Red Sea Relaxed Trip Report from Anne and Phil Medcalf
Anne and Phil Medcalf give their views on the new Red Sea Relaxed itinerary.
They have been on quite a few of Duxy’s regular photo workshops and so were keen to see how this differed from previous dedicated photo excursions as it is designed to appeal to all divers and not just the photographers.
Dolphins, relaxation, open decks and more dolphins!
Strictly No Rush!
Have you ever felt rushed and ruled by the bell on a liveaboard, trying to fit in four dives a day at set times? If so Scuba Travel’s new Red Sea Relaxed itinerary may be the answer. As keen photographers our preference is to dive unguided and not be rushed, so there are no mishaps with expensive camera gear! Having been on a number of photo trips with Duxy we enjoy the opportunity to do repeated dives on the same site and the more laid back nature of the diving day. But unfortunately there isn’t always a photography trip available at all times of the year. It can also be off-putting to non-photographers to join a boat full of divers with huge camera systems.
The Red Sea Relaxed trip is the ideal way to meet everyones needs and is the natural evolution of the many previous trips Duxy has led, which were aimed squarely at underwater photographers. This trip took the advantages of the diving style of a photographic trip and made it accessible to all divers. We were based on Mistral and the guests were a mix of serious photographers, new photographers with basic compacts or GoPro’s and those without a camera at all. This made for a great group of guests with a wide range of experience and needs.
The guides, Reda and Mousa, ensured we had full briefings for each dive site where we were moored along with any optional dives so we were always informed and safe. On open deck days the divers in the water were kept track of by making sure that names were written on a whiteboard on the deck so we always knew that someone was aware we were in the water and kept a look out for us!
Due to the current issues with Sharm El Sheikh airport we sailed from Hurghada and had our check dive at Sha’ab El Erg, also known as Dolphin House. As soon as we had checked our weighting and descended we had dolphins around us, this made for a fantastic start to the trip. Although they have appeared for Duxy on the previous five trips we still felt lucky to have seen them. We then sailed over to the Alternatives so we were close to Ras Mohammed National Park and we had our first taste of the ‘Open Deck’ with a choice in the morning of taking the easy option of jumping in at the back of Mistral to dive Stingray Station or to take the RIB ride to the BBC pinnacle a few minutes away. Those diving from the back of the boat could choose to get in the water at any time from 5.30am onwards as long as we were out of the water for breakfast at 8am. While the RIB dive was at a time agreed with those who wanted to do it. These options make it easier for guests who have injuries or problems getting into RIBs for any reason and reduces the occasions when such guests have to miss a dive.
Working together as a team
On Duxy’s photography trips there are often dives that a Northern liveaboard itinerary would never normally visit and this was the same on this Relaxed week. On this trip we dived Shark Observatory and the Tower, two sites which most guests had never visited. This is because Duxy has worked in the Red Sea for many years both in underwater photography and as a dive guide and has a good relationship with the guides, crews and boat captains. This enables him to vary the itinerary and visit sites that may not have been dived from a liveaboard for ten years or more.
An early dive at Shark and Yolanda Reef, starting at Anemone City gave us a chance to see Ras Mohammed at it’s best with a big school of snapper and schools of unicornfish. June is a great time to dive here and we were not disappointed with the masses of marine life and wonderfully healthy looking soft and hard corals. We sailed over to Tiran and moored at Gordon Reef where we could enter the water from the back of the boat but again guests were given the option of taking the RIB over to Thomas Reef if we preferred. We moved over to Jackson Reef so that we could either jump from the boat to dive the coral garden or take a RIB ride to the other side to look for hammerhead sharks.
A lovely old Wreck
We then started to head back over towards Hurghada, diving the Kingston wreck on the way. This is a beautiful old wreck absolutely covered in corals and filled with glass fish and as the weather was so calm the captain kindly moored Mistral right over it to save us a long RIB ride, it helps to be lucky with the weather! We arrived at the Thistlegorm for an open deck for the afternoon, night and morning dives, this gave us the chance to choose the best time to go in so we could enjoy the wreck and not have to fight a big current.
We love The Barge
We then sailed to the Barge dive site, again having the opportunity to have another open deck from mid morning until breakfast on the day after, as there were a couple of other boats here this allowed us to listen out for their briefing bells ringing and to time our dives so that we didn’t have to share the site with them. Again the morning dive could be done from 5am if you wanted to rise early as long as you were out in time for breakfast at 8am. Again this is an excellent site for an open deck as there is the small wreck, acres of reef to either side and a sandy lagoon with picturesque staghorn corals. The site is also a magnet for octopus and huge scorpion and crocodile fish along with a raft of different moray eels. Those guests who wanted a change could choose to go by RIB to the Ulysses wreck, or to do drift dives from the Bluff Point site.
Dolphins again, bookending the week
We sailed back to Sha’ab El Erg for our final dive on the way back to Hurghada hoping to see the dolphins again. After a while underwater thinking we were out of luck a pod of 5 dolphins came over and swam around us for a couple of magical minutes making the wait worthwhile, what a way to end a great week of diving!
Easy for you, needs a hard working crew…
Mistral is a great boat with a wonderful crew, always smiling and happy to help the guests. Running an open deck is hard work for the crew as they are manning the dive deck for longer and filling cylinders and helping guests kit up on a rota to ensure that whenever a diver wants to go diving they have a full tank, someone to help with cameras and fins and to be ready to help them back on the boat when they return. On this June trip the crew were doing all this whilst fasting for Ramadan and every guest appreciated this.
This new itinerary certainly caters for everyone’s needs.The open deck system allows photographers to plan out shots and take advantage of changes of light over multiple dives on the same site. The sites chosen for repeated dives are those with so much to see that non-photographers will still benefit from diving them more than once. But the options to do RIB trips from the mooring to other sites combined with Duxy’s ability to throw in a few ‘wild cards’ should keep the most itchy finned dive site junky satisfied. We would definitely choose to do a Red Sea Relaxed trip again as another option to a standard photography trip. All the options and the open deck made for a very chilled out trip and we came away feeling we’d really had a relaxing holiday as well as a great week’s diving.
A parting shot now from the bowels of the Kingston as a school of Glass Fish swirl in front of our diver, showing that another advantage of not everyone having a big camera means that there are always models available!!
Thanks from Anne and Phil at www.medcalf-photography.com for their great and informative trip report.
If you’d like to join Duxy on a trip either a Relaxed itinerary like this one or one of his others in the Red Sea or further afield then please check out his trips page here.
And remember whatever your level or type of camera these trips are perfect to learn your equipment and get some great shots with others just like you.
Check back soon.