Dahab Defender: Dive Urge

Dahab Defenders 3It’s been awhile since we’ve nominated a Dahab Defender, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t out there doing some amazing things. Just that we here at Don’t Mess with Dahab have been a little busy with other projects. Now that summer is here, we hope to have more time to devote to this project. So let’s kick off this summer with our newest Dahab Defender: Dive Urge ~ Dive Resort, Hotel, and Restaurant!

Last week, I had the chance to chat with the owners, English/Egyptian couple Lynne and Helal. We were joined by two of their three children. This is truly a family-run enterprise and each of them is a Dahab Defender in their own right. Together they have created a truly eco-friendly dive center. As Lynne and her son, Samah, gave me a tour of the compound, I was in awe of all the simple yet effective practices that they have put into place to care for the environment.

As Lynne explained, their logo, a hand cradling several starfish, sums up the philosophy that they have built their business on – caring for the sea and surrounding environment. When Dive Urge opened over 15 years ago, Lynne and Helal knew that they wanted to do things differently than other dive centers. The first decision they made was limiting the ratio of divers to guides to 4:1. (Most dive centers do 8:1.) This helps ensure that a guide is able to care for each guest and helps lessen the impact on the marine environment. But they didn’t stop there.

Waste Reduction and Management

Dive Urge sorts their trash – plastic, glass, and metal – for recycling. They provide bins both inside their compound and also along the boardwalk so that people walking by can also use them.

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To cut down on the waste that needs recycling, there is a water dispenser in the central room that all guests pass through. Guests are provided with bottled water but are also strongly encouraged to refill these bottles from the dispenser.

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Besides water bottles, guests are also provided reusable cotton bags for their personal use during their stay. They are encouraged to use these instead of accepting the plastic bags from the shops.

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It’s not just the guests who use cotton bags! The staff at Food Urge, the restaurant, also bring reusable cotton bags with them with they go shopping for veggies. The restaurant also sorts their trash and any appropriate food waste is given to the family goats. Goats eat everything! 😉

Dive Urge also organizes desert safaris and mountain dinners. To reduce the waste produced on these excursions, they have ditched the disposable plastic cups and have switched to providing reusable cups and utensils. Not only is that a lot less trash, the reusable cups don’t get blown away in the wind. That’s important in our very breezy town!

Energy and Water Consumption

Tips for guests on how to be responsible travelers can be found in each room. Guests are encouraged to reduce their energy consumption by turning off the lights and air conditioning when no one is in the room. Management also reserves the right to switch off the A.C. if left on while guests are away. Guests are also encouraged to take short showers, unplug electrical devices that aren’t in use, and to set their air-conditioning to 24 – 27 °.

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To further conserve resources, Dive Urge does not clean and launder the rooms every day. Guests must ask for cleaning services. This saves a lot of energy and water!

The rinse pool at the dive center has recently been made shallower, allowing them to use less water for each rinse. After the equipment has been rinsed, the water is used for the grass in the garden.

On top of all of this, Dive Urge also cleans the sea every time that they dive. The guides will always collect any trash that they can (without it interfering in their guests’ safety). Lynne and her family also clean litter from the beach and the streets on a nearly daily basis. What super role models for new divers and local residents!

Because of their dedication to the environment and the needs of local people, you can now find Dive Urge on ResponsibleTravel.com, an excellent website focused on small holiday companies that give something back to their communities.

It is obvious that Dive Urge does an outstanding job protecting our local environment and teaching others to do the same. Please, if you pass by the dive center, stop in and tell them what a great job they are doing! Share their story with other owners or managers you may know. It might just be the inspiration and ideas that others are looking for.

A very big THANK YOU to Lynne and Helal for all their hard work and dedication!!

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Drinking Water in Dahab (Part 3 of 3)

Filtered tap water would be the ideal solution to drinking water as it is the option that involves the least amount of plastic. Well water is also a good alternative to drinking bottled water. But if neither of those options work for you, what are the next best choices?

RETURNABLE WATER BOTTLES

One less-plastic solution would be purchasing water in 19-liter returnable bottles.

One brand available locally is Aqua Stone. You can purchase these bottles from Mohsen’s place (across from Marine Garden Camp/Karkor the Butcher). You pay a LE 50 deposit per bottle that is returned to you when you bring the bottle back. The water costs LE 17 per 19-liter bottle. Or LE 16 per bottle if you are buying 10 or more. For more information, call 01003999803 and ask for Mohsen.

I am still trying to find a contact at the company that can answer my questions about what happens to the returned bottles. I will report back as soon as I find out anything.

basic dispenserIf you choose to purchase these large bottles, you’ll also need to purchase a dispenser. The least-expensive ones are plastic (unfortunately) and simply provide a base to hold and dispense the water. They are available at Carrefour in Sharm el Sheikh for LE 115, according to a friend who purchased one recently. (I purchased one last year and I remember a much lower price.) I have not seen them for sale in Dahab. Has anyone else?

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The more expensive option would of course be the fancy electric water dispensers that also cool and heat the water. These are available locally and range in price. Be sure to check out the Facebook groups dedicated to selling and buying in Dahab. You may be lucky and find a used one! 

BOTTLED WATER

As a last resort, purchase the largest bottles of water available – at least the 19 L or 6 L bottles. These give you the best product-to-packaging ratio.

REFUSE the 1.5 L and smaller bottles. And please REFUSE these small water bottles that now also come with a plastic cup!

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TIP: Purchase a large water cooler/dispenser, like the TANK brand thermos dispensers, to put in your kitchen. Empty the water from the large bottles into the dispenser. This will make it easier to pour a small amount without having to lift a heavy bottle each time.

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TIP: Purchase a reusable water bottle to carry with you. Or use a glass mason jar or other container that you already have. Bring it with you to school, work, or play time at the beach! I also bring my own water bottle with me to restaurants. As long as I am ordering something, no one in Dahab has had a problem with this.

What are other solutions or resources for obtaining drinking water in Dahab using the least amount of plastic?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Drinking Water in Dahab (Part 1 of 3)

So far I’ve focused on REFUSING the single-use plastic bags provided by most shops and using cotton bags instead. I know there are some of you already doing this and others who are working on cultivating this habit – and that takes time. While we continue to REFUSE plastic bags, let’s talk about our other huge plastic waste problem here in Dahab – the plastic water bottles!

A few facts to get us started:

Along with plastic bags, plastic bottles are among the most prevalent sources of pollution found on our beaches.

The extremely slow decomposition rate of plastic bottles leaves them to drift on the ocean for untold years.

When plastics break down, they don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means the materials break down to smaller fragments. These [smaller fragments] readily absorb toxins which contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion. Source

Plastic trash, mostly bottles, washed up on the shore of Nabq Protected Area - just 10 km south of Dahab.

Plastic trash, mostly bottles, washed up on the shore of Nabq Protected Area – just 10 km south of Dahab.

It takes three times the volume of water to manufacture one bottle of water than it does to fill it, and because of the chemical production of plastics that water is mostly unusable.

We [Americans] use 17 million barrels of oil each year just to produce all of those water bottles. To put it in perspective, that’s enough oil to keep a million cars fueled for a whole year! Source

Plastic bottles plague our deserts, too!

Plastic bottles plague our deserts, too!

FILTERED TAP WATER

I am sure many of us know that drinking bottled water is not the most eco-friendly or healthful habit around and the facts above help to clarify why. It’s common to read on American or European blogs about how practical and economical it is to simply drink tap water and use refillable bottles instead of buying water in plastic bottles. In fact, in Cairo, that is exactly what I did. I did not like the taste (or the price!) of bottled water so we installed a charcoal filter (to get rid of the chlorine that is added during the purification stage) directly to an incoming tap in the kitchen and had clean, tasty water at our disposal whenever we wanted. I filled reusable water bottles to take with me to work and other outings.

In Dahab, however, water is another story! Most of us are ecstatic just to have tap water provided by the city. If we’re lucky, the water comes on a regular basis and we have a large enough water tank to cover our needs until the next delivery. Many residents are still not connected to city water and must call a water truck every couple of weeks to refill their tanks. Water that doesn’t have to be delivered is a convenience that I waited nearly five years for and for which I am very grateful. So the issue of water is a bit more complicated here in the desert.

In theory, the desalinated water provided by the city to the homes of Dahab is drinkable. It has been processed and purified. The problems are with delivery and storage – dirty trucks, pipes, or tanks that render the water unsafe or unhealthy to consume. Therefore, the majority of residents do not drink this tap water, myself included. Even with the filter attached to the main pipe – I have seen our filters dirty with rust!

Two of my goals for this year is to find out the easiest way to test my water and then research the 3- and 5-stage water filtration systems that are sure to make my tap water drinkable.

So until I have more to share about filters, what are our less-plastic or plastic-free options for drinking water here in Dahab? I’ll be discussing those in upcoming posts so stay tuned.

What is your source of drinking water? Do you have a filtration system in place?

LEARN MORE:

After the latest contamination scandal, can you trust your water? (Egypt Independent)

Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment (Huffington Post)

The Story of Bottled Water (YouTube)

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle