In February 2017, Red Sea Diving Safari had a visit from 55 students and staff from the New Cairo British International School (NCBIS) in Marsa Shagra.
For students at the NCBIS, the last week in February means ‘challenge week’, where students get to choose from a variety of trips and experiences. With some students opting for skiing and others choosing Bali, these kids all opted to stay much closer to home in Marsa Alam.
In recent years, Red Sea Diving Safari has seen a sharp increase in the number of Egyptians taking up scuba diving and, more importantly, getting PADI certified. In 2015, 35% of entry level certified divers in Marsa Shagra were Egyptian, while in 2016 the number increased to 57%. So far in 2017, Egyptians have made up a quarter of Shagra’s entry level certified divers vs. 16% for the same period in 2016. The past few years have seen internal tourism to Marsa Alam boom due to increased internal marketing for the Red Sea as a destination as well as issues with currency exchange rates, which have made it expensive to travel abroad.
The students from NCBIS ranged from 11-18 years old with 36 students totally new to diving and starting their PADI journey with the Open Water Course, or Junior Open Water Course. The rest of the group opted for either the PADI Advanced Open Water Course or Enriched Air Diver course to continue their diving education. Students were divided into groups: Turtles, Dolphins, Nudibranches, Stingrays, Remoras, Clownfish, Octopus, Seahorses and Sharks, and then the fun began!
On the first day, students went through the process of getting their equipment. For some this was the first time they had tried on a mask or seen a BCD! Then it was off to Shagra’s restaurant for a group session to watch the PADI Open Water Course DVD.
All the students were immediately taken in by this new adventure and learning curve, whether it was something their parents had signed them up and sent them away for, or it was something they had heard about and dreamed of learning one day. They practiced assembling and dissembling equipment until it was second-nature and tackled the PADI Open Water Course skills one by one. Advanced Students opted for adventure dives including Fish Identification and Peak Performance Buoyancy alongside their compulsory Navigation and Deep dives.
Groups were coordinated to carry out different parts of the course to make sure each group had space to learn and do activities in an unrushed, constructive but fun learning environment. For the confined water activities, the different groups were divided between the local swimming pool and Marsa Shagra’s shallow sandy-bottomed bay, which is ideal for training.
Working through the skills, the students gradually became more and more comfortable underwater, with the help of Shagra’s dedicated instructors. While the Open Water students worked through their open water dives on the house reef, the Advanced Open Water students went to dive Marsa Egla, a local shore dive site, and explored the outer parts of Marsa Shagra’s vast house reef by zodiac.
By night, other activities were on offer, including a campfire on the beach and a guided Astro Tour at the Bawadi Bedouin café to learn about the night sky and take advantage of the unpolluted, clear skies of the Southern Red Sea.
On one evening, a team from HEPCA (Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Agency) visited to conduct a workshop with the students, talking about their valuable activities in the region, including their new Red Sea Defender educational vessel. They then collected plankton from Marsa Shagra’s bay and examined their findings under the microscopes, giving them an insight into the science behind what they were seeing underwater and the importance of protecting the fragile environment.
On the final day students celebrated all their hard work and certifications with a trip into the desert close to Marsa Shagra, with sunset camel ride and traditional Bedouin dinner.
By the end of the week, it’s fair to say that students, teachers and the team at Marsa Shagra were exhausted but thanks to the hard work and dedication of everyone, many new divers were born and buzzing about what adventures their PADI certification will take them on in their future.
On behalf of PADI, congratulations to NCBIS students and staff!
…. and special thanks Red Sea Diving Safari’s Team : keep up the good work!