Almost Didn't Get to Snorkel the Red Sea

Steve and I have only been out on the Red Sea once since we got here.  That was in October during Eid.  Last week, I got another chance to go out on the Red Sea, this time as part of a WEP class I was taking about Marine Science.

Unlike the first cruise, which went very smoothly, this snorkel trip resulted in a very long wait at the Coastguard station while the inefficiencies of work flow showed themselves once again.  So, why did we get stuck waiting over an hour just to get permission to go out in the open water?  Lack of paperwork.  Boating here isn't quite the same as it is back home.  Everyone who wants to go on a trip must be pre-approved, including a passport/iqama check.  While this isn't suppose to prevent anyone from going boating at school, apparently it's become a greater problem in the last few months.

From what I've heard, the problem they've been having stems from the fact that single women aren't permitted to go boating as it would require non-familial mixed company.  Again, this isn't supposed to be an issue here on campus, but apparently the Coastguard didn't get that memo.

As a result, we ended up eating snacks and tanning, hoping that somehow all the necessary paperwork would manage to move quickly enough so we would actually have time to get in the water.  However, we did manage to have a funny/awkward moment while waiting; sitting in the harbor with "When a Man loves a Woman" just feels awkward knowing there are a bunch of Saudi men inside the office determining the direction the boat will go.

By 11 or so we finally got permission to continue our trip.  On the way out, I even saw a dolphin surfacing in the distance.  By the time we got to the dive site, we got about 30 minutes of snorkel time, for what ended up being a 4 1/2 hour trip.  Go figure.

However, the snorkeling we did get to do was awesome.  I saw parrot fish, clown fish, angel fish, big groupers, a dog faced puffer fish, two sting rays, and much more.  Sadly, most of the coral where we were ended up being dead.  The summer bleaching was apparently especially harsh across the Red Sea, and the Pacific areas so the instructors thought that might have killed the coral.  Despite it being dead, we still got to see a wide variety of corals such as brain coral, branching coral, mushroom corals, and more.

A Red Sea nemo! We saw a lot of clownfish while we were snorkeling.  Did you know that male clownfish turn into females? (source)

Angel fish, although ones I saw were much more blue than yellow. (source)

Surgeon fish, which actually have a small blade near their back fin that is pretty sharp. (source)

A large clam, we saw so many like this.  They were definitely my favorite part.  The colors were pretty varied too.  Lots of purple, blue, and green clams all with different patterns.  The clams would actually snap shut if you got too close! (source)

The school runs snorkeling trips every Thursday which are six hour trips, so maybe that will give us more time to snorkel in the future.