Taba Heights

Neil, Philip and I flew to Taba from Gatwick with Libra Holidays for a 1-week holiday in October. As with Sharm el-Sheikh, the first thing you need to do before going through passport control is to go to a table where a couple of guys will sell you a visa for about £15. It's a lot less frenetic at Taba airport than at Sharm-el-Sheikh though.

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Getting there

We arrived at night, so it was dark when our coach passed through the mountains on its way down to the coast. The road is very lonely and the coaches tend to travel in convoy. Nevertheless this was still a bit scary, considering what had happened the previous week and travelling this road at the beginning and end of the holiday was the least enjoyable part of the trip. It takes about half an hour to actually reach the coast. At the checkpoint, you would go left into Taba itself, where the terrorists had exploded the massive suicide bomb the week before, while we turned right, travelling another 20 minutes or so to Taba Heights.

The resort

Taba Heights consists of 4 hotels, The one we stayed at, the Hyatt Regency (www.taba.regency.hyatt.com), the Sofitel, the Radisson and the Marriott. The Intercontinental is under construction, as is an 18-hole golf course. The only other building there is the Red Sea Water World PADI Dive Centre (www.redseawaterworld.com).

What to do

If you are looking for a bustling nightlife or a pretty village atmosphere, this isn't the place to go to. There are no restaurants other than those in the hotels. But if you just want to relax, or to scuba dive, this is the place to go to. Security was pretty tight, due to the previous week's outrages.

Standard of the accommodation

We were impressed with the standard of our hotel. The staff were friendly and the food was very good. We would have liked a small fridge in our room, but made do by emptying the mini-bar of its contents and using that instead. We didn't drink the contents (we stocked up on Bombay Gin at Gatwick), but stored them elsewhere. The hotel was by no means full. All of the Israeli guests had left the day that the bombs went off and this is really going to hurt the local economy.

Panorama of the hotel

The hotel

The Hyatt is quite distinctive, with multi-coloured building in different styles. It has several swimming pools and its own private beach, with a jetty that takes you over the house reef, so you can swim and snorkel without having to walk over the coral. There is some fantastic wildlife in the sea here and snorkelling is a must. There are turtles, squid, rays and all kinds of fish, including a group of Lion fish (I suppose you could say a 'pride' of Lion fish) that have taken up residence at the end of the Jetty.

Diving course

On the first morning we took the shuttle bus that travels between the hotels and the dive centre. I booked some dives while Neil took an obligatory orientation shore dive with an instructor called 'Tracy', before booking onto the Advanced Water Dive course. We alternated on our dives since Philip wasn't diving and we wanted to spend time with him at the hotel.

Diving proper

There was only one other student on Neil's course, a guy who had been a diving instructer during his time in the air force. He hadn't dived for 18 years, but was pretty good at it and Tracy commented that his qualification were far superior to hers after he had shown her his old training manual. Although it's a shame that the bombs have affected the tourism, Tracy and the two guys had a dive boat all to themselves. There's some really good diving around Taba and Pharoah Island. I was a little jealous of Neill when he dived into a well that is on the sea-bed at 18 metres. The well has fresh water in it, so bouyancy control is essential. It's about 15 metres in diameter and 12 metres deep with a thermocline so it's pretty cold at the bottom

Underwater photography

We made friends with a couple of families who also had children that Philip could play with. I managed to use my underwater camera to good effect, though I still have a lot to learn and have to rely on Neil to enhance the photos (using Paint Shop Pro) when they've been downloaded off the camera.

Summary

We enjoyed our trip to Taba Heights. We decided against taking any of the guided tours this time as we didn't have an awful lot of time and we were alternating our diving days. I'd recommend it for divers, or people who want sun and sea without night-life. The diving in Sharm el-Sheikh is, in my opinion, better than that in Taba, but that's not to say scuba diving in Taba isn't worth it. It is still probably amongst the best in the world and we'll be going back some day. Maybe when the golf course is finished.

Summary of dives in Taba Heights
DateDepth (m) Time (min) EANx Taba Heights Dive
1 Jan20.8 46 - Farun Island - Great dive, loads of fish & coral
1 Jan18.9 46 - Farun Island, wall with eels, fish & nudibrach
1 Jan18.9 48 - Aquarium - wonderful sandy area with pinnacles, fish, eels, etc.
1 Jan21.3 45 - Maquabila - coral pinnacles, box fish, puffers and lots more
1 Jan17.4 48 - Aquarium - Octopus & giant clams
1 Jan16.8 46 - Zanstable - amazing scenery, sand grass and pinnacles
1 Jan17.8 47 - Farun Pinnacle - Huge amount of fish, frogfish, octopus, great dive

Sue - December 2004

 
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