Towards the end of my stay in Yangshuo I gave in, I broke, I decided to go see the Comorant Fishermen. It was as staged for the tourists’ pleasure, and as packed with tourists, as I expected but it still managed to be unbelievably awesome.
We were all packed into this boat and sailed onto the river where we were joined by two fishermen on bamboo rafts along with their birds. And I have to say, even allowing for the tourists, the whole thing was NOTHING like that HSBC advert.
Each fisherman had a small flock of birds which he tipped into the water as we got going. A bright light shone from the front of the rafts onto the water, presumably to entice the fish closer to the surface, and glistened off the feathers of the birds. And then they started to dive. Just one at a time to begin with. They’d suddenly disappear and you’d see them moving under the water, sinuous and sleek as snakes, before reappearing. At times the whole flock would suddenly go and you knew they’d spotted something.
One flock caught two big fish and one tiny one in the end – the other flock caught nothing. When they caught the fish they tipped their heads right back, throats distended and working frantically, and enormous tail flopping and heaving half out of their beaks. The fisherman had to haul the fish out.
Then we turned to head back, with a brief pause at a tiny island for a photo op. And I admit I couldn’t resist.