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Saudi Arabian Tourist Zone?

Discussion in 'Red Sea' started by arew+4, Mar 27, 2018.

  1. NothingClever

    NothingClever ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean
    921
    1,080
    93
    Having just moved from Jeddah where I dived every week for two years, this is excellent counsel.
     
    Searcaigh likes this.
  2. Searcaigh

    Searcaigh Chromodoris gordonii Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
    6,127
    5,038
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    @NothingClever

    Perhaps a meeting of Middle East based divers in Jeddah and surroundings is something that might work. I'll need to pick your brains regarding what shops are still running etc., and how strict the Coast Guard are regarding diving.
     
    NothingClever and Diving Dubai like this.
  3. NothingClever

    NothingClever ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean
    921
    1,080
    93
    Brother, if I had been able to stay another year in Jeddah, I had big dreams to pull the cloak off of KSA diving. As you know quite well, there is so much untapped potential. There are also still unimaginable obstacles to routine processes and functions that can erode the Western joy factor except for the hardiest of travelers.

    Regardless, depending on how 2021 unfolds for me I may put together a capstone trip for a select group of folks, probably no more than 12 or so. It’s tied to something much bigger than just a dive trip but that’s another topic for another day. @RainPilot and you are definitely top of that list and two guys from the southern region of the US that are interested and experienced in the Middle East. After that, I would yield the remaining seats to the four of you since the network of well-sorted divers you guys possess is MUCH bigger than mine.

    So, since my last big update somewhere above, I’ll offer the following:

    1) HOPE OF SPRING DIVE SHOP and BOAT CHARTER: This is the one dive shop/charter in Jeddah that stands head and shoulders above the others. The owner is Rabih al Haber, a Lebanese who has been in Jeddah his whole life except for college and work in Beirut following graduation. He is a successful advertising and television cinematographer with productive efforts in Lebanon and with Saudi government contracts but decided to turn diving into a full time vocation. I knew him as a generic OWSI before COVID and didn’t really see anything noteworthy. While I was recently stranded for five months in Florida (due to the shut down of international flights), folks still in Jeddah reached out to let me know he was shaking things up. I didn’t think much of it but when I finally got back to Jeddah in September, he had indeed made huge positive changes in the otherwise stagnant diving community. I organized six trips with him and the best endorsement I can give is he is squarely on glidepath to become the future dive leader in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline.

    He has two PADI shops in Jeddah but operates mainly out of the Sheraton Red Sea Resort dive shop in Jeddah.

    His Newton 46 is in the Red Sea Marina in Jeddah and has become the favored boat to get on for expats. We (well, I’m no longer there) can fill his boat in a matter of minutes and he draws a well-sorted crowd. He has become the boat of choice for technical divers (primarily because he joins us on the dives!).

    He cave trained in Florida in late 2019 and after a visit to High Springs he went back to Jeddah as the only authorized Halcyon dealer. While we were all in COVID lockdown, his shipment came in which was the catalyst he needed (not necessarily sales) to step forward and find his voice as a leader in Jeddah’s dive community. He’s onto becoming a Deep 6 Gear dealer now to broaden his range of products and prices. He’ll be coming back over to Florida to attend TEKDiveUSA in April with me, do some normoxic wrecks together and some proper drift dives to stroll along with a bunch of Atlantic pigeons (sharks).

    2) DESERT SEA DIVERS (charter) is another reliable business in Jeddah. I have scores of trips with them and the two Captains to run with are Gioletto (Philippino guy, goes by “Julie”) and Wahid. They skipper well-maintained Newtons and accordingly they attract a diversity of talent. However, we have found they know the sites well enough that they can balance a couple of needy normoxic divas pining for deep walls and some Discover cherubs in search of Nemo.

    3) NATLUS DIVE CENTER and BOAT CHARTER in Jeddah is considered THE premium dive shop in Jeddah although I had disappointing luck with their charter service. With a lot of lead time I put together a trip to the remote and magical Abu Madafi reef with some seasoned recreational and technical divers. Unfortunately, the DM/guide got in over his head on the day of of the dive and wasted the time and air of a lot of seasoned divers. We had to impose ourselves to sort out the rest of the day such that it left a really bad taste in peoples’ mouths. I found Natlus is focused on a party atmosphere on the boat with loud music and niceties such as cold towels and ice cream. The locals like them but expats now rather avoid them. They’ll do in a pinch but they are NOT on the A list for charter services.

    4) FILLS: There are three locations to get Trimix. Ehab Abed Aladel at Dive Point (PADI TecREc shop) in Jeddah is reliable with a nice Coltri and NUVAIR mixing console. Natlus Dive Center (SNSI and PADI) in downtown Jeddah is clean. Mahmoud is their blender. As an aside, Mahmoud is a super guy, very conscientious and stands out as the best in Jeddah for regulator maintenance. Al Haddad Dive Shop (SSI) is good but the shop is a bit of a mess. That’s where I go if the others are busy/out of He. A standard AL80 twinset of 21/35 or 18/45 is around 200USD. Crazy expensive but the way I look at it is it’s valuable risk mitigation and cheap insurance against DCS when the chamber is hours...make that HOURS...away from the dive sites.

    5) BORDER GUARD: I’m not sure what prompted change but the Border Guard situation has improved greatly. The old days of lethargic and nonsensical bureaucratic delays have largely evaporated. It still happens periodically but things have improved to the point I’d be willing to organize a trip for folks that are paying 2000USD to fly to Jeddah.

    6) JEDDAH DIVE LOCATIONS: See map below for dives out of the easily accesible marinas of Jeddah.

    upload_2020-11-26_10-27-28.jpeg

    7) YANBU AL BAHAR (3.5 hours north of Jeddah): Yanbu is known more for its sealife such as HHs, WTs, BTs, whale sharks and mantas than epic walls. I did a big wall on a normoxic mix ealier this month (November 2020) and it was great. But the dive that unexpectedly blew my mind was the second one that day, a single tank dive with a DPV that never got past 12 meters. The long oval reef crown was just magical, like something from Alice in Wonderland. Although we didn’t see any pelagics on our last multi-day trip there, only a week prior French and Lebanese pals of mine on a Dive sites – Dream Diver LOB got some incredible footage of HHs at 45-50m.

    Rabih Al Haber (Hope of Spring) and I put together the most recent trip and learned a lot. The dive shops there don’t own their boats. So, you work with a dive shop to put together an itinerary and then it’s a bit of a lottery what skipper you’ll get. One day you get a hardheaded guy that dangles his cigarette right next to a 100% tin of O2 and the next day you get a decent, responsible crew. Dolphin Free Divers (Dolphin Free Diver) is the shop we used and Rabih intends to work with them for future trips. The Iona Wreck up in Yanbu is a proper wreck. It probably should be off limits to recreational diving as it has complex holds that are easily accessed but you know, it’s Saudi Arabia so training and risk assessment are subject to the famous inshallah method of planning.



    upload_2020-11-26_14-40-55.jpeg

    upload_2020-11-26_14-41-57.jpeg

    8) AL LITH (2.5 hours south of Jeddah): These sites are known for MASSIVE coral walls and won’t disappoint. My 5-6 trips there have all been with Dream Divers (LOB). The LOB vessel and crew haven’t changed but the ownership has. I have not dived with them since 2019 so I can’t say if they have improved. But they are the only LOB with an onboard compressor in KSA right now. Cost is about 1500SAR (400USD) for a weekend of 6-8 dives. They feed you well (too well). For those that have Consular access to tea (alcohol) the crew is discrete as long as you are.

    upload_2020-11-26_14-39-29.jpeg
     
  4. Sbiriguda

    Sbiriguda Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Italy
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    Guys thanks for the excellent first hand information
     
  5. NothingClever

    NothingClever ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean
    921
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    The executive summary to all my blab above is to contact Rabih at Hope of Spring Diving if you want to splash the southern Red Sea.

    E-mail: rabih@hopespringdive.com
    WhatsApp: +966 56 222 0007
     
  6. NothingClever

    NothingClever ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean
    921
    1,080
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    @Sbiriguda - I know two great Italian brothers in Jeddah if you want to learn about Saudi Arabia in your own language. There used to be a lot more Italian divers in Jeddah but COVID drove a lot of folks back home.

    Vittorio is a senior engineer in Western Saudi Arabia’s power generation and grid distribution. He’s been in Jeddah for over 20 years, dives throughout the week and is one of the most well-known UW photographers in Jeddah.

    Paolo is a relatively new diver but a super guy. He joined us on the Yanbu trip so he’s an adventurous soul. His wife runs one of the schools and their contract is for the next six years so he also has longevity in Jeddah.

    Reach out in a DM if you’d like their WhatsApp numbers.
     
    Sbiriguda likes this.
  7. Searcaigh

    Searcaigh Chromodoris gordonii Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
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    Victor Organ, there's a name I haven't heard in a long time ..... I wonder what happened to him?
     
  8. Salty_Sea_Dog

    Salty_Sea_Dog Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: China
    1
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    I lived in Abha, Saudi Arabia for three years and did most of my diving in the Saudi Red Sea.

    I've always been saying that there is so much money in the dive industry in Saudi Arabia, since they have just as must potential as Egypt in terms of beautiful sites. Saudi also has the southern Red Sea, which is hard to access sometimes.

    Diving around Jeddah is decent diving, especially if you can get out on a boat trip. I also did some shore dives with the permission of the coast guard near Al Qahma. Not many people have ever dived there, so a few of my buddies and I just picked spots that looked good and we just went for it.

    The real diving treasure of Saudi Arabia though is the Farasans. I was able to dive there once a month and oh boy was it a treat. In the beginning of my stay in Saudi, our boat captain would drive us out far into the marine reserve for some truly excellent virgin dives -healthy reefs full of life abound. During my last year in Saudi, I learned that we weren't actually supposed to be going out there, and due to the proximity with the war in Yemen, we didn't go out so far into the reserve again. However, there were still some excellent dive sites closer to the main island of Farasan.

    If the kingdom continues on the path to tourism, expect a live-aboard scene. The potential is vast in the kingdom in terms of scuba,
     
  9. Jafo19D

    Jafo19D Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Colombia
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    I wouldn’t go back to that part of the world for anything, even if Jedda had mermaids.. Archaic laws for women, oppression and oh yeah they killed a journalist in an embassy and cut him into little pieces. And this is the country that came up with Wahhabism, the extreme Sunni sect that is responsible for so much terrorism.
     
    Jcp2 likes this.
  10. NothingClever

    NothingClever ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean
    921
    1,080
    93
    Sbiriguda likes this.

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