Saturday, January 05, 2013

Sneaky Week Away

Before the mayhem of Christmas took us over completely . . . . . .  Wait, let me go back a little bit.   In October I felt things were starting to get on top of me.  Work was non-stop and family life was in turmoil.  I tried all the normal stress relieving techniques but they weren't cutting through this particular clump of stress. My left eye started to twitch, a clear indicator for me that I was losing the battle.  I said to The Man of the Place that I was sinking.  I told him that my eye had begun to twitch and that I wasn't sleeping all that well.  I needed a bit of help.  God bless him.  He booked us a vacation.  The day after he booked the vacation, my eye stopped its annoying twitching.  Just having something to look forward to helped to lower my stress levels considerably.

He found us a bargain at the Dive Show in Birmingham.  We got a very good deal with flights, accommodation (with all our meals) and diving all wrapped up in one neat package. That was through a small travel company that specialises in dive trips, Sportif Dive Holidays.   Sadly our youngest boy couldn't join us, he had university exams to take.  So, it was just the two of us.  We haven't had a vacation alone together in . . .over twenty years!  We have always had children with us. Not having any of the boys with us was a concept that unsettled us at first.  If the kids can't go, should we just put it off until they can come along?  Nope - it was just us.  We have made one more step toward being empty-nesters.   Once I got my head around that concept, the holiday started to shine a little brighter.

We were off to Egypt for a week of non-stop diving.  Egypt has the best scuba diving within our budget.  The Red Sea offers some of the best diving there is to be had on the planet.  The turmoil that Egypt has been facing in the last year or so has not affected the diving too terribly.  There were only few divers, but that could have had something to with the fact that this was the week before Christmas.
Diving every single day of the holiday was just what the doctor ordered.  I never tire of it.  I love the sea.  When I'm not IN the sea, I can be found, looking over the edge of the harbor into the water to see what I can see.
Lemon goby
whip coral goby
I got to see my favourite fish, the Lemon goby, spotted some whip coral gobies - at about 2cm they aren't easy to see.
blue fin trevally
Indian mackerel 
Look at the blue of this blue fin trevally!  I wish the photo were in focus and framed better, but you can at least get an idea of the amazing colour of them!
This holiday was made possible because of a direct flight from Manchester to Marsa Alam airport by Thomson holidays.  This route had been cancelled for a bit and we are so thrilled that it has been reinstated.  We couldn't have gone otherwise.  The flights leave Marsa Alam back to the UK leave Egypt about 6 pm.  This means that divers can dive on the last day of the holiday and still have a good 24 hours between last dive and the flight home.

We have been diving exclusively with one company over the years, Emperor Divers.  The dive guides love the sea as much as I do and though they dive in the Red Sea for a living, they are still enthusiastic about each dive.  We could go unguided but I found that my friend Tracy, one of Emperor's instructors and guides is such a genius at spotting the things I like to see (little stuff) that I prefer to dive with her.
juvenile axilspot hogfish with giant moray
I squeezed in as many dives as daylight and the dive boats allowed.  The last dive on the last day was my 200th dive.  It was a lovely dive with a couple of  giant moray eels.  This one had a juvenile hog fish acting like a cleaner fish next to him.  I couldn't get the entire eel in the shot as it was so massive - close to 2 meters - but you can see how beautifully it was marked.   In addition to the treats we saw below the waves - Emperor Divers laid on an extra special treat in the dive boat that was used on this last day.
Emperor Elite
We were welcomed aboard the Emperor Elite, Emperor's platinum service 32 meter premier liveabord dive boat.  Holy smokes!
Man of the Place in the ship's dining room
I really tried to be cool and nonchalant about the whole experience . . . but I failed.  I was properly thrilled and snooped around the whole boat, taking photos.
I wanted to get photos of the cabins to show that there really is plenty of storage on board.  Divers seldom have a lot of personal luggage to stow anyway, but it is nice to know you have a couple of places to put your things. If you notice the table between the two single beds has a small fridge below it!  Just out of sight is a telly and the door to the bathroom.  Each room has their own.
Double cabin
This is mummy and daddy's cabin.  Loads more room!
Tracy and The Man of the Place with lovely coffee
I showed a shot of my husband walking through the dining room, but what I failed to show was the coffee and tea making facilities in the corner of the room - that had a barrista!  There was somebody there to make us really nice coffees.
dive deck
Out on the back of the boat and the dive deck, there was space enough for two zodiacs.  These essential little RIBs help the crew hook the ship up to mooring points as well as drop of and collect divers from the sea.
Ship's library

top deck of Elite
Need a place to write up your logbook in comfort? You can do that in the ship's library or if you want fresh air, try the top deck where there is a Jacuzzi!  Because we were on this ship in December, most of us opted for the comfy seats inside.  For us, it wasn't cold, but it was nicer inside.  I like the fact that if it is high summer, you can have a bit of shade on the top deck.
Me and Luke
I have declared that if my numbers ever come up on the lottery, I am making a couple of trips on this lovely ship.  One trip with my dive club and one trip with non-divers.