Today we are in Safaga, a port town in Egypt on the Red Sea. We have the second of our organised tours today and after being on the ship for over 7 days and just to do something totally different we are going on a boat cruise 😐

I know, sounds totally rediculous doesn’t it, but there is one main difference, today we get to go snorkelling in the Red Sea.  We take a bus from the port town to a resort town called Hurghada.  This is a popular spot for tourists, that is to say, it was a popular spot prior to the two civil uprisings of the past 4 years.  There are numerous places for sale here and a lot only partial constructed.

Our tour guide Essam (Sam), is an Egyptoligst who used to work in this role most days, now he is lucky to work once a month doing tourist work, a direct result of the tourism downturn.  None the less he’s was emotive and proud of the new country that Egypt is, and went on quite a bit about how safe it is these days, 100% safe was mentioned a few times. I guess the 4WD ute filled with AK-47 clad Tourism Police that followed us was just for show?

To be honest, we never felt unsafe and if there was any safety issues I’m sure the cruise boat wouldn’t have docked.

We arrived at the port where we were ushered to the awaiting motor yacht that would take us to three destinations in the Red Sea.  Two for snorkelling, 25 minutes apart, then lunch then a 30 minute trip to an island where we could sun ourselves on the pristine sandy beach.  Sounds nice yeah?

The weather was pretty awesome, a little windy, but very sunny and only about 23 degrees.  The water was apparently 24, but that is a load of bollacks as getting in was quite a shock.
The first place we stopped was what they called a lagoon, but it was more like a coral plateau.  We donned our swim gear and jumped into the water. We followed our dive guide out and around the structure witnessing some brightly coloured coral and a wide array of marine life getting about.
The Red Sea is so called due to the abundance of coral that calls it home, however we didn’t see a lot of red coral, it was mostly yellow and purple.  The Red Sea was also named due to the red mountain range that runs along side it, which is probably more accurate.

I took a bunch of gopro footage on the day however uploading photos is a challenge let alone video. That will be a job for when we get home. Above is a still from one of the videos.
We all got back on the boat to leave for our second destination, however it was 1pm and some people must have been asking about lunch so lunch came out before we departed for our second snorkelling adventure.
Lunch was nice, a rice dish, pasta dish, some fish, some sort of traditional dip and pita breads.  There was also salad that was 100% safe to eat according to Sam, however we avoided this just as a precaution.
After lunch we untied from the other boat that we were docked against, a common practice, and headed off to the second location.  To our surprise the boat went around the coral plateau that we just swam at, to the other side, and tied up to a different boat. Um, weren’t we just here?  No, is different, we were told.  Well it was a different side maybe, but there was no 25 minute ride in between.
Something wasn’t going to plan by the looks.  We weren’t too bothered, the swimming is nice, but nothing spectaularly different to what we experience in Queensland, we are so spoiled.  We jumped in again, when for a small snorkel and went back to the boat.
From here it was off to the pristine “Paradise Beach”, on Gifton Island which is a National Park island that also happens to have a bar.  We arrived and I asked the skipper how we were going to get off the boat onto the island.  He said there were little shuttle boats that would come and collect us.

We waited patiently for about 40 minutes before we were about to board one of these shuttles.  They came by a number of times, but wouldn’t let anyone board and there was furious discussion between the skipper, our guide and the guy piloting the shuttle and his boss over the phone.  We assumed that there wasn’t enough “bac sheesh” on offer (Egyption for Tip), but apparently the island had been put into lock down as a couple of people who attempted to arrive at the island without paying their dues, nearly drowned and had to be rescued.  Just pay the tip, it’s next to nothing and it could save your life.
The island is indeed sandy, as is most of Egypt, but like most beaches we go to on foreign shores, they don’t come close to what is on offer a few hours drive from where 90% of Aussies live. We were urged not to take our footware but we’re glad we did as the sand on the beach had a high percentage of broken coral mixed in.  Not as bad as the French coral “beaches” but nothing like the beaches of Fraser Island.
We were supposed to have an hour on the beach but due to the delays in getting ashore this was limited to 20 minutes. This was more than enough though.  We spotted some crabs, some little fish, and the only bit of flora on the island.  It is equipped with its own mobile phone tower and has a pond where the fish eat the dead skin off your feet.  For some reason Kath wasn’t interested…
We waited for the transfer back to the boat and off we went.  The skipper was walking around getting signatures from everyone to make sure all were on board that started the trip. Nice to know he didn’t want to leave anyone behind.
On the way back to the ship Sam provided a 40 minute lecture about Egyptian beliefs, Islam and attempted to clarify some false beliefs that westerners may have about his religion.  It was in no way a sermon, just one man trying to make a difference in the world one tour group at a time.
Half way back to the ship he received a call from the other tour guide for the snorkelling tour, she was missing 4 people and wondered if they were on our bus.  They weren’t which left us wondering where they could be.  It’s easy for 1 person to wander off but 4?
We arrived back at the ship around 6:30pm, which was 90 minutes later than was planned.  The ship was meant to depart at 8pm, however there was still bus loads of people coming back from Luxor at 8:30pm.  At around 8:45pm over the loud speaker we heard them call out the names of 2 couples and wondered if they were the same party of 4 that was missing from our other bus?
Perhaps the other Skipper wasn’t as careful as ours and they were left on Paradise?  Perhaps they wandered off into the resort at Hurhada? Either way, the ship pulled out an hour late at 9pm, let’s hope they made it back…

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