My most memorable dive - I was 18 at the time; I had just finished my PADI Divemaster apprenticeship and was starting work as a diveguide. I soon found myself developing the confidence and skills needed to lead dives myself.
A magnificent dusk dive
One particular dive during turned out to be one of my most memorable and rewarding dives to date. Diving on the house reef of the Dreams beach Resort in Sharm el Sheikh, it was already set to be special being the first night dive that I had ever led myself, unaccompanied by another guide or instructor. I won't lie, I was pretty nervous - taking 4 experienced divers more than twice my age into the depths and darkness.
At dusk, floating a few metres from the jetty, I checked all my divers were OK and signalled our descent. The dive started well, I was constantly checking our depth and marking mental reference points as we descended into the darkness, praying I would recognise them on the return swim.
As we descended, multiple lionfish greeted us instantly; our torches caught their magnificent feather-like manes. The spectacular way the underwater world transforms as the sun sets is unlike anything else that I have experienced. When I had the group close by I signalled for everyone to hold their torches against their bodies to suppress the lights and in total darkness I began waving my arms around, which ignited the bioluminescent phytoplankton, like underwater fireflies.
As we returned our torches to the reef for reference, the curious eyes of sheltering reef life stared back out at us from their temporary coral refuges, giant parrotfish were momentarily restored to their full multi-coloured selves, cocooned by their own mucus bubbles, preventing the reef's predators from catching their scent.
Reaching the end
When we reached the pinnacle we were already at about 15m and as we circled the prominent feature we marvelled at the infinitesimal glass fish that jutted in and out of the nooks and crannies, swimming closer to spot the many other fascinating critters that took residency in this giant coral tower. I remember a large honeycomb moray dangling its long neck from a balcony, whilst brave cleaner shrimp tip-toed around its mouth; mantis shrimp, nudibranch, crabs and even a red sea crawler were amongst other celebrities to greet us from this captivating stage.
Feeling confident that I had found the pinnacle and, therefore, was not lost, we began the return journey. I knew from previous dives and from exchanged stories back at the dive centre that bigger beasts lurked the house reef at night but alas, except for a rather large parrotfish, this particular dive had predominantly starred macro-celebs.
We were making our safety stop, at around 5m from the surface; I had my line of sight firmly fixed on the rope that held the jetty to the coral, ensuring that we did not drift too far away on our safety stop and in my peripherals I could see one of the divers waving their torch around. My heart definitely stopped for a moment, immediately fearing something bad. Something behind me knocked me towards the other divers. As I drew closer to the group, it wasn't fear in their eyes, it was excitement.
I spun round and shone my torch into the darkness. Only it wasn't darkness. The light was immediately returned and I had to adjust to make out what was in front of me. A boat? It took a few moments for me to make out the gargantuan outline of a whale shark, with its head at the surface, opening and closing its enormous mouth as it swallowed infinite mouthfuls of plankton. It was indeed a beast - bigger than any fish I had swum beside in the past.
We watched in awe, time froze; I'm pretty sure similar thoughts were shared by all - wishing we had gills to follow the majestic creature as it swam off into the night. With one powerful motion, it gestured goodbye with its tail fin before disappearing into the darkness. One of my divers grabbed my arm and signalled they were low on air. We ascended.
At the surface, though I momentarily expected cheers, it seemed apt that we just floated there in silence a few moments, looking up at the moon, allowing what we had witnessed to file away in that precious part of the brain the lives on forever.
The cheering followed back at the dive centre; we eagerly shared the moment with anyone that would listen, which lasted the whole way to the bar and well into the night.
Have you ever been to the Red Sea, or dived with a whale shark? Tell us about your experiences! Get in touch with us if you want to want to find out more about our diving holidays.