Dive into the Indian Ocean with Chef Kiran as he recounts an adventure to capture a Dogtooth Tuna on the fourth episode of The Fearless Chef.
I try to relax as much as possible before filling my lungs with air and diving down into the ocean. This is my first attempt at diving to such depths without oxygen and while descending isn’t difficult with my large fins, the pressure is excruciating.
I look up to see a thirty-metre tower of water above me, I feel like an elephant is standing on my chest and I’m finding it hard to focus (although I can see that I’m surrounded by sharks). Then, just as I’m on the verge of giving up I spot it: a Dogtooth tuna, the holy grail of spearfishing! To the best of my fading abilities I aim my spear gun and unbelievably, hit him! But my spear doesn’t stick and I feel I’m close to drowning so I shoot back up and by the time I breach the surface I’ve been under for over three minutes. Hit by an uncontrollable wave of exhaustion and seasickness I proceed to throw up all over the deck .
Fishing has always been one of my greatest passions so it should come as no surprise that, in what has been one of my favourite episodes of The Fearless Chef, I insisted on checking off an important item off my bucket list: plunging into the deep waters off the coast of Mozambique to go spearfishing for one of the world’s most delicious but difficult fish to catch – Dogtooth tuna.
Our destination, Vamizi island, lies off Mozambique’s northern coast in the Quirimbas Archipelago. Our plane lands amidst a blustery thunderstorm but as it gradually moves away, I am able to take in this beautiful island paradise. I start to feel nervous as I think about the task ahead. To snag the “Doggy” I’ll have to dive without oxygen into shark infested waters using one of the most dangerous methods of fishing in the world. To assist me with this monumental mission, I have called in the help of an expert – Cameron Kirkconnell, a 13-time spearfishing world record holder.
Cameron teaches me breathing techniques that are the key to successful freediving. He tells me to take deep breaths into the diaphragm to oxygenate the blood and slow exhales to drop the heart rate and relax the body. If I want to stay under for long, I have to keep calm. Easier said than done! At the end of the breathing session I’m feeling tingly but manage to stay under for a whole three and a half minutes.
With the sun slowly setting we bid farewell to Vamizi. We’re sailing 70 Nautical miles overnight to the St. Lazarus Banks – our hunting ground for Dogtooth tuna. When we arrive we’re in the middle of the ocean, with no other boats or land to be seen. It’s an incredible feeling but I can’t enjoy it for long as it’s soon time to get in the water.
Back on deck after my unsuccessful attempt at spearing the tuna, Cameron is smiling at me with badly disguised amusement. He then proceeds to tell me I look green but suggests running back up current to do another dive. Though I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less, I’m not willing to give up quite yet. Still feeling ill, I have to hurry and make my descent. In the depths I see a huge fish circling the bait, it’s not a Dogtooth but a Wahoo – another delicious game fish. I thrust my spear at the Wahoo and success! As the Wahoo swims hurriedly away, I have to work quickly while trying to keep my eye on him. It’s a tough struggle but I manage to land my catch and proudly bring the 17 kilo fish to the surface. Now if we can just bag one of the Dogtooths, it’ll make our day complete.
I look into the water and realise that sharks, attracted by the smell of blood, are circling the boat. With so much unwanted attention we’ll only have one more shot so Cameron takes the plunge leaving me to fend off the predators. It’s not long before he spots a Dogtooth tuna 30 meters down, swimming along the rocky bank… Bull’s eye! The buoy above goes haywire; the Dogtooth is immensely strong and pulls the buoy under water. Eventually the buoy emerges and Cameron goes in for the fight. After a long struggle, he manages to haul in our prize.
With the sharks all over us, time is long overdue to get out of the water. Back aboard the yacht, I prepare a sumptuous meal of pan-fried loin of Dogtooth tuna, with a reduction of tuna belly and coconut for Cameron and the crew. As we eat the delicious fish, I think to myself that this really has been the trip of a lifetime. Despite the physical and mental challenge of spearfishing, we managed to get what we came for which makes it all oh so worth it.