WORDS Nirali Shah-Jackson
PHOTOGRAPHY Francisco Gouveia @chaos_x_soul
Sitting in a cafe overlooking the rugged Atlantic coastline in Monte Clérigo, I quickly became enthralled by Cristian Pérez Esteban and Marzena Sieczka – both lovers of fishing and people totally made for each other and in love. Was it fate that they met or algorithm technology? Whatever it was – it was meant to be.
Clearly, dating apps have more of a social significance than I give them credit for, especially if they bring people like this together because, without them, there would literally be no Rock&Reel – a fishing adventure company whose morals are based on education, sustainability, adventure and fun, all delivered by two young individuals whose passion for fishing surpasses any other realm.
After meeting on Tinder they cased each other out, with friends in tow, on their first date. On their second, they decided to go fishing together. After they caught enough fish to prepare to cook, Cristian was just about to start to clean the fish and when he turned around to begin the process, much to his surprise, Marzena was already deep in the middle of the fish’s insides, gutting them with no qualms. His first thought was, “this is my girl!’
Marzena is a former Teacher and Polish native who was brought up in Germany. She fished enthusiastically and consistently after her first experience in Australia at the age of 30. Cristian comes from a marketing background, a Spanish native whose family, it seems from his stories, treated learning to walk as secondary to learning to fish!
So, it was a natural progression after they met in Aljezur to eventually offer an experience based on their calling in life – to fish and share their knowledge about marine life. They started the company during COVID times while living in a hostel where they met travellers who seemed interested in the idea of fishing. They developed the business and concept, and slowly and steadily have created an experience that allows their clients to connect with the ocean and learn valuable skills to live from it sustainably and respectfully.
Cristian and Marzena’s knowledge is priceless and when sharing this, it feels like you are transported into a National Geographic documentary series where experts articulate facts that you would have never have had access to or knowledge about before. This was my experience with eight children that I took on their Tide Pool Safari adventure for my son’s 12th birthday. During the safari, we were informed that barnacles have a penis that is eight times their body size and that after mating it drops off. So we were basically walking on infinite barnacle penises as we clambered around the rock pools. Somewhat amusing, mainly for me!
The Tide Pool Safari adventure is something that gives you a real appreciation of their depth of knowledge, their dedication to education and enthusiasm to share everything they can to empower their clients. The activity caters for young children as well as adults and is a family-based calm adventure that lasts around one and a half hours, based mainly around the rock pools of Monte Clérigo in Aljezur. Priced at 30€ per adult and 15€ for children under 11 years of age, Monte Clérigo is a stunning and accessible beach with three great restaurants, ample parking and good facilities for families; well worth a day out. It was a really interactive experience and I saw the children and parents wilfully engaging in the new information that was shared. It is all in the delivery, for sure!
They also offer a four-hour Portuguese-style fishing (pesca à chumbadinha) adventure off the lower plateau of the west coast cliffs. Not for the faint-hearted, this trip lasts four hours and is quite enduring but still land-based. You will need to be agile, good with heights and willing to get wet. The skills you learn should allow you to do some amateur fishing off smaller rock faces. The trips can be specifically tailored to your needs so that if you want to pursue Portuguese-style fishing as a hobby, you will gain the right skills and experience to help you do it on your own eventually. This experience costs 69€ each and fishing equipment and insurance and licenses are all included.
Their third adventure combines an experience of the elements, fishing and navigating the rocky outcrops all in one. You need to be relatively fit, good at swimming and happy to negotiate the Atlantic tides as here they take you on their ultimate adventure into the ocean with your wetsuits, swimming from the shore to an island and fishing from there. This is a five-hour trip that costs 120€ each.
To give you a first-hand account, I asked one of their clients from San Francisco to write about her experience. “We loved the Island fishing trip with Rock&Reel! It was an adventurous experience that brought our senses alive: Geared up in wetsuits, water shoes and a boogie board in hand, we lunged into the ocean and swam 200m to a rocky outcrop. Timing the swell and waves crashing ashore (and, I admit, adrenaline pumping), we pulled ourselves up the rock and made it to our day’s fishing spot. There they demonstrated and taught us about the tackle and gear while sharing their wealth of knowledge of the ocean world. We caught our own fish and it was extremely gratifying to have such fresh and self-caught food on our dinner plates!”
Watching any of their reels on social media gives you an essence of their experiences, with an approach that is down to earth – just like them – coupled with a little edge of danger. Having said that, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands no matter how nervous some of the descriptions of the adventures make you feel, as both Cristian and Marzena are trained lifeguards, experienced coastal guides and their company is fully licensed.
If you want to really brave the elements, get down and dirty with your fishing, and feel like a Portuguese fisherman, these are the people to ‘reel you in’!
Whatsapp +351 910 853 534