Hurghada is an Egyptian resort town specifically built for the purposes of tourism. It’s a young city, about 40-years-old as my guide and friend, Mondi Hurghada explained, “Before there was the city, fishermen would come back from their day on the sea and rest under the lone palm tree on the beach – which is what Hurghada means. Unfortunately, the tree was removed and in its place, a marina was built.”
The marina is impressive with a huge mosque built on the port – the Mina Mosque (Mina means ‘port’). But it was what was under the water that interested me – the fascinating and alien world of our planet’s most crucial resource.
Mondi arranged a trip and I joined the crew and guests of the boat New Affrica – a 40-foot motorised yacht with tea, coffee, and an incredible lunch spread of pasta, rice, fish, salad and soft drinks.
We chugged out, heading south along Hurghada’s coast line, nothing but desert behind the colourful town. After about 40 minutes we took an easterly turn heading towards the islands. After a further 90 minutes we anchored along with the other dive boats and geared up with flippers and masks and dived in.
The Red Sea I imagine is named so because when the sun rises or sets, the sea is painted a magnificent red due to the reflection off the desert. It’s also a mispronunciation of it’s Hebrew name, Soof (Soof means ‘reed’).
During the day the waters are a crystal blue and if the wind wasn’t pounding, I’d have stayed in longer. There was an abundance of fish, mainly black damselfish in large schools. The wind had cut me to a point of shivering and I knew I wouldn’t last much longer. I stuck my head back in the water from where I was floating and noticed something large swimming quite casually about eight meters beneath me.
I threw my head back up and sucked in a lungful of air before I dived like a submarine – just not as gracefully.
For many years, whenever I’ve come across coral reefs I’ve always wanted to encounter the huge Napoleon Wrasse (cheilinus undulatus), a greenish-blue marine creature with a protruding forehead. I don’t why I’ve been fascinated with this thing of the seas. And now, finally, I got to swim with one.
But I was violently shivering, something that hasn’t happened to me since my ascent of Mt Kenya a few months back, so I hopped onto the boat and warmed up with a cup of tea. Our next stop was Paradise Island, a desert island of sand and gravel. I found one green bush on the whole expanse. We relaxed on the beach until it was time to motor on back to Hurghada, warmed up and grateful for swimming with Napoleon.