived and kitted up, checked each other out, and down we all went. Thats when the problems started.
At 12m, I found myself sucking in more water than air. Remembering my hand signals, I indicated to the instructor that I was having breathing problems and needed to ascend.
The instructor, thinking I was panicking, tried to calm me down. Feeling very sick because of all the saltwater I had swallowed, I indicated again, with great urgency, my need to surface. He finally agreed.
Once up, I told him I had trouble with the mouthpiece letting in water. He tested it and said he could find nothing wrong. I boarded the boat dejected. My diving was over before it had begun.
That afternoon, they talked me into trying again, and it was then that I found out what was wrong. The mouthpiece had no grips on the inside. Before the first dive, the instructor had changed my octopus after I had checked my gear, without telling me. I had also failed to do a final check before kitting up.
The dives were fine after that, and I passed my OWD and got an extra dive thrown in for free. Moral: check, double-check, and then check again.
Pete Shaw

Third-time rush
You have seen the lions, our guide Mahmood said. Now I am going to take you into the lions den!
We were at Elphinstone for our second dive of the day. It was our third trip to the Red Sea, but on previous visits the sharks had managed to evade us. We had come south with the express purpose of finding some.
On the first dive, we glimpsed the tell-tale shapes circling on the fringes of visibility. We would have been happy with that, had we not known what was to come. Our boat was fourth in a long line. The first had been moored to the reef and the rest tied to each other. We were at the end of the line and way out from the reef, deep into the blue.
The plan was to jump straight in and then head out further still, into the sharks realm. Excited as I was, I just had to perform an athletic forward-roll entry!
We gathered and dropped down. Our guide headed out into nothing and we followed, our computers and ears our only reference. We didnt have long to wait. First one on its own, then two together, then three - they started to circle and then ventured among us.
Time and again, as I looked for my next sighting, Id see a diver pointing and turn to see a shark right behind me. Oceanic whitetips - about six of them, and the largest at around 3m!
I was snapping away at every turn, picture after picture.
These awesome animals kept passing close enough to touch - they were frighteningly beautiful! They never really left us, but in the end we
had to leave them.
We returned to the reef and one or two followed us in, making occasional sweeps under the boats. A huge Napoleon wrasse, normally a focal point, was left to swim about completely ignored. In the end, with virtually no air left, I had to surface. What a rush it had been!
Mark Davies

Best till last
It was our last day aboard Horus II, the air a peculiar cocktail of sea salt and diesel fumes. We had made two dives a day, the optional third dive proving as elusive as the turtles, Napoleon wrasse and, well, everything big that
was not constructed of rusting steel.
However, we had made many new friends. We had become day-tripping adventurers, and would take home memories of aquatic wonders and blurred smiling photos of new underwater friends.
Before every dive, the guide assured us: This is the greatest dive, or: The one we will remember, but we remembered them all.
After our final dive, we climbed the ladder sadly. But wait, there were still tanks of air left, and no gunships forcing the boat to leave the site, so we could dive again.
An hour later, we were ready. Our guide had already dived too many times today, but it was a simple drift with the reef to our left, so I led the four of us into the blue.
Suddenly, we saw the turtle that had eluded us all trip. It was soaring happily at the surface as we bumbled along at 20m, so we could only stare up wistfully at its dark silhouette against the glimmering surface. Then, out of the shadows, our wishes were answered as we saw another turtle, travelling from outcrop to outcrop.
We raced towards it. It was oblivious to us struggling behind in the current as it glided gracefully on, leading us downwards.
Reluctantly I signalled for the others to break off, and headed up to swim among the colourful reef fish. Unexpectedly, below us, the unmistakable outline of a Napoleon wrasse materialised. It was too deep for us to meet, but we hung in the water as long as the current would allow.
We hit the surface, spat out our regulators and launched into superlatives. We had all experienced that most wondrous thing, a perfect last dive. Our wishes were fulfilled, but the ocean had managed to keep some of its prizes tantalisingly out of reach. We would have to return!
Daniel Taylor

The big squeeze
We were in the RIB at the northern tip of Little Brother. I did a negative entry, but for some reason didnt descend as quickly as the rest of my group. There was a big surge, the current from the north-west. I tried to get over the tip and down the wall out of the flow, but I couldnt.
I was getting severely out of breath. The more I tried to get out of the surge, the more breathless I became. Then, at 9m, I suffered the mightiest mask squeeze. I had had enough, and surfaced. It was very choppy and for a moment I couldnt see the island, the boat or the RIB. Thankfully, as a wave dropped I saw the RIB and its occupants saw me.
I was knackered when I got back into the RIB. I know I should have equalised my mask; now I make a point of breathing out through my nose at regular intervals during a dive. My vision was not affected, but I had a massive headache and the whites of my eyes were dark red where the blood vessels had burst.
The incident was my worst Red Sea experience and initially knocked my confidence, but I feel that Ive become a better diver through learning from my mistakes.
Julian Rudall
My son (14) and I (51) passed our Open Water Referral in the Red Sea at Sharm in June 2004. We celebrated by going out for our first qualified dive. We dived in a group, but for the first time had buddies other than each other.
We were diving Yolande Reef and swimming along nicely when my buddy tapped my shoulder and pointed behind me. I glanced round - and there was a wild dolphin wanting to play!
The dolphin immediately found my son, the youngest in the group, and started nudging his fin with its nose. It spent quite a while with us, and when we surfaced, swam off to join the snorkellers!
Instructors spend years in the Red Sea and never see a dolphin - we saw one on our first proper dive. Pure magic!
Ann Cooper

My 204th dive
My 200th dive was coming up, and I didnt want it to pass by in a local quarry, so I booked a week in Sharm (the bombs went off the day after I booked, as it happened).
I had already been earlier in the year, and done the Thistlegorm. Now I just wanted some nice, relaxed diving to unwind from work.
11 August was my third day on Ras Mohammed, and I had one day of diving left. My 204th dive was at Shark and Yolande, and this time we found what wed been looking for.
We dropped in just off Shark Reef, by the column of snappers, just hanging in the current before heading back to the reef.
A boxfish came past before we found a big fan-tail ray, buried in the sand. Looping round the saddle between the reefs, we found its cousin, a blue-spotted ray.
After checking around the saddle between the reefs my buddy was starting to run low on air when a turtle started to lift off just in
front of me.
I had it pretty much to myself, because activity levels from divers and other marine life suddenly went through the roof. The reason This was the first time I had seen a recognisable big shark.
Apparently this was the 3m baby of the three tigers seen on this reef. This was why we had been coming back to the Shark and Yolande site for most of the week. There was just time for one more shot of the turtle, then we needed to get up. The ascent was amazing, as everything came in to take shelter in the reef.
As we came to our safety stop, I realised that we had company at the surface. Either this turtle didnt want to end up as a crunchy meat pie, or
we werent the only ones hyperventilating. I didnt want to disturb it, but it seemed happy with the company, and drifted right up to us.
My best Red Sea Dive No, my best dive yet. The smile didnt leave my face for a week.
Andy Kirkland

My first wreck
I was 14, on my first diving trip to the Red Sea and really excited. My third dive as a Sports Diver would be my first wreck dive. I jumped off the back of the boat after my mum and Alan and swam for the line. We did our OKs and started to descend.
The moment my head was under water, the whole wreck became visible, looking just like the pictures and drawings in the dive briefing.
It was strange looking down on the shadowy bluey-green wreck, with its shoals of fish swimming around.
Descending, the colours and structures became more vivid. We headed across the blast area to the stern section, which lies on its port side, with the deck almost vertical.
I saw the anti-aircraft guns, then we headed round to see the huge propeller, its size emphasised by seeing a diver beside it.
Then it was time to head back over the blast area, looking out to see the locomotives that had been thrown from the wreck by the explosion.
There no time to inspect them, because we were heading for the captains quarters and radio room.
It was dark in here, but when you shone your torch it lit up millions of tiny silvery-gold fish - like being in a huge fish tank. We headed further along the wreck towards the bow, dropping into holds to see the Bedford vans and motorbikes - it was amazing seeing them all lined up as they had been on that fateful night. We also saw the stocks of uniforms and Wellington boots that were never delivered to the troops.
Then it was back out of the holds and up onto the deck through a small hatch close to the bow. This area was full of the tiny orange fish that contrasted with the dullness of the wreck structure, and very pretty nudibranchs.
There was not much deco time left so we headed quickly back to the line. All through our ascent we were looking down onto the Thistlegorm, enviously watching those divers still exploring. Ill remember my first wreck dive forever!
Amy Charlotte

Golden days
I was on my Advanced Open Water course and we were diving on the Sea Star. We had been told that there was gold coins left on the ship - Mandy, our instructor, had arranged for the divemaster to plant chocolate coins just slightly buried in the hope of tricking us.
But the fish thought chocolate was tasty and started nibbling at them, which rather gave the game away.
We had a good laugh about it!
Mim Moy

Rosetta made it better
It started like any other day, cold, dark and damp. We were up early to catch the smallest and most uncomfortable minibus in the world for a three-hour journey to Gatwick, and I had dropped a 29kg dive bag on my big toe getting it out of the van.
Fourteen of us were jetting off to Hurghada to dive from Rosetta, a five-star liveaboard.
After a five-hour flight, our welcome to Egypt was a combination of flies, money-hungry officials and the lovely loo attendants who sold toilet paper. We passed through customs relatively unscathed, to discover that Mike had been left with a bag of lingerie. His rubber hoses had been carted off to a hotel by a nice young lady.
Our first days dive was a nice easy one on El Aruk. We were lulled into thinking that this was going to be a relaxing week. By Sunday, our guides had turned the place into boot camp!
Up at 6.30, tank check, briefing, dive, breakfast, sleep, tank check, briefing, dive...
Although warm, the weather was not on our side, and a last-minute change of itinerary took us to Panorama Reef to see corals and pretty fish, and then to the wreck of the Salem Express.
The ro-ro car ferry, overcrowded with passengers returning from Mecca, struck a coral reef in 1991. A large hole in the hull caused the car-loading doors to open and she immediately took on water. Within minutes she lay in the depths not far from Safaga.
Records state that there were 690 passengers and only 180 survivors, but it is thought that as many as 1600 people lost their lives. The dive was haunting - suitcases, cassette-players and sun-deck roofing plates lay around the seabed, as a reminder of the poor souls who went down. Some decided that to dive this was too morbid, but I found it a very moving experience and a reinforcement of how precious life is.
Then it was on to the Brothers for a couple of days with its strong currents, wrecks and sharks - grey reef sharks, as well as Napoleon wrasse, blue-spotted rays and turtles.
And, after 16 years of searching, a happy Geoff finally came mask to sharp pointy teeth with hammerhead sharks!
Angela Myers

Oceanic whitetip shark, captured by Rachel Jones.
Lucy Tanner (right) with her instructor kitted up and ready to go
Relaxing between dives
suddenly theyre everywhere - oceanic whitetip with attendant pilot fish
a Napoleon wrasse
Anemonefish on the reef
Daniel Taylor (right) saved the best till last
Theres no experience like diving with wild dolphins
...or having your first wreck dive on the Thistlegorm, as Amy Charlotte did.
Another creature high on Red Sea divers wishlists - the hammerhead shark
a wreck dive thats not for everyone, the Salem Express
neutral, one, two, three, go!