The first morning
The guys had said to meet at the Dive Centre to get kitted up and meet our guide for the two orientation dives included in the 5 days’ diving package (Unbelievably that’s five days’ unlimited diving, including as many tanks as you like!).
But just as we were getting sorted, our guide Cherie, turned up looking a lot more excitable than the uber-chilled dive guys we’ve come to expect. Turn out that was because a very playful dolphin had come to visit! We splashed into the water and boarded a waiting rib – which stopped in a matter of seconds. I’d never even tried rolling backwards off a rib before – but no time to worry. And the moment we’d got to about 5 metres and equalised, we were nose to bottlenose with the dolphin.
We’d seen loads of dolphins alongside dive boats before but never actually dived with one. Of course, lots of divers and snorkelers congregated to get a look but our friend was unperturbed. In fact, he (or she) was revelling in the attention, it seemed, pirouetting upside down, jumping high out of the water and then hurtling down to re-join us, chattering away in clicks and squeaks. After quite some time we thought we’d move on and explore more of the reef – but amazingly the dolphin followed and stayed with us, mimicking our movements, for most of the hour or so till our air ran low.
An incredible start to our holiday! In fact, we said it was unlikely anything would top that… But because no other boats come near this protected area, the life on the two house reefs is spectacular. There are a few turtles that call the place home – one of them’s particularly huge – and they don't seem very bothered by divers hovering over them taking pictures. We saw one almost every dive – a total of 15 over the 5 days.
Cherie gave us the full lowdown on how things work at Marsa Shagra. As she said, it seems like a lot of information at first but it’s an absolute breeze – and you have loads of people around to help with your kit as well as a few Zodiacs on the jetty ready to take you out to the reefs – you can dive shore to shore, rib to shore or rib to rib, meaning you had plenty of options to explore the stunning house reef.
A few people spotted reef sharks at the farther reaches of the House Reef – neither of us saw or have ever seen one. So my husband booked up, at extra cost, a trip to the famous Elphinstone Reef, twenty minutes out to sea on a super-fast rib, where he saw an Oceanic White Tip. Only people with Advanced Open Water qualification were allowed – and I was quite happy that my more Basic Open Water Diver meant I could lie on a beanbag and sunbathe in safety instead.