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.
One of the many, many things I love about the diving world is that it has allowed me to continue my journey as a lifelong student — front row desk, notebook open, asking the teacher for extra credit opportunities and all.
So it’s no surprise that from the inception of our Wander Women dive retreats, I’ve included a day of what we call in the dive world, “continuing education.” The majority of dive courses take a couple of days — including the PADI Advanced Open Water course, which, as previously explained, we offer all our guests the opportunity to upgrade to.
But I love that you don’t need long to add a new certification card to your wallet. Quite a few PADI courses, in fact, take just one morning and afternoon. And so we started the tradition of a “choose your own adventure day” in which our girls can choose between a variety of continuing education courses — or just kick back and fun dive, if that’s what they’re into!
Educational offerings always vary by location, but in Dahab, we are able to offer a bunch of options. Digital Underwater Photographer is super popular with our guests who have their own cameras, or are thinking of buying one (read my review of a longer version of this course here), while Enriched Air is a popular certification as it will allow you to dive on nitrox around the world (read my review of a longer version of this course here.) It can also be conducted as a dry course, which has been great at retreats where a guest might need a break from diving for a day.
Underwater Naturalist is perfect for those interested in learning more about the Red Sea’s local ecosystem and how to maintain responsible interactions with aquatic life, while Basic Freediver gives you a peek at going tank-less by teaching basic freediving principles, practicing breathhold techniques, and getting your fins wet in the introductory skills. Finally, DPV allows you to fly underwater with a Diver Propulsion Vehicles, personal motors that allow you to scoot through the sea, gliding over reefs and around schools of fish! (Side note: I am dying to do this course one day. Perhaps during our 2021 retreat!)
For this day’s diving, we tackle two of the Red Sea’s most iconic dive sites: Canyon and Blue Hole. And if you can think of a better classroom than the restaurant at the former, holler at me — because I sure can’t.
Here, the girls break off into groups with their speciality instructors. We really lucked out, here! Alex, the Queen of H2O herself, leads the DPV course, while Jenny, our retreat photographer extraordinaire leads the photo one. One week I also listened in on the Underwater Naturalist course by fish-enthusiast Tim, and was thoroughly impressed with his passion and knowledge. What a dream team!
I look forward to this day all week because in fact, while Blue Hole is by far the more famous, Canyon is perhaps my favorite dive site in Dahab!
Regretfully, as Jenny was running a photography course and I lent my camera out to a guest who’s stopped working one week, I don’t have too many photos from this dive site in particular. So it may be one where you’ll have to take my word for it and go see if for yourself!
(Or, ya know, look at one of my past posts, ha.)
Loved seeing our freediver Marika kicking over us at the end of her dive! Dahab is famous the world over for its freediving, making this the perfect place to test the waters of it, so to speak.
Next up? The Blue Hole! This infamous dive site really is something magical to see, both above and below the surface.
To enter the Blue Hole at Bells, a beautiful open-air chimney — you do have to sweat it out with a slog across the waterfront, first. It’s the hardest part of the whole retreat, methinks, but the reward is wonderful, as are our Bedouin drivers who come along to help us into the water.
And then — off we go! (If anyone reading this is having a minor panic attack at the thought of a confined space, fear not — you can easily swim right past the chimney and descend right next to it, along the wall.)
Crossing over from Bells towards the Blue Hole takes you along a gorgeous wall dive I’ve come to know well in my many trips here. And now, I truly love seeing others marvel at it for the first time!
I love, on this particular day, running into other groups underwater, and seeing what they’re up to. The freedivers wave from above, the DPV girls zoom by, and the underwater naturalists marvel at creatures big and small.
It always excites me to think that someone might leave one of our trips with a newfound passion for some aspect of diving they were always intrigued by.
As we pulled away from the Blue Hole in what I call our desert limos — AKA, dusty pickup trucks — we did so with new certification cards under our weight belts! (And no, I can’t promise I won’t use the weight belt gag again. It’s just too good.)
But the day wasn’t over. There was more learning ahead — after a quick dip in the pool of course.
While Dahab is a popular site for yoga retreats from around the world, it has little in the way of permanent, year-round studios. Nour Wellness Center, in the Coral Coast hotel, is the exception. They offer a regular schedule of yoga and fitness classes in their multiple shalas, including a rooftop aerial yoga rig.
As a massive aerial yoga enthusiast — I recently became certified to teach! — I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to introduce this yoga style into our retreats. We also always look for the opportunity to support local instructors on our trips, and as our Egyptian instructor Mona really spearheaded bringing aerial yoga to Dahab, it’s a pleasure to experience her unique style of teaching it.
However, Nour Wellbeing doesn’t have the number of aerial swings to accommodate our group at once (most studios worldwide don’t!) But what could have been a pain in planning turned out to open a super fun door, as fate often does.
I noticed that one of the other offerings at Nour was a bellydancing class, from an instructor who spent decades as a professional bellydancer in Cairo. What could be more authentically Egyptian than that! So we split the retreats into two groups and swapped off over two different nights.
While many of the girls were hesitant to join in on the bellydancing, at first, it was a huge hit by the end of the night. I loved our instructor, Caroline, who took the class very seriously, but also made it a blast for us.
One of our girls, Tess, even packed a bellydancing outfit all the way from Hong Kong — and that’s how you win a Wander Women retreat.
After, we tucked into a beautiful dinner cooked up for us by the chefs at Coral Coast, and served in one of the seaside open-air dining rooms that dot the waterfront of Dahab.
It was the end of another beautiful full day — diving, yoga, girlfriends, sunshine, giggles, magic.
Can you tell I can’t wait to be back?
Stay tuned for our next big adventure — an overnight glamping outing to Ras Abu Galum!
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!)