Travelling along the coast between Unawatuna and Weligama you’ll see lots of tall wooden poles protruding from the foreshore. At low tide, many will have men sitting on crossbars lashed to them, dangling rods into the waves.
Stilt fishing is actually much less ancient that it looks. Local men started the practise during World War II, when food supplies were squeezed.
Like much else in Sri Lanka, the tradition was transformed by the 2004 tsunami, since when the locals have found they make more money posing for pictures than actually fishing. Some aren’t even fishermen at all, just opportunists posing for tips! Even so, the custom makes for an enthralling spectacle, especially for any teens, who can expect to be invited to scale a pole and pose for a snap – perfect Instagram fodder!
Serious photographers, however, need not worry. Your TransIndus guide will know where to find bona fide stilt fishers at work on a quiet stretch of coast near Matara – the last practitioners of this quirky Sri Lanka tradition.
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