After the pyramids, after the camel rides, after the endless cups of tea, what does an adventure-seeker in Egypt do?
Dive the Blue Hole in Dahab.
Despite its simple moniker, the Blue Hole is one of the most technically challenging dive sites in the world. Located in the Red Sea, just off the beach of Dahab, Egypt, the Blue Hole is an off-shore sinkhole surrounded by stunning reefs chock-full of fish.
It’s as dangerous as it is beautiful. The funnel-shaped structure creates strong currents throughout its 190-metre depths. The light in the Blue Hole is tricky. The water near the surface is absolutely still and clear. About halfway down, the water takes on the deep blue colour of the site’s name. The sinkhole narrows into a cave-like structure that is deceptively deep. The skinny tube makes it difficult to get a reference point, and many people lose consciousness, or run out of air, or both. According to local sources, the floor of the Blue Hole is covered in bones.
Legend has it that an emir found his unmarried daughter up to no good with a young man and ordered her to jump into the ‘well,’ where her ghost entices fit divers to this day. Other stories tell of mermaids and sea monsters. But the biggest danger at the bottom of the Blue Hole is narcosis. For techno-divers, this may be the most fun and challenging diving you may ever do.
Preparing to dive the Blue Hole is key. Technical and experienced SCUBA divers, get some rest the night before the dive. (Nightclubs have sprung up in the area, due to the site’s popularity.) Be prepared and stay sharp: the forty-or-so memorial markers aren’t decorations. For less-experienced divers, know your limitations, and don’t exceed them. It’s possible to dive just parts of the Blue Hole, and the snorkeling is excellent. Don’t be tempted to dive the whole area after just a week of training. If things do go terribly wrong, know that the nearest decompression chamber is a thirty-minute drive down a gravel road. Did you buy travel medical insurance?
For landlubbers, Dahab’s golden beaches and laid-back atmosphere makes whiling away an afternoon easy-peasy. But don’t get too relaxed. Grizzled career travellers will spin yarns about partaking in alternative smoking blends beachside, but that hasn’t happened since the uptick in security after the 2006 terror attacks. Be cool.
Though Dahab has a warm and friendly vibe, it’s still in the Southern Sinai, and under an amber (essential travel only) FCO warning. What does this mean? Your cream-puff insurance won’t work here if things hit the fan. Look for a policy that offers war and terrorism cover. And though you’re more likely to be attacked by parasites hiding in your water bottle than terrorists hiding in the bushes, keep an eye on the news. Stay away from political discussions. Be cool.
Dahab isn’t exactly an easy place for travellers, but technical diving isn’t exactly an easy pastime. Leave the guided tours and camel rides behind. Dive into Dahab’s Blue Hole!