31. Oct, 2016

Red Sea revisited

Tomorrow I’ll be off for my 18 th trip to the Red Sea. My very first was in 1981 to Aqaba Jordan in the most northern region  of the Red Sea, followed in 1982 by Hurghada in Northern Egypt. Tempted  by stories of Dutch UW photographers  Sanganeb reef in  Sudan   became  our favorite destination  for eight consecutive years. Then it was  back to Egypt  again with, most recently  Alex Mustards UW photo workshops.

In the coming week we shall be heading again  with Alex to the southern Egypt reefs, close to the Sudan border. Point of departure  will be Marsa Alam.  I have three objects in mind:  the Oceanic sharks if they show up, the caverns of St. Johns or Fury Shoals. and the dolphins of Sataya.  It  will be  'fish eye shooting'  again.  That is, Nikon D7200/Tokina 10-17 for the sharks, Olympus EPL5 with Panasonic 8mm f3,5  or  Olympus 8mm  f1.8 Pro for the  caverns and dolphins.  Perhaps using a snoot in the caverns, if I can find a suitable colourful object. Never had much  luck with the caverns and dolphins so far. Must try  to do better this time!

Monday 14 November, after the trip. Our trip was reprogrammed, because  lots of  Oceanics had been spotted  in the previous weeks at the Brothers, two islands located  at around 200 miles north of Marsa Alam. This site then  became our primary target instead of the intended locations  in the deep south. The weather was pretty windy with large waves, and a strong current was sweeping along the south point of little Brother island were the boat was moored.   For me this was a reason to stay close the boat clutching the current  line with my left hand, or using  both legs to aim the camera. Unfortunately, there were  only a few distant passings of Oceanics, too far for my  fisheye lens. But the braver and stronger divers of our group who ventured further away from the boat were more lucky,  and had several closer passings of Oceanics. The strong winds made the captain decide to skip Sataya, the traditional dolpins site. So shark- and dolphinwise my trip was not a success. Luckily,  some shots I took in the caverns and  more  sheltered areas  we visited later  helped to 'heal the wounds'.  

To summarise. The Red Sea remains  the closest tropical ocean to visit for Europeans,  with a great variety of objects for the underwater photographer. Not many seas can compete with  its variety of corals,  beautiful colours and schools of small fish, just name it. In addition,  the  workshops of Alex create an unique and friendly   learning environment  for UW photographers, allowing them to make ever better pictures  of this amazing underwater world. The Red Sea  also (still)  offers the possibility to meet sharks, if you are on the right location  at the right time.  But if your primary ambition is to 'shoot'  the Elasmobranches from a close distance, better save some money and go for the Bahamas.  In the Red sea sharks -if they show up at all-  are not so easy to approach  from close distance.  One reason is that baiting is prohibited in the  Egyptian Red Sea. And even if it was permitted, it would probably create chaos on the crowded reefs of Egypt, with various boats moored om the same spot for shark sight-seeing. Of course, the purists among us may find a greater challenge in encounters with  unbaited sharks. But if you have only five days to spend, and don't feel too comfortable in a strong curent,  better not expect too much from the Red Sea sharkwise.

Another point is that the Red Sea has  become much busier now than it was 20 years ago, no doubt about that.  The positive side of this development  is that it brings in more money for the local people, better accomodation for the divers, and (hopefully) conservation or marine life and sharks in particular.  The negative side is that it has  become increasingly difficult to find a spot with a happy bunch (not hundreds) of divers descending in a peaceful blue ocean,  not disturbed by roaring engines of live aboards and their satellite Zodiacs.