Diving the clear blue of the Red Sea.
Aqaba Travel Blog› entry 121 of 251 › view all entries
June 26th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
We walked in to Dive Aqaba and I immediately felt welcomed and comfortable. It felt good to be in the familiar surroundings of a dive shop and I was so excited to go diving! The owner, Ashraf, is an outgoing Jordanian (who calls everyone āmateā), and the crew appears to be a mix of Jordanians, Brits, and, I assume, some Aussies. (I guess I didnāt actually meet any Aussies, but I assume there are some thereā¦no dive center would be complete without āem. :^)
We went through the equipment selection and I was pleased to see that everything was newer and well maintained.
We sat around awhile as people slowly filtered in. After a bit, Chris from UK walked a few of us down to the boat. The boat had an interesting configuration, and wasnāt very well suited for a large group. The tank area was quite small, while the dry cabin was very large. There was a nice sun deck on top, partially canopied.
We waited. And waited. Finally some others showed up. Then the food came and was loaded on board. Then we waited some more. Finally, 90 minutes after the planned departure time, we were off. (Apparently the crew and several of the clients had had a late night, hence the slow movement in the morning).
Our first site was a wreck called Cedar Pride. We were paired up with Divemaster April from Devon, who earlier had encouraged us to don extra weights due to the high salinity in the water. On her advice, I jumped in with an astounding 8kg (I couldnāt quite figure out the math at the time, but thatās 17.5 pounds! That is a ridiculous amount of weight. In Thailand just last month I was using 8 lbs). My weights couldnāt be easily subtracted from the belt, so I just filled up my BCD and dealt with it.
Despite my battle for buoyancy, this was a top-notch dive.
We surfaced, and then some other divers went down for resort dives and check outs. I guess this is how they deal with the small tank area -- staggered entries.
It was noon, and my stomach was starting to remind me that it had been many hours since breakfast. We all waited hopefully for lunch. Then we waited more. At 1:00 it seemed clear they didnāt plan to feed us until after the second dive.
During the wait, we chatted with some of the other divers. It was a diverse crowd, with an Israeli (traveling on an American passport), three Spaniards, several Jordanians, a Romanian, some Brits, and some others whose origin I didnāt identify. We ended up talking with one couple (he from UK, she from Ireland) for most of the time. He was a fellow pilot, and one of those guys with a ready supply of fascinating stories about his life and travels. We were like children at his feetā¦ ātell us another story, please!ā It made for a nice surface interval, despite the hunger pangs.
The second dive wasnāt until after 2pm. It was all very disorganized, which I was beginning to think is this groupās hallmark. There was no clear ābossā on board, so they kvetched about who would go where and when. It seemed like none of the Divemasters wanted to go diving! (Maybe the plan was to starve us all so they wouldnāt have to bother?) One of the guides was a particularly big asshole, and I really hoped we wouldnāt get stuck with him. I was getting pretty cranky with the delays and their complete lack of organization.
We finally jumped in, and five of went off to the Japanese Garden with April. I had removed a good amount of weight this time, so things were better on that front. It was a nice coral dive, with clear (but pretty chilly) water and bright, delicate corals.
They finally fed us after 3pm. It was a pretty nice spread, with two starchy vegetarian options for me. I took a small plate of food, and was still hungry. But when I went back for more, they had taken it down already -- thatās about the only thing they were able to do promptly all day. Figures!
Back on dry land, we met up later that evening with Turlough and Aioffa (the couple I mentioned earlier) in the hotel bar. The two of them were super smart, sparkling conversationalists, and very good company. After a couple hours there, during which I sloooowly drank two small glasses of wine, we headed over to Dive Aqaba for a BBQ.
The final verdict on the day is: Diving the Red Sea is FANTASTIC. Diving with Dive Aqaba was a bit of an exercise in frustration for someone who likes things to move efficiently and punctually. Maybe it was just an off day for themā¦Iād like to think that, since Ashraf is a genuinely warm and wonderful guy. But if I had to do it again, I would probably go with another operator.
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