Next morning and with regret, I said goodbye to Saleem at the campsite and jumped into the 4×4 for a ride to the village. From there it was a short drive in my car to Aqaba, where I checked into a luxurious hotel. Fortunately I could check in early and from my room there was a brilliant view of the Red Sea.
I spent the rest of the day enjoying the hotel’s big swimming pool and the much warmer water of the sea.
I put on my swimming mask and managed to see a few fish, some of who came up and looked at me curiously – I don’t suppose they see many teddy bears swimming here.
In the evening I tried the hotel’s open air jacuzzi.
I went for dinner in the Royal Yacht Club next door to the hotel, where the portions were enormous and the food very tasty – it was a nice change to finally eat fish, after a diet almost entirely of chicken, rice and humous.
Since Jordan’s coastline is only 26km long – a narrow strip sandwiched between Saudi Arabia and Israel – it makes sense to have the Royal Yacht Club here. King Abdullah is also a keen diver, so there is a Royal Diving Club too. The Red Sea is reputed to be one of the world’s best diving locations, so on the next day I set off to a beach club a few km out of town to go diving. Outside the city of Aqaba, the road rather strangely passed through a big container port before leading to a series of hotels and beach clubs. I hadn’t been diving for over 15 years so I was lucky to find a diving shop willing to do a short refresher course and a couple of dives, and with bear-sized equipment. It turned out that I really need the refresher course, since diving equipment had changed a bit and there were new signals for communicating underwater. The instructor made me a do a few exercises in shallow water – clearing water from my mask, taking my regulator (the thing you breathe from) out of my mouth and finding it again with my eyes shut, and achieving neutral buoyancy in the water. He then deemed me ready to go explore the wreck of a sunken cargo ship which was lying nearby in slightly deeper water. King Abdullah is such a keen diver that he has ordered various objects to be sunk in the sea near the shore; there they form a base for small coral reefs to form, which makes for good diving.
After exploring the ship, we surfaced, had lunch, and I did some snorkelling whilst waiting out the required safety intereval before I could dive again. Our next dive was to visit two more objects the King had had dropped in the sea – a military tank, and a large Hercules transport airplane. There were lots of colourful fish and the instructor even took me to swim inside the wreck of the plane; in the cockpit they had put a skeleton with a pilot’s helmet. I was very happy that the two dives passed without major problems and made sure that I got my dive logbook stamped with a record of the day’s activities, to make it easier to book diving next time.
Sorry no pictures of all this – I don’t have an underwater camera. Instead here are some pictures of sunset back at my nice hotel.