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Pirate Paradise in Puntland, Somalia

True adventure is not dead.

We all grew up on tales of piracy. I remember my wistful reluctance to accept that I’d never get to yo-ho-ho with a bottle of rum and dead man’s chest somewhere tropical, not climb up to the crow’s nest with a cuttlass-wielding captain after me.

Sure, Johnny Depp and co let us relive those fantasies on the big screen but for most of us the closest we’d ever come to piracy was heading to the Pirate Bay to download some music instead of enriching further the traditional media mafia.

But surprisingly piracy is alive and well in the modern world.

30% of the world’s oil passes down through the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden south of the Yemen and tankers of all nations are fending off piracy attacks just about every week. China has just sent military there to protect the flow of black gold and Japan has declared it will do the same.

The way it works is this: pirates follow the movement of oil tankers with the latest hi-tech tracking gear, they make a skirmish in speedboats and the kind of high-powered weaponry that can be bought for a song in Africa. They board the ships with rocket-powered grappling hooks and once in charge of the vessel, they sail it to the free port of Eyl in Puntland, Somalia. The crew and cargo are taken hostage – the sailors usually being treated very well – and the ransom is paid via insurers based in London.

In Eyl, Puntland – a semi-autonomous zone of Somalia – piracy has become a cottage industry and supports a thriving local economy in one of the poorest countries in the world. Specialist restaurant have sprung up to provide food suitable for the tastes of the hostages and as an estimated $150 million has been made from piracy in 2008 alone, the vast profits are paying for fancy weddings, new cars and houses.

So for any traveler out there that complains that there’s just no adventure left in going to places like Thailand, get on a flight to Somalia and send us back an exclusive from Puntland.

And take them a copy of Pirates of the Caribbean.

BBC report on piracy in Somalia