Fishing by catamaran on the Batticaloa LagoonBack
It is impossible to pass through Batticaloa without being drawn in by the impressive beauty of its largest lagoon. The city of Batticaloa sits neatly between the ocean and the Batticaloa lagoon, an estuarine body of water that has gained some recognition in Sri Lanka for its appearance in local folklore. The lagoon is said to be home to ‘singing fish’ who lead fisherman to their catch on dark nights. Various researchers have tried to document this strange phenomenon, but a veil of mystery and uncertainty is wrapped around the elusive singing fish of Batticaloa, making the legend all the more delicious! Whether or not you believe the stories, you can’t leave Batticaloa without some talk of fish. Fishing is big business in Sri Lanka’s coastal areas and the trade has been going for thousands of years with little change. Using skilled fishing techniques passed down from generation to generation and setting out on traditional catamaran boats, the fishermen of Batticaloa can be seen everywhere – drifting out to sea, lining the beaches selling their wears, hawking seafood in the bustling markets, and sailing out onto the Batticaloa lagoon in search of prawn, crab and other small freshwater fish. Get stuck right into the local livelihood as you join the fishermen for a fishing trip out on the lagoon.
As the day folds in on Batticaloa, the sunset is reflected onto the water. Mirror-like, the lagoon glistens with the orange, red, purple and peach hues of a full-bodied Sri Lankan sundown. You will take a short 5km bicycle ride down by the lagoon to visit the lighthouse area and the Mamangam Hindu temple before making your way to the water’s edge to meet the fishermen. Fishermen in these areas use traditional catamaran boats for fishing. These long thin characteristic boats appear to teeter precariously on the water, but a well-placed outrigger on one side keeps them stable even against harsh winds and the iconic design has seen little change over the centuries. The boats are just big enough to squeeze your legs into, but other than that there is little space. The fishermen usually stand whilst throwing their nets into the water, and once you’ve been on the boat long enough to trust its balance, you’ll find it quite easy to stand too. Fishermen in Batticaloa have a peculiar and distinctive way of fanning their nets out into the water. It involves a careful process of pleating the net, winding it round ones shoulders and then casting it out into the lagoon. When done correctly the net pulls in a good range of fish quite quickly. Let the fishermen teach you the process before trying it out yourself. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll master the technique, but you’ll have a good laugh trying! If you like you can even take the fish home at the end of the experience, but do not expect to catch much. This experience is more about delving into local livelihoods and understanding traditional trades than pulling your the catch of the day.