Kite-safari is a unique kitesurfing experience that one can do while on the Red Sea. The kite-safari is suitable for all levels of riders from fresh students to pro riders. It gives the opportunity to explore different kitesurfing conditions and spots. And more importantly, kite-safari is sporty camp, and significantly can drive progress in kitesurfing.
Last week I got an invite from Marco Koppel, the father of kite-safari in Egypt and founder of Bigdayz Kite-safari, to join their safari boat and start hopping around the islands of the Red Sea. On the early morning of the first day, Marco and his boat anchored near Bayout sand bank, about 3 km away from El Gouna. And by 7 am, I was with other 5 riders on two zodiac boats heading from El Gouna to the safari boat Merselia.
The ride on the zodiac was quick but quite rough, the wind was already blowing over 30 knots, and the waves were at least 2 meters high, we definitely got socked in water by the time we reached the boat. As soon as we reached the safari boat, the boat started heading toward Tawila Island, while breakfast was being served in the dining hall. The boat ride from El Gouna to Tawila Island takes about an hour and half to two hours till getting anchored near the island.
We got to spend four days on Merselia with a fun group of 18 other riders who all share the passion for kitesurfing, exploring, and adventures. Every morning before sunrise, the riders are up drinking their coffee and getting ready to launch their kites from the island. Everyday on the boat is a day full of kitesurfing and sport, I believe most of the people on the boat were doing three sessions everyday. And by dinner time everybody is worn out and ready to sleep like a baby. Even though we tried to party on the boat, yet these parties never last late. People start to crash and pass out by 8 pm every night. I kind of enjoyed the early bird vibes on the boat as it sort of suits my sleeping cycle. Meanwhile, being engaged with kitesurfing for the full day, drives progress significantly, and gives the opportunity to practice new tricks and improve technicality, specially when you have experienced kitesurfer on board like Marco Koppel. I must also mention that when I started kitesurfing 4 years ago, I was only able to go upwind and ride properly during my first kite-safari trip with Salty Sports in 2017.
By 10 am on the first day we were already anchoring near the kite spot on Tawila Island and loading our kites and gear on the zodiacs to head to the island. The spot on Tawila is probably one of the best kite spots in terms of flat water, sandy beach, and off shore wind. The wind was blowing over 30 knots. The Tawila kite spot is the popular and a more attractive spot for a kite safari, it gets crowded very quickly. And perhaps one of the downsides to Tawila Island is that once it gets crowded, kiting on the flat water becomes chaotic and risky a bit. By the afternoon of the same day there was already 3 other safari boats on the island and perhaps over 20 kites on the water.
I personally prefer kiting on Tawila when there are no more than 3 or 4 other kites, and usually this happens during breakfast and lunch hours, as most riders go back to their boats to eat their meals. I choose to kite during these times with max 4 other riders.
On the second day of the safari, we started with an early morning session on Tawila Island. By breakfast time all the riders returned to the boat as the boat started to heading toward Jeysum Island. The ride from Tawila to Jeysum takes about an hour on the boat to an hour and half till the boat get anchored. Actually, anchoring the boats near the island is quite a process. Usually the Safari boat get 4 anchoring ropes, and to anchor each rope, the crew need to search for the anchoring spots, then dive, in scuba gear, with the rope to connect to the anchor.
There are two kite spots on Jeysum Island that I’m familiar with. One is on the south west corner, the jetty, and the other one is on the south east corner. On this trip we stayed on the south east corner of Jeysum, and luckily we were the only safari boat near the spot. The spot on the island is very flat, off shore, and sandy bottom, however the stretch of the beach here is a bit shorter than Tawila and more coral reefs surrounding the spot. The wind was awesome, blowing over 20 knots and I went out on my 10 sqm Evo. We spent the night near Jeysum Island, and on the following morning, after an early session, our boat started heading toward Ashrafi Islands.
We reach Ashrafi Islands by noon on our third day. The ride from Jeysum to Ashrafi takes about an hour and a half. And Ashrafi is a chain of islands that are connected through reef and shallow water, with a lagoon in the middle. Our boat anchored in the middle of a lagoon between two of the islands, and facing the shallow water and the reef. We used one of the near islands to setup and launch our kites. The wind always blows from the North direction on this region of the Red Sea, so we were kiting side shore to the island, through the lagoon, and near the boat.
Kiting around Ashrafi islands is probably the most scenic with the most variation of blue and turquois colors that satisfy and please the eyes. Kiting cross the lagoon and between the islands also gives variety of conditions of water surface and wind as the gust makes a difference on different spots around the islands. The spot is probably the most convenient for students to practice and learn, the area is quite spacious and kites are always well spread around the islands. All the fresh students were able to ride upwind while we were around the Ashrafi islands. By noon on the of fourth day we were getting ready to head back toward Hurghada after spending full morning kiting around the scenic Ashrafi islands. The ride from Ashrafi Islands back to Hurghada took us about 3 hours and before sunset we were back anchored on the mainland.
The Safari Boat
The safari boat is our home during the trip. The boat is fully prepared to host all riders and crew during the period of the safari. This trip happens to be my third kite safari trip on the Red Sea, and from this boat and previous experiences, I would say the kite-safari boats are very similar but with variations in quality depending on the boat. The boat usually would have 12 to 15 sleeping cabins with private toilets, living area, and different open air seating areas.
The crew on the boat are quite helpful, and they take care of all the operations on the boat and the islands. We had two zodiacs that transfer riders to the island and help to rescue riders while on the water. The rescue zodiacs are essential specially to fresh students as it helps the students to continue practicing without the worry of drifting away or go far downwind. While on the kite-safari, all riders need to do is get themselves on the water, everything else is taken care of.
The beside the crew on the boat, we were accompanied by kitesurfing instructors, professional photographer, massage specialist, and the chef on board. Our chef on board Hasan everyday prepares three meals and gets creative in making variant food options during the safari trip. While Nasty, Gerona Nastic, our professional photo and videographer was taking every possible moment to capture with her camera. Most of the photos I’m sharing on the post actually are coming from her. Marian is the message specialist at Makani Beach Club, and I was quite happy to find out that she was also joining us on the boat. After long day and long sessions on the water, the body needs to be relived and relaxed in order to be able to continue on the next day. And indeed having a massage specialist on board helps a lot in getting ready for kiting everyday.
Overall, the four days on the safari boat passed really quick. We were lucky to have wind on everyday, and kite everyday. My friends who joined on this trip for the first time got super stocked by the experience, and I believe everyone of us wants to do it again. I hope by early April next year I come back to Egypt and join another kite-safari.