When visiting Sri Lanka, the south should definitely be one of the highest on your list. A direct train from Colombo to Galle will get you there in under 4 hours too. Unawatuna Beach is simply beautiful and is lined with cafe’s restaurants, bars and hotels.
Besides the beautiful beaches that are dotted all around the southern coasts of Sri Lanka, the thing that caught my attention was the fishing industry. Pop up markets filtered throughout the centre of Galle, fresh with the catches made early morning. The vibrancy and variation in contrast to what we see back in the UK, makes me wonder how I will ever eat fish in the UK again. A fisherman asked me “do you get tuna in the England sea?” I found no one with any knowledge of cod and mackerel in Sri Lanka. It’s was almost laughable and brought a few of them much confusion that our seas were free of tuna.
Something Sri Lanka has become renowned for is the stories about Stilt fisherman. From a photographical point of view I had hoped and even researched about the continuing existence and history behind the tradition, wondering if it was still practised. Stilt fisherman initially started during the second world war when overcrowded fishing drew some men to the sea. Generations have managed to continue this demanding existence over the past 70 years or so, however due to the Tsunami in 2004, the lives of many fisherman in Sri Lanka including those of the stilt fisherman were swiftly altered. Homes were rebuilt inland, and coast lines were destroyed forever. How can a fisherman work from a few miles inland?
Whilst following the coast from Galle to Weligama clusters of stilts can be seen. Although, at first glance you purely pass the baron stilts, no one to be seen fishing. It’s only when you approach do you uncover the reason why. The old tradition is still alive, however the motive has changed. Perching on a tall stilt the men take a stick and fine thread and dangle a small rusted hook into the ocean hovering over small schools of fish but only for a price. The fisherman whether genuine or not, pose for tourists and visitors for 1000 rupee or an extra 500 to participate.
In retrospect it’s a little pricey, and a lot more money than most average meals in Sri Lanka, but I understand the adaptation. Whether or not the fishing method is still used for its original means, locals need to make a living. To me it hasn’t lost it’s novelty, and doesn’t lessen what they do in anyway. I was rather happy to release the small tropical fish back into the sea after unhooking them and be part of the whole experience. Everyone has to make a living and if something like this can be continued in a small way I believe it should.