Diving & Snorkelling Red Sea by Jean-Bernard Carillet, Gavin Anderson and Pete Harrison
Diving & Snorkelling Red Sea by Jean-Bernard Carillet, Gavin Anderson and Pete Harrison

I get cross when I see a dive guide-book written by someone who has barely experienced the destination in question. Too often authors do their research by studying existing guide-books before paying a short visit for some local flavour. Thats how mistakes are compounded. After all, it is guide-books that are usually used to settle arguments.
     So the first thing I did on opening the new Lonely Planet guide to the Red Sea was to look up the wreck site at Shag Rock. This wreck has become known as the Sarah H because one notable guide-book writer got it wrong (the victim of a cruel joke) and every other writer has simply cribbed this information since.
     Lonely Planet passed the acid test. The guide correctly calls the wreck the Kingston, with Sarah H in brackets to save confusion. Full marks!
    Good dive guides need to be authoritative with divers who will be in a position to test their knowledge under water. Pete Harrison was subjected to this discipline, and as he is one of the joint authors I trust his accuracy. Gavin Anderson, too, is a much-travelled writer and a familiar name to Diver readers. He is an accomplished underwater photographer and most of the photographs in the guide were taken by him.
     I dont know Jean-Bernard Carillet but he is a full-time Lonely Planet author and a qualified diving instructor. So for once I dived into a guide-book without feeling that my blood pressure was inevitably going to soar.
     There were no surprises. The Red Sea has 3000 miles of coastline but most of the guide is devoted to a mere 500 miles worth, which is perhaps enough. That includes Israel, Jordan, the Sinai, the Hurghada and Safaga areas and the vast, recently opened area between Qesir and Fury Shoal.
     Naturally the Egyptian coastline is the most heavily covered as it is where most of us go (thank goodness, too, that the authors know the difference between southern Egypt and the southern Red Sea).
     Once off the well-beaten path the guide gets a little thin, though the section on Sudan mentions all my favourite places and I found it difficult to recall many others. I was however surprised that Pfeiffer Reef was absent, as it was discovered and named by a skipper of the very boat on which Harrison worked!
     I agree that the only reefs worth diving in Eritrean waters are Saunders and Fawn, and if you asked me to tell you everything you need to know about diving in the Yemen Id say Quoin Rock, though there are certainly many more sites than that and the four others mentioned here.
     There is precious little on Saudi Arabia, either, but that is a whole area of coastline yet to open up to divers.
     I was unable to discover any howlers in the text. What more can you ask The format is very workable, as you would expect from Lonely Planet. If you want the definitive guide book to diving in the Red Sea, this could be it. John Bantin

Diving & Snorkelling Red Sea by Jean-Bernard Carillet, Gavin Anderson and Pete Harrison (Lonely Planet, 020 7428 4800). Softback, 200pp, £12.99