Simply the Best (January 2006)

Went on MV Hurricane doing Simply the Best (The Brothers, Elphinstone and Deadalus) in January 2006.

The best photo's from the trip are here. This is a two page report. Click on the link at the bottom to move onto page 2.

Getting there.

Flew with Thompson Air. Not a bad airline, you get the first 5kg of excess baggage waived on production of a cert card and we pre-booked 15kg of excess baggage for 60 return. 25kg + 5kg each plus 15kg gave us 75kg!

Arrived at Marsa Alam and bussed to the terminal. Before you even get to passport control there's a man holding a Tony Backhurst sign and points you to the correct desk to cash in your visa voucher (if you pre-booked it through Tony Backhurst). We were then met outside and put onto the coach to the boat.

Soon as we were on the boat we had a briefing, set up the kit and sort out cert cards/sign our life away etc.

The Boat.

Hurricane is a great boat! Very combatable, en-suite cabins and the food was great. The meals were varied, with steak, chicken, fish and even on the last day a full sized turkey!

The dive deck can get a bit cramped but as the boat was full this is hardly unexpected. There was plenty of table space for cameras and a pair of rinse tanks on the bottom deck.

The crew are great. Mr Abdul and Khemo who sort out the day to day things, Steve and Marlin the dive guides and the other crew who were always there to tighten your fins on deck or unzip the back of your wetsuit.

 

First Day (Ras Shona, Elphinstone x2)

First briefing was at 5:30am! The check dive was at Ras Shona, very pretty shallow reef. Lots of yellow spotted stingrays, giant puffers and a variety of reef fish. The reef is shallow with about a max depth of 24m. After weight check and a quick 40 min dive we were out and steaming over to Elphinstone.

The crossing was rough and sea sickness was very popular!

Second dive of the day was at Elphinstone. Hurricane has 2 RIBs and for the first dive we were dropped off on the northern plateau and drifted down the western side of the reef. There was a slight current running north to south. Great wall dives with some, not huge, shark action. Saw plenty of life and managed to tick off two of my target creatures (god I sound like Monty Halls!)...

- 1 Hammerhead shark

- 2 Oceanic Whitetip sharks

- Large Napoleon Wrasse

The boat was moored on the south-western edge of the reef so we were able to swim back to the boat. That's where the Oceanic Whitetip was hanging about.

The third dive of the day was around the southern plateau of Elphinstone. No sign of the hammerhead shark but the Oceanic Whitetip was still about. Also saw some Red Sea Anemone Fish (Nemo's) a few free swimming Lionfish and some Baracuda but they never got close enough to pose for the camera. On all dives there were the usual swarms of Anthias, coral groupers, cornet fish and the other usual suspects. Water tempature was around 22 degrees.

Second Day (Little Brother)

Following a slightly bumpy overnight crossing we arrived at Little Brother to find the sea flat calm. It was like a mill pond! The first dive dropped us off at the northern end of the reef and we drifted down the eastern side of the reef. Water temperature was 21-22 degrees.

There were a lot of curious cornet fish that liked hovering just above peoples head. A grey reef shark swam past, large barracuda hovered in the blue and a large Napoleon Wrasse gave us some special attention.

I was at the back of the group on the swim back to the boat and half way back there was a lot of gesturing. I turned around and the big old Napoleon Wrasse had followed us. I stopped and hovered as it swam around me at about 2m distance twice keeping an eye on me all the time, then returned back to the reef.

Second dive of the day was again a drop at the northern end of the reef, but this time we drifted down the western side of the reef. Nothing really of special note on this dive, the cornet fish were curious, the barracuda hovered in the distance. However the coral growth was good and in good condition. Nice to see that the usual coral destruction seen on the shore reefs was nowhere to be seen on Little Brother.

The last dive of the day was along the west side of the reef again. A grey reef shark made a fleeting appearance but vanished into the blue far too quickly.

After the last dive the boat was moved up to Big Brother and moored there for the night. During the night the floodlights lit up the water surrounding the boat which attracted a Silky Shark and a monster Baracuda.

Third Day (Big Brother)

First dive on Big Brother was a drift from the north end of the reef down the western side. We paid a quick visit to the wreck of the Aieda and hovered over the Numida. At 35m the Numida was a tad deep for us so we moved on.

Just after the wrecks a small shoal of Barracuda passed us, numbering about 12. For once they got fairly close as they were patrolling around the wreck.

There were also a few morays around the wrecks. I was fairly surprised about the lack of morays seen on the trip. After Hurghada where they were everywhere, it was a tad disappointing not to see more on this trip as they are a personal favourite.

There was a resident Napoleon Wrasse again, they appeared on every reef we visited throughout the week. Whilst many of the life appeared to be more timid than there inshore cousins the Napoleons were definitely curious.

The second dive was again along the western side. The dive guide had told us that the eastern side was not as good so we didn't bother with it.

The second dive was the only one where a turtle was spotted. Unfortunate it was fairly deep and with no flash, I couldn't get a good photo.

This dive had a few of the usual suspects on Red Sea dives. Masked Butterfly fish, Red Sea Banner Fish and the ever present Cornetfish. Of course the place was swarming with Anthias, they were everywhere and in the biggest densest shoals I've seen.

The last dive of the day was a nice 'bimble' around the southern plateau of Big Brother in the hope of seeing some sharks. We saw no sharks off the tip of the reef but there were a few free swimming Lionfish and another Napoleon Wrasse. After swimming back to the boat we hovered underneath it in the hope a shark would turn up.

Steve the dive guide brought a small plastic bottle which he kept squeezing to make some noise hoping to attract a shark. And it worked, after a couple of minutes a Silky sharked turned up to find out what all the racket was. The Silkys are a bit shy and wouldn't get close.

Water temperature was in the region of 21-22 degrees.

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