JUST off Zagarbad Island, in a remote area of the southern Red Sea, a Russian trawler languishes in 25 metres of water.
One fellow crew member claims it is just a Russian fishing boat but others believe it to be a scuttled spy vessel. We headed off in new operator Blue o Two’s luxury liveaboard Blue Fin to solve the riddle of the Russian wreck.
A liveaboard is exactly what it says it is – a boat that you live in and dive from. For many years they were the preserve of the British Sub-Aqua Club, but a few years ago liveaboards were infiltrated by recreational PADI divers who wanted to see colourful fish and far-flung reefs without the hassle of returning to shore each day.
Armed with our very own ‘wreck detective,’ Peter Collings – a portly Geordie version of Poirot, complete with dodgy moustache – we headed to the reefs of Egypt’s ‘deep south’.
These stunning southern reefs are inaccessible to the day boats serving the Red Sea resorts. To experience the highlights of the area, and escape the boat congestion around Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, a growing number of recreational divers are choosing to do their diving from a liveaboard.
Dive operators were quick to spot the potential of these scuba softies. Bigger and better boats were built and now the luxury liveaboards really are five-star. Many have DVD players in cabins, some have satellite TV and a few even have whirlpool baths.
Many liveaboard virgins are worried about boredom when not diving but with up to five dives a day available, most divers are happy to relax on the sundeck between dives and catch some rays.
In a week aboard Blue Fin, I struggled to read one book, watch a whole movie or even fill out my dive log. I did manage to log 20 dives, sleep a lot and eat a couple of world-class chocolate mousses, though.
At 39×8.5 metres, the twin-engine boat was big enough to give divers the chance to spread out and it felt very stable, even in choppy seas.
The size and speed of the boat enabled it to cover large distances between sites in comfort. A dive guide can make or break a trip. Our sub-aqua concierge, Kevin Toomey, was a great diving ambassador and made all sorts of exciting discoveries.
Agents have been slow to jump onto the liveaboard bandwagon but cannot afford to remain complacent about this growing and lucrative sector of the market.
“We find agents lean towards package tours rather than going down the specialist route but we work very closely with agents to dispel any myths associated with liveaboards,” said Blue o Two’s sales and operations manager Natalie Elliot.
“The all-inclusive nature of the product reduces the organisational headache and because it’s a high-end product, commission is good,”
And was the Russian wreck a spy ship? With my dive buddy Paul ‘two-tanks’, who was wearing enough scuba gear to invade a small country, we went scuba-snooping. There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest the ship wasn’t fishing for marine life: no nets; enough high–tension cable to wire up the Pentagon; and a mysterious hole in the hull.
For those of you who fancy a spot of sub-aqua sleuthing, Blue Fin will take you to the crime scene. You might not solve the riddle of the Russian wreck but you’ll have great fun trying.
Blue Fin leaves from Port Galib, near Marsa Alam, a three-hour drive south of Hurghada. Clients can either fly to Hurghada or Marsa Alam. Flights, transfers, full-board, including soft drinks, and all diving are included. ???
Life on board
When not diving clients can lounge about on two raft-decks, a forward facing sundeck and an air-conditioned lounge complete with plasma TV screen, surround sound, home cinema system and CD player. ?????
There are either twin-bed cabins or spacious double-bed suites with attached bathrooms. Each cabin has a flatscreen TV, a DVD player, and air-conditioning. ????
Food and drink
All meals, snacks, soft drinks, coffee and tea are included. Beers and wine are on sale at a reasonable charge. The food was excellent throughout the trip and special dietary requirements are well catered for. ???
Attentive and friendly Egyptian crew and a superb dive guide. ?????
There are two experts to take divers close to reefs which are also available for non-divers to swim and snorkel from. The boat offers various onboard dive courses such as deep diving, photography dives and wreck diving (depending on the itinerary). ????
Recommend it? Definitely. If clients are looking to dive in style and comfort, they need to look no further than Blue Fin.
Total rating: 24/30
- Point out that liveaboards are fully-inclusive and usually only exclude alcohol and equipment hire.
- Liveaboards are not the exclusive domain of experienced divers. Tony Backhurst Scuba offers the PADI Open Water course from some liveaboards, where the theory and confined water training has been completed in the UK.
- Check the nationality mix with the diving operator – most UK divers want to be on a boat with other English speakers.
- Check the itinerary matches the client’s wishes as some Red Sea liveaboards only specialise in wreck diving.
- Stress the advantages of diving in uncrowded waters unreachable by other snorkellers and divers on a day trip.
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