Red Sea diving is heavily regulated now and fiercely protected by the Egyptian government, who have recognised this as an area of outstanding beauty (and as well as a good source of income).
Liveaboard are generally well run and reputable operators have clean, well maintained vessels and have a superb mixed nationality crew. The boat crew is usually Egyptian and is complemented with PADI accredited dive professionals, who are required to enforce Egyptian law.
Some of the rules you are likely required to observe:
- Everything is look, don’t touch. So many dive operators forbid the use of gloves in the water, which stops you from touching the sensitive corals (most of them are very sharp or can sting you pretty hard - e.g.: the fire coral is related closer to the jelly fish than to its coral counterparts). Consequently, you are likely to have a dive guide with you at all times to monitor your behaviour.
- Hint on buoyancy control: If you struggle, float slightly higher to avoid damaging corals
- Souvenir hunting is prohibited. The dive guides are required to report you and Egyptian authorities will enforce the law. Punishments usually include equipment confiscation, heavy monetary fines, barred from Egypt and in extreme cases also a prison sentence
- Strictly non-decompression diving. In most cases, you will do a series of repetitive dives and are unlikely to off-gas completely. Considering the number of dives, being at least several hours out of any port, coming down with DCI is going to spoil everyone’s holiday (not only yours). Operators will check your computers, your in– and out-air will be recorded. If you go to deco, most operators will stop you diving for at least 24 hours.
- Decompression Diving - If you have the appropriate qualification and prior agreement, boat operators will give you a technical diving form to fill in. This will allow you to exceed the 40 metre depth limit and allows decompression diving. Please be aware, you are signing away any liability on behalf of the operator and it is highly recommended you have additional insurance in place.
- The boat crews are normally very friendly and supportive. They are normally away from home 6 to 10 weeks at a time, work 7 days a week and then go home for 2 weeks. On board, they share one or two rooms and generally will try to be unobtrusive. In addition, their pay is not high and they rely heavily on tips from the passengers - they have been briefed not to expect any tips. The best way to do this: as group collect your tips and put them in an envelope, give it to the skipper, who will ensure that everyone will get an equal share. Tipping guideline: $5 to $10 per day on board (per diver).
- Alcohol. Try to avoid it, it dehydrates and increases the risk of DCI. On board, there is usually an honesty bar, i.e. help yourself, add a tick to the box and pay at the end of your trip.
- Smoking on board. Only outside, smoking in the common areas and cabins is prohibited.
- Showering - there is enough water on board, but it does require additional resource. Take one shower in the evening with soap and between dives just a quick rinse at the back of the boat.
- Drinking water - bring a small 500 ml bottle, mark it as yours and refill it using the drinking water fountain. This avoids excessive plastic rubbish. Also use your bottle to wash out your mouth after brushing your teeth and use it to clean your toothbrush. You must avoid using the tap water apart from washing your hands and showering.
- Toilets - only organic matter please, they are sea toilets. Paper, sanitary towels and other things go in the waste basket next to the toilet. The crew will remove it daily.