Around the beginning of December I started to get the feeling that some sunshine would be nice – it had been several months since last time. Since half the team at work were going to be gone anyway, nothing much was going to get done, so Christmastime seemed like a good time to go away. We’d been talking about going diving again, so I looked up a few UK dive tour operators with the help of Google, and searched for last minute trips. Half a day later I’d booked a week-long diving trip via Oonas Divers. We’ve never travelled with them before, but all reviews I could find were positive, so I thought we’d give it a go.
They did quite a good job. The place we stayed in was pleasant, the boats and diving equipment in good condition, the dive sites varied and interesting. My only complaint would be that the dive guide was not very good at organising the group or communicating – he had a habit of “mumbling” when signalling to the group, which led to some rather confused dives.
Diving trips come in two varieties: liveaboards, where you stay on a boat for the whole duration of the trip, and shore-based, where you stay in a hotel or resort, and make day trips. We wanted to try a liveaboard – in part just to try it, and in part because those usually go to more distant and interesting reefs. Liveaboards tend to require a minimum number of dives: some require 30, others even 40. That’s more than we’ve got. We took our PADI certificates three years ago on our honeymoon trip, and we’d only been on one trip since then, so we had logged about 20 dives. So we had to make this a shore-based one. Now, however, we’re up to 30 dives each, so next time we’ll take a closer look at liveaboards again.
We stayed in Marsa Nakari (which is near Marsa Alam in southern Egypt) in something called “Eco village” or “Ecolodge”. This turned out to mean a very small low-key resort on a beach in the middle of the desert. The next nearest sign of civilisation was a hotel about 2 km to the south, and beyond that, nothing much at all. Looking inlands, all we could see was desert and sky.
The resort was minimal, having only that which was necessary for diving or for keeping us comfortably housed and fed. This meant about 20–30 small one-room chalets, a dining hall, and a small cafeteria/office/equipment store. There were also communal toilet/shower blocks near the beach, and some small utility buildings. Further off there was a generator (the site was far from the power grid) that we could hear in the evenings. The picture here shows pretty much the whole resort.
During the end of the week, a dozen tents were added, as they were expecting more guests. (We were really supposed to be in a tent as well, but were upgraded upon arrival – I guess they couldn’t be bothered to put them up just for us. Which was nice, as the tents were a bit more basic than I had expected, while the chalets were very cosy.)
It seemed to be a relatively new place, with plans for expansion. The area had an unfinished look, and most of it was just unmodified desert ground, with only small lamps to mark the main paths between buildings. The terraces in front of the chalets seemed to have space for plants, and some greenery would indeed have cheered the place up. But the pared-down style was more to my taste than most beach resorts – I often find them overly opulent and overdone.