Breaking News: Our Red Sea, Egypt, and Lebanon Retreats for 2020 have officially been rescheduled for 2021, and there are a few spots left in each. More details at the end of this post!
Here, I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including my Wander Women Red Sea trips in September.
From the moment I first stepped foot in Dahab, I knew I’d stumbled on someplace special. As enchanted as I’d been by Egypt, it was the first place that really made me want to linger. This bohemian Red Sea beach town reminded me of so many islands and enclaves I’ve fallen for over the years — with a distinct Sinai twist.
I very quickly started to dream of developing a retreat here — and so I was pinching myself when, just about a year and a half later, I was opening the door to my own private pool villa compound and welcoming my Wander Women Red Sea retreat guests from around the world.
While Dahab is dotted with charming hotels and guesthouses, I fell in love with the privacy of this villa complex, which I rented out in entirety for our group.
Four small villas, each with a mix of bedroom styles for different budgets, surround a private pool and garden. Locally inspired architecture, handmade art, and balconies and rooftops with ocean views really make the magic happen.
Each girl arrived to find a welcome bag on her bed — one of my favorite elements of our retreats!
This retreat’s version contained a bunch of goodies from PADI, including water bottles, mask straps, luggage tags, and the reusable bags themselves. We also had mini snack bars from KIND, perfect for a bite on the go, and reusable bamboo straws and cute “skip the straw” stickers from One Ocean One Love, an amazing female-owned small business who’s t-shirts you definitely need to investigate further.
We threw in our signature welcome packet and notebook and pen for journaling or note-taking, plus a pair of brightly-colored heart glasses that were a huge hit through the week. Finally, my most beloved souvenir from every trip — a custom Green Blanky Studio print highlighting our destination of Dahab! Green Blanky is another female-owned small business — check out Lauren’s work for all your decor and present needs!
Gift giving is totally my love language — so you can imagine how much I love putting these together.
After welcome hugs and some time to get unpacked and settled in, we all met on the roof for the first item on the retreat agenda: a yin yoga massage workshop, perfect for working all the travel kinks out of tired muscles.
I was so excited to execute this idea, which was inspired by a similar offering at Good Karma, the yoga studio I often partner with from my hometown.
For those that are unfamiliar, yin yoga is a passive practice with no muscular engagement, in which you hold poses for 3-5 minutes — in my ideal world, I love to practice it once a week or so to balance out my more fiery flows. Yin targets the connective tissue between your joints and muscles, promoting flexibility and stability within your joints. I love introducing several different types of yoga throughout the week at my retreats — it’s an honor to help connect people with what might be a new style that moves them, literally and figuratively.
To bring in the “massage” portion of the class, I hired a local masseuse to do rotating massages throughout the practice — moving onto the next mat every time we changed asanas — helping each yogi relax further into the posture. She was so popular that both weeks, we had several guests clamor to reserve a full session with her!
While most of our practices throughout the retreat are morning ones, I love kicking things off with a sunset welcome class, ending with a savasana under the stars.
There’s so much excitement and energy and elation happening to get to that moment — when I sit up on the mat at the end of that welcome class, that’s when it all sinks in. We’re here. We made it. Another dream coming true.
Heading down from our open-air rooftop studio, we had a special treat awaiting us: dinner by a private chef who’d whipped us up a true poolside feast. With some seriously epic journeys in the rearview to have arrived to this remote outpost of the world, I like to keep things nice and simple on night one so everyone can get quickly to their true final destination: their comfy beds!
The next morning, we kicked off a new routine: a sweaty morning vinyasa class on the roof followed by breakfast in our cute outdoor dining area. On the menu that morning were smoothie bowls from Marine Garden Cafe, who did zero-waste deliveries of their organic vegan creations every day, plus an array of Herbal Element teas (and yes, of course, coffee!)
After breakfast, we were off! Our first day of diving is all about getting oriented and getting comfortable — with Dahab, with our dive shop, with rental gear, and with this new super salty body of water we like to call the Red Sea!
I had no hesitations on who to partner with for Wander Women Red Sea — it was always going to be H2O Divers. Female-owned and operated, eco-forward, and with a reputation for training excellence? Heck yes! After the grand dive shop tour, we got everyone set with their gear and locker for the week, and sat down to talk diving.
Before every dive retreat begins, I study everyone’s individual intake forms and, taking into account their training, experience, and interests, plan out dive teams.
While we always stay flexible and talk to our girls constantly to make sure everyone is safe and happy where they are, this generally allows us to put new divers in groups where they’ll spend more time reviewing the basics and getting comfortable underwater, and to put more experienced divers in groups where they might enjoy longer bottom times or partner with other underwater photography enthusiasts, for example.
And lucky me — I get to float between all of them!
For our first day’s welcome and check-out dives, we focus on the dive sites right out of H2O’s front door!
Dahab is world-famous for its incredible shore diving, and I always love the novelty of waving to those sunning themselves as at a beach club while I descend.
Our first dive was at Bannerfish Bay, the house reef at H20. With seagrass, sandy slopes, and impressive artificial reefs, there’s a huge variety of things to see here.
My favorite? A 1,700 pound underwater elephant (which, I admit, I do wish was a camel) created by Abdel Rahman al-Mekkawi, an Egyptian diver who hoped to take pressure off popular sites like the Blue Hole by creating an underwater museum.
Other sculptures include one dedicated to Ahmed Gabr, an Egyptian diver who holds the world record for the world’s deepest dive — a feat that our guides from H2O Divers worked on the safety team for!
However, I may have to rethink favorites after the octopus sighting we had at another sculpture.
I’ve never seen one put on such a show as he waged an epic battle with a damselfish, all before our eyes! I’ll make sure my final video of the retreat includes some of the footage — it was perhaps the best octopus encounter of my life (and I’ve had a few!)
Between dives, we paused for a leisurely lunch on the waterfront.
After sampling several options, I narrowed in on a favorite restaurant which I brought our groups to both back-to-back weeks of the retreats, and headed to for a breather on my afternoon off between them.
In that short time the staff already treated me like family — at one point we had a guest who wasn’t feeling well and I headed to the restaurant to get her the plain white rice she’d requested. When I tried to pay for the food, they refused, and insisted I let them know when she was feeling better. Is that not the sweetest thing?
And while I’m asking questions, I mean — can we talk about that view?
After lunch, it was back to the sea!
Our next dive site was Lighthouse, another favorite along the waterfront from H2O.
Here we found more gorgeous coral and more magical creatures, and got even more at ease under the sea.
And we had it all captured by the hospitable and gracious Jenny Lord, a Dahab expat who is as skilled a tech diver as she is talented a photographer. I absolutely loved having her along as our official retreat underwater photographer, freeing me up to focus on grabbing little clips for social media and our final video, and on having fun diving with the girls.
What an absolute dream, diving in Dahab is.
With the first full day of our dive and yoga retreat coming to a close, we cleaned up nice for dinner at one of the iconic Arabic restaurants along the oceanfront to sample a variety of local favorites and marvel at the incredible local hospitality — and toast to a day well done.
The adventure had just begun! Stay tuned for my posts from the rest of our magical week in Dahab!
Intrigued by Egypt? Our 2020 retreats have been rescheduled to 2021, and there’s a few spots left in each. We’ll be holding Wander Women Lebanon: An Adventure + Yoga Retreat from August 21-28th (waitlist only!), Wander Women Egypt: An Ancient Adventure and Yoga Retreat from August 28th-September 4th (three spots left!), and Wander Women Red Sea: A Dive + Yoga Retreatfrom September 4-11th (six spots left!)