Scuba Egypt

Inches below

Sometimes in life things catch you unawares... something beautiful comes along when you least expect it.

Scuba Diving in the Red Sea was just such a moment in life for me. Putting aside the obvious fact that it is one of the top '101 things to do before you die', and most books on the subject write copious pages of lovely words to describe this other world, it grabbed me unawares.

Not a big fan of the sea would be an understatement.

In fact never having swum in an ocean having only recently learnt to swim at a late age thanks to a lifelong friend in D. Never having snorkelled or never having even stuck my head underwater and opened my eyes was the embarrassing position I found myself in.

46 C of dry sandy desert heat blowing in from across the Sinai Desert was a pretty good motivator to buy a pair of swimming trunks and much to everyones amusement a pair of waterproof shorts to match. Prepared and fully kitted out with dayglo snorkel and facemask it only took a moment to be blown away by the other world that is the Coral Reef a mere three feet from the steps down to the water in Dahab, Egypt. No words can describe the colour, the clarity and the variety of life that are only inches away from the shore.

I was hooked. 45 minutes of learning to breathe through a plastic tube and trying not to say the word wow too often, with the subsequent drowning in your own face mask that follows, and we were so there in the 'other world'.

Take a deep breath but dont hold it

Wildlife documentaries are beautiful, they leave you in a quiet state of awe. But the real thing when you get there is something else. The first thing you notice after being stuffed into 5mm of neoprene and having a Scuba regulator pushed in your mouth is the speed of your heart.

120 beats per minute and a wicked instructor with a mischevious sense of wonder later and we are under the sea swimming with fins, not flippers, along 30 feet of coral wall surrounded by shoal after shoal of tropical fish whose colour would take your breath away if you weren't gulping oxygen at an alarming rate from the huge alien cylinder velcro'd to your rubber backed inflatable suit. Your ears hurt until you blow into a pinched nose, but not as much as your eyes which are straining as they 'cartoon like' pop out of their sockets at the visual feast that is the Coral Reef life. Truly wondrous, unbelieveably surreal experience.

These first time memories are so special. They are up there with first rock climb, first mountain summit, first ice climb and so many of the privileges I have had such good fortune to do and to see.

They are more 'in the zone' as you get older though - fewer and farther between them than in your teens and twenties and as such ever so much more special. So a big thankyou to Meilee for dragging me to the heat, a big thankyou to her for slipping Frankie the nod and Frankie, mate, - yeah!!!

Si Scuba Dahab Egypt

PADI course

After those first few minutes of diving - a diving course was as inevitable as the need to take photos that is willing me back to the Red Sea right now as I type.

Being taught to dive is incredible. Being taught to dive in this environment is extremely beautiful. They teach you not to use too many superlatives to describe events in writing as they lose credibility. Understatement is not an option any more than irony (which I still dont understand) and sarcasm. They dont seem to work too well in brief written notes so I am left writing a matter of fact account of just how far removed the next few days experiences are from above the ground.

Another world

Imagine, if you can, a world of ever moving colour while flying effortlessly over, in and amongst waving sheets of shifting life. Peter Pan, had it easy but he didn't have this. The Hippies had Woodstock and Acid Trip, Climbing in the 1980's Sheffield had Magic Mushrooms and 24 Hr parties but Scuba diving with friends through the Coral of the Red Sea has it all and you are fully in the moment so you can remember it too. Tee Hee.

Scuba Dahab 2010

Summing up my experiences

I would say that learning to Dive, as somebody completely uncomfortable in the water, is quite tricky. You start to relax earlier and earlier as you tune into the familiarity of the equipment, realise that you aren't going to drown when you take your mask off and even when you hurl into your regulator that nervous bilious green stuff that is so really unpleasant.

I would describe my experience as 'near drowning with professionals' and eventual acceptance that as a species we are quite clever really designing this kind of kit. Thankyou Jacques Cousteau, childhood television hero, and thankyou patient Steve, instructor and stoic, for seeing me through the whole learning to swim whilst losing contact lenses, panicking and going for the surface rather more quickly than you would expect James Bond cool divers to do post course.

Awesome. Water is brilliant.

Underwater photography - Bring it on.