AfricaMisc

Dahab

posted by Stu 0 comments

We quickly bored of Sharm, the endless hassle and harassment, extortionate prices and constant battle with taxi drivers grated so much I decided we had to bail. The problem was, Sharm is quite isolated on the Southern tip of the Sinai, to the South is the ocean and to the north rugged mountainous terrain. However, there is a single road which runs right up the Eastern Coast to Aqaba, the border point for Egypt/Israel and Jordan. There was no way on earth we would head back to Jordan, and Israel was too much hassle and so during research of the whats and wheres I stumbled upon a small bedouin cum divers enclave an hour or so from Sharm.

Dahab is a magnet for divers from across the globe who head there to dive in the spectacular, crystal clear waters and endless reefs. And is habitat to over over a thousand different species of tropical fishes. Dahab is also the most relaxed place in the whole of Egypt and is pure hippy central. Where there are hippies there are backpackers and where there are backpackers is usually a laid back vibe, the stench of weed in the air and prices worth writing home about.

East Delta runs a bus from the station in Sharm at 6,7,8 and 9am with the remaining couple of buses from 14.30 onwards. The price is just LE£11 (a quid) and the journey takes a little over an hour with a police check point on the outskirts of Dahab. As we left our hotel and searched for a taxi to the bus station in Sharm I was genuinely in two minds about heading further afield. This was soon quelled when yet again getting a taxi was a mission that I had simply had enough of. The driver claimed there wasn’t a bus station and quoted us ridiculous prices. When he finally realised I was having none of it he headed to the station and as I looked out of the window at the tacky hotels, British men with mam and dad tattooed down their arms, and women looking like Barbie on a BBQ, I knew we had to leave.

The journey was, as far as journeys through rugged desert go, pretty scenic and the kindle never left my bag as I admired the natural and yet intimidating beauty of the Sinai. The kids were like usual on any journey with Abi playing something on her Playbook and Charlie on his fifth Harry Potter Book on his Kindle.

The great thing about Dahab, and I knew prior to arrival was that we wouldn’t need to take a taxi anywhere. Instantly the potential for hassle was minimised and so when the bus driver booted us off on the out skirts of Dahab we set off walking to town. After about a minute some bloke in a pick up truck pulled over and offered us a lift, I shiftied him a tenner (quid English) when he dropped us off at our hotel which is in a Bedouin camp and off we went. At 10am we checked in straight away and instantly, I knew heading to Dahab had been a good idea.

It is pretty much a small bay that takes about 10 minutes to walk end to end, lined with dive shops, beachfront restaurants, bars and guesthouses. Reggae is pumped out as people laze around either diving, snorkelling or doing nothing. In fact, google ‘Top 10 things to do in Dahab’ and at number 1 is ‘nothing’ Seriously, it is probably the most perfect place to come and do zip. The sun beats down at around 38 degrees, a mild breeze nips up the promenade keeping things refreshing and the enticing aroma of BBQ’d seafood freshly caught that day is whipped around. The sea reflects beautifully the clear blue skies and becomes a turquoise ocean that is as clear as mineral water. Though Dahab has seen great development over the past decade it is still very much a bedouin settlement and the cuisine and lifestyle reflects that. Locals mooch about in bedouin dress, visitors mooch about half dressed in scuba equipment or like me, in a skimpy pair of apple catchers and a vest. It genuinely is the most relaxed place I remember visiting. More so than Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, it is so laid back, writing this very entry, listening to Tracy Chapman with an ice cold Heineken and watching the sea lap over the coral beneath the wooden terrace I am sat at, eating Kofta (Local bbq’d kebabs) served up on a sizzling platter, looking across the sea to Saudi Arabia – Seems like too much effort.

I am convinced that the air contains some noxious gas that renders people un-arsed and people unable to be arsed. The first two days in Dahab were therefore spent lounging around during the morning and then spending the afternoon snorkelling. Not having much of a beach, the promenade literally leads onto some of the two most spectacular reefs in the world. The first slightly north of the bay is Eels Garden, a 15 minute walk the garden is, like the name suggests full of eels. And I’m not talking about those mini things you get in a jar, jellied from Tesco. These bad boys are like pythons, about 6 foot long and with a girth like a lampost. Supposedly harmless they have kingsize teeth and look super hungry, they are bezza’s with the many barracudas and I just knew, one look from Abi and she would be terrified for life, so we ditched Eels Garden and headed to the more subtle Lighthouse Reef.

At the northern end of the promenade, this is where the divers head, and where the surface dwellers like us are in scuba paradise. The reef is easily seen, the water is like a milky turquoise white colour and the sea surrounding it is like a darker turquoise. You step in and walk around 5m with a water depth of about waistline. The reef is to the left and already teeming with life, but if you follow the reef suddenly the ocean opens up beneath you and you are facing a depth of around 30 feet with the reef going the full depth. It is like an underwater paradise and as clear as if you was looking across a room and not in the sea – absolutely stunning tropical fish, angel fish the size of a bin lid, we found Nemo and all his siblings, sting rays, octopus, and about a billion illuminescent things. Sizes ranged from around an inch, to about 3 feet, but the coral, wow. Genuinely wow. It was mind blowing, and Lighthouse reef careered head first into one of the 3 most amazing things I have ever seen and by far the most amazing habitat I have ever had the absolute privilege of witnessing.

Abi was intimidated by the vastness of the ocean beneath her and decided to stay shallow, but Charlie, chaperoned by me swam out into the sea where we shared an experience that we will both remember for the rest of our lives. He was mesmerised and claims it is the single most amazing thing he has ever seen and I get it completely. It is of such beauty that it makes you realise just what lay beneath us, a behemoth paradise that rivals anything on the surface of earth. An aquatic heaven in the firm of a tropical eco system, an absolute dream, we were not just glad to be in Dahab but found ourselves questioning why we had even bothered heading to Sharm El Sheik in the first place. There was of course people asking you to try their restaurant, visit their shop and a guy whose smile looked just like a camels mush. But with prices that were consistent with Cairo (about half that of Sharm) a lack of chavtastic sun seekers and hedonists, the laid back vibe and amazing waterworld there is probably few places that rival what Dahab serves up. For instance, about 6km north is the ‘blue hole’ one of the top diving spots in the world, it is a reef which from the shore descends into an abyss some 130m deep. We stayed away, because it is also renowned as being the most dangerous place to dive on earth. Not because it offers up anything significantly dangerous per se, but is extremely technical and novice divers lured by its reputation have found themselves underprepared at the wrong moment and have succumbed to the ‘divers cemetery’. I did toy with the idea of heading up there and snorkelling is supposedly great, but with the mass crowds that head there and potential for danger I just didn’t see the point, two young kids in tow, to try and find better than the spectacular we had already found at lighthouse reef.

Whilst sat munching come local food which was pretty much chillis on chilli a bloke noticed we had fins and snorkel gear. He told us that if we walked for ten minutes down the beach there was a place called three islands which is supposedly the best diving/snorkelling in the whole of Dahab. Off we went and after about 15 minutes I realised he must be Usain Bolt to have got there in 10 minutes. We walked along a completely deserted path and about 20 minutes later came across a few people sat on cushions on the beach under a makeshift hut. The sea was turqoise and looked just like reef territory, and so we donned our gear and swam off. It’s very shallow to begin with, probably about a foot and a real mission to avoid the funky tickley plants, but after about 30 metres or so the shallow soft sand becomes a vast chasm opening up to a makeshift lagoon and home to hefty barracudas and various other tropical life. There is supposedly turtles but we didn’t find any, but again we found ourselves in absolute awe at the sheer beauty of what we had come across. The name three islands represents the three reefs and all three were nothing short of amazing and completely full of life. It really was the icing on the cake for us and we had unknowingly saved the best until last.

In a place where ‘doing nothing’ is one of the most popular activities, where diving/snorkelling is amongst the best in the world and where the sun shines 365 days per year it is easy to understand the warning I was faced with when heading to Dahab. It was that Dahab ruins itineraries and holidays. People head there for a day and stay a month, those who leave wish they had arrived earlier and those already there are trying to juggle doing nothing with seeing a sub surface tropical paradise. But the problem is, like writing this – Everything in Dahab is just too much effort.

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