Category Archives: Africa

red sea diving

The Very Best of Red Sea Diving

From famous biblical accounts to early trade routes and today’s thriving tourism industry, there’s no doubt that the Red Sea plays a deeply important role in Egypt’s past, present and future. For visitors to this ancient part of the world, the glistening body of water is truly a sight to behold. Better yet, viewing the Red Sea from below the surface is perhaps the best way to experience its natural magic.

red sea divingAs one of the world’s most revered scuba diving destinations, the Red Sea is lined with cities and villages that offer a variety of diving experiences. Choosing where to go can be tougher than squeezing on a damp wetsuit. To make your decision easier, check out this list of the best Red Sea diving spots:

The Sinai Peninsula

Sharm El Sheikh

One of Egypt’s trendiest Red Sea holiday spots, Sharm El Sheikh is renowned across the globe for its posh resorts, thriving nightlife and, of course, brilliant scuba diving.

While the city has plenty of diving spots, one of the best is just over 30km south, in the Ras Mohammed National Park. For advanced divers who are comfortable navigating slightly stronger currents, the Yolanda Wreck site is truly a must-see.

Other top dive spots along the Egyptian side of the Sinai include: the Blue Hole in Dahab and just off the shores of Nuweiba.

West Red Sea Coast

Hurghada

As Egypt’s second largest Red Sea city and an established tourist hub, Hurghada serves as a brilliant base camp for travellers wanting to explore the scenic coastline. It is also near the famous St. John’s reef system, a unique collection of colourful reefs.

Habili Ali, an oval reef within the St. John’s system, is considered one of the most spectacular dive sites in the area. In addition to multiple species of exotic fish, it’s not uncommon to spot pods of bottlenose dolphins swimming through its clear blue waters.

In addition to Hurghada, the Brother Islands (off the coast of Al-Qusayr) are also an excellent dive spot along the western Red Sea coast.

Southern Red Sea Coast

Marsa Alam

Traveling further south along the Red Sea coast will bring you to the town of Marsa

Alam, a rising star in the world of scuba diving. The addition of an international airport in 2001 has increasingly made it a top choice destination for Egypt holidays.

Marsa Alam’s most notable diving site is the Elphinstone Reef. Best known as a habitat for several different shark breeds, this dive site may be your best chance to encounter the fascinating animals.While you’re in the area, it’s worth travelling even further south to the ancient town of Berenice, where you’ll find plenty of more secluded dive sites.

A scuba diver’s paradise, there really is nothing like the bright, warm waters of the Red Sea. If you’ve always dreamed of an idyllic Red Sea holiday, why not dive right in?

 

Hanno the Navigator - Finder of Gorillas

Extraordinary Carthaginian Vagabond – Hanno the Navigator

The voyage of Hanno the Navigator 500 BCIn the annals of great explorers, there is one name that is often overlooked – that of the Carthanginian Periplus of Hanno – later known to the Greeks as Hanno the Navigator . Neither a Greek nor a Roman, but a free man of Carthage and perhaps one of the great unheralded navigators the world has ever known.

While the exact dates of his explorations are not certain, historians agree that they took place sometime around the year 500 B.C.E. It was around this time that Hanno left the city of Carthage – for those wondering, Carthage was located approximately where Tunis, Tunisia now sits.

Hanno left Carthage with a fleet of sixty rowing ships for the purpose of colonizing the unknown territories of Northern and Western Africa. With him were an ungodly number of people which counted in somewhere around 30,000!!!! Hanno’s job was to take all of these people and get them set up in colonies in the great unknown areas.

Passing through the Pillars of Hercules (between modern day Gibraltar and Tangiers, Morocco) the fleet set out into the Atlantic Ocean and turned south.

They founded a city called Thumiaterion at approximately modern day Safi, Morocco. From there, having left a number of settlers, he continued Southward to the isle of Cerne – a place much disputed and lost to history but given the voyage of Hanno, probably either Tenerife and the Canary Islands or less likely, Cape Verde. Even more fanciful is the idea that Hanno reached Atlantis…but who knows?

From Cerne, Hanno sailed back to the mainland and found a large river. Judging by the descriptions of the animals and landscape, we can assume that he was in modern day Senegal or perhaps The Gambia.  He encountered not only elephants, reed filled lakes, crocodiles, and hippopotomai, but also hostile natives that drove he and his settlers back to Cerne.

From Cerne, again, Hanno went further south to find a land that was wonderful by day but lit by fires at night.  He rounded the cape of Hespera Keras and encountered a people steeped in mysticism and music. His own mystics (an essential party to any Carthaginian voyage advised leaving quickly) and so they went south again.  This time they reached modern day Guinnea-Bissau and the Isle of Orango upon which they mistook gorillas for a race of hairy men.

Hanno the Navigator - Finder of Gorillas

In its inmost recess was an island similar to that formerly described , which contains in like manner a lake with another island, inhabited by a rude description of people. The females were much more numerous than the males, and had rough skins: our interpreters called them Gorillae. We pursued but could take none of the males; they all escaped to the top of precipices, which they mounted with ease, and threw down stones; we took three of the females, but they made such violent struggles, biting and tearing their captors, that we killed them, and stripped off the skins, which we carried to Carthage: being out of provisions we could go no further.

This is as far as Hanno reached before returning to Carthage with Atlas lions and stories of wonder. He left seven colonies behind (all in modern day Morocco) and presumably returned with much lighter ships. It is no wonder that Hanno became king of the Carthaginians. History knows him as Hanno II of Carthage.
ship of carthageThe voyage of Hanno is much in dispute, in order to come to a greater understanding of it, I’ve referred to many books and online sources, none of which were more helpful than this article which details the fact, the fiction, and the speculation.   http://phoenicia.org/phoewestafrica.html

I too, am guilty of some speculation but in reading the accounts of Hanno the Navigator, the above description of his voyage feels the most right to me.  One thing that can’t be argued is that the voyage of Hanno was one of the great epic voyages of all time.

Can Hanno the Navigator even be classified as a vagabond? To my mind, the answer is yes – in that a vagabond is anyone who sets out on a voyage of discovery where the unknown is the biggest thing that is known.  But, like everything with Hanno – all is in dispute. We don’t even have an idea what he looked like.

Extraordinary Navigator

Eudoxus of Cyzicus – Extraordinary Navigator Lost at Sea

You know those great musicians who die when they are 27 and live in forever as the greatest even though the musicians who live into their 80’s probably are a whole lot better?

portrait of Eudoxus
While no portraits of Eudoxus of Cyzicus exist, he probably looked something like this Greek man who looks Turkish and is suing a Swedish yogurt company for using his image and saying he looks Turkish. They should have called the yogurt – Eudoxus of Yogurtus Cyzicus.

Eudoxus of Cyzicus wasn’t one of those guys. He was really one of the best, one of the greatest and though the facts are quite obvious and obviously speak for themselves, he has largely been forgotten by history. In fact, if you start a conversation about either Eudoxus or Cyzicus – you are likely to immediately asked Who? What? or Huh?

Who was he?  He was a 2nd century  (B.C.) Greek navigator who tried to circumnavigate Africa about 1700 years before anyone else tried again. By the way, he probably failed since he disappeared along with all of his ships and crew on his 2nd attempt. Of course, maybe he found paradise and decided not to return home.

Cyzicus, by the way is located near the present day Bandirma in Turkey and while there isn’t any evidence to say that it is where the scissors were invented – I like to think it might be true.  The ampitheatre there was considered as one of the seven wonders of the world and was the largest ever built – at least until a larger one was made. The monuments of this great city were carted off to build the Hagia Sophia and later Ottoman monuments. The site is now an uninhabited wet land.Extraordinary Navigator

His career included much more than just his disappearance, however. He made successful voyages to India from the Red Sea for the Egyptian Pharoah-King Ptolemy Euergetes II and loved to party down with the locals (okay, I just added that part in though it could be true.)

He sailed the monsoon system of the Indian Ocean 120 years before the baby Jesus let out his first wail and he was written about by Poseidenius as a hero of yore back when yore was considered to be pre-yore. The story goes that a shipwrecked Indian sailor found his way to Ptolemy’s court and offered to guide a ship to his homeland in turn for passage. Ptolemy thought about it for a second before saying “Get Eudoxus – that guy can sail anything. I think he’s in Cyzicus.”

Much to the surprise of everyone Eudoxus not only accepted the challenge but also came home with a load of herbs, teas, spices, and precious stones.  Needless to say, he was sent back. One story has it that he was in love with Ptolemy’s queen and she returned the feelings – of course, that is a story I just made up because it sounds rather nice. There is no historical record of it – but if it were true, you can imagine why he kept getting sent away on dangerous missions.

ancient navigation astrolabe toolWhile some early historians thought it was all a pack of lies (the whole voyage to India, not just the part I made up), modern scholars are pretty sure he really did make the trips. One reason is that during the 2nd century BC,  Greek and Indian ships plied their trade with one another in ports like the modern Turkish city of Aden. By the year 50 BC there were plenty of Greek and Roman ships sailing the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.

Of course, if he kept returning to have the King’s queen swooning over him, it was necessary to have more dangerous missions placed before him. Ptolemy next said something like “Why don’t you go West and just keep going…” So, Eudoxus, not one to really understand a hint, got in his ships and went to Spain where he built more ships and set out to go around Africa – something else that no one else had done and something that he probably had no reason to suspect was even possible – so we have to think that maybe some of the herbs from India were smokable and of the sativa variety. Or maybe not.  Here’s a bit from Wikipedia – not the most reliable source but for this story, it probably is worth the weight in gold.

When Eudoxus was returning from his second voyage to India the wind forced him south of the Gulf of Aden and down the coast of Africa for some distance. Somewhere along the coast of East Africa, he found the remains of a ship. Due to its appearance and the story told by the natives, Eudoxus concluded that the ship was from Gades (today’s Cádiz in Spain) and had sailed south around Africa. This inspired him to attempt a circumnavigation of Africa.

Personally, I like the story with Ptolemy’s queen a bit better, but what we know for certain is that he shipwrecked somewhere South of Morocco, probably in modern Mauritania and then spent some time making repairs before once again heading back to Greece where he was told once again to get lost.

So, once again, he  set out to circumnavigate Africa and this time it is presumed that he was lost forever though some, such as Pliny, claim that Eudoxus went all the way around and came home. The truth is probably that he finally got the hint and went and found a queen of his own somewhere.