Kate Rosenthal is one of our Business Development Managers in Australia, and in 2019 she embarked on our 13-day King Ramses Egypt tour, which includes a two night felucca cruise on the Nile. Here she shares her experiences for those planning a trip to Egypt and wondering if the felucca is for them.
When choosing my Egypt tour, one of the decisions I needed to make was whether to book a trip with a felucca cruise. After all, this was a holiday of a lifetime, a bucket list destination. I had been dreaming of visiting Egypt since I was a little girl, so I wanted to get it right! I had heard a couple of stories about feluccas and I just wasn’t sure that in my late 40’s I was up for it. But the very reason why I travel is to have new adventures, to immerse myself in destinations. So, I was left with no option but to just do it! It may not be for everyone, but it was the best decision I have ever made!
Time to board
It was day 5 of our tour and time to take to the Nile aboard our felucca. I was like a little kid, I had butterflies in my stomach and I just could not wait! We headed down to the river from our hotel and the first thing I saw was the top of the white sails, I could not wipe the smile off my face. We rounded the corner and there she was in all her glory, my home for the next two days. Stepping on board, I immediately knew this was the right decision, it was perfect. This was as authentic an experience as I could possibly have. My little sailing boat had a mattress that covered the entire lower level. There were life jackets on top of the mattress and plenty of pillows to keep us comfortable. Selecting my “bed” area, I laid back and got comfortable.
I took my day pack with all my essentials on board with me. I had a night sheet, water bottle, my camera, portable speaker, journal, toiletries, bathers, towel, PJ’s and spare clothes. On The Go Tours certainly have the pick of the felucca companies on the Nile, our little felucca was the envy of all!
Life on a felucca
Our entire bedroom/living room and where we spent most of our time had a roof over it. This protected us from the sun during the day and gave us canopy to put up our mosquito netting at night. The top of the roof was a great place to catch some sun if you wanted. It acted as a great roof top terrace for sunset drinks in the evening. We even had a toilet on board, which was an absolute luxury for a felucca and some of our group said that this factor was what sealed the deal and caused them to book with On The Go Tours. There were 18 in our group and unlike others on the river that were all cramped onto one vessel, we had the luxury of two feluccas which added its own bit of fun. I can neither confirm nor deny that we raced…
Another absolute win was having the comfort of the “facility boat” that accompanied us for two days. This boat had an additional two toilets, a dining space and housed our luggage. If you had forgotten something in your day pack, you only had to wait until lunch or evening to access all your belongings. This vessel was power driven and would leave us after breakfast to head down river. We would arrive later in the day and lunch would be ready to eat immediately. Then after lunch, it would head to our overnight stop and prepare our dinner. The vessel would then stay with us overnight.
Our days were totally chilled, spent stretched out across our living room mattress. There was time to get to know my fellow travellers, read a book, nap and play cards. I also made sure to take in the ever-changing scenery and watch the local people going about their lives on the banks of the Nile. We slowly tacked from one side of the Nile to the other, taking advantage of the wind to propel us down river. The days were extremely hot, but sailing brings a constant breeze. This meant it was a perfect temperature for relaxing. So much of my time was spent taking photos and I had so many pinch myself moments, was it true? Was I really sailing the Nile on a traditional felucca? YES, I WAS and it was INCREDIBLE!
In two days, we had so many experiences that you would never have anywhere else in the world, or by opting to choose a cruise over a felucca. We spent an afternoon swimming in the Nile, we pulled in for the evening and had some local children come over to sell us some of their hand-woven bands and trinkets. There were Sherpas herding their flocks right past at one of our stops. We had an awesome night (albeit with a few bevvies under our belts) having a bonfire on the banks as the crew sang and played drums and we danced and tried to sing along! I think it was the best sunset drinks I have ever experienced, sitting on the top of our traditional Egyptian sailing boat overlooking the Nile river while the sun sets…. yep, another pinch myself moment for sure!
Things to remember
So, clearly for me, the felucca sailing experience was a great choice. It would certainly be one I would do again if I ever had the opportunity. There are, however, a couple of things you should consider if you are considering a felucca cruise. You need to have dexterity to be able to manage the stairs/planks on a sailing boat. The mattress I slept on was relatively comfortable, but it was nothing like sleeping on my bed at home. It was fine for two nights but something to bear in mind! You are up with the sun, so if you have trouble sleeping in sunlight, take an eye mask! Despite these small troubles, my answer to the question of “To felucca or not to felucca”, is HELL YEAH.