This year some of the team members were lucky enough to be part of a research trip on board a dive safari boat for the first time in the Egypt Expedition’s history. Dive safaris, also known as a live aboard, allow divers to reach sites that are further afield and untouched by the pressures of local diving and tourism.
Post doctorate researchers Charlotte Hopkins and Neil Burns were the organisers of the trip as they had been tasked with assessing the fish community composition and management plans in place in the area of Wadi El Gamal. This tied in nicely with our Masters student projects being carried out by Kris who is looking at benthic community composition and Mary Grace who was focused on fish community composition on the reefs. Rachel and Guy ( The PhD Advisor to the expedition ) were also able to come on the trip to conduct the camera drop project as there is easier access to deeper sites to collect data. Lastly, Melanie was also aboard the ship due to her previous experience working on dive safari boats and as an extra helping hand for conducting the data collection with Mary Grace and Kris.
The live aboard team headed to Hamata Marina where the boat would be leaving from and stayed overnight before setting off the next morning for Abu Galawa Kebir for the first round of data collection. The sites that were visited during the trip had never been scientifically surveyed before and would provide crucial information for the future management of the area.
The sites that were visited within Wadi El Gamal were breathtakingly beautiful, featuring towering mountain corals, a range of soft corals and large schools of fish. The pristine waters sported a great diversity of life which was inspiring to see.
The data collection went smoothly on board with waves of dive teams going in to survey along transacts of the reef at depths of 5m and 10m. While the dive team were collecting their data, Rachel and Guy headed out on the speed boat to do their camera drops.
The team were lucky enough to stop in Sataya ( also known as Dolphin House ) and had the warmest welcome from the resident dolphin pods first thing in the morning ! The team headed out to snorkel with a pod of around 100 spinner dolphins and were even lucky enough to see 3 bottlenose dolphins !
Data collection was carried out at a number of different sites and along the way the team had the pleasure of stepping back on dry land for a day when they visited Wadi El Gamal island which was home to many sea birds and surrounded by shallow reefs and a picturesque sandbank perfect for a photo op !
On the last day of data collection an early morning snorkel with a pod of spinner dolphins was a nice way to start the day followed by a surprise visit from some giant sea turtles at the end of the data collection dive.
The trip was a great success and everyone involved thoroughly enjoyed their experiences onboard. Now back to the lab for the data analysis !