I’ve flown over it. I’ve travelled on it. I even swam in it. Might as well go fishing in it! When you live in the desert, water is a powerful draw. The Red Sea is no different.
Six of us at Niagara College decided to go on a fishing excursion. Of course, here in Taif we are 1 mile above sea level so you have to drive down the mountain and then go west for an hour and half to Jeddah. We rented a couple of hotel rooms in Jeddah to spend the night and then get up early (4:30am) to drive the last 100 km to where ‘Captain Tariq’ would be waiting for us. Unfortunately, one of our rental cars decided it didn’t want to go fishing! It started acting up at the bottom of the mountain and finally gave up just outside Jeddah.
So we pull off the main highway and call Roadside Assistance. I’ll spare you the details but 3 and half hours later we had a new car and went on our way to the hotel. For most people, that would be enough adventure for one day. But not for me! NO!! I have to find a way to screw things up even more. While waiting for the tow truck on the side of the road, I took a wrong step, stumbled and wrenched my back. That drastically changed the level of my activities for the fishing trip.
Early the next morning, after an underwhelming 4 hours of sleep, our intreped group was on the road again for the final stretch drive. Captain Tariq was there as promised and we followed him in the ‘marina’. That’s what he called it! We were near an army base so no pictures were allowed. After a quick passport check with Customs, we jumped on board (I kind of slithered on board) and headed out to fish!
The morning was windy and swells were 5-6 feet. It made for a fun ride unless you’ve just screwed up your back. I was beginning to regret my decision to get on the boat. A whole day of this and I would be a stretcher case. Luckily, as the morning wore on, the winds calmed down and sea flattened out quite nicely. The sun came out with a vengence. It was in the high 30s and it was still only 8-9am.
Due to my unfortunate lack of mobility, I didn’t get nearly as many pictures as I had hoped. I do, however, have to describe the method of fishing Captain Tariq uses. Basically, you have a 2′ x 2′ by 2″ thick piece of styrofoam and the fishing line is wrapped around that. You let the line out by hand and, of course, you bring the line back in by hand…fish and all, if you are lucky. Fishing poles? ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ fishing poles!’
We knew we were in for some big fish when Tariq started to prepare the bait. Hell, the bait fish were bigger than most fish I’ve caught in my life! So the boys went at it. Baited theirs hooks and let it drop to the bottom of the sea. It was about 25-30 metres deep where we were. Sure enough, the bites started and the first fish was quickly brought up. Only Captain Tariq knew what kind of fish it was. We had never seen one like that before. That was the best part of the day for me. Almost every fish caught was different. All kinds of shapes and sizes but the colours! Now that was amazing. Black and yellow. Orange and black. Blue and green. Silver. It really was very cool.
I can’t remember the types of fish as there were so many but it certainly was a thrill when we pulled in a small tuna, about 2 feet long, and a baracuda! Yes, a baracuda!! It was about 3 feet long and had a set of teeth in its mouth!! Amazing.
Tariq also took us out to a coral reef for some snorkeling. This is the part I really hated not being able to do. The colour of the water was unbelievable. Coral everywhere. Luckily, Mike, our newest employee from Canada, had a waterproof Samsung phone. He took all the underwater pictures.
By this time, we were all starting to look like lobsters. It just didn’t matter how much sun block (SPF 100, no less) we slathered on, the sun was relentless. It was time to head back to shore. We kept the best eating fish and gave the rest to Tariq for bait. The ride back home was mercifully uneventful.
What a trip. We actually caught a tuna and a baracuda!
For those keeping score, I spent the next three days flat on my back in bed. It’s just starting to feel better now. That’s good because I leave for Muscat, Oman tomorrow!