The ocean is my moneymaker
A fisherman at heart, Mohammed Abbas uses boating to show the beauty of the sea and create employment as the director of Freetyme Fishing Safaris.
Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine
For Mohammed Abbas, a fire was sparked as a child when he would accompany his father, a sailor, on his trips on the Indian Ocean.
This boating hobby he started at 10 years old has now turned into a full-blown investment.
“I would go fishing with my father when I was a small boy at the creeks in Mtwapa and many other spots.
I also learnt fishing from practising and hanging out wiht different fishermen.
I started sport fishing as a hobby and soon after, I started getting inquiries from friends interested to try it out, because they were interested in water sports activities.
At first we would pool resources and go out into the sea just for fun, until last year when I decided to venture into it as a business,” he shares.
Recreational fishing, also called sport fishing, is fishing for pleasure or competition rather than for survival.
While Mohammed’s first boat was a small fibreglass canoe 15 ft, five years ago, he bought the Tiara SST 31 Fishing Boat for offshore sport fishing, powered by two Turbo engines, with a maximum cruising speed of 20 Knots.
Among the reasons he selected this boat is that it comes with many strong features that make it the best for sport fishing, including a GPS Tracker, VHF Radio, Toilet, Ice boxes (so clients could be served soft drinks), rods, reels and tackles amongst others.
Besides monetary reasons, Mohammed ventured into boating and sport fishing out of an urge to show more people the sea life.
“There is so much to explore and we are happy to take people to it. It is also a prideful activity because we don’t have it anywhere else in Kenya, and we are lucky that as beneficiaries of the Indian Ocean, there are very many species of fish and other life to see.
We have the big five catches (which include; the blue Marlin, Stripe Marlin, Black Marlin, Sail Fish and Broadbill), the Wahoo, Dorado, YellowFin Tuna and Kingfish.
We tag and release the big five. We allow customers to take the pelagic fish home or it is served to them as the catch of the day if they are residents at the hotel,” he adds.
He also got into this business to create employment opportunities in the tourism industry, with the aim of making Diani the watersport hub.
He has created employment for over nine people, who are all well trained in deep sea fishing, jet ski, wind surfing, kite surfing, kayaking and other motorised sports.
Being in this line of work is fun and pays off as it has been embraced both by international and local tourists.
But also is not left without its own challenges, the biggest being non-licensed operators.
“While safety is the most critical part of the sporting activities, unlicensed corporates do not adhere to many safety regulations.
They are not a competition as such, but a threat to the business because once something goes wrong, then all the practising companies are categorised under one and we have to carry the blame and sometimes even at threat of being shut down.
For instance, sometime back, there used to be skydiving in Diani, until there was an accident and someone died and the activity was completely banned here.
Not only for the “unlicensed business owner” but for all of us,” he explains.
Despite presence of many boards in boating activities, the director shares that the government has not been doing much to get rid of unlicensed operators from the sea.
Just like many other businesses, Mohammed’s company has also been faced with Covid-19 challenges.
However, unlike many businesses that were letting go of some staff, Mohammed could not lay off his staff because all of them depend on the activities for their income.
Forced to take a loan to make ends meet and ensure that his staff are catered for, Mohammed is requesting for the government’s intervention to help businesses get back on their feet.
While business has been highly dependent on international tourists, he is pleased that more local tourists are starting to embrace big game fishing and encouraging more people to experience and make memories.
The boat can carry a maximum of six people, excluding the boat crew, and can go up to 48km on the sea.
While the rates are not constant, the average rate is Sh16,000 for the day, which is negotiable.
Also since the boat is located at Baobab Hotel, you could get your catch prepared for lunch at the hotel.