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Stilt fishermen

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

X8MJ+Q93, Koggala, Sri Lanka

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

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expert
Krishan
Local tour guide
"To truly appreciate the skill of the stilt fishermen in Galle, visit during the early morning hours when the water is calm and the crowds are sparse; it's the best time to watch them at work and snap that perfect undisturbed photo. Also, if you're keen on trying stilt fishing yourself, befriend a local fisherman and they might just share their perch with you, offering a memorable authentic experience that most tourists miss."

What is Stilt Fishermen?

Stilt fishing is an age-old fishing method in the coastal regions of Southern Sri Lanka where fishermen sit on a crossbar called a 'petta', tied to a vertical pole and driven into the sand a few meters offshore. This practice, most famously seen in the waters around Galle, involves fishermen perching on the stilts and fishing with rods and lines while balancing themselves quite elegantly. The sight is quite picturesque and has become one of the most iconic images associated with the country's rich fishing tradition.

The shallow waters around Galle provide ideal conditions for stilt fishing, where the fisherman sits several meters above the water surface, waiting patiently for their catch. This practice is usually performed in the early mornings or late evenings, as a unique and sustainable way to catch small reef fish. It is a testament to the ingenuity and tradition of the local communities who have developed and honed this technique over generations.

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History of Stilt Fishermen

Stilt fishing originated after World War II when food shortages and overcrowded fishing spots prompted some locals to get creative. The practice began on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, where coral reefs and rocky substrates abound. These fishermen found that by elevating themselves above the water, they could access deeper and less over-fished waters. Over time, it has become a significant part of the cultural landscape of Galle and the nearby coastal regions.

As the practice evolved, it became steeped in local tradition. Each stilt was handed down from father to son, and the location of these stilts was, and still is, jealously guarded. Fishing on stilts requires skill, balance, and a deep understanding of the water and the fish that swim within it. The fishermen would spend hours each day, perched precariously on their stilts, waiting and watching for the right moment to cast their lines.

Why is Stilt Fishermen Important?

The importance of stilt fishermen in Galle extends beyond the mere act of catching fish. They are a symbol of the resilience and inventiveness of the Sri Lankan people, reflecting an intimate relationship with the sea that has sustained communities for generations. Moreover, stilt fishing has become an emblematic cultural and tourist attraction, introducing visitors to a unique aspect of Sri Lanka's heritage and way of life.

In today's context, stilt fishermen have seen a shift in their activity, with the art partly becoming a performance for the benefit of tourists. While some continue the practice as a means of livelihood, others engage in it as an income source through tourism. Visitors from around the world are drawn to the picturesque sight, often wanting to experience or photograph this serene and traditional fishing method.

Things to Do & See at Stilt Fishermen

Visiting the stilt fishermen offers a serene and authentic peek into the traditional Sri Lankan way of life. Here are some recommendations for integrating the experience into your visit:

  • Photography: Capture the iconic image of the stilt fishermen, especially during sunrise or sunset when the light is just perfect, painting the scene in a warm golden hue.
  • Experience Fishing: Some fishermen may offer the opportunity to try stilt fishing for yourself—an experience that lets you appreciate the skill and patience required in this unique practice.
  • Local Interaction: Use the opportunity to interact with the fishermen. They often have stories to share that give you deeper insight into the local culture and history behind this unusual method of fishing.
  • Explore Surrounding Beaches: The coastline near Galle is dotted with beautiful beaches. After admiring the stilt fishermen, why not take a swim or relax on the sandy shores?
  • Culinary Delights: Galle and its surroundings offer fantastic local cuisine. Try out some freshly caught seafood prepared in traditional Sri Lankan style.
  • Cultural Tours: Consider joining a guided cultural tour that includes stilt fishing as part of a broader exploration of the area's heritage and natural beauty.

Do keep in mind that while the stilt fishermen are a famous attraction, it is essential to approach them respectfully and to agree on a price beforehand if you're interested in photography or participating in the experience. After all, we want to uphold the respect and dignity of this timeless tradition!

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Frequently asked questions

What is the history behind the Stilt fishermen of Galle?

Stilt fishing is a traditional fishing method in Sri Lanka, where fishermen sit on a crossbar tied to a vertical pole planted into the coral reef. It was first practiced by fishermen around Galle during World War II when food shortages and overcrowded fishing spots prompted them to try fishing on the water.

How do Stilt fishermen in Galle fish?

Stilt fishermen in Galle use a stilt or pole with a crossbar called a 'petta' to perch on. They wade out into the shallow waters or sit above the surf and cast their fishing lines to catch mainly spot herring and mackerel.

Where can I see the Stilt fishermen in Galle?

The Stilt fishermen can typically be seen on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, especially around the areas of Galle, just off the main coastal road between Unawatuna and Weligama. The practice is more common during the dry season, from October to April.

Can tourists participate in stilt fishing in Galle?

Some local stilt fishermen in Galle offer tourists the opportunity to try stilt fishing for themselves, usually under their supervision to ensure safety and proper technique.

What are the best times to see the Stilt fishermen in Galle?

The best times to observe stilt fishermen in Galle are usually early in the morning at sunrise and in the late afternoon as the sun sets. These times are when the fishermen go out to sea, taking advantage of the changing tides.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

X8MJ+Q93, Koggala, Sri Lanka

Opening Hours

8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps