Getting into underwater photography has never been easier with the rise and increasing domination of compact cameras. But you still need a little bit of know how to get those cracking shots. One of our regular customers, Martin, joined Mike Ward on Grand Sea Serpent for his first ever photography dedicated workshop. And this is how he found it…
“This trip was an escorted photo trip by Mike Ward and to be honest I was a little bit nervous. I had not much previous experience of underwater photography and I was hoping that I would not be surrounded by experts with big SLR’s and flashes all over the place. It turned out that I was not the only one with no experience and just a small compact. The group was a nice mix between photographers on all levels. Mikes way of teaching also focused on individual progress instead of competing with others. Everyday we got a mission and in the evening we all submitted our best pictures for review.
The itinerary Daedalus, Rocky st Johns is an iconic itinerary in the southern Red Sea and it has been on my wish list for quite some time, on the 13th of August I finally got the chance to go down there and see all these legendary dive sites with my own eyes. After a few weeks of rain and cold here in the UK the warm air that hit my face when the plane doors opened in Marsa Alam came as a blessing. It made memories of past holidays flash in front of my eyes and in a second those memories reminded me why I love Egypt and the Red Sea so much.
The airport in Marsa Alam is quite small and since there is not that many flights on Wednesdays the passage thru the airport went very quickly. The local Scuba Travel representative guided us to our bus and in 10 min later we arrived in Port Ghaleb and could embark onboard our home for the upcoming week, the Grand Sea Serpent. The first night was spent on the boat and just like many of the other guests my wife and I spent the evening discovering the shops and restaurants of port Ghaleb. Even though we had only been away from UK for a few hours, when we sat and had an ice cream in the warm dessert evening all the stress of home felt far away.
The next day the boat left the harbour early and after breakfast everybody on the group was very exited and it did not take long until all diving equipment was sent up. The first day at sea started with a beautiful check up dive in Ras Somma North. After adjusting our weights we did a long dive just making sure everything worked perfectly and enjoying the weightlessness of being under water.
We all liked the check dive but our minds were set on the next dive, one of the most iconic and most famous reefs in the Red Sea, Elphinstone. Scuba Travel had been given report of hammerheads from the week before and since I had never seen one I was really exited to get into the water. Once there and in the water we descended down along the north plateau, we swam further and further out along the plateau, going deeper and deeper, there where none shoals of fish here, and our eyes was fixated away from the reef into the blue.
Suddenly a shadow appeared far way in the distance, my pulse raised and suddenly we saw the characteristic shape of a hammerhead coming up towards us. For a second it felt like time stood still, then as fast as it had appeared it was gone. That was an amazing moment. I have never seen a hammerhead before was such an amazing experience to finally see this iconic animal. Unfortunately I was so mesmerized by the moment that I just left my camera hanging an the only picture I got in the end was of a small shadow in the distance.
After Elphinstone we steered toward another iconic site, Daedalus. This reef with its characteristic lights house far out in the sea have been a favourite among divers for many years and it was decided that we were going to stay there for three dives. We did one dive each on the North side, South side, and the plateau. We could not believe our luck when one of the first things we saw on the first dive at Daedalus was another Hammerhead shark. Daedalus could not have given us a better start and diving the anemone city on the second dive showed us that Daedalus is a diverse dive site that can deliver top class diving.
On day three we left Daedalus and headed towards Rocky and Zabagad. The diving here where a bit more shallow than we had been doing on Daedalus and Elphinstone. But this did not make it less good, as we where welcomed to Rocky by dolphins and turtles. Since the dives were a bit shallower we could extend our bottom times and spend more time on the reefs and take time to take a lot of photographs. Here I got the opportunity to borrow the SLR my wife was using and I took my first underwater wide angle shots. My compact does not have any wide angle and to try it was absolutely fantastic.
When day four dawned we had arrived in the St Johns area and did our breakfast dive at Gota Soraya, it was a great dive, but my eyes were already set on the next dive, St Johns caves. Even thou St Johns caves offer more swim thru than actual caves this site fantastic for anyone with even the slightest desire to feel like an explorer, the St Johns caves offers a great experience. For the all photographers on board this offered some fantastic opportunities to play with light in the shallows. Just like so many other dive sites in the southern red sea the marine life is great, but when you add the shadow and the mystique of the “caves”, you have a divesite that I found really amazing. The mix of daylight and darkness, and the mix between massive biodiversity on the reef and the lifeless environments in the caves creates an environment that give divers a dive to remember.
On our way up the coast we stopped by an World War 2 wreck called Turbo. Turbo was a allied tanker that was hit by a German torpedo in 1942. On her way to repair she split in half and while the bow was lifted and reused the stern are still lying on 28 meters depth near Ras Banas. She’s often called “the Half Wreck” and that describes exactly what it is. Wrecks often offer great photo opportunities and Turbo is not an exception. This is a wreck that offers a lots of good photo opportunities for the divers with cameras and even some wreck penetration for the brave and well trained diver. The wreck is very easy to reach and I can really recommend any diver to stop by. A small note just to show how photogenic this wreck is – during this day Mike got more photographs submitted than any other day on the trip.
On the last day we once again stopped by fantastic Elphinstone and once again we where greeted by Hammerheads on the north plateau. Elphinstone is a fantastic dive site and offer marine life in all sizes. The second dive I spent trying to take good macro pictures, something that is much harder than it looks but very rewarding once you get the picture you want. After two dives we had to leave and sail back to port. After a total of 851 minutes underwater I did not feel that I had “done” the southern red sea, but more a feeling that I had just scratched on it’s surface.”