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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

OK - how many of you actually use a map before you travel?

I only ask because.....

I am working at a dive centre in the south of Egypt. Recently we received a very nice email from someone advising us that he and his family would be staying in a nearby hotel for their holiday and explaining that they want to do some diving. This person gave me an idea of the certification levels and experience of the divers and stated that there would be some children with the group who would want to go on the boat with them. He then asked a series of questions. At first the questions seemed quite simple:

Can you collect us from our hotel?
Answer - Yes, it's only 5 minutes away.

Do you offer boat diving?
Answer - yes we do. Our boat is moored in a Marina about 30 minutes by road from the dive centre.

Can children come on the boat with us?
Answer - Of course, no problem.

And so on. These are quite normal questions that a lot of people ask.

Then we hit a problem.

We had special requests for sites they would like to visit. This is very common and the examples I have used here were not all from this one source but are common queries from over the last months. It starts with, "can we visit" or, "which day do you go to" followed by a name of a well-known dive site. In the last year these have included:

Thistlegorm
Dunraven
Brothers Islands
Samaday (Dolphin House)
Daedalus

And more.

So here are a few facts that convince me the people who ask did not look at a map first. I believe they have researched diving in the Red Sea with searches such as "dive red sea" and come up with the prime candidates. They have then booked the holiday without making sure they are staying at least somewhere near their desired dive site. So, here is some information that can be found quite quickly on the internet or by using a map/Google Earth.  First a map of Egypt:




If you look closely you will see that El Quseir (also spelt Qusayr or Kosseir) can be found on the map between the 'e' and 'd' of the word 'Red' in the 'Red Sea'.

Now here's a map of the key dive sites:


And this is what I found out:

The distance from the Mediterranean Sea to the border between Egypt and Sudan is approximately 1024kms at the longest point.

The distance from the Mediterranean Sea to El Quseir is approximately 650kms which means the distance to our dive centre is approximately 670kms and to the port where our boat is moored it is approximately 710kms.

The Thistlegorm, Dunraven and Brothers Islands all lie to the north of us. The Thistlegorm is approximately 220kms away, the Dunraven 210kms away in the Ras Mohamed National Park near Sharm El Sheikh and the Brothers Islands approximately 60kms. To get to any of these sites using our boat you have to add 40kms from the port to the dive centre. 

Our day boat is good by Egyptian standards and has a cruising speed of approximately 9knots or around 17kph. Therefore, assuming we run the engine for long stretches of time at maximum cruising speed the time needed to reach these sites would be 15 hours; 14½ hours; and 6 hours respectively. That, of course, is ONLY to GET THERE. There is the same journey back to base afterwards. It therefore becomes obvious that we cannot do these trips with a day boat.

Daedalus and Samaday are both to the south of us so I can take the distance directly from the marina instead of the dive centre. Daedalus is around 140kms or 8 hours away while Samaday is about 68kms or 4 hours and is by far the nearest. But it's still 8 hours of boat travel to get there and back.  Add in the road transfers, setting up diving equipment, 2 dives and a surface interval with lunch and even for here you have a 14 hour day!!!!!!!!!

So it's better, when you come to the Red Sea to dive to either:

Decide on the sites you wish to visit first THEN find accommodation nearby

OR

Decide on your destination then check out the local dive sites (e.g. type in 'dive quseir').

It saves a lot of hassle and frustration later.

BUT IT IS NOT ONLY DIVERS WHO NEED TO CHECK A MAP.

When I was working as a Tour Leader/Rep I would collect my guests from the airport in Hurghada (also in the Red Sea) during a Friday evening. I take them to the hotel, get them checked in and tell them where to get dinner and breakfast.

The next morning I would hold my welcome meeting. I would start out by introducing myself (again - many guests would be almost comatose with such a long day travelling when they arrived) and welcoming them to Hurghada - one of the major cities in Egypt, a country that straddles two continents with Sinai being in Asia and the rest of the country in Africa. I would show them this on a map.

At this point there would usually be someone who would complain. They would complain that they did not know when they booked their holiday that they would be arriving in a 3rd world continent. They did not know that Hurghada was in Egypt and even if they did they did not know that Egypt is in Africa.

Why didn't they know this?

Because no-one told them (and I suspect they never asked while they booked the holiday).

Personally, I just don't understand how anyone can set off from home for a 4 hour flight and not even know which country they are going to land in. I had the impression they expected to end up  at Brighton in the sun in some long lost part of the UK.

Still, perhaps it's a lesson learned and they WILL use a map next time.

By the way, I have been in Egypt for 5½ years now and it really is very civilized.

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