This is a day that distinctively remains in my mind. Up until this point I had an irrational fear of the sea, I could not paddle let alone swim. The one time I remember plucking up the courage on a family holiday to Greece I encountered a bright orange octopus, that, to put it politely scared the shit out of me and gave me nothing short of a panic attack. So yes, I was a girly girl to the absolute extreme.
Back to this day. It was on holiday to Dahab, Egypt, 2004, on a beautiful beach resort called the Coralia. My lovely aunt and uncle who had discovered diving a previous year and were then advanced divers took me along to the resort dive centre ‘Black Rock’. On walking through the door I overheard a conversation that went something along the lines of ‘I just got a text from my mate saying they saw a 3m hammerhead up at Sharm!’ and that was it, the sea was scary enough I hadn’t even considered the possibility of sharks at this point (role on irrational fear of sharks)
The man that owned the shop was very nice, and as diving at this point seemed too much to deal with, I agreed to a compromise of a snorkel swim along a coral wall which I later learned to be Bells to a 100mish deep site called the Blue Hole. I was told ‘it’s not scary at all’ and ‘you will be so amazed by the corals you won’t even think about being scared’
haha … yeah right
It was quite a culture shock venturing to Egypt for the first time. We got taken in a jeep by a man who drove incredibly fast, I felt very vulnerable in the back with no seat belt, nothing to cling on too and every bump (of which there were a lot) sending me perilously close to the makeshift welded roof. This however, was up until the point we came across a camel safari, with little children in charge armed with sticks, one camel had gone A-wall and clinging to it’s back was a terrified screaming female tourist who almost conjured up a kind of doppler effect police cars make on her way past, It was then I appreciated the jeep.
The Blue Hole site itself was quite a barren place then, with only a few restaurants lining the roadside and people walking over the corals which the guide was complaining about saying how they used to be so colourful and now they are all grey and dead. I unfortunately wasn’t aware of coral conservation at the age of 11, it sadly was still going on in 2014 which made steam come out of my ears when acting as surface support for trimix dives, however all I heard then was ‘I hope they stand on a stonefish’ …. ‘stonefish?’ I said, he replied ‘yes, incredibly poisonous fish, you would be in trouble out here stepping on that, you have to be really careful of them when getting in an out because you can’t see them, they camouflage so well against the rocks’ …. great
After buying our ridiculously over priced wind up underwater cameras and choosing bright orange oversized life vests, snorkels and fins we were ready to get in. For such a touristy spot there was no ladder, no way to ease your self in, you had to scramble over rocks where potential deathly stonefish may be lurking into dark blue shark infested waters … haha … well thats how I remember it anyway and I was literally in and swimming for five minutes (if that) before I heard shrieking from the front and I made a mad dash for the exit and spent the rest of the trip in the restaurant with the waiter who was fascinated by my blonde hair, strange how I found this more appealing than the snorkelling … the shrieking turned out to be in excitement because there was a dolphin by the way not a man eating 3m hammerhead shark that had travelled up from Sharm El Sheikh.
When we got back to the shop the boss was asking how we enjoyed it, my mum was laughing to him about my little episode and I’m not sure if he saw it as a challenge or pity but he told me I should have a try dive with him just off the shore see if I liked it because ‘it’s less scary when your under the water where you can see everything’ My aunty jumped at the idea and said she would come with me. To begin with it was a resounding no then we talked about what I was afraid of and I listed sharks as my main fear, poisonous things, drowning it went on for quite a while ..
If it wasn’t for that man effectively writing out a contract stating that if I saw a shark or any of the things in my list above he would give me his dive centre and everything he owned I would have never ever got in and probably wouldn’t be doing what I am today. It truly turned out to be one of the most life changing, most amazing experiences of my life. I forgot about all my fears and I did 3 dives on that holiday as discover scuba dives, Eel garden (over by caves) twice and lighthouse bay.
Very strange how things come full circle and I went back to Dahab 8 years on at the age of 19 to start my technical career and called it home for over a year!