Red Sea Diving Tips – Don’t Feed the Toucan, Don’t Tickle the Morays, and Don’t Laugh at the Dolphins

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Just completed a week long scuba diving trip to the Red Sea, something that has taken me about 40 years to get around to, so I thought I would pass on some Wandering Honeybadger Tips…

So my target location to see was the Cliffs of Ras Muhammad, something I had first heard about as being a spectacular place to dive way back in 1978 when famed underwater photographer Dave Doublet gave a talk in my home town.  Ras Muhammad did not disappoint.  It was by far the best of the reefs we dove on in the northern section of the Red Sea (locations between Hurghada and Sharm El Sheik).  But this trip was a mix of wrecks and reefs and the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm was excellent as well, except for the crowds of divers there.

However, this post is more about DON’Ts than DO’s, so…

1) Don’t Feed the Toucan

Our dive boat had a young lady customer, who couldn’t have weighed more than 100 lbs soaking wet.  To the amazement of everyone else, customers and crew, she could pack away more food in a single sitting than three people combined.  Each morning she would trot out wearing a hooded muumuu dress emblazoned with toucan birds for her morning feeding…. one of her last breakfasts included a plate of 4-6 pieces of toast, an omelette, a fried egg, potatoes, and a side of eggs Benedict.  Hence some naughty person (I wonder who) wrote on the white board “Please Don’t Feed the Toucan” (like you would see at some nature preserve) in order to tease her.   She never blinked though, she just continued to pack it down.  In fairness, divers burn tons of energy, but she was stellar in her ability to eat.  Some day when watching television, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a National Geographic special about the rare “Red Sea Toucan”, and its ability to consume twice its own weight on a daily basis…  The consensus among the other divers was that we were simply extremely jealous of her ability to eat so much and stay so thin.  PS the underwater camera adds 20 kilos to your apparent figure ha ha.

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More importantly for the rest of us mere mortals, its crucial to keep hydrated when diving, particularly in a hot climate.  Our dive boat had a tank of Hibiscus Tea drink, which they purported would provide a range of benefits, including reducing colds and asthma.  I drank many glasses each day and the developing head cold that I had when arriving disappeared almost immediately, despite sleeping in air conditioned cabins.  Warning high doses of this might not be good for your liver, but moderate amounts seem to me at least to provide a wide range of benefits.  Its a very common drink in Egypt.

2) Don’t Tickle the Moray Eels

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Touching marine life of any kind is generally a big no no.. many fish for example have a protective layer of slime on their skin that keeps out bacteria, and the bacteria on your hands is likely not something they have any way of dealing with.  The moray eels in the Red Sea were common, and more than one variety, and I am assuming relatively used to divers as none got particularly aggressive, even with all the photographers getting close for head shots and even the one moray who was smack dab in the middle of a major swim-way on one of the wrecks. 

I did find one who was a bit shy (not the one above), and he would retreat into his hole each time I got close for a photo… but his den was wide open on the backside where his tail was hanging out onto the sand.  So while I didn’t exactly tickle him to get him to come out, I did swish some water at his tail in order to encourage him to pull his tail inside more, which had the effect of him sticking his head out more like I wanted… so lets just call it a “water tickle”.

3)  Don’t Laugh at the Dolphins

On one dive we had just surfaced at the end of our dive, and most of us were already back in the zodiac with our tanks and weight belts off as well as fins.  Our guides were still in the water and the dolphins proceeded to circle around them quite close.  One of the guides suggested we jump back in with our fins etc in order to interact with the dolphins or at least see them.  Knowing that this was likely to be a short-lived encounter, I just laughed to myself and thought  “Those human-dolphin relationships dont last very long, so I won’t ‘fall for’ i.e. jump into the water, for just any lady dolphin!   I want to see some fish upfront to prove that she would be a good provider”.   Indeed the encounter was over as quickly as it started, but I reckon I earned some bad karma for that mental remark, and for not making the effort to join the dolphins.

What goes around comes around on the great Karmic wheel for sure.  The next day while diving on a wreck, I was covering it the second time and looking for something new and interesting to photograph.  One of the other divers shot some video of me, which is self explanatory from the captioned from below. 

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Full video clip, courtesy of Lars Balleby is at