By Vikki Batten, Director Rebreather Technologies
So after a mad (and very hot) dash through Cairo airport, the young man from Egypt Air managed to get me to my plane on time, even though the late flight from London only gave me 45 minutes to do it in. Somewhat inevitably, when I arrived at Hurghada I didn’t have any bags 🙂 so while half a dozen others in the same boat argued with the airport staff I took the more pragmatic (and let’s face it – experienced) route, filled in a form and left them to it.
Fortunately, with their unique mixture of German efficiency and Egyptian patience I had no concerns about my transfer organised by Orca. And sure enough Ashraf was waiting for me despite the fact that the arrival hall had long been empty and he couldn’t see any tourists left in the airport. 36C at midnight and a short drive to Safaga and I arrived at the Lotus Bay Hotel.
At breakfast the following morning there were lots of familiar face, both divers from the previous year and manufacturers such as Ambient Pressure Diving and Suunto. With no kit to put together 😦 I just filled in some paperwork and caught up with everyone as they prepped and loaded the boat. Reto Moser, PADI’s Regional Manager for this area of Egypt and also EMEA’s photographer and videographer, had also arrived and briefed me on his plans for piccies and filming.
With four boats on the water I kept spotting someone else I knew (or hearing a familiar voice) throughout the day. The frustration of being on the boat but not diving was relieved when the captain spotted dolphins and dropped us in to swim with them – it’s hard to have a bad day when you swim with dolphins!!!! Fortunately, my kit turned up by the time we got back and I was able to prep it ready for the following day. Poseidon also arrived that evening, but without their bags….at least it’s not just me!
In the evening I hosted a discussion on the aftermath of incidents, a great opportunity for several training organisations and representatives from manufacturers to share our experiences and work together. This was followed by Martin Parker from Ambient Pressure Diving bringing us up to date with their latest innovations. By the time we had finished it was 9pm and we were all ready for dinner.
Over the next few days the fleet of boats full of rebreather divers, visited a wide range of sites, with some divers getting their first rebreather experience while others conducted dives to well over 100m. We also had talks on Suunto’s new DX CCR computer, which I had the chance to try and is very tasty, as well as Poseidon showing us the 60m upgrade hardware. We have already been talking to Poseidon about the upgrade and are working on registering it as a Type T CCR at the moment, but it was great to see it in the flesh.
The highlight for me was Panorama reef, always a beautiful reef with extensive fish and coral reaching down as far as the divers ventured. We had two great interactions with a turtle watching as she munched her dinner on the first dive and then seeing her again on the second dive, this time being chased away by Clown Fish.
This event is a great opportunity for rebreather divers to interact with industry experts and for non rebreather divers to get a taster or complete a rebreather course. As always, diving crosses cultures and languages and we fast became friends with people we hadn’t met before as well as enjoying the company of old friends and colleagues.
Orca Dive Club have amazing facilities for rebreather divers and the event was spotlessly organised and coordinated. As usual the last night was a party and BBQ which carried on late into the night. After getting my fix of Red Sea diving and sunshine I left, rather reluctantly, but looking forward to a day at home before heading to Lanzarote next.