My Three Dives


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, June 13, 2004 was originally posted on June 17, 2004.

DAY 239:  Dahab was once an oasis for the hippies of the 1960s, where bohemian travelers sat on cushions and sucked up the haze of marijuana through the pipe of a hookah.  But as Let’s Go states, “Now, Tommy Hilfiger is more popular than tie-dye and cell phones more prominent than the joints… More than any other factor, the diving industry has driven the changes in Dahab.”  Nowadays, travelers come to Dahab to suck the oxygen from a tube out of an air tank.

Dozens of dive shops are located in Dahab, all competing for the tourist dollar, with fairly descent prices when compared to the rates in other places.  When I was in the Galapagos Islands, a dive ran $50-$60 (USD) per dive, whereas in Dahab it’s only $15-$20.  I’m guessing the price is significantly cheaper because there isn’t much overhead; no gas-powered boats are needed in Dahab’s mainstream diving community since most dives begin right off the coastline.  The Gulf of Aqaba of the Red Sea must have been a canyon in prehistoric days because the beach doesn’t slope down gradually; instead, at a certain point it just drops off like a water-filled cliff.

With low, low prices and the promise of being one of the world’s best diving areas for tropical fish and coral, it’s no wonder diving is booming in Dahab.  I jumped on the bandwagon and signed up for a PADI Advanced Open Water Certification course, a five-dive course of different educational goals.  I had done an Underwater Naturalist Dive the day before and would continue on with three more dives that day.

“CANYON” WAS THE NAME OF THE FIRST DIVE SITE of the day, located about a twenty-minute drive north of Dahab, along a dirt road between mountains in the west and blue waters in the east.  With me and my dive instructor Walid was fellow advanced student and dive buddy Oz, and two already-advanced-certified divers Judy and Lisa out for a recreational dive.  Walid gave us the briefing for our Deep Dive (another one of PADI’s chapters in their text book and study sheets) and explained the dive plan to us.  Deep Dives are somewhat of a risk because the additional pressure on the body may cause nitrogen narcosis, a physical condition with noticeable mental symptoms.  To establish that we hadn’t gone “funny” underwater, Walid told us that he’d give us math problems to figure out at the bottom — we simply had to figure out the sum of the amount of fingers he’d flash at us.  Underwater math?  I can’t even do some arithmetic on land, let alone at 90 ft. deep underwater.  Oz shared the same sentiment.

A couple of minutes later, after gearing up and a safety system check, the dive plan was upon us.  We submerged into the water and sunk to the bottom of the floor at a depth of about 50 ft. until we found a hole in the reef beneath us.  One by one, we sunk even deeper through the hole and regrouped at the bottom.  It was there, at the depth of just over 90 ft., that Walid started his math problems. 

Concentrate Erik-san.  You can do simple math if you concentrate! 

Walid flashed ten fingers.  Five fingers.  Four fingers.  Hmmm… ten, five — no need to carry the one — add four more… got it.  I flashed Walid ten fingers and then nine to show him nineteen and he shook my hand.  Oz on the other hand, didn’t get his sum correct right away and had to do it over again.  I didn’t know if that test really determined nitrogen narcosis or just determined you were really bad at math.

With that all said and done, we just enjoyed the rest of the 35-minute dive, swimming through narrow spaces of the Canyon adorned with colorful coral, looking up and seeing the glass and lionfish in an area known as the “Fish Pool.”  Visibility was good — good enough to see the nearby octopus squirming about — and if I had a decent underwater digital camera, I might have been able to take the kind of scenic photographic compositions you see in diving magazines.

A CARAVAN OF FIVE CAMELS WALKED BY as we sat at a nearby pillow cafe for a decompression stop in between dives.  After the required break, we traveled northbound to the site of our Drift Dive, a technical dive where you let the flow of the current take you from one place to the other, sort of like the turtles in Finding Nemo.  We would begin at a site known as “The Bells” and float southward to “Blue Hole,” Dahab’s more famous dive site.  Like captain of a platoon, Walid gave us a briefing on the rocky shore to explain our approach as the waves crashed beneath us.  Nearby stood memorial plaques of the dozen or so divers that lost their lives there — mostly for pushing their limits of the very deep environment. 

Like paratroopers out of a plane, we dropped off the shore individually into a narrow chimney-like area that dropped down The Bells.  Each of us descended down to about 90-ft. deep to an opening on the bottom, and from there, we followed the reef wall southbound, gradually coming up at more shallow depths.  Below us, the sea went on like a bottomless pit — Walid claims it was thousands of meters deep — and I wondered about the bodies lost beneath.  The current took us to an opening into the Blue Hole, a play on the phrase “Black Hole” because it too was a virtual bottomless pit, with a recorded depth of over fifty stories — although Walid said they keep on finding entrances to even deeper sections.  We swam through the deep blue lagoon environment until we arrived at the dock near the pillow cafes. 

BUTCH WAS AT THE INTERNET CAFE chatting to friends on MSN Messenger when I arrived back at Penguin Village to wash and dry my gear (picture above) — he and Cheryl had just arrived from the continental shore town of Hurghada.  I had all afternoon to rest and relax before my third dive of the day, a Night Dive.  I laid out in Penguin Village’s pillow lounge to just be lazy with lassies and iced coffees with the rest of Team Barracuda, until the sun went down.

It was PADI’s rule to never do a Night Dive at a site you hadn’t done in the daytime, and so we drove off to our first dive site, “Lighthouse.”  After a briefing, Oz and I geared up with Walid — this time with a flashlight in our hands, and submerged in.  Diving at night is a totally incredible experience; different marine creatures come out at night — there were more lionfish around hunting, plus a crab on the ground scurried around.  Our light beams attracted the attention of a moray eel hiding in the crevice of some coral, who was curious enough to pop his head out — which wasn’t as far as another eel that we saw, swimming freely nearby.  Some kinds of coral that spread out during the nighttime shrank when light was shined on them; they confused flashlights for daylight. 

I thought it was inappropriate (or just ironic) that we did a Night Dive at a site called the Lighthouse, but Walid showed us just where the light came from.  After turning off his light, he waved his arms around and the plankton in the water glowed in the dark — all around us it looked like sparkling glitter.  Wow, I thought, with an amazing natural sight like that, it was no wonder the diving industry had gradually taken over the marijuana one.

Next entry: Last Day In Paradise

Previous entry: Moses For A Day

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Comments for “My Three Dives”

  • Yes #1.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/16  at  11:47 PM

  • I’m all psyched now to do my diving certification there!

    Posted by Liz  on  06/17  at  04:04 AM

  • Wow….incredible dives….It would of been wonderful to have pic’s !!!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  05:17 AM

  • Three dives - one night dive - I don’t know what more to say - count me jealous ONE more time…

    What’s the water temp there?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  08:21 AM

  • scuba steve!  haha…

    diving b…gotta do that…


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  05:57 PM

  • wow, those dives sound amazing. i wish you had a way to take picts. those would have been really beautiful to look at i bet.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  07:44 PM

  • suhweeet!

    diving in the red sea = priceless!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  09:14 PM

  • NOELLE:  Get this… Walid said… “It’s freezing… it’s 23 degrees (celsius)”

    SORRY no picts…  camera is already messed up from moisture as it is, and disposables dont go too deep!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  10:20 PM

  • Jealous!—PADI eh, told ya - lol

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/21  at  07:00 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Last Day In Paradise

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Moses For A Day


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