Our first impressions of Egypt and a disastrous boat trip on the Red Sea

Egypt’s never been high on my destination list, but it was so close to Turkey and we had a few weeks spare before we headed home so it was decided. We would have 17 days and our first stop was Hurghada on the Red Sea – mainly because it was the cheapest place to fly into. There were a few places we couldn’t visit in Egypt due to our governments advice like the laid back hippy town of Dahab and the unusual white desert in the interior, but all the other main sights were considered safe for us to visit.

We arrived at 1am in Hurghada where we got a taxi to our apartment. We hit the sack and didn’t wake up until 10:30am the next day. We were excited to head outside and see ‘Egypt’ but Hurghada was a bit of a shithole. It was overdeveloped and half abandoned. There was literally a hotel a few doors away from us that was totally neglected with just the words “OTEL” left and smashed windows, graffiti and a mess of concrete, rubble and rubbish everywhere. We actually headed straight to McDonald’s for breakfast, we were craving junk food as it had been so long since we’d sunk our teeth into an egg McMuffin.

There were a surprising amount of tourists around which was strange considering the state of the town, I sort of felt like we’d ended up in a totally unvisited area of Egypt. It was desperately trying to have some class with big Gucci signs but they were attached to buildings with peeling pink paint and selling tacky knocks offs. We headed to the marina as that was said to be a nice spot, and it actually was. We entered through a security gate and it was like going into a film set. The path was clear of rubbish, the buildings painted neatly and no touts trying to sell us anything. Fancy restaurants and bars lined the promenade and the whole place had a nice vibe to it. There was a beautiful mosque behind the marina with gold detailing which was a change after Turkeys rather unimpressive mosques.

The following day we decided to do a boat trip which would take us to two snorkelling sights and to ‘Dolphin House’ supposedly where wild dolphins hang out. It was a big boat that chugged along slowly and it was probably at quarter capacity which was good. The sky was clear blue but the wind was gale force. The Red Sea coast can be particularly windy, especially in winter and even though I checked the weather and picked one of the calmer days, it didn’t seem to help us. The sea was choppy and riddled with whitecaps, in fact it was so rough that I could look out of the top deck and as we rocked from side to side the sea would come and go out of vision. I’d say that’s the second roughest sea we’ve been in after our boat trip in Sri Lanka to see the blue whales.

So we set off, moving very slowly north and the main guide took everyone downstairs to explain the day and introduce the staff. He said “my name is Luca, when we go snorkelling there will be other boats around, to make sure you come back to the right boat we will shout LUCA”. He also said “in the kitchen we have four men, they are all called Mohamed, in fact my name is also Mohamed but we have to call me Luca because otherwise everyone’s boat is calling out MOHAMED and you won’t know your group!” which made us laugh.

We stopped at a snorkelling sight and even though the reef was giving some protection from the waves it was still quite choppy. The visibility was great but the reef, god I say this far to often, was totally bleached and ruined. There was the odd bit of colour but barely anything. We were surprised at the lack of fish too, there were a lot more in Jordan. Much to our disappointment the guide had a plastic bottle filled with soggy bread which of course the fish swarmed around us for. But without that bread the life in the sea seemed very limited. There were some nice big purple fish with flat bodies which we hadn’t seen before and the odd Nemo surrounded by swaying soft coral but overall we weren’t impressed. Plus there was the most irritating “photographer” on board who recorded the whole day and tried to sell a dvd containing photos of all the strangers from the boat trip for $30. But the main reason he pissed me off is because he dove down to photograph reef or fish and would grab onto the coral to stabilise himself. That bloody infuriates me. Almost every country we dive we find the local guides grab onto coral, even though Luca had just mentioned in the introduction not to do so.

We were goddam freezing back onboard in the roaring wind. But the captain started looking for dolphins and a few bottlenose ones were spotted. The goddam photographer jumped right off the boat and swam towards them. We swam with wild dolphins in Hawaii and were very happy with the trip and treatment of the dolphins. We had to quietly slip off the boat ahead of the dolphins and just rest on the surface with the hope they would swim by. So cannonballing into the sea seemed totally foolish.

No one swam with the dolphins and to be honest Craig and I didn’t agree with how they were chasing them. These three clearly didn’t want to be disturbed so we weren’t planning on swimming with them if the opportunity arose. But an hour later a pod of about 15 were much more relaxed and the environment was nicer. The guide said you have to be a strong swimmer, which I’m not, but sometimes they say that because some people really can’t swim so he was putting them off joining. Ok I’m a terrible swimmer but with my snorkels on I can gently doggy paddle on the surface for hours – and why should we need to swim after the dolphins in a chasing manner anyway? So we got into the water and the group swam away so fast. We were in the open sea, I looked down and it was dark and creepy, just sun beams piercing down into the abyss. I looked up instead and waves sloshed into my face and then I started having a panic attack. I tried to just slow my breathing down and calm the fuck down but the boat was suddenly so far away, I didn’t have a life jacket on and I could just see myself sinking into this deep blue water. I waved my arm at the boat asking for help…but it looked so small and distant from me, would they even see me struggling? Luckily I spotted Craig and asked for help, I could barely catch my breath so he got me lying on my back and just gently back paddling towards the boat. I was asking him how far the boat was and he lied and said we were nearly there (not even half way). Thankfully one of the workers power swam to us with an orange hoop and my breathing instantly calmed down. One rather large guy also came to the orange hoop for safety while Craig joined the others and I watched as the dolphins fins all rose up around the group, they were right in the middle of the pod.

I’d say only 10 people were in the sea and about 30 people remained onboard. Therefore the thirty people had live footage of me almost drowning and it was literally like the swim of shame back to the boat, I say swim, but the guide pretty much pulled me and the fat man along while we held onto the hoop. It was impossible to even get back to the boat with the strong current so they threw ropes out and pulled us in. Instead of me getting up the ladder they pulled be right up to the back of the boat, two guides reached down for my arms and at the count of three they heaved my completely out of the water so I was standing up on the deck. Holy crap they were strong lads and I felt so humiliated by the whole situation that I awkwardly said “oh god that felt like being born again!” – [shut up Lauren!!]

We headed to another snorkelling site where the reef was even worse. It was so sad. The view of the sea from the top deck was incredible though with beautiful turquoise streaks through the blue water.
We were served a nice lunch but the boat stayed out in this one location for nearly two hours and the trip was so unnecessarily dragged out.

When I headed back downstairs I slipped on the wet steps and had a really nasty fall. A sweet man rushed to help me and I quickly got up and laughed it off. The second goddam clumsy incident of the day, now everyone on the boat recognised me. Craig said he heard a big bang and before he turned around he had a horrible feeling it was me. I sat down and he checked if I was ok and again I laughed it off. Sure I was in pain but I figured it would just fade, ya know, rub the sore patch like your mum does and suddenly it’s better. But five minutes later I looked at my throbbing elbow and saw a tiny bit of blood. It looked like a little graze but then Craig had a peek and we realised it was a bit of blood that had smudged onto my arm from my elbow which was a bloodbath (slight exaggeration). But it was bleeding and I had a nasty split cut. A sweet English family were checking if I was ok and there I was, still laughing like someone who’d just escaped from a loony asylum.

The boat trip also included a sofa and banana boat ride which we took part in. Throwing my back out as we bumped over the bloody waves. It was a hell of a long day to be out at sea, 9 long hours from when we left our hotel to when we got back. It was good value considering the time away, activities included and lunch all for £20 but to be honest it was a terrible day out and we couldn’t wait to get off that boat.

I felt like I’d been in a car crash when we got back to our hotel. My arm had already turned purple and so did a huge patch on my butt. It got blacker every day and I noticed a crack in my elbow bone which wasn’t on my other elbow. Luckily this is the last country of our two year trip so I will get it seen to when we’re back home in a couple of weeks, it’s not worth visiting a dirty foreign hospital. To make matters worse I was moaning to Craig about the fact that the steps had been wet as everyone was told to keep their towels downstairs and dry off before going up and Craig said “oh yeah, that might’ve been from me as I had to run up the stairs when I forgot my towel”.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sorry to hear that you didn’t have a great experience. How did you get so far away from the boat? Was it the waves? It sounds a bit scary :/ I am not a strong swimmer either and in the open sea, those waves can be quite scary.

    1. It’s ok 🙃 we can’t love every experience. I think it was a combination of the current/waves pushing us one way and I think the boat was drifting or slightly chugging away from us.

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