For the adventurer with a taste for the serene, Lake Nasser fishing safaris are a bright spot in a sea of temples and ruins.
Have you ever considered spending the night on Lake Nasser in a fishing boat? Some travellers come to Egypt to do just that. No luxury hotels or air-conditioned buses here, just the symphony of nature and the unassuming splash of the lake’s abundant game.
It seems that not all tourists come to Egypt to do the culture thing; some come just to enjoy nature — and they are prepared to rough it. While the devotion of those who delight in casting a line — often without success for hours on end — is something non-enthusiasts can never share, these are adventure travellers, and the lake is the limit of their holiday terrain.
No matter if the day’s results are nothing more than a tale about the one that got away. This is a hobby, or even a passion, and having sampled the pristine beauty of Lake Nasser and its desert terrain, enthusiasts come again and again. Still predominantly a trip for die-hard anglers, tour operators are keeping their eyes on the trend with hopes that fishing safaris will flourish like other specialty tours, including desert safaris and deep-sea diving.
Although fishing trips are not offered by most travel agencies, African Angler, an Australian company, is sampling the potential. It could take off as a tourist draw; it may generate limited interest. Either way, the trips have introduced a fresh alternative for travellers to Egypt who have either traipsed the Luxor colonnades enough or for whom a civilisation dead for thousands of years doesn’t raise an eyebrow.
“I have been working in tourism in Egypt for a long time and I have always been interested in the potential of Lake Nasser,” said Tim Baily of African Angler. “When I first started looking into the possibility of launching an attraction to anglers, I learned that the lake was under military control.”
African Angler approached the governor and military officials in Aswan and was granted special permission to organise big game fresh-water fishing safaris. Like a desert or mountain-climbing safari, it’s not a trip you can go alone. Other than permission, you need transportation, provisions, professional guides, fishing and supply boats as well as sleeping bags and tents.
“We are not near a hospital, we cannot call an ambulance, so we have to take care to stay in contact with one another. In case of emergency, we have radios and can communicate with the police in Aswan, or get the military if help is needed,” Baily said.
Stretching between Aswan and northern Sudan, with some areas over 12 kilometres in width, Lake Nasser is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. A controversial outcome of the construction of the High Dam in the 1960s, the lake now nurtures a vibrant aquatic life, including Nile perch, tiger fish and vundu catfish, making it a splendid venue for fresh-water fishing.
“Most anglers who visit the lake for the first time will find themselves hauling in the biggest fresh-water fish of their lives,” said Baily.
Big catches have made a name for the lake as having a lot of potential, explains Baily. Two world records have been set at Lake Nasser, including a Nile perch weighing 213 pounds (about 97kg). When Larry Dahlberg, a famous American fisherman, went on a fishing safari with African Angler, he made a film about fishing on Lake Nasser. The safaris have also been featured on BBC2 and Thai television.
For those interested in the details, a safari trip usually includes one supply boat and two specially equipped fishing boats that accommodate six to eight anglers. The supply boat carries all the required equipment, provisions, fuel and shore staff. With its own built-in kitchen, dining facilities and large ice boxes, the boat enables the group to set up comfortable camps on shore, close to the best fishing areas, even when the shore-line is rocky or inhospitable. “In effect, it is a moving camp,” Baily notes.
As for the two fishing boats, they serve as a mobile home and fishing platform. Each can accommodate from two to four persons and they have been designed “for tough work in remote areas.” Meals are prepared by the Nubian safari staff who, according to Baily, “have the ability to cook food in the middle of nowhere. They even bake fresh bread every morning.”
The fishing boats are no luxury cruise vessel, but each has comfortable and functional on-board facilities, with two bunks enclosed by strong canvas tenting at night. In place of organised entertainment in the evenings, the only diversion is feeding left-overs from dinner to the animals that live around the lake.
One of the issues that concerns Baily is the conservation of the lake and the need to keep the water clear and unpolluted, not just to protect the different species of fish, but because the region is rich in flora and fauna. More than 100 species of birds have been recorded in the area, as well as crocodiles, Dorcas gazelles, jackals and desert foxes. Laws prohibiting hunting on the lake have never been seriously enforced. “I am extremely upset that hunting is allowed at the lake,” Baily says. “Hunting is destroying wildlife.”
Baily explained that African Angler has adopted a firm policy. “We look after the lake,” he said. “We never kill all fish we catch. We keep one or two for our meals, but release all other catches alive … for future visitors.”
A typical day on Lake Nasser involves getting up at first light for a couple of hours of shore-fishing, followed by breakfast, explains Baily. The boats then set off for a day of trolling and shore-fishing.
“When we venture far from camp, a picnic is taken and the boats often meet up for lunch to exchange success stories. We then fish again until the sun sets,” says Baily. “At night, sitting in the desert camp beneath a canopy of stars, one hears the sounds of frogs and crickets, the call of an owl, howling jackals, night birds and the tantalising sound of a splash made by big fish feeding near the camp.”
So, how successful are fishing safaris? Baily, who brings roughly 500 anglers from different parts of the world annually, believes that Lake Nasser has excellent potential. “Once anglers discover a good place to fish, they come back again and again,” Baily says, explaining that 47 per cent of his business is repeated business. But he concedes that there are a number of obstacles.
“Months of tiresome delay, red tape and bureaucracy are needed to get through five governmental departments for various permits,” he groans. “It’s all very time-consuming … and costly.”
For more information about African Angler, please visit their website, http://www.african-angler.co.uk/