Using basic navigational tools and their personal strengths, Kuwaiti kayakers Bashar Al-Huneidi, Mansour Al-Safran and Irish professional kayaker Colin Wong set out from Kuwait on a spectacular expedition across the Gulf. Raising awareness about the region’s marine environment, the trio went forth in November 2016 and concluded their journey in the UAE mangrove of Khor Kalba by the sea of Oman.
Covering a total distance of 2000 km, or a staggering 25-50 km per day, the three environmental heroes kayaked for an average of 8-12 hours per day, a feat that could be compared to running a marathon every day, for a total of 90 days.
Despite a road accident that occurred when the Kayakers had to continue on land for part of the expedition, as well as the sinking of their support ship along the way, the K20 team did not give up. Indeed, the kayakers persevered, as the expedition’s main goal was to complete the journey to effectively tell a story about the current health of the region’s marine environment, its incomparable beauty, and why policy in the region needs to dynamically shift toward saving our seas. It was a journey envisioned by Kayak4Kuwait, an initiative started by the K20 expedition leader Bashar in Kuwait, for people all across the region to take note and action when it comes to the marine environment.
The kayakers witnessed astounding scenery, beautiful marine protectorates and unfortunately, various alarming pollutants across the sea and the shores that the team visited. From discarded trash, forgotten fishnets, to garbage swept up to the shores by the sea’s currents, it became evident to the kayakers that development comes at a price, and that a tricky balance must be struck when it comes to managing national development and the regional environment. Through their daily kayaking efforts, the team met with many fishermen, environmental authorities as well as locals who shared the initiative’s goals and wishes to see more attention paid to the regional marine environment. Bashar further highlighted how the entire effort was organized based on sharing knowledge, gathering information, and logical observations of the three kayakers.
The kayaking adventurers took to the seas starting out in Kuwait last November. They traversed the Saudi Arabian coast line by car to continue kayaking from Bahrain onwards to Qatar and the UAE coastline until they reached the UAE’s Khor Kalba mangroves bordering the shores of Oman. From there, the team went on to explore the Omani Musandam Peninsula and returned to the UAE to conclude their journey at Khor Kalba. Remarking on this journey in an interview with news portal The National, Bashar stated, “The Arabian Gulf is under immense pressure and pollution and neglect has been ruining it for 30 or 40 years. Finally, there’s been a kind of environmental awakening.” Kayaker Mansour Al-Safran spoke on the team’s challenging daily schedule, “It’s a psychological journey more than it is a physical one. The most important thing is to keep the goal in mind.” For Colin Wong, the journey was difficult at times but was worth it, “I suppose it’s hard work but the places and people we’ve met along the way are just unbelievable. We’ve seen everything from turtles to dolphins!” Bashar considered peoples’ reactions as a direct success to the expedition’s goal. He believes that education about the cause is imperative in order to elicit environmental change. “People would greet us at the respective shorelines and ask us, ‘Why are you here on Kayaks? What’s the point?’ – this exposure alone allowed to us to speak to locals across the Gulf about the environment.”
The environmental and various governmental entities in each respective country supported the K20 Expedition along every leg of the journey. “Aside from the weather, which we could not control, the support of the various related governmental entities kept our spirits high and our end goal in sight. Without their genuine, incredible support, the journey would not have been possible.” said Bashar. The expedition is truly the first of its kind in the region, and required the complicated organization and wonderful cooperation of authorities across six nations the GCC. Bashar said, “I don’t think there is anything like the K20 Expedition, especially given the caliber of the organizational efforts involved. It was an enormous, but highly rewarding, endeavor.”
Now back in Kuwait upon completing the ambitious journey across the Gulf, Bashar is currently meeting with various official environmental entities to not only discuss the expedition’s findings and observations but to also encourage real change in environmental policy. Furthermore, the K20 expedition also plans to release a documentary feature film to share the beauty they encountered along their journey and to shed light on the importance of preserving the regional marine environment.
The K20 Expedition, in partnership with the Kuwait Environmental Public Authority (KEPA), was sponsored and supported by Agility Kuwait, Zain, Alghanim Marine, ACICO, Gulf Telecom, Radisson Blu Hotel Fujairah, The Palms Hotel and Dive Center, NBK holding group of Qatar (Nasser Bin Khaled), Al Sayer Holding Group, Kuwait National Coast Guard and the GCC’s governmental entities involved, Mentor Arabia, Kokatat, and bazaar. The K20 Expedition would also like to thank the Kayak4Kuwait team for their organizational efforts: Sundus Hussain, Saud Al Tawash, Samia Al-Duaij, Mansourah Khuraibet, Nancy Papathousolous, Khaled Abu Al Jubain, Mathew Alexander, Tarek Al Duaige, Abdullah Bu Qmasha, Reem Al Sharhan and Islam Basuny. On a personal note, K20 Expedition group leader Bashar also thanked his family for their continuous support, “My mother for her prayers and children for missing them so much.”