Take a trip to majestic Egypt where experiencing the wonders and delights of the deep blue might be just what you need…
Egypt, and specifically Sharm El Sheikh, has more to offer than beautiful coastlines and a spectacular under-water world, although these alone are excellent criteria for a holiday destination.
Whether you’re a self-confessed sun-lover and come out in a rash at the thought of leaving the poolside, or, if you’re a sports junkie, every whim is catered for.
Indulge in a spot of evening shopping, followed by a meal of anything you desire, from first-class Lebanese cuisine to good old-fashioned fish and chips.
Night owls can sneak into the Old Town to haggle with the Bazaar traders. Locals sip Bedouin tea and smoke a Sheisha pipe at roadside cafés. Tourists head for the mountains for lively parties.
Eclecticism is definitely the main theme of the area, which in the last 10 years has transformed itself from a deserted paradise with few amenities to a haven for tourists of all ages.
An abundance of magnificent coral and exotic fish litters the coastline, just waiting to be admired.
An afternoon’s gentle snorkelling will reveal much of the area’s beautiful marine life, but, if you’re feeling more adventurous, you could take one of the excellent diving courses to see more wonders.
With warm, crystal-clear waters containing over 1,000 species, and more than 20 diving centres at your disposal, it’s clear why Sharm El Sheik is scuba’s answer to Disneyland.
For my dives I chose the Red Sea Diving College, or rather it chose me, as many of the hotels have loyalty programmes with specific schools.
This particular school has a vast array of courses and, from £66 you can begin an Open Water course and get a taste for the sport.
My advanced course cost £222 in total, and included one pleasure and three course dives, as well as certification and kit hire, which can often bump up the price.
Sharm El Sheikh’s sites are divided into the Strait of Tiran, the Ras Mohammed area and the Strait of Gubai.
Usually your course will begin along the coast of Sharm on a live-aboard boat.
Although these local dives sound tame, there’s plenty to see and do – the reef descends in a brief drop of four to five metres, then slopes gently to 25 to 30 metres to accommodate coral of up to 10 metres high, making these sites ideal for learning the ropes of deep and drift diving.
Deep diving (more than 18 metres) is usually done alongside a drift dive, and can only be undertaken once you have your Open Water certification.
This type of diving is rather like free-falling but is a much more leisurely affair.
Admittedly, the preliminary kitting up and initial jump can be hectic, but once your group has hopped off the deck, had a head count and started the descent, you’ll be struck by the absolute calm and silence of the sea, except for the occasional hum of a speed-boat or the popping of the fish picking at the coral.
Unless you’re scared of enclosed spaces, the whole experience is utterly relaxing, incredibly liberating and occasionally, if you spot a rare species, quite euphoric.
Unlike most extreme sports, you’ll barely break a sweat.
The gentle current will float you past the reef, giving you a stunning view of the various aquatic activities.
Enjoy the soap-opera of an angelfish couple flirting or watch an iridescent parrot fish swim by.
The Ras Mohammed area, where I completed my Navigation and Naturalist dives, stretches from Ras Zaatar to the Coral Towers of Shark and Jolanda Reefs.
This is on the southern tip of the Sinai Province and is the first, and only, protected area in the entire Red Sea.
For this reason, and the fact that Ras Mohammed is the meeting point of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aquaba and the Suez Canal, the density of plankton and abundance of sea life is very high.
Here you can spot the smallest of cleaner fish, to huge six-foot Napoleon humphead wrasse, and if you’re lucky, even the occasional whale shark.
The biodiversity of the Red Sea displays its true splendour here, and, as you swim alongside vast shoals of glistening, two-foot long jack fish and stumble upon huge Moray eels, you’ll be quickly planning your next excursion before the boat docks.
My last and most sedate dive was to the Strait of Tiran, a succession of four submerged mountains, boasting the remains of Lara, a Cypriot ship.
By this time I had completed my course, so all that was left to do was sun myself on the top deck, or have a quick dip in the clear, blue waters.
If you are feeling the need for a long-deserved break, don’t procrastinate any further, book your winter holiday destination now, or you may miss out on the magic that Sinai and the Red Sea have to offer.