After careful deliberation and a bit of persuasion, KIM SMITH reaches new depths when she tries her first scuba dive in Dahab.

With all that is awesome in Egypt, I’m told that what lies beneath the surface of the Red Sea is on par with the wonder of the pyramids.

I wasn’t having it. There is no way I am 1. convinced about the supposed thrill of it, and 2. willing to jack about in the water dressed for the kill (I’ve seen documentaries). Instead of lumbering around with a fat steel tank on my back, I choose the lovely Egyptian sun.

Every day there is a daily parade of sand-blasting four-wheel drives tagged with trailers headed towards the sea. It seems a lot of people are down with this diving biz, from beginners to big shots.

Even so, I’m still not doing it. Regardless of my desire not to be shark feed, I have a cold, so it wouldn’t be safe. Yep, blocked up to the eyeballs with snot and mucous, it’s the perfect excuse.

When scuba diving, you have to be able to equalise. This is done by blowing softly until air pressure builds in your inner ear canals. Once you hear gentle popping or crackling, you’re equalising. However, if you can’t do this – and there’s is a good chance you won’t if you’re nasally congested – you could end up with a ruptured eardrum.

Quite frankly, there are more appealing souvenirs on the shopping strip, and that’s where I’ll be while my friends are diving.

Dahab, known as the ‘golden city’, has surged in popularity in the past 10 years, with more and more tourists coming to experience the relative calm of this coastal resort town. It used to be a place hippies would converge on in droves to camp, get stoned and splash about in the sea, now it has a solid infrastructure in place for scuba divers and is within reach of about 30 dive sites, many of these with easy shore access. Divers from all over the world come to Dahab to sample scuba diving, I’m told.

OK, I’m beginning to feel like I’m missing out on something now and should reconsider. Everyone else is doing it, including one Aussie bloke taking on a night dive – how brave is that? Plus, my (previously exaggerated) cold is pretty much gone and there are only two days to go until I leave. Will I regret not giving it a go?

There is about as much chance of being eaten by a shark while diving as there is finding a bottle shop in Egypt. As sea spearfishing and fish feeding is prohibited in the Red Sea, it reduces the danger of sharks – well, so I’m told.

There is also an introductory dive held at The Light House, only metres from the shore, where there is nothing to worry about at all, except to make sure I get a good gawk at Nemo and his mates. Orca Dive Club Master scubu diver instructor Hesham – with a reassuring eight years of instructor experience under his diving belt – is making it hard for me to say no. He says Aussies and Kiwis are quick learners and reassures me I’ll be fine, even after having a cold. He makes me demonstrate breathing through both nostrils with a mask on, just to make sure. I struggle a bit, but he promises to keep a special eye on me and not go too deep.

So, no sharks, Hesham seems as if he knows what he’s on about, plus I will see loads of pretty-coloured fish and coral and even get a certificate. Decision overturned, I’m going diving!

When we get down to the Light House, Hesham gives an indepth demonstration, covering everything, from gearing up and entering the water in flippers to signalling we are fine (thumbs up) or not fine (thumbs down). Pairing off into two, Hesham asks which pair wants to go first and nearly falls over his flippers when I instantly volunteer.

Might as well just get this over and done with.

After finally putting all the gear on and getting used to the weight of my attire, I walk (aka clumsily stagger) down to the shore and wade in with Hesham looking at me reassuringly. After wiping a bit of spit into my face mask, I squeeze it on and it’s all systems go.

Righto, deep breathes, thumbs down if I want to come up for a breather and if they’re lying about there being no sharks, at least I’m going down – literally – doing something adventurous, as to make a nice eulogy.

One, two, three and down. Hesham guides me down slowly, watching to make sure I’m breathing OK before he steers me deeper and deeper into the sea …

I must be a good six metres down I reckon, what a star! This is amazing, I feel so weightless and free and look at all this amazing fish and coral, oh what’s that, mental photo, ask later, concentrate on breathing.

After a few minutes – or what seems like 10 – I sign to Hesham, who has kindly been letting me hold his hand, that I want to go up for a bit.

Wow, how far down did I go, this is wicked,” I say, but my face falls when he replies: “about two metres.” Putting the equipment back into my mouth faster than a chicken wing on a hangover, I demand we go down again.

I’m sure I’m much deeper now as I didn’t see that big yellow fish before. I give Hesham a cocky grin and thumbs up and continue to swim around and explore.

To my dismay, I don’t go down further than three metres after many attempts. Hesham tells me I’m not equalising properly and next time I’ll be able to go down a lot further, but that’s it for now. I thank him and gush about all the fish and coral, which he assures me he’ll point out of a book later.

“How did you go,” I’m asked back on shore by the next group waiting to go. “Great,” I say, hoping they don’t ask me how deep I went. “How far did you go,” someone asks. “Three metres!” I say with a surprising sense of pride. Well, I wasn’t even going to go, was I?

I saw: lion fish, clown fish, angel fish, Swedish flag, castle fish, trumpet fish, buffer fish, fire coral, vegetable coral, brain coral, goat fish.”