Sharm el Sheik, Egypt

The Least Explored Wonder of the World

By Kinero Tan

Slowly take in a deep breath, clear your mind, and imagine . . . you are surrounded by crystal clear waters, hovering effortlessly above a white sandy beach bottom, you’re 16 meters down, with the warm sun penetrating the waters surfaces, serving justice to a colorful array of marine life inhabiting the Red Sea.  From Puffer fish, seahorses, Two-Banded Clownfish, Picasso Trigger Fish, Blue Spotted Stingrays and corals of all colors, shapes and sizes . . . you name it, and I didn’t know what any of it was.  What I did know, is that I wanted more.

After hearing all the raving reviews about Sharm el Sheik being one of the best diving destinations in the world, I had to experience it myself and take advantage of being so close to the Red Sea.  4 days in Cairo left me with several unforgettable memories, a better understanding of the Muslim faith, traditions surrounding Ramadan, as well as a new friend I hope to someday revisit.   Yet, escaping 20 million people to a beach town with less humidity, fresh air, and cool water to jump into, is exactly what I needed.

In my last months in Portland, between planning a fundraising event, finishing school, preparing to leave the country for a year, and saying goodbye to friends and family, it was impossible to squeeze in my open water certification as I had intended.  So when I arrived at the Onaas Dive Club, my plan was to have a guide take me down, no certificate necessary.

The simple thrill of breathing underwater was enough to lure me in.  The marine life I saw that day was unreal, and after scratching the surfaces of the other two/thirds of our world, I found a whole new realm to explore . . . I was hooked and had to get my certification.  I had only two days in Sharm, and the open watercourse normally took four.  Kevin Grice, my guide, happened to be the lead instructor at Onaas. He informed me that it would take a lot of hard work (He wasn’t kidding), but if I really wanted to get certified, he was willing to work with me.  He sent me off that evening with a series of DVD’s, a 300 hundred-page book, and a RDP table (I had no clue what to do with). He told me to get through as much of it as possible, and to meet him downstairs at 8AM in the morning.

To his surprise when I showed up the next day, I had gone through the first three chapters, watched 4 of the 5 sections of the DVD’s and was more than ready to get back into the water.  We spent the first half of the day learning about the equipment, no decompression diving, depth/pressure of water, nitrogen levels, safety precautions, and I loved every minute of it.  We did several exercises in the water, acting out what if scenarios including losing your mask, clearing water in your goggles, and what to do if you run out of air.

He then threw me an unexpected curve ball, and told me that I needed to swim 8/10 of a mile without stopping, and tread water for 10 minutes.  Not in the best shape of my life, and being a terrible swimmer, this wasn’t the best news.  I eventually finished in quite possibly the slowest time of his dive-instructing career.  And as I exited the water breathing heavily, he says to me with a smirk on his face, “Your not the best swimmer in the world are you?”  Only minutes later, he informed me that we would be putting our gear back on and continuing with more underwater drills.  I quickly excused myself to the bathroom, where I threw up for the next couple of minutes, and returned as if nothing had happened.  What can I say, I really wanted to get certified.

The remainder of the afternoon, I had finished 4 quizzes, learned how to use my RDP table which accounted for acceptable nitrogen levels on multiple dives, and we briefly touched on underwater compass navigation.  It had been a long day, yet I still had to go back to my hotel room, study for the final exam and prepare for two more open water dives from the boat.

The next morning, I woke up with a familiar feeling, bringing me back to the days of training for state tennis, pulling 6-hour sessions, all seven days of the week.  The only difference was, my body isn’t as resilient as it used to be.  Yet in the end, it all paid off.  I passed my final exam with flying colors, reentered the water twice to log in my 3rd and 4th open water dive, met amazing people on the boat that shared the same enthusiasm for the sport, took a photograph, and signed off on my official open water certificate.

Riding back home, I sat on the top deck with my feet dangling through the railings.  As we watched the sunset, I felt a sense of accomplishment.  I thought about the rest of my journey and the places in the world I would be able to apply my newly discovered passion . . . Thailand, Vietnam, The Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii . . . My mind drifted into the Red Sea, filled with daydreams about the endless underwater adventures that were yet to come.

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One response

22 08 2011
Panasonic Camera Reviews

I just added this feed to my bookmarks. I have to say, I very much enjoy reading your blogs. Thanks!

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