Blue hole bonanza

Anthias swarm around the coral
Anthias swarm around the coral
Miranda Krestovnikoff
Miranda Krestovnikoff

SO WHAT WAS THE BEST THING about Egypt? I asked my daughter. “Riding on a camel,” was Amélie's immediate answer. So, for a four-year-old it wasn't the sand, sea, fish or falafel that she remembers, but she had fun… and that's what counts.

Taking young children on a diving holiday is always going to be a bit tricky, but I'm determined to make it work.

It's just too easy to arrange to leave them with a relative, and such a great experience if they can come along, too.

When there are little people to worry about, you have to choose your location and facilities carefully, and we did. It paid dividends… but more of that later.

Let's start with the diving – a whole week of shore-diving at Dahab, in the Gulf of Aqaba.

The main plus point for me was that we would only ever be in groups of four divers with a guide. Fantastic.

My pet hate about diving holidays is a huge gaggle of divers bumbling about on a reef, scaring away any life brave enough to venture out. If you're last in the group, as I invariably am with the camera, you miss everything.

So, no standing around waiting for those with a slightly sore head to get kitted up – when we were ready, we could jump in. Simple as that.

Part of Bell's Blue Hole in Dahab
Part of Bell's Blue Hole in Dahab

I also worry about “famous” dive sites, as they are often hyped up and turn out to be disappointing. This was not the case with the Blue Hole.

I had heard all the stories, and I had a vision of the site being overcrowded.

I expected the camera-shy fish to have migrated somewhere quieter.

Not a bit of it.

We arrived early, and there was only a handful of keen freedivers putting in ropes and buoys.

Kitted-up, we walked past the slightly eerie headstones of various people who had descended, never to surface again. Some divers stopped for photos, but that's just not my scene – tempting fate, perhaps?

ENTERING AT THE BELLS, a chimney that took us down to around 27m, we exited onto the reef and fantastic vis.

There were lots of small fish: a shoal of lyretail anthias swam past, then the Red Sea anthias and yellow-edged chromis common to such steep drop-offs.


It was hard to pull my eyes away from the reef, as there was so much to see, but occasionally I managed a glance into the deep blue on my left.

I wasn't disappointed – some predatory giants were patrolling the reef, big grouper and huge humphead wrasse.

Anemonefish on a bubble anemone
Anemonefish on a bubble anemone

Back on the reef, the colourful coral hinds and twin-spot snapper were looking for lunch, and I could hear the distinctive crunching of parrotfish on the coral. I must have spotted five or six species biting away at the reef.

As we moved up it, we saw a pair of regal angelfish dancing around each other in the shallows, and a number of swaying anemones – one was pretty crowded, with four clownfish in it, while another had an unusual blueish tinge; inside was the tiniest clownfish and some iridescent cleaner shrimps.

Turning back, I noticed just a few patches of reef where things seemed quiet, but the vast majority of it was teeming. It was impressive when you think of other well-dived sites that struggle to retain the life they once had.

Stonefish hanging out
Stonefish hanging out

Nearly back to base, we approached the Blue Hole itself. We swam over the “saddle”, where a beautifully camouflaged stonefish lay hanging out for unsuspecting divers.

I stopped to take its picture but it didn't seem to want to smile.

WE WENT INTO THE HOLE to do a safety stop while watching the freedivers. What a contrast there was between us – we with all our kit on, and they all sleek, zooming down their ropes like mermaids with their elongated fins.

I was jealous and wanted to join them – maybe next time.

A short surface interval in the sun and a strong, sugary tea later, we were all set for round two.

This was the same star dive, but heading “up” the reef instead of “down”.

Lionfish are always associated with anthias
Lionfish are always associated with anthias

Out on the reef, I decided to concentrate on finding smaller fish and hidden gems. Glancing beneath a ledge, I spotted a thorny seastar and, under another one, a sleeping white-spotted pufferfish. Spanish dancer eggs in a perfect coil-like garnish were arranged on the reef, and everywhere I looked there seemed to be lionfish.

Further into the dive, our guide turned and took out his reg. I swam closer, expecting some instructions, but he just hung in mid-water with his mouth open.

On closer inspection, I spotted a small cleaner wrasse darting in and out of his mouth for a good rummage around – it was cleaning his mouth. Bizarre!

Eventually the wrasse tired, and we moved on. Continuing my quest for something unusual on the reef, I was rewarded by a strange feeling in my ear.

At first I thought it was my wetsuit zip-pull flapping around my ear, but then it felt more like a bird pecking.

I span round to see the same cleaner wrasse – most disconcerting! He tried the other ear, but didn't stay long – I think my ears were fairly clean!

On our return, at just 3m, I looked up to see a flapping at the surface.

I thought it might be a distressed diver, or someone fishing, perhaps, but it was a pufferfish that had just been attacked by a potato grouper.

The yellow-spotted puffer was flustered, buoyant as you like and flailing around at the surface but, thankfully, alive. The grouper looked a bit nonplussed and was swimming off minus dinner.

Torpedo ray
Torpedo ray

And just as we thought we had had enough excitement, a leopard torpedo ray that we had spotted on our way out decided to swim around with us. It was almost as if it wanted to play.

It was time to put the camera into video mode as it swam around us.

It didn't seem to want us to leave…

DIVES DONE, we headed back to the hotel and to the other half of the holiday – with the children.

Dive-Urge (a terrible pun, but don't hold that against it!) is run by a family, and it shows. It's a great place to go on your own or as a couple, but the owners have children, and understand what makes a relaxing holiday for a family.

Hanging out with the family at Dive-Urge
Hanging out with the family at Dive-Urge

We had been given a lovely family suite that overlooked the sea. It was very quiet, and the children had their own room (hooray!)

There was no pool, but the restaurant was on the beach, so there was plenty for the kids to do while we were eating: wild camels to chase [Is this wise? Ed], hermit crabs to track down and more sand and sea than you can shake a stick at.

The outside “lounge” area had hammocks, and a huge shaded area in which to sit and play. Out came a box of toys for us to play with, and so did the tortoises, which seemed used to small children manhandling them.

What is refreshing is that health & safety rules are fairly relaxed here. You have to act responsibly with children, but as long as you're careful, you and they can have a lot of fun!

AFTERNOONS WERE SPENT EXPLORING. We had a trip to the mountains, riding most of the way on camels with the children.

Little Oliver slept most of the way, but we couldn't wipe the smile off Amélie's face. She just thought it was great fun, much better than a horse, as she was up so high and could see everything.

Up in the shade of the mountains, our escort of four set up camp, made a fire and unpacked the truck. It looked as if we would be staying a week when we saw how much food they had brought along.

A small table was brought out, and they started rolling out bread. We all had a go, and made flat bread that we baked on the open fire – then barbecued chicken with rice and salad, more than we could eat.

We wore off a few calories sand-boarding on an old tray down the steep dune slopes, and then climbed to the top for the view of the sun setting over Dahab.

The stars came out, and we warmed up around the campfire, smoking sheesha pipes and eating more food.

There was no problem entertaining the little ones – the trip had been a real adventure, and they were in the middle of the biggest sand pit in the world!

DAHAB OFFERED PROBABLY the best diving holiday we could have done as a family. The Maldives might have the edge when it comes to diving, but it's a long way to fly with young children.

Dive-Urge is unusual in terms of what Dahab has to offer. If you want to be right in the middle of a busy and touristy place, it's not for you.

Nick and I are atypical divers and travellers, in that we like to be away from hustle, bustle and other divers, so downtown Dahab wasn't for us.

We also like to taste a place when we visit, avoiding burgers and chips to find out what the locals eat.

I'm not talking about just local food in a restaurant, but what people are eating in the Bedouin villages and so on.

This was easy – just around the corner from Dive-Urge was a market square called Assalah where you weren't hassled as a tourist. The food was incredibly cheap – one meal cost us just £1 each for as much as we could eat – local beans, rice, aubergines, falafel, bread, tahini and so on. It was probably the best meal we ate there.

The rest of the diving was just as good as the Blue Hole – quiet sites (although we were there out of season) and good life and visibility. What more could you ask for? We'll be going back … soon!


factfile sharm el sheikh

GETTING THERE: Miranda Krestovnikoff and her family flew with Thompson Airlines from London Gatwick to Sharm el Sheikh.

DIVING & ACCOMODATION: Dive-Urge Dive Resort, Dahab.

MONEY: Egyptian pound and most major currencies.

HEALTH: Hepatitis A and typhoid inoculations recommended.

WHEN TO GO:Year round, but it gets very hot in summer.

PRICES: A suite at Dive-Urge based on a family of two adults, two children, transfers, and one 10-dive pack comes to just under £865 excluding flights. Book through Oonasdivers.

TOURIST INFORMATION: 020 7493 5283, EGYPT Travel Guide. For a full list of legal diving operators and a black list of illegal diving operators in Egypt, visit


Get a weekly roundup of all Divernet news and articles Scuba Mask
We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Connect With Us

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x