Trip Report BDE Trip Report, 21-28 December, 2019

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Dan

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Summary
This is an eight-day (21-28 December, 2019) liveaboard trip to Red Sea BDE (Brothers, Daedalus, Elphinstone) route, with Scuba Scene, Red Sea Aggressor 1 (RSA1) replacement, after RSA got burnt & sank in November 2019. The itinerary, as shown in Table 1, includes 6 days of diving, 3 dives / day, except on the last 2 days of diving, there were 4 and 2 dives / day, respectively.

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Figure 1 shows the Scuba Scene cruising routes (marked by yellow dash loop line) stopping in Brothers, Daedalus and Elpinestone, which is commonly known as BDE route.

We did 1st day of diving off Marsa Alam, 2nd day in Brothers, 3rd and 4th day in Daedalus, the 5th day in Elphinestone in the morning and in Abu Dabab in the afternoon, the 6th (last) day in Abu Dabab, then back to Port Ghalib in the afternoon on 28 December. One of the new diving experiences for me was getting very close encounters with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks (Carcharhinus Logimanus).

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Figure 1: Red Sea Aggressor route in Red Sea (courtesy of Aggressor.com)

Here is a short video of the highlight of what I saw during the 6 days of diving in BDE:


Background
This trip was a last minute decision I made after a change of plan for December vacation. I normally make a diving vacation plan 1-2 years ahead and this December 2019 diving vacation trip was planned for Raja Ampat, but then one of my buddies, @Casey Smith invited me to join his trip to Raja Ampat in January 2020:

Raja Ampat 14-25 Jan 2020 with Amira $837 off

So, I cancelled my December 2019 Raja Ampat and looked for other option to replace it. Then back in August 2019 @Dogbowl posted this thread that peaked my interest, as I had never been there and always wanted to dive with Oceanic Whitetip.

Flights to Red Sea

So, I thought this is a good time to go there while the diving market there is still low.

I read the water temperature in Red Sea would be about 24-25 °C around December. So, I brought a 5mm full wetsuit with hood. The water temperature turned out to be as expected.

The Liveaboard
Scuba Scene, as shown in Figure 2, is 43m long Yacht with 8 twin cabins at the lower deck, 4 cabins with king size bed at the main deck and 1 twin cabin at the upper deck for up to 26 guests, along with two rigid inflatable boats (RIB / Zodiac). More detail info is available in Scuba Scene Yacht

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Figure 2: Scuba Scene docking in Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam, Egypt, on 21 December, 2019.

The boat was half full on our trip. There were only 15 guests. So, for some of us that came alone, we got the cabin all to ourselves without paying additional single supplement cost. I was in Cabin 1, as shown in the trip video above.

Setting up our dive gears and handling them were pretty typical liveaboard diving. Divers can do a giant stride entry to the water from the stern loading platform to the water or go on Zodiac to dive sites if the yacht could not go there. Once we kit up our dive gears at our assigned stations in the dive deck and ready to dive, the deckhand would take our fins and cameras. We then walked downstairs to the loading platform.

If we go diving from the Yacht, we just don our fins, once the water is clear for entry, do a giant stride into the water. The deckhand would then hand over the cameras.

If we need to get to the dive site on the Zodiac, the deckhand would assist us into the Zodiac. Once everyone was onboard, the deckhand would then handed over the fins and the cameras and off we went to the dive site.

The Zodiac can take 10 people. There were 15 divers on that trip. We were divided into 2 groups.

For water entry, the Zodiac pilot would count to 3 and we all backrolled into the water together at the same time. Each group would descend together following the DM.

The meal (breakfast, lunch & dinner) were buffet type in most of the days. Full course of dinners were served during special day (e.g., Christmas-eve dinner). The food were good. Special dietary meal were served to those who asked for it.

The diving
We did 3 dives in most of 6 diving days to a total of 18 dives. The diving schedule would be posted in the lounge whiteboard and divemaster would announce it to everyone 5 minutes before the scheduled dive briefing. Typical 3-dives / day schedule was as follows:

07:00 – continental breakfast
07:30 – dive 1
09:30 – hot breakfast
11:00 – dive 2
13:00 – lunch
15:00 – dive 3
18:00 – dinner

There were 2 night dives. The first one was dive #3 on the first dive day, Day 4 on 22 December, as shown in Table 1, above. The second one was dive # 16 on the 5th dive day, Day 8 on 26 December, the only 4 dive day of the trip to make up the 2 dive day on the 6th (last) dive day, Day 9 on 27 December.

All of the dives were on 27-31% Nitrox, depending on the dive depth plan that we were going to dive into.

We saw several kinds of lionfish, butterflyfish, anglefish, ray, sharks, anthias, wrasse, anemonefish. They would be too many to list them all here from every dives. So I would just mention a few unusual / uncommonly seen by me or the first time I saw them during the trip and anything that was noted in my logbook.

1st Day of Diving
We had a smooth 1st day of diving off Marsa Alam. Water temperature was about 24°C. Dive 1 was in Halg Salman, 23m depth with 10m visibility. It was a calm dive site, a good place for a check dive. We did Dive 2 (25m) and Dive 3 (19m) at different section of Halg Salman. All of the 3 dives are from the back of the Yacht. Some fish worth noting were Octopus, Bluespotted-Ribbontail Ray, Polyp Butterflyfish, Giant Moray, Regal Anglefish, Clearfin Lionfish, Masked Pufferfish, and Spanish Dancer Nudibranch during the 1st night dive, as shown in short video, below.


Afterwards, we cruised down to Brothers, off El Queseir for 2nd of day diving.

2nd Day of Diving
A nice, clear and calm day in Little Brother, as shown in Figure 3, below. The morning diving, Dive 4 (35m) & Dive 5 (27m), in Little Brother were from Zodiac. Some of the fish recorded in my logbook were Blacksaddle Grouper, lots of anthias, and Red Sea Bannerfish.

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Figure 3: Little Brother, Red Sea, Egypt

The afternoon dive, Dive 6 (33m), was in Big Brother, as shown in Figure 4, below. We dived into wreck Numidia. Some of the fish recorded in my logbook were Clark’s anemonefish, lots of anthias, and very friendly Napoleon Wrasse.

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Figure 4: Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt

Below is a short video of what I saw on 2nd day of diving in Little Brother & Big Brother.


After Dive 6, we cruised down to Daedalus.

To be continued to the next post.
 
OP
Dan

Dan

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3rd & 4th Days of Diving
We stayed in Daedalus for 2 days on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Figure 5 shows the view of Daedalus Lighthouse from the Yacht.

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Figure 5: Daedalus, Red Sea, Egypt

We had a short visit of the lighthouse on Christmas Eve. Figure 6 shows the view from the top of the lighthouse before sunset on on Christmas Eve.

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Figure 6: View from top of Daedalus Lighthouse, Red Sea, Egypt

Another calm, clear and nice day in Red Sea. The 2-day diving in Daedalus, Dive 7 (32m), Dive 8 (28m), Dive 9 (27m), Dive 10 (29m), Dive 11 (30m) and Dive 12 (20m) were mostly from Zodiac, except Dive 11. No diving allowed after 5pm. Some of the fish recorded in my logbook were Masked Butterflyfish, another friendly Napoleon Wrasse, Oceanic Whitetip cruising under the boat, Clark’s Anemonefish, schooling of Cornetfish, Anthias, Giant Moray, Scorpionfish, Hammerhead Shark, Western Drummer, Glassfish and Bluefin Trevally, as shown in the short video clip, below.


After Dive 12, the Yacht cruised northward to Elphinstone.

5th Day of Diving
In the morning of the 5th diving day (Day 8), the water was a bit choppy with medium surf, but still diveable, as shown in Figure 7.

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Figure 7: Elphinstone, Red Sea, Egypt

We saw Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Some of the fish, recorded in my logbook were Bluespotted-Ribbontail Ray, Bigeye, Soldierfish, Indian Sailfin Tang, Masked Butterflyfish, Goatfish, Electric Ray and Oceanic Whitetip Shark, as shown in the short video, below.


Later that late morning the weather was much improved to calmer, clear blue water, ideal for diving with Oceanic Whitetip Shark, right off the back of the yacht. After a briefing on how to dive with Oceanic Whitetip, we had Dive 14 specifically to dive with them. It was my first time to be close encounter with these sharks and what a perfect time to do it, as shown in the short video, below.


After Dive 14, the Yacht returned to Marsa Alam to dive in Abu Dabab, as shown in Figure 8, below. We did 2 dive in Abu Dabab in the afternoon. The diving in Abu Dabab is further discuss in the 6th day of diving section, below.

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Figure 8: Abu Dabab, Red Sea, Egypt

6th Day of Diving
This was the last day of diving in the morning. The interesting part of the dive site for me was swim-through underwater rocky formation, called The Canyon. Some of the fish & critters, recorded in my logbook were Bluespotted-Ribbontail Ray, Common Porcupinefish, Egyptian Starfish, Masked Pufferfish, Day Octopus, Peacock Flounder, Crocodilefish, Sabae Anemonefish, schooling of Bigeye Barracuda, Emperor Anglefish, Longspot Snapper and Whitetip Reef Shark, as shown in the short video, below


In the afternoon we headed back to Port Ghalib, as shown in Figure 9, below, and ending our diving trip with group evening dinner in Port Ghalib.

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Figure 9: Returning to Port Ghalib, Marsa Alam, Egypt

The next day, I went on a land tour to Luxor before flying home on 29 December.

Conclusions
My impression of the diving and the trip are very positive. If you want to see Oceanic Whitetip Shark led by pilotfish, this is the best place to go. The liveaboard is well organized. I will be coming back for more diving in Red Sea in the future, perhaps at different time of the year to see Thresher Sharks and perhaps more schooling hammerheads.
 

drrich2

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Divers can do a giant stride entry to the water from the stern loading platform to the water or go on Zodiac to dive sites if the yacht could not go there.

Interesting. First I recall hearing of a live-aboard where they do both diving from the main yacht and zodiacs. Roughly what % were from each?

About how many days did you spend getting to and from there? Longest continuous flight? I take it English-only speakers would be fine going on your trip?

If you consider your trip cost, round trip airfare, any hotel stays or similar (often good to get there early for live-aboards in case of flight delays or late baggage), the total trip cost, how does it compare with other destinations?

It's pretty easy to figure out what a Belize Aggressor III or IV, or a Cayman Aggressor V trip would cost a U.S.-based diver in time and money; some of these more 'far flung' trips can be tougher to figure.
 
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Dan

Dan

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Interesting. First I recall hearing of a live-aboard where they do both diving from the main yacht and zodiacs. Roughly what % were from each?

About how many days did you spend getting to and from there? Longest continuous flight? I take it English-only speakers would be fine going on your trip?

If you consider your trip cost, round trip airfare, any hotel stays or similar (often good to get there early for live-aboards in case of flight delays or late baggage), the total trip cost, how does it compare with other destinations?

It's pretty easy to figure out what a Belize Aggressor III or IV, or a Cayman Aggressor V trip would cost a U.S.-based diver in time and money; some of these more 'far flung' trips can be tougher to figure.

There were about 10 entries from zodiac.

Table 1 shows the flight time & layover. Houston to Istanbul was about 12 hour flight, but the reverse direction was 2 hours longer due to head wind.

Yes. English only speaking is no problem. In fact the Egyptians seem to like Americans. We must have passed through about 10 police checkpoints from Port Ghalib to Luxor. Every time the driver mentioned that he brought an American, the Police seem to give good gesture & smile for whatever reason.

I think if you plan ahead of time, going diving in Red Sea would be cheaper than Caribbean. The latest offer for a week of liveaboard trip there is as low as $600. It’s the best time to go there now.

I have been to Bonaire, Cayman Brac, and Utila. I prefer to go to Red Sea even though the flight times are much longer. There are so much history & culture to experience there. Luxor is just incredible.

I’m going to Belize next February. So I’ll see how it compares to Red Sea.
 

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Fantastic report, thank you very much! Did you have easy night time crossings between the various dive sites? I hear the open sea can be rough any time of year getting from/to The Brothers to Daedalus, for example.
 
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Mod63

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Interesting. First I recall hearing of a live-aboard where they do both diving from the main yacht and zodiacs. Roughly what % were from each?
It is quite common in the Red Sea to use both Zodiaks or jumping from the yacht, e.g when you are moored at Big Brother, you do the south plateau from the yacht and the north by Zodiak. Or the drop you with the Zodiak and you drift back to the yacht.
 
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Dan

Dan

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Fantastic report, thank you very much! Did you have easy night time crossings between the various dive sites? I hear the open sea can be rough any time of year getting from/to The Brothers to Daedalus, for example.

You are most welcome!

It was pretty smooth sailing. Lucky me with that good weather at the time. Scuba Scene is a big boat too. The CD claims that it's the biggest boat in the area.
 
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Dan

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And that torpedo ray is quite nice and not an everyday encounter.

Lucky me, I saw them twice (swimming freely in Daedalus & trying to bury itself in the sand in Elphinstone). I saw them a few times in Socorro (Mexico) & Fujairah (UAE).

I was unlucky with Thresher Shark, none seen.
 
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