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El Gouna - March 2011


Coco and I booked a short notice holiday to Egypt, as my work has been very busy and if I didn’t take this opportunity I wouldn’t get away at all.

We arrived about a month after the political unrest that over turned the Mubarak government. We had always been told that the problems were only in the big cities and that the resorts were completely unaffected by the trouble. Well that turned out to be the truth. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the tourists hadn’t got the same message. Only about a third of the usual visitors are coming from the UK at the moment. If that sounds extreme then most of the tour operators from the rest of Europe have cancelled all travel to Egypt at the moment. This means at the moment there are only about a tenth of the usual numbers of people in the resort. This in its self wouldn’t have been a problem if it were not for the dramatic effect it has had on the local economy. When the place is deserted the shops bars and restaurants don’t bother to open, or have already gone bust. Without these there is very little to do in El Gouna so it was just a bit boring when I wasn’t diving.

I had forgotten to pre book my diving with Colona Divers, so I sent them an e-mail the day I left saying when I’d like to dive, but left before I read a reply. When I turned up at the office it was empty and being repainted. At once I recognised Hamed, one of the dive guides, as one of the decorators. Antoinette came out of the back office to greet me but it was obvious that things were not well. She explained that there were so few divers around that they were only using one boat and it was only going out three days a week. Colona are a Swedish dive company and since all the holidays from Scandinavian countries had been cancelled there was little for them to do. The good news was they were happy for me to dive whenever I wanted, even if it meant I was the only diver on the boat. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’ve always considered that Colona try hard to go that bit further to make everyone happy and build the company’s reputation but this was incredible.

So that’s what happened. I dived on four days in the week – the first day I was joined by two divers doing a course and by six snorkelers. So I had a dive guide, Ian, to my self for a brilliant couple of dives. Since there are so few divers on the reefs and so few dive boats around the fish have come back in abundance. Everything looked very fresh and I can’t remember ever seeing so many juvenile fish in the Red Sea. I even saw Dolphins on three of the four dive trips. I had all the time I ever wanted to take pictures and I didn’t have the normal rush to catch everyone up after taking a few photos.

The second and third days I was on my own. The dive boat Captain Maged can look very small with a load of 15 divers and 20 snorkelers but it’s very big with just me, a crew or 3 and Hamed as my guide. I’m sure my dive fees wouldn’t have covered the cost of the fuel for the day, let alone pay the staff. That said I suppose the fact that I’m so impressed by Colona Divers that I’m going to recommend them to lots of other divers may pay for it in the long run. I felt very special on my “Private Charter” but I would have preferred a few other people to chat to during the day.

On the final days diving I was again joined by two divers and another handful of snorkelers. This was the only day of the holiday I had to dive in a group (of three). I suppose I’ll just have to get use to it again!

El Gouna

El Gouna

El Gouna

El Gouna

As you can see the resort was not exactly crowded.

Many of the bars were deserted or closed.

Coco spent her time shopping when they were open or sitting on our terrace doing her needlework when the wind was blowing, making the pool area a bit chilly.

 

 

Hamed

Ian

Captain Maged

 

My excellent Colona dive guides:

Hamed at the top and

Ian under the water.

 

 

The dive boat "Captain Maged" looking very empty. This was on one of my two "private charters"!

Nudibranch

This is one of very few Nuidibranch I saw this holiday

Grey Eel A small grey eel.
Giant Clam

Giant Clam

Clown Fish

Clown Fish

Baby Clownfish

Part of my never ending quest to get a good shot of a clownfish.

Like a good fisherman's tale, I very nearly did it this year - as I got a perfectly framed shot. Sadly, a camera fault completely ruined the shot. So I'll just have to go back and have another go next year.

Christmas Tree Worms

Christmas Tree Worms

Starfish Starfish on the move
Angel fish A very big Angel Fish

Yellow Tails

Reef Fish

Reef Fish

Yellow Tails

Here are a few shots to show the amount of life there was on the reef almost everywhere.

 

It was great to see so many juvenile fish - I hope it means there will be many more fish when the divers finally come back.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Dolphin

Dolphins, dolphins everywhere! Well maybe that's an exaggeration but we did see them three days running. This was the only dive they were close enough to photograph.

 

Scorpion Fish

Blue Spotted Ray

Scorpion Fish

 

Blue Spotted Ray

Sand fish

Sea Mouse

Here are a couple of odd fish

At the top is a sand fish in the usual pose with just its head out of the sand.

 

 

I didn't know what these two creatures were, as I'd never seen them before. They are Sea Mice, and as you can see they are so well camouflaged I would have missed them if my guide hadn't have pointed them out.

Lion Fish

Lion Fish

Moray

Grass Eels

Moray Swimming

Various Eels

A Moray - staying annoyingly tight lipped

 

 

 

 

Grass Eels - being on my own I was able to get closer than I ever managed before as it took nearly ten minutes to approach them

 

 

 

 

Not a great photo but I always love to see Moray when they are swimming around free.

Picasso Fish

Picasso Fish

 

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