Monday, April 9, 2012

Underwater Jeddah - a diver’s delight!

Guest Post

The Jedda fish market is great. All that fresh fish to look at and select from to take home to cook or to order from the menu in one of the city’s fantastic restaurants. Yet, all things considered, the market is somewhat lacking. With only 50 or so types of fish on sale, the Jedda area has something far fishier to boast of. You wouldn’t notice it as it is hidden from view to most people. Yet just a just a short walk from the beach or a short boat ride grants you access to the multicoloured and otherwise secret world of the Red Sea, as the reef lies just off the coast of Jeddah.

This is one of the most exciting diving areas of the world and is relatively unspoilt. However, it is sufficiently developed that many have already benefited from trips and holiday deals that have enabled them to explore and behold this Saudi treasure. What better place to take a camera to view and record images of the most amazing sights!

What’s down there?

The Red Sea coastline has a fringing reef that is about 6,000 years old. A fringing reef is one of the main kinds of reef and is directly attached to a shoreline, though it may be separated from it by shallow water or a lagoon. This is unlike a barrier reef, for example, which is separated from the shore by a deeper body of water.

It is the marine residents of these reefs that rank Jedda among the most fascinating of diving sites. In the Jedda area, it is thought that around 450 types of fish can be seen at the Red Sea reefs as well as a number of other marine species, like green and hawksbill turtles, the sea cow, dolphins, whales and shark.

The names of the fish alone are enough to excite - Manta and Spotted Eagle Rays, Ghost Pipefish and Comet Longfin, Bonito, Unicornfish, Bluefin Jacks, Lionfish, Kingfish and the Napoleon Fish! Some you can pat and some you should steer clear of. All of them should just be calmly observed in their stunning environs.

Diving off Jeddah

Just like at ground level, each site offers different underwater terrain and aquatic life. Among the seascapes are wrecks, coral gardens, canyons and caverns. Many companies in the Jedda area offer equipment, diving trips and courses, from day trips for the beginner to extended courses up to instructor level. Obhur Creek is the most accessible site in Jeddah, but many others are available with a short trip or from one of the resorts that offer diving packages. Offers include night diving. Lists of providers are available from an official Saudi tourism website or other websites set up by enthusiasts.

One favourite dive – the ‘Boiler Wreck’ dive - requires you to head out on a boat. The shipwreck has been forged with the underwater landscape. Divers are initially dropped down by nearby reef to explore it, and then head upwards to the wreck where they swim in and out of both the wreck and the caves and pools within the coral. One diver described seeing “large sea fans one metre in diameter gently swaying in the current, black coral bushes host to crustaceans and small fish and soft corals of pink and scarlet red” on this dive on Scuba Travel.

Underwater photography

There you are with your kit, your booking and a strong desire to see what is going on down there. How about taking pictures in order to bring a little of your trip back with you? Underwater photography is really only for those with a few dives behind them, as they need to be confident so that, for example, they don’t float into and damage the reef.

You also need to read up on the many technical considerations as the lighting and pressure complications underwater makes it a different art from what you might be used to. Equipment includes housing for your camera, so there are also expenses to be met.

However, the shots you develop will be far more unique than any you shoot at ground level, where anyone can walk by and spot or snap that particular building or tree. It’s a labour of love, but a fascinating and fruitful hobby. Like diving itself, the joy of floating and observing sea life is… like nothing on earth.