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Underwater adventures

Venkatraman S, May 19, 2013, DHNS : 18:10 IST

Hurghada

The ride from Aswan to Hurghada was different from what I had experienced so far. The city of Aswan soon gave way to tiny villages. The outskirts of the city were dotted with palm trees and an occasional farmer was tilling his land in the blistering heat.

The Nile and its tributaries, which fed these fields, formed the basis of the economy in this vast arid desert country. Wherever you spot the Nile, greenery will not be far. It is said that 80 per cent of Egypt’s population lives around five miles from the Nile; thus highlighting the importance of the river to Egypt’s economy.

The paddy fields soon gave way to rugged surfaces with interspersed palm trees, followed by swathes of barren desert. Sitting at the backseat of an air-conditioned sedan and looking at the expanse of the desert was a unique experience. Though the heart always ached to experience this barren beauty, the associated thoughts of the ‘returning to civilisation and family’ was the strong withholding force. With almost no one along this stretch and with the moon-like surface on either sides of this road, driving was a breeze and a treat. I finally arrived in Hurghada at around 6 pm and soon checked into a hotel. After a quick shower, I went for a stroll along the beach. Though the beach waters were absolutely dark, the gentle chill in the air with the beautiful moon shining high in a starless sky was captivating.

From fishing to luxury

Hurghada, which was once an unimposing fishing village, has been given a massive facelift making it one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Egypt. It now lays claim to being a resort destination overlooking the Red Sea, well connected with direct flights from several European cities to the Hurghada International Airport. It’s a place where you can just decide to put your feet up and relax by reading a book or choose to indulge in the aquatic activities that include scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing, para-sailing and glass boating to see the breathtaking corals under the turquoise waters.

The promenade, flanked by luxury resorts and hotels on either side, is one of the quietest and cleanest stretches, making it a pleasure place for an evening stroll. The vehicles are then restricted to just one lane. The lane is filled with a motley of shops selling everything from souvenirs to garments to toys, roadside restaurants and peddlers. A little beyond the end of this lane is where the downtown begins. Bargaining is the key to shopping here. Tourists are generally taken for a ride with the prices and hence, never settle for anything quoted without bargaining.

The Red Sea shoreline in this area is laced with deck chairs of various resorts, where you will find some sunbathing, reading, sleeping or just staring at the pristine blue waters in front. The Red Sea coast near Hurghada has a plethora of adventure activity centres, each willing to offer you the ‘best deal’. You can haggle a lot on the fee for each activity.

Choosing multiple activities for a group of people helps you get a better deal. I finally settled for snorkeling (which also included the glass boat ride) and kayaking. I was taken by the speed boat to a place 20 minutes away, the boat slowing down at places to spot the corals. The boat finally docked at a place in the shallow waters where I jumped off for snorkelling. Having taken my life jacket and the snorkelling paraphernalia, I was all set to experience the beauty of nature hidden under the crystal clear turquoise waters. The first sight under water makes you want to pinch yourself to ensure that you aren’t dreaming. The corals and multicoloured fish took my breath away. The one thing that you do not want to do is get out of the waters onto the waiting boat after the scheduled 20 minute snorkelling act. Half-heartedly, I got back into the boat and returned to the shore for my kayaking jaunt.

Couple kayaking is fun when you take the kayak far away to the middle of the waters, steering clear of the deep and high tide area. It’s the perfect escapade to sit back and relax at times. After wading in the waters for close to an hour, I headed back and decided to give the tired muscles a bit of rest before plunging into the temperature-controlled swimming pool for a dip.

Hurghada is the place for a perfectly laid-back holiday or an adventure-filled one. It’s totally up to you to switch modes and gears to get the best out of this vacation.

Travel Tips

* Getting there: Hurghada is well connected by flights from Cairo, or if you are flying from some European city, there are direct flights to the Hurghada International Airport as well.

* Food: Most of the luxury resorts on the coast serve some of the finest spreads for breakfast, making you forget about lunch. Step out and try the lip-smacking roadside pizza at King’s Pizza without burning a hole in your pocket.

* Suggestion: Red Sea is a perfect destination for getting a Professional Association of Diving Instructors’ (PADI) certification, as waters are crystal clear and the corals are well preserved.


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