Stilt Fishermen and the Snake Conservation Centre – 28/2/2015

Written by Tristan 

Weligama Stilt Fishermen

Stilt fishing began after World War II as a result of food shortages and a lack of boats and already overcrowded fishing spots. Stilt fishing involves driving a vertical pole into the sea floor or a riverbed and then attaching a crossbar onto that vertical pole creating a seat for the fisherman, a couple of meters above the water.  It does require skill and balance to be seated in such a precarious position. The stilt fishermen then use a rod to cast out a line and bring in spotted herrings and small mackerels.  The catch is collected in a bag either tied to the pole or attached to the fisherman. Two generations of fishermen used the stilt fishing method to eek out a living along the 30 kilometre stretch of shoreline between Unawatuna and Weligama. 

Over fishing and the effect of the 2004 tsunami, which decimated the coastline, has meant that there are now very few real stilt fishermen left, most have turned to farming or other industries and rent out their stilts to those who are happy to pose for photos for the tourist.   Mum was really keen to see the stilt fishing even if it wasn’t real, so we visited the area and found some young men posing as fishermen.  3 minutes and $5 later mum had some photos and the guy was happy enough.  Apparently there are still a few genuine locals who catch small fish using the stilt method at dawn and dusk.

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Snake Farm

The snake farm is located just outside of Matara and is run by the owner, Wikman Bandera, although his father Wijepala still helps out.  The farm has been in the family for three generation.  The farm is also a Ayurveda treatment for snake poisoning.   They apparently receive up to 40 rescued snakes a day.  The have both venomous and nonvenomous snakes and only Wikman handles the venomous ones.  The first snake we were introduced to was a poisonous one, a cobra.  Apparently Wikman had already been bitten five times in the past, and his father had been bitten 32 times!

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After he put away the cobra, he took out a small viper. We got some photos of that.

Ava and mum don’t look particularly happy

The next snake was a Green Tree Snake and we had that around our necks. It was very calm, just like the next snake, a Green Vine Snake. It’s head looked like a dragon, and we all held the snake except Josh, and Max, who by this point had gone back to the van.

Green Vine Snake

Next was a large brown snake, which I can’t remember the name of, and a tiny snake, which was Ava’s favourite.

A couple more cobras were taken out, including a baby Black Cobra, and we had an Ornate Flying Snake on our arms. It was my favourite of the snakes as it was beautifully patterned. Finally we had a python on our necks, with Mum pulling horrendous faces and even Josh holding the snake.

All in all, I thought the snake center was great!

Entrance Price

  • Adults 800 rupees/children 450 rupees

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