Win a Free Diving Safari!

Win a Free Diving Safari for 2 people from 04th until 11th August, 2010!

How to enter the game?

Upload your picture about M/Y Cassiopeia or M/Y Andromeda into our Facebook Cassiopeiasafari Group and win a free stay onboard Cassiopeia from 04th until 11th August, 2010 (including transfers between Hurghada airport and boat, 7 nights fullboard accomodation onboard, diving, taxes and sisha/waterpipe onboard). The winner can be anyone who uploads a picture of either of the 2 boats. You can upload more than one picture, but it will count as one participant in the game.

The winner will be notified by e-mail until 31st of July.
The deadline for submitting  your photos is 31st of July 2010 20:00 pm

– The price is not transferable to another person and can not be exchanged for money.
– Who is already registered and booked for the same safari is not eligible to enter the game.

The wreck of Umbria in Sudan

The wreck of UMBRIA, an old italian freighter that provided war material for the italian troops in Eritrea in 1940. When the British entered the vessel, the Captain decided to sink his own ship. Now it´s a terrific place for scuba diving.

Location: Red Sea / Sudan
Depth: 38 meter

The wreck “Umbria” was built in Hamburg 1912 and started life as a freighter. Umbria has a cargo of 360.000 bombs that makes the exploring of the wreck still more exciting. The “Umbria” is one of the most famous sunken ships in the world. Lying in the shelter of Wingate Reef, just outside Port Sudan and largely unaffected by currents and tides, it is within easy reach of Port Sudan harbour.

The Wreck of UmbriaThe wreck lies at an angle on her port side with her starboard davits breaking the surface. At a maximum depth of 36m, the Umbria is shallow by most wreck divers’ standards. With plenty of light and good visibility, entering most of the ship is easy. The hull itself is completely intact, if heavily encrusted with marine life, and can be explored internally and externally along its entire length.

You can dive the wreck of Umbria onboard Andromeda or Cassiopeia from February until the end of June.

To read more about scuba diving holidays in Sudan onboard Andromeda and Cassiopeia click the link:
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Exploring the Red Sea

Red Sea scuba diving holidayExploring the Red Sea has been waiting patiently on my “To Dive” list until recently, when it was finally time to live out that dream. I wanted to experience the Red Sea, but without the crowd. Therefore Sudan was the only logical choice.

We decided to start our trip in Cairo with the must see tourist attractions. First, we visited the great pyramids of Giza, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Hilaire and I decided to avoid tourists (as much as humanly possible in such a place) and hired a guide and two camels. We lucked out and were able to take amazing shots of the Sphinx and the pyramids without other people in them. Excitedly we opted to take trips to the other nearby pyramids, explored the catacombs with an archeologist and admired the wealth of the Egyptian Museum.

Additionally we amassed variety souvenir shawls, spices and sculptures at the Khan Al-Khalili, the biggest bazaar in the Middle-East. Thanks to our loyal taxi driver we even tried the traditional local meal: kusherie that contains pasta, garlic, lentils and a variety of secret ingredients.

Without a doubt, the speed and pushiness of the Egyptians took some getting used to. Friends’ tips prior to our trip prevented a lot of headaches. We arrived prepared for the never ending demand for “baksheesh” (tipping) and knew the “bargaining rules” (never should pay more than half of what they ask and never start to bargain for anything that you do no intend to buy.

Four days was the perfect amount of time to explore Cairo. Finally it was time to go to the airport and head to our main destination of this trip: a week long live aboard adventure in Northern Sudan. I have been in the dive industry for about twenty years, but have met only a handful of people who can say they visited this part of the Red Sea.

I would lie if I were to say that it was a breeze to get there. Visiting Sudan requires careful preparation. Getting a visa is not as easy as in most countries. One needs to be invited by a local company. My childhood friend Livia is one of the owners of the Andromeda and she provided the invitation for us. Hilaire shot video while I took photos and wrote articles to showcase the diving in the Red Sea for our fellow Americans. In the U.S. people tend to tense up at the mere mention of the Middle East. We wanted to document reality.

Exploring SudanAdditionally, prior to our departure we also had to get a yellow fever vaccination so as to be able to visit other countries after being in Sudan.

We were greeted at the Cairo airport by a comprehensive guide who checked in all of our luggage and got our tickets (there were no seat assignments by the way, so arriving early is a must). Luckily we had a group check-in and nobody questioned our excessive pieces of luggage or their weight, so our extra heavy camera equipment got onboard without incurring extra fees.

After a two-hour flight another representative at the Sudan airport greeted us and we were shuttled to our safari boat, the Andromeda, where everybody fell asleep immediately, given it was 2a.m.

Our dive guide, Mohammed Sanad welcomed us with a big smile the next morning (and every morning). I particularly enjoyed his dive briefings that he so skillfully illustrated on the white easel. Just by listening to his words and following his erasable pen I could vividly picture what we were going to see. He does his job above and beyond what a dive guide briefing calls for.

Andromeda in SudanI have witnessed hundreds, if not thousands of divemasters at work. I myself teach diving for a living. I can count on one hand those dive professionals who can be mentioned in the same category as him. Mohammed is not only extremely knowledgeable about the dive sites and diving in general, but he is one of the most patient and open minded individuals whose mission is to accommodate every diver’s needs and wishes.

The organization of the boat and the flow of schedule enabled 27 divers to submerge four times a day. As far as I understood, the Andromeda is the only vessel in Sudan offering four dives per day: one at sun rise, one after breakfast, one after lunch and a night dive. Thus providing 21 opportunities to be submerged in the underwater world of North Sudan during our weeklong safari. My favorites were the sunrise dives. Awakening to the colorful reefs, exploring ship wrecks and search for sharks is a thrilling way to kick off any day.

Wreck of Umbria in SudanEach dive was followed by tasty buffet style meal in the elegant wooden dining area. The variety of the menu would have left even the pickiest eaters satisfied. Artistically decorated vegetables provided a healthy side to spicy chicken wings, cheese puffs and unique lasagna dishes.

Soups were incredibly popular during chillier evenings, but desserts disappeared within moments every night. We never had the same food twice. The chef provided us a true gourmet experience. I was looking forward to the dining experience every day almost as much as the diving.

Sudan provides a colorful heaven for photographers and videographers. The subjects to shoot are endless. Making decisions can be tormenting. I was swapping back and forth between my wide angle and macro lenses to establish overall story telling pictures and provide detailed close up images of the environment.

Diving with hammerheads in SudanOn numerous dives we opted to drop deep in search of schools of hammerheads. To be honest, I did not get any good shots of them. Even when they graced us with their presence, they were too deep. I did not get as wrapped up with the hammerhead search as some others on our boat, because I was more excited about the historical importance of Sudan, in particular: the Umbria.

We did three 70-minute dives on this historic wreck and saw something different every time. Our first encounter was a night dive establishing a mysterious and grand atmosphere. It is an amazing dive –giving opportunity to explore this enormous ship and its treasures for a relatively long time as it does not lie in great depth (unlike most other historical wrecks.) The top deck almost breaks the surface and the deepest point is about 30m/100ft.

The wreck of Umbria in Sudan

Mohammad toured us around the interiors after he shared the cool story behind the sinking of the vessel. Although expected to enter the war any day (1940), Italy was still technically neutral and there was only so much the Royal Navy could do to delay the vessel before her precious cargo reached Italian forces in Africa. On the evening of June 10th, Captain Muiesan was listening to his radio and became the only man on board to be aware that Italy had formally declared War. Under the very noses of the British Navy, he then succeeded in scuttling his ship. After the War, a British team of Bomb-Disposal experts reported that, in the event of an explosion, half of Port Sudan was likely to disappear.

We picked up (and of course put back) Italian tiles, saw two enormous pizza ovens in the bakery. Thousands of wine bottles were scattered everywhere while bullets and some 360,000 bombs were lined up in a very organized manner. Italians do even war in style. My favorite view was the three coral covered old school Fiat automobiles providing a home to hundreds of glossy fish. The sunlit corridors the next morning provided perfect photo ops. We lucked out again.

I truly felt I was on vacation from my dive instructor job while I was diving from the Andromeda. It is a brand new vessel equipped with all the modern life luxuries that you could ask for. Relaxation is instantly established the moment one steps inside the moody Arabic style Shisha Room. The hand made burgundy carpet matches the see through curtains and compliments the detailed woodwork that composes the cabin. Guests puff cherry and apple flavored tobacco after dinner while smooth jazz plays in the background as divers recall their daily encounters with schools of barracudas or jumping turtles.

I would absolutely recommend the Andromeda to anyone interested in diving the Red Sea. It is an incredible value and it’s crew help make it a trip of a lifetime.

Szilvia Gogh

Shaab Rumi: The best place for shark watching

If I had to name just one underwater dive route that would alone be worth the travel to Sudan, it certainly would be Shaab Rumi! Without a doubt it is one of the most picturesque dive sites in the Red Sea. This reef lies 48km from Port Sudan and encircles a beautiful lagoon which we can cross through a man-made strait (actually blown up by Cousteau).

The outer reef, surrounding Shaab Rumi’s various dive sites, contains a place that makes this area unique. Outside of the lagoon, about 100m from the entrance, Cousteau built his futuristic world, the Precontinent II, in 1963. During the experiment he researched whether a group of scuba divers could survive for several weeks underwater in a village specially designed for this purpose. Still, Rumi’s Southernmost end is its most exciting dive site. Like a balcony, a plateau stretches towards the open sea. Its three sides are surrounded by steep walls plunging into the deep. What also makes this place so unique is the always present barracuda, tuna, batfish, and reef, grey and hammerhead sharks.

Shark watching at Shaab RumiWe formed into 6-diver groups and jumped into the zodiacs right away. After 20 minutes we were already at Shaab Rumi’s Northern point. On a count of three we backflipped into the water and began our descent. When I looked below, right away I saw the silhouette of a large grey shark! The scuba diving liveaboard operators almost guarantee shark sightings at this part of Shaab Rumi because here is the coral-encrusted Cousteau shark feeder, left behind to this day. The sharks have long gotten used to this place, waiting for their old friend, Cousteau, to return and to make their regular feedings again.

Cousteau's PrecontinentSwimming above the plateau, the greys were already swarming around us. I counted about 15 around me but I never knew how many more could have been behind me. The sight was amazing! What was up close and real now, I only saw in documentaries. Though my battle plans primarily included the stalking of hammerheads, at that moment the greys had my complete attention. For 20 minutes I was just looking all around, never knowing from which direction they were coming towards me only to change direction with a quick whip of the tail less than half a metre from me.

Meanwhile giant bass were irritating the big fish, bravely facing them. After a long watch, we left the greys behind us and continued for the North point of the plateau, closely swimming over the plateau. We barely made a few fin kicks when we ran into a giant barracuda school counting 80-90 of them. Some of them were as long as a metre and a half. By the time we reached the drop-off, our air supply was dwindling, so after the safety stop, we met on the surface to share our latest experiences.

Shark in the sudanese Red SeaBetween the two dives, familiar fins appeared about 200m from the live aboard, heading straight for us. Right away we knew that a group of dolphins arrived in the lagoon, right beside us. That was it and half the boat jumped into the water, people flying over the railings. I tried to make room through the crowd on the scuba diving platform. With my mask and fins in place, I jumped into the water, right among the dolphins. It could not have been directed better! The beauty of their figures and moves is something no other animal can come close to. As if they were being moved by the sea, they swam in front of us with great precision. They always fascinate me and again I swam an hour with them. What an amazing scuba diving holiday!