Red Sea Liveaboard company & route rec.? Experience requirements?

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mises

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Hey scubaboard :wave:

We are a couple looking to dive a LOB in the Red Sea (Egypt) in October 2021.

We were looking at either the northern route or BDE.
We both are excited about BDE (since October seems to be the best time for shark sightings?) and the sites aren't accessible by day trips. (less crowded, more pristine?)

Never been diving in that region, would love to have opinion on a great liveaboard (LOB) operator? Perceived difficulty of diving in these 2 routes in October?



Following is probably way too much detail(s) on our experience and questions we have in case any of it is useful to make an evaluation and recommendation. Thanks for taking the time to read and reply!


Our diving experience:

Me:
I have 65 dives atm with 23 dives in Thailand (similan and andaman sea), 12 dives in Indonesia (4 bali, 8 at Komodo National Park), 2 dives in Costa Rica, 2 dives Cape Town before covid lockdowns and 26 in Canada (Ontario/Quebec) (Wreck St Lawrence River or Saltwater Escoumins dives).

I have experience diving in drysuit, wetsuit, doubles, nitrox
I have AOW, Deep Cert (40m), Nitrox, Doubles, Drysuit
I dive in a backplate & wing with dual halcyon backup lights, SMB & reel, Shearwater Teric, etc. (pretty much the GUE DIR setup except no primary w/ canister)

My last 30 dives happened within the past 12-18 months, mostly in strong currents, wrecks and cold water (4-12 degrees C)


Girlfriend:
She has ~25-30 dives
6 in Thailand Similan (OW), 2 Cape Town, ~17-22 at Sodwana Bay South Africa (AOW, Nitrox, Deep cert)

All her diving happened between Late 2019 to early 2021

She rents her gear, except dive computer + mask & wetsuit.
She never dove drysuit, very cold and low visibility (all don't seem to be concern for egypt). She's very comfortable underwater, hasn't had any issues with the OW and AOW skills, good SAC and good buoyancy for a beginner. However, she never had to fight strong downcurrents, vortex or done entire dives without a dive guide (teams of 2-5).

I'm pretty sure I qualify properly for either routes.
We were wondering more on the status for her? We want the diving to be safe (obviously) and always dive within our limit.

From my understanding.. diving in Egypt is often self directed on a LOB (often a severe lack of dive guides to divers? I read 24 divers to 2-3 guides...?)
Diving without a guide isn't ideal for new sites and conditions for someone without hundreds/thousands of dives in my humble opinion.
Diving without a guide for a sheltered area without currents isn't worrying because we can easily stay within our limits.

Is this the case? (mid vacation lost at sea is not a goal lol)

I’ve been watching quite a few dive trip videos of BDE liveaboards and I hardly see any difficult current circumstances. It seems to be light to medium currents that push you by a wall while you relax until you arrive at a slacker area and exit. However, there's mentions online of Strong currents and that being a worry (because everyone's notion of strong currents are vastly different, I have a hard time telling if it will be safe for us to dive there. ex: ppl in Canada think 0-5 Degrees isn't so cold, -15-30 is. For a person in Egypt 0 degrees is unfathomable)


Cheers! You are all a huge help

NOTE: if there's any info that's unclear or missing, please let me know
 

Christian

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You are correct that the norm in the Egyptian Red Sea is that you dive with your buddy and are expected to handle the dive conditions safely without a guide. There are restrictions in place for joining trips to Brothers, Dedalus & Elphinstone (Rocky Island too), you will need an AOW certification or equvialent and a minimum of 30 logged dives. Used to be 50 but at some point it changed. Not always strictly enforced by all operators, but they are there for a reason. Normally not difficult, but conditions are unpredictable and can change quickly ... Experienced divers have lost their life at those sites.
October is a nice time to visit with balmy water and usually not too much wind. Will not be blistering hot either, but very pleasant. Also Longimanus period around the off shore islands. Hammerheads gone by then, but you might still be lucky and spot one. Threasher sharks not uncommon to spot around Big Brother. Not sure if it will be possible to go there for your GF though, looking at her experience? Perhaps if she do an AOW on the boat, since it is basically 5 normal dives anyway (except navigation)? And you will get an instructor on your own. Bad thing is she needs to spend an hour or so every night reading and answering questions in the PADI AOW book. Perhaps not the best way, but will not completely blow up a vacation either. I have seen it done a few times and it works. But since it is your first time in th Red Sea, there are other nice routes departing Hurghada, sailing to Abu Nuhas-Thistlegorm and the RasMo and the reefs in the Tiran Strait. RasMo not as spectacular though at that time of year (July is best). Beatiful reefs in Tiran Strait and Thistlegorm is spectacular. Not a lot of shark sightings there though. Maybe do that and have your GF do her AOW on the boat. Then come back for BDE?
I would look into some of the European tour operators. My reccomendation is British Blue o Two. Fly to London and hop on their carrier that fly directly into Hurghada or Marsa Alam.

EDIT: Forget my AOW comment, just saw that your GF already has it. So October is good for OWT sharks. Normally a nice time to go. But don't count on hammerheads then.
 

gwklein

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I have been on three different itineraries in the Red Sea with three different companies. Each route and boat was vastly different from the others. In June 2021, I did the Northern Wreck route on the Aggressor. This was by far the easiest of the diving and suitable for your girlfriend's level. Generally, only one DM was in the water leading those who wanted to be led. Many of the dives did not need a guide, but several did. Only a few of the dives had a strong current. What was needed on almost all dives was a DSMB and reel and knowledge of how to deploy it underwater. Even on led dives, diving pairs would ascent to the surface on their own when they were low on air to be picked up by the RIB. My recommendation to you is to research the boat for the type of diving you want to do and for the type of divers to whom they cater. Some boats focus on more technical divers. Some boats allow smoking almost everywhere on the boat. And there are a few boats that even allow divers to drink while diving and generally run amok. Unfortunately, I was on a boat at the Brothers that was often moored next to one of these boats that allowed divers to do anything they wanted..
 

mises

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Not sure if it will be possible to go there for your GF though, looking at her experience? Perhaps if she do an AOW on the boat, since it is basically 5 normal dives anyway (except navigation)? And you will get an instructor on your own. Bad thing is she needs to spend an hour or so every night reading and answering questions in the PADI AOW book. Perhaps not the best way, but will not completely blow up a vacation either.

She already did her AOW + Deep certification to 40m in South Africa (Sodwana Bay). I verified and she has exactly 30 dives, her OW / AOW / Deep certs

I really appreciate all the information you provided. This is excellent thanks!

EDIT: oops replied too quickly, just saw you wrote that you missed it initially
> Forget my AOW comment, just saw that your GF already has it. So October is good for OWT sharks. Normally a nice time to go. But don't count on hammerheads then.

Based on your comments, BDE could work for us with our level of experience and being confident we will be fine and ready for these dives? "Worst case" we skip a few dives if the weather/current reports are crazy?

I also saw there's North + Brother's itineraries (like a few days in the northern spots and ~2 days at brothers) which seemed interesting

I'll take a look at Blue O Two
 

mises

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I have been on three different itineraries in the Red Sea with three different companies. Each route and boat was vastly different from the others. In June 2021, I did the Northern Wreck route on the Aggressor. This was by far the easiest of the diving and suitable for your girlfriend's level. Generally, only one DM was in the water leading those who wanted to be led. Many of the dives did not need a guide, but several did. Only a few of the dives had a strong current.

Great to know! You think we would be fine for BDE with the right operator or BDE would probably be a problem for her?

What was needed on almost all dives was a DSMB and reel and knowledge of how to deploy it underwater.
Even on led dives, diving pairs would ascent to the surface on their own when they were low on air to be picked up by the RIB.

I have 2 DSMB and have a DIR setup with the plan to do GUE Fundies Tech pass next year. My GF used a DSMB before and we'll both carry one there. It's good to know, we'll practice before hand to make sure we can both deploy quickly and safely.

My recommendation to you is to research the boat for the type of diving you want to do and for the type of divers to whom they cater. Some boats focus on more technical divers. Some boats allow smoking almost everywhere on the boat. And there are a few boats that even allow divers to drink while diving and generally run amok. Unfortunately, I was on a boat at the Brothers that was often moored next to one of these boats that allowed divers to do anything they wanted..

That's really good information to have. You mentioned having gone 3 different times. If you don't mind, who were the operators? How did you like each? Which operator and which route did you prefer and would recommend to a couple of friend who never have been to the Red Sea in October? :wink:

Added questions/comments above in red.
Thanks!
 

KenGordon

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You should be fine with either a northern wrecks/reefs type of itinerary or the southern islands, however I would recommend the northern route as possibly more appropriate at 25 dives although it depends…

The southern route dives, and particularly the ones where you are likely to see white tips or hammerheads, tend to be drifts along a wall like reef where the bottom is very deep. This wants half decent buoyancy control and spacial awareness. The bit that would make me think twice is that there can be a lot of white tips and they can be worrying to people who get worried about that sort of thing. Stuff like having to wait below the (small) boat doing pickups for every one to be onboard so as not to spend time exposed hanging on while waiting for help getting back on, just having to be totally aware, especially in the 3 to 10m range, that some shark might come over for a look, basically a no clear surface situation. All that can be a bit dispiriting if you start out insecure about your skills.

The northern route is basically certain to be excellent, not quite as good life as Komodo but still really good.
 

Christian

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She already did her AOW + Deep certification to 40m in South Africa (Sodwana Bay). I verified and she has exactly 30 dives, her OW / AOW / Deep certs

I really appreciate all the information you provided. This is excellent thanks!

EDIT: oops replied too quickly, just saw you wrote that you missed it initially
> Forget my AOW comment, just saw that your GF already has it. So October is good for OWT sharks. Normally a nice time to go. But don't count on hammerheads then.

Based on your comments, BDE could work for us with our level of experience and being confident we will be fine and ready for these dives? "Worst case" we skip a few dives if the weather/current reports are crazy?

I also saw there's North + Brother's itineraries (like a few days in the northern spots and ~2 days at brothers) which seemed interesting

I'll take a look at Blue O Two

Yeah, sorry that I noticed that part about your GF when I had already posted. Too lazy to rewrite. But you should be fine "on paper" for any itinerary. North + Brothers is a really nice one. With some luck and co operation from weather, other guests and crew you can get Abu Nuhas, Thistlegorm, Ras Mohamed and a couple of reefs in the Tiran Strait in before you head out to Brother Islands. Not sure if they allow over nighting @ Brothers now. It has been prohibited for a year plus, haven't visited since it was enforced, but no doubt it complicate things tremendously.
Blue o Two has been my choice for one weeks in the Egyptian Red Sea in the latest years, but there are other good ones as well.
 

brownie

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We are a couple looking to dive a LOB in the Red Sea (Egypt) in October 2021.

We were looking at either the northern route or BDE.
We both are excited about BDE (since October seems to be the best time for shark sightings?) and the sites aren't accessible by day trips. (less crowded, more pristine?)
I did 2 back-to-back liveaboards in Egypt in Oct.-Nov. of 2019: the "northern route" and then "BDE". Both routes were crowded in that many LOB boats were anchored at popular sites. For example, the Thistlegorm was great fun to dive--but there were a dozen+ other boats tied in--we had to be careful to select the correct upline at the end of the dive. Circumstances may be much different now with reduced travel due to Covid.

I preferred the BDE route for overall spectacular sights: gorgeous, colourful walls and the opportunity to see Oceanic White Tips up close. That was a thrill for me.

My 1st LOB on the northern route (Aggressor) ran very smoothly. My 2nd LOB on the BDE route (again, Aggressor) was problematic. A week before I was due to board, the vessel caught fire, the boat sank, 1 guest perished, the other guests and crew jumped into the water and were picked up by another vessel. Credit to the Aggressor organization for providing an alternative replacement vessel so that I could continue with my itinerary.

Whatever LOB you choose, I suggest that you review the boat layout carefully and inquire about safety protocols.

The Red Sea is an amazing dive destination--best wishes in your planning.
 

Mod63

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I've been at Brothers with 20+ other vessels and alone on Thislegorm :D.
As for the boat, it might be a good idea to look at boats that are mainly marketed in the UK; you might fell a little left out on a boat that is full of Germans (not that we aren't a chatty bunch, we just tend to speak German when there is enough of us around).
 

Christian

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Was alone on Thistlegorm in November 2017. Only boat for a whole day and stellar conditions with gin clear water and no current. Thought we had been beamed back to 1987. Since Sharm was virtually turned into a ghost town after a mixed bag of trouble in the second half 10’s that cancelled direct charters, Sinai and surrounding sites became a lot less busy. Last time alone on any of Brother Islands or Deadalus was in 2000. Covid has changed things so the ones who strike quickly will have the chance to get som unique Red Sea experiences.

When it comes to Germans, inme, bringing a bottle of whiskey usually breaks the language barriere with them.
 
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