Lots of sand and lots of water
Egypt, the cradle of ancient civilization, where pyramids touch the sky and the stories of pharaohs echo through history and still captivate the masses today. As we arrived in the land of the Sphinx and the Nile, we could hear every grain of sand whispering stories of ancient wonders. Egypt has seen empires rise and fall, yet its charm remains timeless. Amidst these historic landscapes, we arrived in the hustle and bustle of Hurghada, from where we started our journey further south. On the seemingly endless drive through the vastness of the desert, I couldn’t stop being in awe of the contrast between the golden desert and the deep blue of the Red Sea. A contrast so strong yet so harmoniously beautiful. As civilization got scarcer, the further south we got, the Egyptian desert gave way to an unforgettable sunset that threw shimmers of red, purple, pink, and gold on the vibrant sea.
For my partner Luca, and me, Egypt was more than its rich history. It was an adventure to unfold. This time, not to explore the riches of the desert and the Nile Delta, but the treasures of the underwater world of the Red Sea. Our path led us to the refreshing blues of the Hamata Marina, south of Marsa Alam, where the 4EverSea Safari boat and its more than wonderful crew awaited us to kick off a week-long adventure. The plan was to explore dive sites packed with underwater cave labyrinths, shipwrecks covered in corals, sandbanks, coral reefs, and the infamous Sataya Reef, also called the Dolphin House.
The Red Sea, sandwiched between the African and Asian continents, is a unique geographical wonder. Its reefs are some of the most biodiverse in the world, thanks to the sea’s isolated location, warm waters, and connection to the Indian Ocean. It contains some of the world’s clearest waters because it is cut off from major ocean currents, has high levels of salinity, and has no large rivers feeding it.
Ocean lullabies and golden mornings
Life aboard the 4EverSea was a potpourri of memorable moments. Waking up before sunrise to the rhythm of the ocean that lulled us to sleep the night before set free a feeling of home that accompanied me through the days on board.
The top deck became my yoga and breathwork studio, just as the sun started rising and looking like molten gold, pouring over the horizon.
If living on water had a feeling, it was one of freedom and connectivity.
At the end of these sessions, the captain woke up and happily greeted me as the golden skies turned into a backdrop of vast, endless blue. We were not just passengers; we became family with the crew that told us tales as ancient as the Red Sea itself. If living on water had a feeling, it was one of freedom and connectivity.
The first stop of the trip directly transported us to our personal highlight of the trip, which we found in the waters of the Sataya Reef, also called “Dolphin House”. Sataya is situated about 10 kilometers off the coast of the Egyptian Riviera. Its shape is that of a crescent moon, which forms a protected lagoon with shallow waters, acts as an oasis in the middle of the high sea, and thus serves as the ideal home for the ocean’s marine acrobats, the Spinner Dolphins. They have chosen the reef to act as their sanctuary, where they come to rest, socialize, nurse their calves, reproduce, and seek protection from predators.
Now, before I delve into my transcendental experience with the spinner dolphins, a bit about these magnificent creatures Did you know that spinner dolphins get their name from their ability to spin multiple times in one jump? Their bodies and long beaks distinguish them from other dolphin species. They use a series of clicks and whistles to communicate, each sound being unique to the individual dolphin.
In the morning, after enjoying the first coffee of the day on deck and soaking up the winter sun, the crew pointed out a pod of dolphins entering the reef, a couple of kilometers from where we were anchored.
We jumped up and whirled around in order to get ready. As I prepared myself for the first dive with them, I was standing on the edge of the boat, the Red Sea stretching out before me. I focused on my breathing and tried to find my calm headspace amidst restless preparations on the boat. Freediving has taught me how to find and stay in a state of peace and quiet throughout hectic situations. But this time, my excitement levels were soaring, and it was trickier than usual. The idea of sharing space with the spinner dolphins of the Sataya Reef was exhilarating, and my heart raced with excitement.
Breathing deeply, I tuned into the rhythm of my heart, each beat a reminder of the world I was about to enter. The weight of the moment pressed on me—the anticipation of the unknown, the stories I’d heard of the marine mammals, and the silent hope that the dolphins would accept an outsider into their midst.
While I continued scanning the horizon for the splashes of the dolphins, I decided that I was going to swim towards them rather than take the boat. I always prefer to be as little invasive as possible, even if it means I have to swim several hundred meters. I took one final breath and pushed off, plunging into the embrace of the ocean. Luca followed my example. Whenever I’m being hugged by the ocean, the world around me transforms. The muffled marine sounds, the refracted sunlight, and the movement of the waves. I noticed how clear the waters around me were and swam towards the northern part of the reef, where we had last seen the dolphins.
The dolphin soul
And there they were. As I spotted the first one, my heart skipped a few beats, and I couldn’t believe that this creature was swimming directly towards me. Completely out of the blue, we were surrounded by hundreds of spinner dolphins.
Diving into their world was like stepping into a dream. Spinner dolphins in all their glory, gliding effortlessly, embodying the essence of freedom. Tears rushed down my face and filled my mask, where they mixed with the ocean’s salt water that entered because I couldn’t stop smiling at the same time. My heart, which had raced just moments ago, now found a meditative calm. Time seemed to stretch. Every kick and every movement was deliberate, synchronizing with the dance of the dolphins around.
One young dolphin, perhaps driven by curiosity, approached closer than the others. Our eyes met, and in that moment, a universe of understanding passed between us. Here, in the heart of the ocean, words were redundant. Emotions flowed freely—wonder, respect, joy, and an overwhelming gratitude for being allowed into their world. The same dolphin followed me around and visited me at each dive on the following days as well.
Emerging back to the surface was like transitioning between dimensions. The sun felt warmer, the world louder, but inside, a profound transformation had occurred. The dive wasn’t just an adventure; it was a spiritual journey, an intimate dance with nature that left an indelible mark on my soul.
As I climbed back onto the boat, my wet skin kissed by the salty breeze, I realized that memories like these, raw and pure, are what life is truly about. We had not just observed the dolphins; we had connected with them, felt their energy, and, in doing so, discovered a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. The vast ocean had presented a lesson in humility, showcasing the boundless wonders it holds, waiting to be experienced.
Reflecting on the dive, a sense of fulfillment washed over me. While the physical dive lasted hours, its impact felt eternal. We had ventured into the unknown, embraced its beauty, and emerged enriched, carrying with us a story that words might never fully capture but that my heart will forever cherish.
Back on the boat, Luca’s eyes met mine, and without speaking it out loud, we immediately decided that we would have to come back to this magical place and share this experience with others.
Want to join us when we go back in December?
Save your spot here.
Also published on Medium.