Diving the Red Sea
Because it is close to Europe the Red Sea attracts more dive boats than any other region of the world. The Red Sea's frequent encounters with thresher and hammerhead sharks and the beauty of its hard and soft corals help account for its popularity. However, if not managed well, too many divers and dive boats could ironically help destroy this beautiful dive destination. Every time a boat drops an anchor on a coral reef a large section of the reef is damaged. Multiply this by the large number of boats in the Red Sea every day and the potential for significant damage is great. However, by tying up to mooring buoys, boats no longer have to drop anchor.
To help preserve this beautiful marine environment a local ngo called HEPCA has installed the world's largest mooring buoy system. Nonetheless more mooring buoys were needed around five islands in the 494,100 acre marine reserve adjacent to Wadi El Gemal (Land of the Camel) National Park off the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea. Seacology, an international ngo with the sole purpose of preserving the environments of islands throughout the globe, provided the funding needed to help HEPCA install 25 mooring buoys in the Wadi El Gemal area.
A group of Seacology board members and donors recently chartered the Royal Evolution, perhaps the nicest liveaboard in the entire Red Sea. We were met on board by Amr Ali, the executive director of HEPCA. Ali is a very savvy ngo operator who will do whatever it takes to protect the reefs. After a fascinating presentation Amr tells me and several Seacology board members it is time to put our dive gear on and actually install the last remaining mooring buoy surrounding Wadi El Gemal Island. We gear up and descend down to 40 feet. The HEPCA team is waiting for us with a large underwater pneumatic drill. After a quick bit of instruction I am the first to begin drilling the mooring buoy attaching device deep into the surface of the sea bed. Board members Larry Barels (above left) and Doug Herst (right) and Seacology donors Jeff Yonover and Paul Bartlett then follow suit. Our bodies and the very water are shaking with the vibration but we ascend to the surface with a feeling of accomplishment.
Diving in the Red Sea was quite good though a bit uneven. Some dives such as the world famous Brother Islands sites delivered big time with an incredible thresher shark encounter. Other sites such as Daedalus Reef disappointed. On the whole the diving was very good and well worth the trip. If one is thinking of going I highly recommend the Royal Evolution. The boat and crew were fantastic. (All photos credited to Jeff Yonover.)