Treat The Sea with Respect
It might not be immediately obvious, but diving is not just a matter of putting on the trendy kit, getting in the water, swimming about for half-an-hour, stumbling out and talking about the experience for much longer afterwards. Sure, that is a part of it – the best part – perhaps, but real diving is so much more than that. It is a way of thinking (a philosophy, if you like) that makes us struggle towards self-sufficiency, and ensures that we remain safe and in control at all times. Even more than that, and, perhaps, more importantly, it encourages us to respect the sea, this incredible environment that we choose to enter solely for our entertainment. It should also make us realise how privileged we are to be able to visit and experience, for the briefest of moments, this incredible, alien world.
We should never forget that we do not belong here, that we will be allowed and tolerated here as long as we follow the rules – not just the rules that keep us safe, but also those which protect the environment. Break the former, and the risk is obvious; break the latter, and the outcome can be, though it might not be so apparent in the short term, just as devastating. Damage in the environment makes it less attractive, and leads, inevitably, to a situation in which divers no longer have a reason to visit. In effect, mistreating the reefs can eventually stop us diving just as surely, if not as dramatically, as holding our breath while ascending.
So; what is all that about? Well it serves to introduce some basic guidelines for our behavior underwater; some tips to make the diving experience that much more enjoyable and enduring. We state our philosophy elsewhere on the site: the following are the methods we use to help us to fulfill it:
- Never walk or stand on the reef top, except at dedicated entry points for recognized dive sites, and there only between designated boundaries. The reef table is a very sensitive environment, home to many specialized and vulnerable animals and plants that contribute to the health of the whole reef. It is also essential for the survival and development of many juvenile animals – without babies, there can be no adults.
Never collect anything from the sea during your dives (corals, shells, etc.). Not only is it against the law, and you will not be allowed to take trophies from the country, but it helps destroy the reef and its inhabitants. An empty shell may be a pretty trinket to you, but is a desirable residence to a hermit crab. If you must take things, make them photographs and memories. If you take more, there may be nothing left but memories.Be careful not to touch the reef. If you must touch or hold on to something in a strong current or an emergency, please ensure that it is dead. Simply touching living corals removes their protective layer of mucus, and opens them to fatal infections. Remember, corals are living animals, not plants or rocks. They are the industrious builders of the reefs that we come to enjoy. Please leave them healthy and intact to get on with their job.Be aware of your feet. Just because you cannot see what they are doing does not mean that they are behaving themselves! Most coral damage is caused by unintentional carelessness and uncontrolled fin movement. Do not get too close to the reef. Work hard to perfect your buoyancy control and learn to swim in a horizontal or fin-high position.
Respect all marine life. The sea is simply a source of enjoyment to you, but it is home to the multitudes of creatures and plants that you come to see – and those you don’t see. When you have gone, they have to stay and fight for survival. Please give them every chance to be successful. Do not interfere with them in any way. Be as inconspicuous as you can, and try not to change their world. Do not feed the fish; they are eminently capable of feeding themselves without help.
The coral reef is the main reason for visiting tropical waters, but there are other, less attractive environments that need equal care and protection. For example, sea grass may look like a dusty, scruffy tangle of nondescript greenery, but it provides a very sensitive and unstable home to an incredibly rich and diverse variety of life that is usually too small or well camouflaged to catch the eye. Do not stir it up, and please do not use sea grass beds a training areas!
Remember everything you were taught. Practise your skills, no matter how well qualified and experienced you may be. Continually strive to refresh and expand your knowledge of diving, the underwater world and its inhabitants. Almost all diving incidents result from bad diving practice, recklessness, and disobedience or ignorance of simple, fundamental facts and rules. Almost all environmental damage by divers results from various combinations of a lack of skill, care, respect and understanding. Perfection in diving, together with a basic understanding of the sea and the life it supports, is far and away the best way of protecting yourself and the marine environment.
TREAT THE SEA WITH RESPECT, AND SHE WILL SERVE YOU WELL.
“…we all feel, that makes every single dive we do an exciting new adventure, yet preserves the environment intact for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The reef in the Red Sea
The fringing reefs of the Sinai and the Egyptian coast are spectacular, both above and below the surface of the Red Sea. The blending of turquoise and ultramarine along the entire coast, reaching across the Gulf of Aqaba to meet the terra cotta mountains of Saudi Arabia, is a visual delight, while, underwater, the diversity of corals and brilliant reef fishes that makes scuba diving in Dahab so very special, all set against a deep blue backdrop, creates an underwater photographer’s paradise. The reef runs, almost without a break, from Eilat in Israel to the north all the way down to Ras Mohammed, just south of Sharm El Sheikh.
Much of the Sinai coast is designated as protected areas, so most of the reefs here are in very good condition, especially in the shallows and along the reef edge, where the colours and profusion of corals and fishes are amazing. The variety of diving around Dahab is impressive, from gentle sandy bays and wonderful coral gardens, ideal for snorkelling, scuba diving courses, or a leisurely underwater “stroll”, to breathtaking drop-offs and vertical walls that plunge to more than 1,000m – straight off the shore! Shore diving is the norm in Dahab, but, with the range of sites available just a few metres off the beach, boats are simply unnecessary.
More remote Dahab dive sites are reachable by camel safari or day boat. One such location, Gabr El Bint, is probably the most varied and visually stunning site in Sinai, with sheer walls, amazing reefs, gorgonian forests, teeming fish life and beautiful coral gardens, all to be seen on just one dive.
About 100km to the south lies the famous Ras Mohammed National Park. The reefs there, and around Tiran Islands, are world renowned. Still farther down, scuba diving becomes more adventurous and exciting, and is best enjoyed on a liveaboard holiday, visiting the less frequented and more remote reefs of Southern Egypt.
Although the corals and the variety of colourful reef fishes are sometimes not as rich as around Dahab, the reefs of Ras Mohammed and those to the south are topographically spectacular, and present more opportunities to see the impressive, open water species, such as mantas, sharks and schools of barracudas, batfish, jacks and trevallies.
All of us at Blue Realm are dedicated to the protection and conservation of the coral reefs of the Red Sea, especially where we do most of our diving in Dahab. We do our utmost to minimise environmental pressures, by ensuring that all of our divers follow simple guidelines, as laid down by The Marine Conservation Society, PADI Project AWARE and numerous other responsible diving organisations. Only in that way can we hope to ensure that the wonders we are privileged to enjoy today can be preserved for future generations.