I Want To Break Free!

Our very own Lydia tells us about her recent trip to Marsa Shagra, and how it felt to travel in these unusual times...

  • Its 4am and the alarm goes off, now there is only one reason I would dream of getting up at such an ungodly hour, and yep this is it …. I HAVE A PLANE TO CATCH!

    I decided back in September that as I am able to work from home and also in a position to take the 2 week quarantine period that grabbing a sneaky week to Egypt would cost me, I was good to go. I had a quick chat with the team about my intentions, a mix of work and leisure, and received lots of support for what I wanted to do, so the flights were booked.

    I was due to depart 3rd November then sadly Uncle Boris delivered a bit of a blow on 31st October, we were going into a 2nd lockdown from the 4th November. After much deliberation and a bit of investigation it became clear that as I was leaving the country before the 4th, and for work reasons, it was fine. The government advice was that those who leave before the 4th would not need to rush to come home so I decided I was still going for it.

    PCR ordered and taken, negative results in my inbox by 11am on the 2nd, this is really happening, after a year I am going back to my beloved Egypt, albeit with a few hoops to jump through first.

    Arriving at Gatwick it was really quiet, easyJet check in was buzzing though, lots of us scrambling to get out of blighty for a bit, just to feel the sun on our backs and the sand between our toes again. The procedures at Gatwick where easy to follow, lots of sanitisers dotted around and announcements reminding you to wear your masks. The shops and bars were open, although many were preparing to close again for the next 4 weeks, which made it feel a little sombre, especially as some had only been open a number of weeks. I soon found myself sat with my obligatory glass of vino ordering my traditional fry up, wondering what my week will actually be like once I arrive.

    The flight was uneventful, mostly people behaved and kept their masks over their noses, and those that didnt (or simply forgot to replace after eating) where politely reminded by the cabin crew and subsequently obliged.

    On arrival at Hurghada we were requested to have our PCR results and health declarations at hand as we disembarked, these were taken and checked by a couple of officials as we entered the terminal building, then we were allowed to be on our way. Just for the record, yes these are checked, the guys know exactly what they are looking for, so make sure that what you have is correct. There was one family that was taken aside as their results were 24 hours out of date, they had tried to wing it but they would have been required to pay for an additional test locally, and quarantine on resort until the results came in.

  • I’ll skip the transfer and late-night arrival and get straight to the point of the following morning! Oh my gosh what a view as I threw those patio doors open at 6am… totally breath-taking. It had been a year since I was at Shagra, yet it felt so much longer, and as I breathed in the warm air Egyptian air I could already feel my shoulders starting to drop and my whole body begin to relax.

    I headed off down to cafeteria for my obligatory morning Turkish coffee and as I started to see those familiar faces (all be it a few behind masks) I don’t know who was more excited, them or me!!! There was much elbow bumping to be done that day, and all of a sudden, I was surrounded by many of the team welcoming me home. It felt so good, and yes, it felt like I was home.

    I’m not usually a huge fan of breakfast but this morning I was famished, so up the stairs I trotted. I have to say I was very impressed with how the restaurant had been laid out, safe but subtle I would say, tables socially distanced with a max of 6 people (following what most of Europe requires), cutlery handed to me in a sealed bag to avoid contact, and a buffet behind a glass screen where you can simply say yay or nay to what goes on your plate as the chefs move along the enormous spread on your behalf. This was the routine for every mealtime. At this point I really need to add that although numbers are lower than normal, there was no sacrifice on choice, quality or quantity at any meal time, in fact, you have to work pretty hard to stop the guys overloading your plate!

    Fed and watered it was dive centre check in time, again just a subtle screen between you and the staff, all quick and simple as usual. The dive shade hasn’t really been impacted, the rinse tanks are now open, with the correct quantity of disinfectant that is required in them, and as I left they were re-opening the changing rooms. Like us here in the UK normality is coming slowly, but it’s coming. The only real noticeable change is that you don’t write on the boards yourself, so you don’t have to share a marker pen. This is done by the team in the shade for you and it is entered into a book so you can’t slip up. It won’t be long I’m sure until that returns to normal too.

  • Mother Nature was super kind to us this week, we had a bit of wind for a couple of days that quickly dropped to a light welcome breeze, and the visibility was the best I think I have seen in a long time. The marine life was amazing, and the water was still an incredibly comfortable 29°c. There was a lot of dolphin activity during my week, spinners and bottlenose on the house reef, and the day I spent at Lahami we were escorted to Sataya by a large pod of playful spinners, and escorted back by a large pod of very big, and again very interactive bottlenose (video is coming). I have been asked if there was more marine life than usual as it’s been so quiet over the last months, my initial reaction would be yes, but I do wonder if maybe it just felt that way as I hadn’t been in the water for so long and I was just seeing everything again for the first time! Either way, it was bloody marvellous…. and it has given me my mojo back.

    Part of the reason for me heading to Shagra was that I wanted to experience the changes, and the travel for myself during this unusual time, so as restrictions lift, and people’s confidence builds, I can give a first-hand account of what its really like, what extras you may need to plan for, how to choose your PCR test provider, what you need to think about for travel insurance etc etc and just generally provide anyone with the information they need to help them decide if they are comfortable to travel. Me personally, I’d go again in a heartbeat! I felt very safe during my journey, I simply followed the rules and the advice, and when on resort, I did the same… I was that comfortable that I’ve booked again for December!

    I don’t think anyone can say they haven’t been affected by the trials and tribulation of 2020, we are all going to gain confidence and move out of this at different speeds, but when you are ready, there really is a beautiful world out there waiting to greet you with open arms again.

    I really want to thank my hubby Paul for agreeing to do the shopping for 2 weeks whilst I quarantine on my return, and my lovely team here at Oonas for the encouragement and support for me to go and while I was there, and of course Red Sea Diving Safari for restoring my mojo with their amazing hospitality.

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