Because we were spending a few days in Ballito (just north of Durban), and because I’ve always wanted to fish in the ocean, and because my wife really appreciates getting breaks from me (I know it’s hard to believe), I contacted Kaleisha at Umhlanga Ocean Charters and booked our fishing trip for Monday, July 26th.
I could barely sleep the night before, and because we had to be in Durban- a 50-minute drive from where we were staying- at 6:15am, I set the alarm for 4:30am, knowing that dragging a 7-year-old out of bed that early in the morning would be about as fun as licking a cactus that has recently emerged from a grizzly bear’s b-hole.
It turns out I had nothing to worry about. The second I touched the Potato’s shoulder, he jumped up and said, “Is today our fishing day?!?!” He dove into breakfast, and I had just started making our sandwiches when I got a text message on my phone. It was Kaleisha telling me that the waves were too rough to launch the boat, and they were supposed to get even bigger as the morning went on. Unfortunately, we’d have to reschedule, which was difficult because we were only in the area for a couple more days. Breaking the news to the Potato was about as easy as that time I had to tell him dinosaurs were extinct. He took it like a champ, though. And by that I mean he started crying and said it was the worst day ever. I resisted telling him that life only gets worse as you get older, and this was nothing compared to paying bills or realizing that bacon is bad for you.
As disappointed as we were, I was actually pleasantly surprised that somebody in South Africa actually gave a crap about safety. In my experiences, more than 100% of the people here either think they’re invincible or just truly don’t care if they die. The fact that Kaleisha actually cared if people perished at sea on one of their boats told me I definitely picked the right company.
I replied and said that if anything should change, to please let us know; otherwise, we would just take a refund. At 9:15am my phone rang. It was Kaleisha. She explained there was a break in the weather, but it could turn again in a moment, so if we wanted to fish, we had an hour to get to the launch point. The Potato and I grabbed our stuff and headed out the door more quickly than a fat kid running towards a doughnut. OK, me. Me running towards a doughnut. I can move pretty fast for a big guy.
We met Kaleisha’s husband, Zaan-who is pretty much one of the nicest guys you will ever meet-at the boat, and with a quick push and a few bounces off the choppy ocean surface, we were off. We stopped before long to catch some bait fish, and Zaan pointed out a pod of dolphins just to the side of our boat. I didn’t get any pictures because a) the water was really rough and it was tough to get a good shot, and b) apparently sea sickness pills are about as effective as the “you can’t get pregnant if you only have sex with a penis” method of birth control. It took me all of 5 minutes to start feeling as gross as Donald Trump looks.
After we caught a few sardines, we were off, and as long as we kept moving, I was able to keep from emptying my guts over the side of the boat. I felt bad because Zaan was incredibly friendly and tried his best to keep a conversation going with me, but my mouth was being used for the much more important task of preventing breakfast from spraying all over the entire world.
I was enjoying the scenery, though, and the Potato was snuggled up next to me with a huge, contented smile on his face. Then, out of nowhere…ZIIIIIIIIIINNNNGGGGG! Line started spinning off one of the reels, and Zaan handed me the rod while he quickly reeled in the other two.
I had no idea what was on the other end, but it understandably was doing its best to not come anywhere close to the boat. I’ve been catching rainbow trout all my life, and a few salmon here and there, but this was completely different! After several minutes, I was finally able to get the fish to the side of the boat, and Zaan flashed a big smile: “It’s a nice yellowfin tuna!,” he announced. While I had hoped for a yellowfin, I certainly didn’t expect it- this was the top prize. It must have been what my wife felt when she landed me as a husband. We got it in the boat, and the Potato and I were beside ourselves with excitement. “Mommy is going to be SO happy with us,” the Potato exclaimed, and he was right. My wife generally doesn’t get really stoked about most fish, but she made it clear that if I didn’t bring back a tuna, I was dead to her.As we were setting the lines again, I suddenly remembered how sick I was just a few minutes earlier. Zaan was determined to show us a good time, though, and we trolled for another hour or so to see if we could get another tuna. The ocean wasn’t cooperating though, and the waves kept getting bigger and bigger. Not ideal fishing conditions. Even though I assured Zaan we were happy with the one fish, he thought we should try for a salmon, which involved sitting stationary as the waves buffeted us back and forth. My stomach told me in no uncertain terms that this couldn’t continue, so even though Zaan was certain we would get lucky within a few minutes, I asked him to abort the mission and head back, even though we were only about three hours into our five-hour trip.
We continued fishing on the way back, and we were lucky enough to watch a baby whale breach several times near us, but to honest, all I wanted was to be back on shore. Zaan also expressed concern about a storm we saw coming our way, which made me feel better about being a giant pansy.
Immediately after returning with our catch, I filleted the tuna (sampling copious amounts of sashimi in the process) and quickly seared it on the grill. We all agreed it was the best fish we had ever had, and now I’m cursing myself for wussing out so early on the ocean.Even though we ended our trip with only one fish, it was well worth it, and I’ve already talked to Zaan about going back in peak season when the fish are more abundant and the waves are a little more stomach-friendly. I won’t hesitate to book with Umhlanga Ocean Charters again, and I’d highly recommend them to anyone who wants an amazing experience.
Prices vary between R550 and R1050 per person depending on the length of trip, and you can contact Kaleisha and Zaan here to book.
*Please note that Umhlanga Ocean Charters had no idea I was going to write a review until the trip was complete, and this post is not sponsored by them in any way. I just had such a great time that I couldn’t help but to spread the word.
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