Trip Report Southern route Red Sea (St. John) on JP Marine June 2021

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OP
nippurmagnum

nippurmagnum

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This is an interesting review! I did the BDE trip with JP Marine back in August 2018 but looks like I neglected to share a trip report - I honestly thought I had! For the most part, it looks like not much has changed on this LOB. On my trip the Russian owner was not there (luckily, it seems) but about 6 of his Russian/Ukrainian "friends" were. They were a giant pain and were constantly trying to change the dive sites (to the chagrin of the dive guides who tried to explain why their preferred sites were not workable at the moment, such as things like "no light there right now") and the rest of the boat which was fed up with them but they were largely outnumbered by the rest of us so didn't often get their way. We also had a sizeable group of Turks (fun and nice people but mostly kept to themselves) and then a mix of fairly young (20s and 30s) European divers, both male and female.

Don't know if this has changed but my biggest gripe was the fact that they had only 2 dive masters for up to 24 divers. Especially with hectic currents on the BDE route (and the massive numbers of other LOBs on site), I found the group size was too large (also led to a lot of waiting around for people both pre-dive topside and in the water). Both DMs were Egyptian but I only found one of them to be good - the other one caused an incident where some of us were separated from the group in high currents because the DM (who was on the other panga with half of our dive group) changed the dive profile without telling the other half of us, jumped in without explanation and took off before the rest of us could catch up. After that I switched to the other group for the remainder of the time as I just didn't feel safe with him (his explanation to me was that I was an experienced diver and he felt I was fine! I was not an experienced diver of THAT site however and highly suspect he never noticed that he lost 4 people in the group - until we told him about it on the boat afterwards).

The boat was decent and spacious but as OP stated, a bit run-down. I was in a top-side cabin but the AC was shared with a second cabin (and controlled externally) so we had to come to a consensus on temperature which left my roommate sleeping outside as she was too cold (that being said, we had like 22 degree AC and it was literally 40 degrees outside). The door to our head also used to get stuck when shut so I got stuck in there several times throughout the week lol!

Best part of the boat was the excellent food - it was varied, fresh, local, amazing. The crew overall were excellent and friendly and helpful (I do speak some Arabic though so that helped me engage with everyone a bit better).

Last gripe was that our BDE ended up being a BD route only only. Halfway through the trip they broke it to us that they didn't really want to waste the fuel going down to Elphinstone and told us we would have to sacrifice time at Brothers (this was before the rules changed and you were still allowed to moor there overnight) and then put it to a vote amongst the dive guests. As expected it caused a giant fight between the guests and sowed a ton of discontentment!

However, we did get a lot of dives in over the week and were well fed, for the basement bargain price of 750euros. I wouldn't do it again (especially hearing about their current lack of COVID protocols) but for someone on a budget, this could be a great way to get a lot of Red Sea diving in (and to meet some fun people!), provided you prepare yourself for some of the negative points mentioned here.

I experienced much of your gripes as well. Comically large dive groups that sometimes collided in a bubble storm, changes in route (“we only put Rocky on the itinerary for marketing purposes”) and lousy AC shared with another cabin. I wouldn’t dive with that boat again, but I will miss Peter the guide and the great food.
 
OP
nippurmagnum

nippurmagnum

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The "South" in the Egyptian Red Sea is normally Fury Shoal to St Johns. Between St Johns doen to Sha ab Abu Fendera is sometimes called the "Deep South". Brothers, Deadalus and Elphinstone are all further north, Brothers being the "northest", pretty much on the same latitude as Port Safaga. All of Egyptian Red Sea is northern Red Sea. BDE being pure off shore deep water reefs generally more demanding than St Johns, but can of course vary on a day to day basis.

Diving around BDE can be demanding with strong current, wind+choppy seas and then getting off and on dingy's in mentioned conditions, but most of the time it is not difficult diving. There are minimum requirements of Advanced OW or equvialent and 30 logged dives. Not always strictly enforced, but there for a reason.

Brothers has STRONG currents. Strong enough to make fins come off your feet (happened to three members of our group, including me) and blow you away while trying to recover your fin. If you are not experienced enough to deal with that prospect, probably stick to the south or north routes.
 

Christian

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Brothers has STRONG currents. Strong enough to make fins come off your feet (happened to three members of our group, including me) and blow you away while trying to recover your fin. If you are not experienced enough to deal with that prospect, probably stick to the south or north routes.

”Mask ripping current” happens, but it’s not that common. To strong to swim against, yes. IDK how much you have dived there, but in 20+ years in the Red Sea and more than 100 dives in Brother Islands, I have had mask ripping currents there maybe once—the kind of current strength that is common place in Komodo or in channels in the Maldives on in coming tide.
Edit: But yes, they are advanced sites that can be demanding and there are incidents every season. Somtimes fatalities.
Make sure your fin straps are tightened up before you jump in :wink:
 

Jordan23

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See my notes above. Hope it helps a bit!
i mean what is better for pic and reacher spots

Elphinstone the Brothers.
Daedalus Reef Rocky Island.

Zabargad Island then sailing to St. John Reef Fury Shoal.
Shaab Maksur Claudia Reef. Sailing to Port Ghaleb.

or:

2/ Abu Dabab

Fury shoals, dive Sha'ab Sharm Fury Shoals, dive Sha'ab Claude . Abu Galawa Soraya St

Gota Kebir .

Gota Soraya . Elphinstone Reef
 

Jordan23

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How do you scuba dive without a mask?


Seriously, though, I just got back from a BDE trip - we did Abu Dabab instead of Elphinstone due to weather. I absolutely loved Abu Dabab. Don't get me wrong, the blue water dives where we saw hammer heads were incredible. But I've never seen corals that big, the whole place was beautiful, incredible swim throughs and I was wondering if I should do a St. John's route next time. I've heard the Red Sea is the only place with coral reefs and without hurricanes or typhoons, so there are massive structures unlike anywhere else in the world.

Was this just something you didn't care for? Everyone has their own opinions on what's impressive, I understand that. Or was St. John's just not that impressive?
But I've never seen corals that big, the whole place was beautiful, incredible swim throughs u mean where?
 

bvbellomo

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Old post, but just saw this now.

I was really impressed by Abu Dabab. I just got back from Cozumel, and Abu Dabab was so much better - at least for colorful huge coral and swim throughs - both with perfectly clear water. Cozumel is completely different of course, especially above water. And my Egypt trip cost was more than twice my Cozumel trip.

I completely understand other divers who'd rather see "big fish" but for me this was amazing. I am also based in the USA, so I can see big stuff in the Bahamas and Socorro, Cocos and Galapagos (I've never been) aren't that much more money than Egypt. Might be different coming from somewhere like Russia, where Indonesia and Fiji are half the distance as from the USA and Bahamas, Socorro, Cocos and Galapagos are farther.

Regarding danger and new divers on BDE - it is mostly margin of error. If you screw up on Cozumel (at least the easy sites) and screw badly enough, you risk getting laughed at, yelled at or getting scared. People die on BDE. I am over 80 dives and nothing I've done is difficult compared to my non-diving hobbies. That said, I don't think number of dives is a good metric. Be comfortable in the gear you will be using, and some experience with Zodiac entry before you go.
 

Sunn

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(...)

Regarding danger and new divers on BDE - it is mostly margin of error. If you screw up on Cozumel (at least the easy sites) and screw badly enough, you risk getting laughed at, yelled at or getting scared. People die on BDE. I am over 80 dives and nothing I've done is difficult compared to my non-diving hobbies. That said, I don't think number of dives is a good metric. Be comfortable in the gear you will be using, and some experience with Zodiac entry before you go.

An old diver (when I was a young diver) told me something I shall always remember :

"if you are doing something difficult, that's probably because you are doing something wrong..."
 

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