On the souther coast of Pakistan, especially in the vicinity of large ports (such as Karachi, Port Qasim, Ibrahim Haidri, Gwadar, etc), there exists a community of fisherman, and a group of skilled workers building large wooden trawlers to cater to the need of a fisherman.
The skill and wisdom is passed on from generations to generations, like folk lore, as the huge trawlers are built without any blueprint or design. We asked one of the workers there and he said that we just learned it, and just start building it by putting the jigsaw pieces together.
One of the boats in the pictures along with a craftsman working on it was featured in co-sponsored/commercialized Mobilink song showing various sites in Pakistan.
If you are going towards Sandspit, you will cross a bridge over the lagoon/creek. Right after that a small village starts. A road (first left after the bridge from the main Sandspit road) will take you the shipyard.
WARNING: It is quite dangerous to walk inside some of these ships which are being built as there are large nails, loose boards, and other dangers associated with construction site. Wear heavy thick soled boots as there may be nails around as well. Be careful when climbing rickety ladders jerry rigged or planks along the boats, as it is easy to climb, but quite difficult to get down, if you are scared of heights.
Boating anf Fishing:
Boating in Karachi is a pleasant experience. A catch of crabs and fish, is cooked and served aboard the boat by the crew. Bunder boats are available at Keamari and if required, the crew provides the bait as well as trackle and other fishing gear, facilities for deep-sea fishing are available but must be arranged in advance. Prices should always be negotiated and fixed beforehand. On a moonlite night it is treat to sail up the sheltered harbour from Kemari to Sandspit.
When the pilot whale losses its bearings, it beaches itself. Just like these ships, expert pilots/captains steer the ancient and obsolete ships towards coast, and intentionally beaches them. Sometimes this process takes hours till the ship is stabilized on the coast. Than hundred of men, like working ants, and bare hands, scavenge the beached ship, and devours it in 2-3 months time. This is Gadiani beach, home to one of the largest ship breaking yard in Pakistan.
This ship breaking yard was one of the largest supplier of steel to Pakistan booming market, till cheap steal from Iran and China started inflowing into the market, and it became unfeasible to procure steal through this means. At times this ship yard was lined with hundreds of obsolete decaying freighter, oil tankers, liners, and other ships. Now less than ten are their at one time. Couple of years ago, this Ship yard saw the second largest ship ever built dismantled in couple of months.
Although it was a boom for the local market, where readily steal was available for construction, this industry caused environmental degradation around its coasts, as several of these “Deadly Poisonous” ships, filled with asbestos and other dangerous construction materials were brought in. There was no concern for the rules set under the Basel Convention.
With cheap labor readily available, men working on these ships were untrained and poor, requiring hard labor with low pay and no benefits. They virtually dismantled these ships with their bare hands, cutting ship with blow torches into small pieces, using almost no machinery and no protective gears against fire or chemicals. Other than this they were also exposed to a dangerous – accident prone – environment.
Gadiani is situated approx. 60 km from Karachi on the Hub road which is going towards Quetta. In addition to being a ship yard, it is also a picnic spot, as it has a beautiful sandy beach.
There is a bunch of rocky islands around Karachi's Southern coastal line which are dubbed as Oyster Rocks. These rocks can be reached from Kemari jetty by hiring a boat, preferably in advance, and can provide an excellent outdoor excursion around Karachi - a city usually considered a commercial hubbub with little natural outings.
Views from the top of the cliff, and on the way to the rocks, are great. On one side, city's skyline can be seen while on the other side the endless waters of Arabian Sea provide a great view. Winters are best suited for this activity when one can hike to the top in the daylight while people also go there around summers to spend a cool evening.
Modus operandi involves hiring a boat for 10-15 people on lump-sum basis; ranging from PKR 10,000 to 15,000 for the whole boat for 4-5 hours (USD 100-150). The deal includes fresh seafood menu which is cooked on board while the boat is anchored in the open seas. Menu usually include fried crabs, prawn masala, fried fish, and a couple of potato varieties to complement plus tea and soft drinks. Fishing and a trip to the nearby Manora Island can also be clubbed within this deal.
I have done this trip quite a few times and enjoyed each instance. Details of the last trip along with pictures are published on my travel blog: Boating Around Karachi's Oyster Rocks
Charna is a rocky uninhabited Arabian Sea island located on the verge of the notorious Balochistan province, West of Kemari - Karachi's main port, and right in front of Mubarak village - a fishermen village in Karachi's outskirts. The island has got underwater coral reefs around, which is why it is gaining popularity among urban youth for scuba diving and snorkeling. Since coral reef attracts colorful fish variety the place is also considered an opportunity for fishing.
However visiting the island is not the easiest thing around, as there is no regular transport available. Most of the people who managed to reach there, did that with the help of Scuba Diving clubs in the town; which is not cheap off-course.
On the other hand, fishing enthusiasts first make it all the way to Mubarak village, ~2 hours drive, and then negotiate or pick a pre-negotiated boat from Sonera beach. This option would suit more to expert anglers.
For newbies, the alternative is to book a boat from Kemari, which is better equipped than the one found around Mubarak village, and make a group tour all by sea. Full boat, which can take up to 20 people, may cost around PKR 35,000-40,000 (USD 350-400) including meals and basic fishing accessories.
One way journey from Kemari to Charna is ~5 hours mostly in the open Arabian Sea passing along Manora, Sands Pit, Hawks Bay, Paradise Point, Cape Mount, Mubarak Village, and Hubco Power Plant. In all, it it is ~18 hours endeavor, door to door, which makes it a tough undertaking especially for people who are prone to sea sickness.
Stepping foot on the island is not practical as boats cannot dock around it and the only option is to dive and then swim to the shore.
With all the hassle and shortcomings, the adventure is worth it mainly due to the immense fishing opportunity around. Even though it was the first time for most of us, we managed to get a decent catch comprising of a colorful range of various fish species.
Winters, when waters are calm and sun-rays are subdued, is the most suitable season to undertake this day long excursion. It would be advisable to keep CNIC/Passport, citrus fruit, sunblock, and layered clothing to cope up with the varying temperature.
More details of our expedition can be found here: Boating Around Charna Island
Photo Credits: Nasreen Ghori and Nadeem Siddiqi