I went to Neilson, Dahab for the week 21-28 December. Flight was from Gatwick, early on a Thursday morning so I planned to leave home on the Wednesday and possibly meet a friend for dinner in London. But I reckoned without the weather. Got up that morning to warnings about widespread freezing fog. It was pea soup chez moi but as I drove towards the airport it seemed to have cleared. Just as I was getting on the bus from the car park to the terminal, my phone beeped. Text from BA to say the flight was cancelled due to bad weather. Eeek! After a 2 hour queue at the ticket desk I was offered the choice of an Air France flight to London City in an hour or a later BA flight to Gatwick at 6 in the evening. Bird in the hand, I took London City (cute little plane to cute little airport) and train to Gatwick. This turned out to be a good choice; as far as I know the other Gatwick flight didn't happen.
Got up the next morning to even thicker fog. The flight managed to leave almost on time even though we couldn't see the other planes at all. We could hardly see our own plane when we got off the bus.
The rest of the journey was fine and we arrived at the hotel in time for dinner, with a drink beforehand so we could meet each other. It was a quiet week, with approximately twice the number of guests expected the following week for New Year. Early to bed and up next morning for a 9:30 meeting at the windsurfing centre.
Food at the hotel was half-board - normally dinner, but it was possible to swap for lunch any day if you wanted to go out for dinner. Standard was quite good, although as always the buffet concept gets a bit wearing after a few days. They put on a special Gala Dinner on Christmas Eve and really went to a lot of trouble, although I'm not at all sure about the Mussel and Avocado soup - maybe an acquired taste.
The usual daily routine was breakfast about 8:30, followed by a meeting at the centre to outline the day's activities, upcoming trips and so on. As I was only there for a week I didn't bother with the trips and I concentrated on windsurfing most of the time. There were 3 groups - beginner, intermediate, advamced - and I was considered advanced so I reckon the standard is not that high, although it does depend on the abilities of each set of guests. Typically, we sailed for 1-2 hours in the morning, broke for lunch and sailed again in the afternoon. It gets dark quite early at that time of year, so we had to start thinking about getting back from about 4pm. There are several sailing areas in Dahab: in the lagoon (flat water), just outside (very flat), and further out (quite large swell). We stayed in the lagoon, which was fine but quite gusty. I would have liked to go outside, but we had several days of not much wind so I didn't really get much chance.
As usual with Neilson, rescue is quick and cheerful. It can be quite a drag tacking back in to the centre, specially if the wind is dropping. They don't seem to mind if you just get fed up and want a spin in the boat.
On wind strength, everyone except me seemed to find it windy, particularly the dinghy sailors (hehe!). Maybe I'm spoiled, but I thought it was just so-so when it was blowing (there were also spells of light and almost no wind). The smallest sail I used was 5.0 and I often felt quite underpowered between gusts. The one time it really howled was for about an hour one lunchtime and I missed it, having just exhausted myself tacking in from the far side of the lagoon :-( Possibly it's just not the windiest time of year.
In December, the water is reasonably warm, but the air can be quite cold so most people were wearing a shortie or summer suit most of the time. The air temp is very pleasant during the day, but drops rapidly when the sun goes down. Mosquitos were about, not too many or too evil but I did wish I hadn't forgotten my insect repellant.
I've had a vague interest in kitesurfing since its early days, but never did anything about it. On the one hand, it seems like fun and maybe a good light-wind complement to windsurfing. And the kit is so much more portable. However, it would take up even more time and I don't like the idea of needing help to launch and recover. But it was great to get the chance to try it out. The taster session was a 2-3 hour very condensed version of the full kitesurfing course, concentrating on the experience of using a kite. I had never attempted to fly a kite of any sort, so it was completely new. It seemed easy enough to make it go from side to side, but controlling it up and down was fairly random for me. We started on the beach with a very small kite, then progressed to body-dragging with a larger (but still small) version. It was great fun and I'm very glad I did it, but I don't think I'll be going over to the Dark Side just yet.
Journey home was fairly uneventful, apart from a delay of about 2 hours. We left the hotel at about lunchtime so in theory it would have been possible to sail in the morning. But there wasn't really enough wind so I settled for keeping my stuff dry.
All in all, a good holiday destination but, for me anyway, not the best. Still searching for that perfect Christmas destination. I think it may be time to start planning a December expedition to the Southern Hemisphere...
- Easy to get to (5-ish hour flight from UK and 1-ish hour transfer)
- Food and drink are cheap
- People are very friendly
- Wind shadow near the shore
- Could have done with more wind (but maybe I'm just spoiled)