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.
Long time followers of the Wander Women brand know that sustainability is at the heart of what we do.
After including an option for a Project Aware Dive Against Debris on my first ever dive and yoga retreat, Wander Women Koh Tao, I was inspired to make clean up dives a larger aspect of each and every dive retreat we hold from now forward. My excitement for the idea grew, slowly morphing into a full day celebrating conservation in Dahab for Wander Women Red Sea.
But before you serve others, you have to fill your own cup.
On one of our retreats, we were lucky enough to have a fellow yoga instructor as one of our guests. As soon as I saw her recent certification on her intake form, I reached out and asked if she’d like to teach a class at the retreat — no pressure, of course! As a fairly new instructor myself, I know what a thrill it can be to teach in a new space, to a new group.
She enthusiastically accepted, and I loved starting the day as a student.
After class, we had a rare bit of free time to relax by our private pool, catch up on journaling, or go for a wander. One week, a few of the girls and I decided to take a walk on a new direction along the waterfront, a short adventure with a big reward.
Back at the villa, it was time to set off for our clean-up walk through town. Dahab, sadly, has a major trash problem (as, from my experience, does Egypt at large.) While some of this is due to poor infrastructure and education, some of it is also due to complex factors that conversations with locals opened my eyes to — the constant wind whips plastic straight out of dumpsters and into the roads, and hungry goats travel around in packs, tearing into whatever they can find.
So, this little walk is one tiny way we give back to the town that so generally hosts our retreat.
Normally we shuttled from our villa to and from the heart of Dahab via pickup truck taxi, so this clean-up doubles as an opportunity to see the city up close and both appreciate its rough edges and admire its beauty.
One of my favorite murals, on the side of the local school, asked us in Arabic and in English, to “image the sea without plastic,” while a fish morphed into a single-use water bottle.
This is a hot, sweaty, dusty walk into town but it’s one of my favorite moments of the retreat due to the feel good vibes we get from the community! Locals roll down their windows to give us big smiles and thumbs up when driving by, and little kids often run out to join us along the way (though we do occasionally have to gently explain that we are primarily focusing on plastic items, and dead animals can be left to decompose naturally, ha.)
One friendly shop owner even tried to offer us free cold water as a sign of gratitude — while we flashed our reusable bottles and profusely thanked him while politely refusing, the gesture really warmed our hearts.
Next, it was time for a yummy plant-based lunch at Vegan Lab! While we proudly cater to all dietary restrictions at Wander Women Retreats, we like to incorporate one full plant-powered day into our trips where we can. Why? To showcase that it’s not all or nothing, one plant-powered day a week can be easy and fun, a small swap with a big impact on the planet.
Plus, I mean, how cute is this place?!
We love incorporating a mix of local hole-in-the-walls, cute healthy cafes, and well-deserved indulgences on our retreats. Deciding on where and what we’ll eat is definitely one of my favorite research points when planning a trip!
I’m not sure if it was the excitement or the organic agave buzz, but back at H2O, I was buzzing about our afternoon adventure.
From the moment I met the ladies of Project Azraq, I knew that we were going to find some way to support them with Wander Women Retreats. Founders Nour El Sawy and Amy Johnson work towards their ocean conservation goals in the Red Sea through reef monitoring, marine education and clean up dives — the latter two of which we were lucky enough to join them for, for the day.
After a briefing on the importance of and procedures for a Dive Against Debris cleanup dive, we set off for Masbat Bay, Dahab’s trashiest dive site.
Since Dahab is primarily a shore diving location, when we want to enter somewhere a bit past the dive shop, we break out the trolleys and simply wheel our way down the corniche, wetsuits and all. I find it endlessly charming.
And then we were off!
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about including a cleanup dive on all our retreats is this same theme of planting a seed of how simple it can be to incorporate some of these actions into your routine. While many of the guidelines are common sense, it is good to go over the basics of how to keep yourself and the marine environment safe during a clean-up dive — once you’ve been briefed, you can take that knowledge into any dive you see debris on in the future.
And who knows — someday perhaps a guest of ours will be inspired to organize a clean-up dive at their local dive sites too, if they’re lucky enough to have them!
It’s not all cigarette butts and beer bottles — we also tend to run into some pretty cool fish down there, too!
Upon returning to the surface, Nour and Amy helped us sort, record, and report everything we’d found — this data is helpful for guiding local marine regulations, for monitoring local ocean health, for marine education and to raise awareness of a problem we can inspire others to feel invested in through our actions.
That evening, we gathered at Marine Garden Camp, the zero-waste restaurant that caters our breakfast through the retreat, for a special dinner and a presentation from the Project Azraq girls on coral threats in the Red Sea.
At Wander Women Retreats we are proud to make a donation to a local non-profit in each of our destinations as a way to give back to the places that make our retreats magic! In Dahab, I can’t think of a more worthy cause than Project Azraq.
Thank you so much, Nour and Amy, for all the work that you do. And thank you to my girls for being so generous, so open-minded, and so supportive of our efforts to make our trips as sustainable as possible. It’s a journey, no doubt — but we’re moving in the right direction.
What do you think? Is a company’s commitment to conservation important to you when booking a trip?
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!)
Loved the clean up dive. Since done two in Hong Kong !! And I now regularly put bits of rubbish into my BCD on any dive 🙂
Next retreat I won’t skip the trash pick up for a massage (ooops)- it’s rewarding to make a difference
Haha no regrets, Tessa — you needed that massage and you can always do a makeup trash day in Hong Kong now 😉 I’m so glad you’ve gotten into the habit, that makes me smile!