20100217_diving

Review: Aqaba Adventure Divers

Michael de Percy discovers a place where the desert meets the sea, the diving is a pleasure, and you can write like there is no tomorrow

16 November: While on OSP, I was introduced to Aqaba Adventure Divers by my wife’s friend who took us on a PADI Discover Scuba Dive. Aqaba Adventure Divers is a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort (note: not a 5 star hotel!) located about 12km south of Aqaba, Jordan (yes, the Middle East) opposite the Aqaba South public beach. We became so hooked on diving that we ended up doing the PADI Open Water Course and decided to stay and spend some time writing up our research before we took on the PADI Advanced Open Water Course.

What impressed me most about Aqaba Adventure Divers:

1. Friendly, clean and family oriented accommodation (we stayed there during Eid)

2. Set prices and an accurate and informative website (a rare thing in Jordan – and I helped tweak the website and ran a workshop on using Facebook for marketing!)

3. Professional, friendly and enthusiastic crew (both divers and hospitality staff)

4. Talal, the owner and Dive Operations Manager (he is a PADI-qualified Master Dive Instructor), and his vision for this club/resort/amazing place to be the friendliest dive centre in the region.

5. The location. I sat on the large balcony outside our room (which had a mirrored-glass wall facing the coast), looking out toward the Red Sea, watching the sun set over Mt Sinai and Israel, while I wrote like never before. Hemingway might have had Cuba, but imagine what he would have achieved if he made it to Aqaba!

We could have been freezing in Amman (the capital of Jordan), but instead, we were able to have the time of our lives in Aqaba. All our needs were taken care of and we were so happy there, we stayed at the resort much longer than anticipated. We became part of the dive crew, sharing their Bedouin-style meals, evenings around the fire, and the life of a diver on the Red Sea. The friendships formed there were memorable and I hope we can return soon to complete our dive masters course.

There are some points to keep in mind. For example, the beach is gravel and not sand, the weather during winter can be temperamental (perfect during the day, a bit cold at night, and it gets a bit windy). The reef is exposed to a high amount of human traffic, so you might be inspired to do a clean-up dive, but this shouldn’t put you off the beauty of the reef. I grew up in Cairns, and after seeing how much the Great Barrier Reef has deteriorated over the last 30 years, I took some solace in the lasting natural beauty of the Red Sea coral and underwater biodiversity.

Aqaba Adventure Divers isn't a five star hotel, but after months of Middle Eastern experiences, this was by far the best place I stayed. To top it off, Aqaba has a few historical highlights and it is close to Wadi Rum (of Lawrence of Arabia fame), the Dead Sea , and Petra (the amazing rose-red city of the Nabataeans, star of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, and one of the contemporary Seven Wonders of the World), making the possibilities for the history-loving tourist almost limitless.

The upside: While the media often gives the Middle East ‘bad press’, I always feel safe in Jordan. The people are extremely hospitable but there is still plenty of scope for you to grow through ‘culture shock’.

The downside: It is very difficult to return to Australia when you were one step away from becoming a dive instructor at this dive centre on the gorgeous Red Sea. Be warned, it is much more than a dreamy temptation!