NOT ANOTHER RED SEA ARTICLE Yes, let’s face it; the Egyptian Red Sea is the home of British diving. While UK divers tend to do up to 20 dives a year in home waters, they can come to Egypt and do the same number in a week – and they do.
Red Sea diving really took off in the early 1990s and it’s no coincidence that scuba-diving as an activity among the British and other Europeans took off at the same time.
Egypt is close, it’s relatively inexpensive to reach and, once there, it knocks into a cocked hat most other diving destinations in terms of value for money. You rarely get a dive blown out through inappropriate weather, either!
Tamara Double was a pioneering dive guide in the 1980s, and returned to Egypt for a diving holiday only recently.
I expected her to report back that it had been ruined, but she didn’t. As she rightly pointed out, there may be a lot of divers, but the dives are as magnificent as ever they were.
In September, I made my 100th dive at Ras Mohammed (the first was in 1983).
This time I went out on a day-boat to dive Jackfish Alley and Shark Wall to Jolanda Reef.
The headland itself features the Shark Observatory. This was named by Israelis in the days of their occupation. You could stand high up there and watch the dorsal fins of endless fish breaking the surface, but they weren’t sharks – they were “tourist sharks”, or milkfish.
They would swarm in large shoals then, but being surface-feeders they are long gone. They were scared away by the fleets of dive-boats that come here every day of the year.
In 1983, the wreck of the Jolanda still had its bows protruding from the water where she was run aground. Now she has fallen back, and her wreckage lies smashed and scattered at depths that even Mark Ellyatt couldn’t reach.
This time I managed to get into the water at Jackfish Alley ahead of any other divers. My reward was a group of pan-tropical spotted dolphin that felt completely nthreatened by my solitary presence.
Five of them circled closely around me, eyeing me curiously. They obviously knew that
I was using a super-fisheye lens, so they came obligingly close to me each time they passed.
I had time to see that one was noticeably more spotted than another, and was even slightly pinker in her coloration. Perhaps she was blushing precociously for the camera.
I’d swear that she fluttered her eyelids or gave me a knowing wink, with that expression that only a warm-blooded mammal can muster.
Then there came the sound of other divers hitting the water, and the dolphins quickly discovered that they had business elsewhere.
The water immediately seemed filled with schooling divers. Danish Susie, my host, beckoned me to follow her. She knew where a turtle liked to roost.
We got there, but not before another host of divers armed with compact cameras had arrived.
I held back. Patience is a virtue, especially when you have twice as much gas as any other diver down there.
The underwater paparazzi blasted away until the grand old lady decided that she had had enough, and swam casually to the surface for a breath of fresh air. Some divers chased after her. So much for dive profiles!

SUSIE HAD TOLD ME THAT the turtle always roosted in the same place, so I waited. Eventually she came back down, but the others divers did not, except for a young Egyptian dive-guide from another boat, determined to get in on the act. Well, he was only trying to help.
I’ve never been good at chasing animals. I’m just an old bull that likes to walk down the hill. It’s better to make yourself invisible and wait in ambush, which is how I got the biggest green turtle I have ever seen all to myself – and what a whopper she was.
She swam majestically back towards me, never tempted to hurry. With a carapace as long as me, and a head the size of a football, I guess she’d lived long enough to know her place in the world.
I got plenty of close-up pictures before she shoved me out of the way and found her favourite spot, crunching down on the coral without a thought for CDWS or HEPCA rules regarding damage to the reef. I guess she had been floating around Egyptian waters for 100 and more years before any upstart conservationists started making rules.
Susie came along and obligingly hovered nearby to give me a sense of scale. The turtle wasn’t fazed by our attentions. I know this because she shuffled about a little to get comfortable, gave me a final look of disdain, closed her eyes and dozed off. Click! Click! Click! What a dive!
When I climbed back on board the boat, another dive guide told me that I had missed the eagle ray and the sandbar shark.
Well, it’s not good to be greedy. I had often seen the eagle ray that regularly frequents Jackfish Alley, and I already had pictures of it fluttering around like an oversized marine moth as evidence.
Next, we moved on to the sheer undersea cliff wall that is one of the world’s best dive sites – Shark Reef.
I hung motionless in the water at about 25m deep. I was wearing two tanks as side-mounts, so I was in no hurry.
I didn’t swim. I let the massing bohar snapper come to me, which they did.
So did a large group of batfish, whose job it is to keep the water free of snapper crap. As they worked diligently at their task, I wondered what ate the batfish crap. I guess it’s no good being at the bottom of that food chain.
Lots more pictures captured, I made my way over to the reef wall, where a large brown moray eel had been leering at me. I guess it liked the flashes of light from my camera.
I put the dome port of my camera right up against its face, and it grinned away while I tried to catch a cleaner wrasse working on its teeth camera-side. No luck there; the little blue wrasse was just too quick for me.
I moved on. Luckily, there was little current that day. Sometimes it rips.
Ras Mohammed is positioned at the confluence of two gulfs – the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez.
No one yet has managed to calculate an accurate set of tide tables, and goodness knows, they’ve tried.

I TRAVELLED BELOW THE SADDLE and on to Jolanda Reef. I remembered that on my first dive here all those years ago I had followed the fins of Chrissie, our New Zealand dive guide, sweating at the effort and worrying that I might run out of air before I reached the other side.
It’s funny how, when you are familiar with a site, it all becomes so easy.
This time the otherwise brightly coloured soft corals were closed for business. They need a current to do their work for them, and there was little movement of the water on this occasion.
One of the biggest moray eels known lives here, but there was no sign of that either, or of the schooling chevron barracuda, so, secure in my gas and deco management, I headed out into deeper water. There were the barracuda; circling aimlessly and playing follow the leader in a never-ending silvery spiral.
Then it was back to the reef and the debris of pipes and bathtubs and decaying hipping containers that are all that remains to mark the demise of a great ship.
It was nice to see several crocodilefish lying about and, as usual, proving impossible to photograph clearly.
Finally, I found a place to make a long stop, close to the reef. It gets busy here, because it seems that most divers are on their last gasp of gas after the long swim from where they were first dropped in.
It’s important to come up close to the reef. You don’t want to get run down by a passing boat, which has happened to a few unlucky divers.
I prefer to make my own luck. I broke the surface, deployed my bright yellow surface flag and waited for my boat to come over for me. It was at this point that I wished I had made a note of its name, but they remember me!
Ras Mohammed: when all is said and done, it’s still one of the best dive sites in the world.