What does a “trip of a life time” look like? To some, it may be saving up for a float trip on the Bow, or a horseback trip into the mountains, a trip to the NWT to catch pike and lake trout, or a flats fishing trip to the Bahamas, Mexico, or Cuba. There are as many different trips as there are people. For me it's no question that my December 2019 trip to the Seychelles qualified as my “trip of a life time.”
In order to book space for myself and the three fellows who joined me (Bill, John and Doug), we had to book the spots at Alphonse Island close to two years in advance. In that two years a lot can happen that could jeopardize participation in a trip; a broken foot, back surgery, accidents, etc (hence why trip insurance is so important). However, in the end we all made the effort and had experiences that we will remember for the rest of our lives. After all fishing trips are not just about the fishing but also about the experiences that happen when you travel.
Here is what our trip looked like:
- Tying flies for months so we had more than we'd ever use.
- Fly to the other side of the world and stop in Dubai to acclimatize and shed any jet lag that may affect us. 16 hours and two planes later we were in the craziest and most surreal city I personally have ever been in. This was my first time anywhere in the Middle East. We had three full days to relax, see some of the sites and of course fish! Yes you read that right fishing in Dubai on the edge of the Empty Quarter desert (the world's largest uninterrupted sand area). A few customers, a bit of internet research, and a film highlighting fly fishing in Dubai made it an easy decision to book a day of fishing with Ocean Active (oceanactivefly.com.)
But before I get in to the fishing let me tell you that the other things we experienced in Dubai are 100% worth visiting if you ever find yourself in the area. We headed out on our first afternoon and visited a Turtle Rescue facility. It was a bit sad to see the variety of turtles with missing flippers and broken shells, but it was good to know they were being looked after and the ones who can be released back into the ocean are.
The infamous Burj Khalifa and High Tea at the current Guinness World Record Holder for the “highest lounge in a building” in the world (floor 154 - almost 2000’ feet up!) Spending a couple of hours in the tallest building in the world is an experience in itself! The views are astonishing. To look out over an unbelievable city where basically nothing is older than 20 years and have it give way in the distance to the vast desert is a surreal experience. Looking down at the size and scope of the various Palms that have been 100% man made to create “ocean front beaches” to build resorts is both awe-inspiring and a bit gut-wrenching when you consider the environmental costs. However, an unintended positive consequence of the construction in the ocean has been the creation of habitat for bait fish and in-turn sport fish species (more on that in a bit).
The aquarium and the mall - Dubai Mall which is also the world’s largest by total area, (puts west Edmonton to shame!) - attached to the Burj was also incredible and we didn’t even go “inside” the aquarium. You can view schools of Giant Trevally (the ultimate goal for our trip), Golden Trevally, Permit, sharks, etc by just being in the main mall corridor. Nothing quite like psyching yourself up for fishing for those species a few days later.
If you haven’t figured out yet Dubai likes to do things “BIG”! When it comes to their tourist attractions, resorts, etc They do not think small. They are hosting the 2020 Expo and no doubt it will be over the top as that’s just the way they roll!
The other incredible non-fishing experience in Dubai was the desert tour with Platinum Heritage on the “Heritage Falconry & Wildlife Safari Experience." It was an amazing 1/2 day of learning about the thousands of years old history of Falconry. And to learn about the techniques and reasons why the Bedouin captured, trained, hunted and ultimately released their birds annually only to do it all again the following season. Just google “modern sayings that come from Falconry” and you will be surprised.
Now Falconry and the birds themselves are so important to the culture of the UAE that the birds have their own hospital (so do racing camels ridden by robot drones but that’s another story), can get their own passports to travel to other countries to participate in hunting and racing competitions (yes you read that correctly the birds get their own passports), and are featured on the currency of the UAE. All of the birds now are captive bred (not released into the wild as days gone by) and there is an unbelievable economy surrounding them with birds worth $5,000 to $25,000 for “average” birds and a quarter to half a million dollars for the more exceptional ones. And yes when these birds hunt or race they are perfectly able to just “fly away!” The Sheikh who sponsored the falconry exhibition for our tour has somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 - 8 HUNDRED falcons and hawks!
Once the falconry demonstration was over we toured the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and learned more about the area and the unique animals that live there. And of course you have to ride a camel when you are in the desert. I did it to show my daughter that I could!
The most stunning desert creature is the Arabian Oryx of which there are only about a 1,000 remaining in the wild. Most of the population, 5,000-6,000 “captive animals” are in fenced reserves like the one we visited to prevent the extinction of this very unique animal. Again fishing trips are about the whole experience and this was, for me, an exceptional one.
End Part One.