Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Stilt fishermen in Weligama Sri lanka

When most people hear about Sri Lanka, they picture the amazing expansive beaches, but at first that was not me. When I saw Steve McCurry’s iconic photograph of Stilt fishermen sitting on poles in the middle of a stormy sea, I instantly knew that I had to travel to Sri Lanka to experience this first hand.

During World War II, there was food shortage so some fishermen started using wreckage of capsized ships and downed aircraft to fish, then they advanced and began erecting their stilts in coral reefs. These fishermen make the activity seem easy and comfortable, but it actually requires much skill and balance.

A vertical pole with an attached crossbar is embedded into the sea floor among the shallows, or on a riverbed. This crossbar allows the fishermen to be seated a couple of meters above the water causing minimal shadows on the water and hence little to no disturbance amongst the sea life. The stilt fishermen then use a rod from this precarious position to bring in a good catch of spotted herrings and small mackerels from the comparative shallows of the sea. They collect the catch in a bag tied to the pole or to their waist.

Sadly, this craft is dying off and we would like you to experience it by booking a tour to Mirissa beach, Hikkaduwa Beach or Unawatuna Beach. To do this, send us an email on or call us on +254 722 354 333 / 733 616 445.

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