The sun was just greeting the day as I hurried to the top deck of our cruise boat with a steaming hot cup of coffee in one hand and a camera in the other. I was alone, enjoying the splender of another Egyptian morning. Wispy veils of fog danced across the Nile’s glassy surface, slowly dissipating as the sun’s rays enveloped the distant mountains and countryside.
In September 2014, Egyptian national and technical diver Ahmed Gabr performed a deep dive off Dahab in the Egyptian Red Sea under the auspices and observation of adjudicators from The Guinness Book of Records. After the dive, Gabr was acknowledged for having reached the record depth of 332m, surpassing South African Nuno Gomes who made it to 318m in 2005, also off Dahab.
Many years ago, whilst learning to scuba dive, I came across an article on manatees and dugongs. I was entranced. Not only were they cute, according to the article, they loved hugging divers, and once they held on to you, they did not want to let you go. The image of this human-hugging, underwater teddy bear remained with me and I was determined that one day, I would find one and hug it.
I first visited the Red Sea as part of a marine biological expedition with Dr Paul Cragg back in 1973. After having run safaris out of Israel and ending up living there for several years working on the legendary liveaboard dive boats Lady Jenny III and Lady Jenny V, my love for the Red Sea has never diminished. Now, some 45 years later, a return trip to the Red Sea was increasing my heartbeat in anticipation.
It was 6:30 in the morning, and my dive buddy and I were hauling our gear back from the big zodiac speedboat after a thrilling midnight dive on the famous Elphinstone reef in the Red Sea near Marsa Alam, Egypt. While rinsing my gear, Ahmed—the local dive guide—started talking to me because I was diving a back plate, wing and long hose just like him, and he probably felt some kind of connection.