Posted 21 March 2016
THE  TWILIGHT  ZONE
Do you know about the Golden Hour? No, it’s not half-price drinks in the bar, it’s what you get when you’re in the right place at the right time at a flexible dive resort, says NIGEL WADE
Posted 21 March 2016
Do you know about the Golden Hour? No, it’s not half-price drinks in the bar, it’s what you get when you’re in the right place at the right time at a flexible dive resort, says NIGEL WADE
THE  TWILIGHT  ZONE
READ ANY PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK and you’re likely to see references to the “Magic or Golden Hours”. This is the time shortly after sunrise and just before sunset when the light is yellower and softer than when the sun is high in the sky at other times of day. It’s deemed to be the very best time to capture your photos. 

Under water, this sunlight produces an amazing effect. The yellow light penetrating the blue water makes it appear to be green, with the light rays dappling through the surface ripples. I call this the Twilight Zone, and it’s my favourite time to be under water buddied with my camera. I’m not big on early starts, preferring to squeeze in as much sleep in as I can (I’m told it’s an age thing). So if it’s possible to be in the water half an hour before the sun drops to the horizon, that’s where you’re likely to find me.

IT'S NOT ALWAYS FEASIBLE to dive during the Twilight Zone. Many dive centres will already have docked their boats and packed away the dive kit for the day, with the staff and guests enjoying a few beers or cocktails at a poolside bar and marvelling at the spectacle in the sky as it turns yellow, then orange and red before the sun disappears.

There are however destinations and dive operations that are made to measure for the Twilight Zone nutters among us. Ideally the location needs to have a photogenic house reef, with easy access to a shoreline and a reef slope that faces west. It also needs to be shallow enough to get the best results from the dappled light penetrating the water’s surface.

Twenty-eight miles south from the hustle and bustle of the town of Hurghada is the resort of Soma Bay, nestled on a desert peninsula formerly owned by the Egyptian military. 
Soma Bay has been developed in association with several leading hotel chains as a premier holiday and sporting destination. Activities include an 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course, wind- and kite-surfing taking advantage of a steady offshore breeze, and of course a premier dive centre located within the grounds of “lifestyle” hotel the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge. 

My home for a week, the Breakers is set on the tip of the peninsula with Orca Diveclub, having direct access to Soma Bay’s house reef via a 420m wooden jetty that stretches out over the shallow lagoon to the reef’s drop-off. 
What’s more, the reef has all the attributes needed for successful Twilight Zone diving. Orca Diveclub also owns a fleet of dedicated hard-boats. Docked at the small private marina of Soma Bay, these run daily trips to offshore reefs and wreck-sites for dives during the day, returning mid-afternoon with plenty of time to prepare for more dives at dusk.

My guide and buddy Ahmed Ismael proudly informed me that he was the current Egyptian skiing champion. Every time I thought about his achievement it reminded me of the film Cool Runnings, setting off visions of him roller-blading with a pair of ski-poles down Egyptian sand-dunes, boiling in the hot sun as he practised for the next world championships held on a freezing piste. 

“We need to be ready to dive at 4.30,” I informed him as the sun started its descent to the horizon. Kitted up and camera in hand, we jumped on the back of one of Orca’s fleet of electric buggies to avoid the pain of a quarter-mile hike along the jetty to the reef’s entry-point.

The scene presented to me under water put an instant smile on my face. A large shoal of baitfish hung just below the surface, using the shelter of the jetty for protection from the constant threat of predation. 
Shoals of raccoon and blue-cheeked butterflyfish intermingling with hordes of banne


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