My seventh stone wears a scuba suit

Have you heard of Kingsley Holgate’s seven stones challenge? 

I attended a talk at Chartered House some years ago at which Holgate explained that each stone marks a decade of your life. “What have you done with your stones and what will you do with your remaining ones?” he asked.

I decided then and there to do as much as possible with my last stone – finances, health and other circumstances allowing.

Immersed in my dream

With this challenge as my motivation, I qualified as an open water scuba diver at age 66 and have dived once at Simons Town and several times at Sodwana Bay.

Nevertheless, it was with considerable trepidation and a sense of disbelief that, in July this year, I took my seat on the Air Egypt flight en-route to Hurghada for a scuba diving trip in the Red Sea.

On arrival in Hurghada, we (the ProDive SA group) transferred immediately to the dive boat, My Dreams, part of the Sea Serpent fleet based in Egypt, our new home for the next seven days.

We set sail for Sinai and the Ras Mohammed National Park, with a short stop at a dive site close to Hurghada for an orientation dive to check our scuba equipment, iron out any problems and check our weighting and buoyancy.

The itinerary for the trip included some of the best dive sites of the Northern Red Sea: The Dunraven, sunk 1876; the Thistlegorm Wreck, (a British Merchant Navy ship sunk by a German fighter aircraft in 1941); six Abu Nuhas wrecks dating from 1862 to 1983; the two Gubal reefs, together with wall and reef dives.

Many in the group were experienced divers, having been on similar trips before, but it was all new for me. Still, I quickly adjusted to the rhythm of life onboard. Being in confined spaces, it was important that we all got on well; I was very lucky as my bunk mate, Rina, was a considerate person – the cabins are really quite small.

Age really is just a number

I soon realised that at 71 I was the oldest person on board. The average age of the divers was in the early 30s with the exception of a married couple in their early 60s and my bunk mate. The spread of ages actually worked very well to bring so many different experiences and mindsets to the mix of conversation and I benefitted from the energy and enthusiasm of the younger crowd.

Each morning started with a wake-up call at about 6h00, a dive briefing at 6h30 and then our first dive of the day. A full breakfast was served when we had all returned, washed and changed. The next briefing was around 11h00, then an hour’s dive followed by lunch. The mid-afternoon dive typically took place at around 15h00 with the rest of the afternoon free to relax, read, have a preferred drink and chat on the covered upper deck. For the more experienced divers, there was a night dive and then supper. With air temperatures of 40ºC plus and several dives a day, even the youngest diver was in bed by 22h00.

At each briefing, we were given a thorough assessment of the underwater conditions and occasionally I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and did not dive – the currents would have been too strong for me.

My first sight of each wreck was mind-blowing, given the sheer size – enormous hulks, covered with soft corals, sponges, hard corals and teeming with other forms of life, fish of every shape, size and colour, Moray eels, Turtles.

(Thank you to Kerri Keet for the use of her photographs.)

Follow our Chartered client, Pat Dunbar, as she continues on her diving adventure and shares lessons she learned on this remarkable experience. Read her next installment here:

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