Galle Fort’s antique mariner | Daily News

Galle Fort’s antique mariner

Try exploring the ancient citadel from one of the fort’s hidden beaches
Try exploring the ancient citadel from one of the fort’s hidden beaches

Eranga grew up around the sea and see’s the Galle Fort beach by the lighthouse as his greatest love and the sea as his family’s fridge freezer.

If you are lucky and the city is not lockdown on a good day he will catch octopus or fish and cook up the most amazing seafood rice and curry with vegetables he grows in pots by his house and antiques shop opposite the ancient rampart walls over looking the historic harbour. During the season he tells me between spoonfuls of the freshest sea food I have ever eaten, that he finds it better to fish at night by the light of a head torch which illuminates his dazed and sleeping adversaries before he spears them on a metal spike.

Eranga’s antique shop is near the lighthouse on Hospital Street

Sitting listing to his many fascinating stories with his gorgeous wife on their balcony is just one of the wonders of this ancient citadel. Sit around long enough and you will be captivated by the waves crash into waves, ocean into sea, reason into unreason, and the rational into the irrational and this is just part of the mystique of the deep blue seas that surround this mystical ancient sea trading spot, where Eranga sells antiques to make a living and some very serene paintings that inspire people to step out of their usually over busy lives. If you care to join him fishing you will discover various shoals of fish arrayed in magnificent disarray, swiftly brushing past hunks of remaining reef coral, as life takes on the living – and as ever the sea is testy, incorrigible and the final frontier of man, a place Eranga calls his watery second home.

He loves telling poetic stories under the gaze of the full moon about the wrecks of ships occupying the blips of torpor, menacing in their gargantuan rust, monstrous in their girth, preening with unassuming treasures from a bygone colonial era, only disturbed by a flurry of marine life and protected by the rich heritage of this World Heritage area. With a harpoon on his back this sinking and slinking plunderer marks time, while searching for squid, cuttlefish and crabs for his lovely wife and father, who is famous through out the old city as the ancient mariner of the sea. Dusk plays a game of solitaire and retracts its vice grip - darkness succumbs. The curled beings sleep in the warmth of relief and the few guests that still visit the old city between lockdowns enjoying checking out Eranga’s family shop an aladdin’s cave of well polished lanterns, hand painted masks and many other beautiful souvenirs. Between showing you different island hand crafted goods he will serve ginger tea, which he says is good for everything including building your immune system and protecting you from sea sickness.

Historical Mansion with its coral well is another treasure worth seeing

If ever you needed proof that man has evolved to suit his habitat then please look no further than Hospital Street’s Eranga Chamara. Here is the son of a fisherman and the grandson of a man who used to make his living diving for shells, a product of a family attached to all sea life and a world he see’s as more worldly and fun than following the stereotypical business career. Seeing Eranga out fishing is like watching a golden eagle soar supreme above the starlit skies. When he enters the shallows clad only in a pair of swimming trunks and gigantic blue fins with a piece of wire wrapped about his waist and a snorkel and mask covering his face he strikes that rather inelegant image of the ordinary man enjoying a spot of beach fishing.

That is until he plunges into the water, harpoon clenched in one hand cutting through the waves with a grace and speed that is beyond that of anyone else you are likely to see in the Western world. He does not have the power of Michael Phelps or the sleek elegance of Rebecca Adlington as they traverse the chlorine water of an artificial Olympic swimming pool. Instead Eranga has an innate ability to find his way about clumps of coral and stone with great ease and without damaging any of it as he knows it true value to the marine world. He is drawing not only on his skill as a swimmer but a fantastic memory of how the sea lies at different times of the day and how the rocks can accordingly be submerged at nine in the morning and jut proud of the sea by six at night.

Eranga’s shop

Fishing he tells me has also become more problematic since the 2004 tsunami which caused a seismic shock within the habitat that lurks in the waters about Galle Fort, disrupting well-established breeding patterns of many species. This is an issue which Eranga has come to terms with over seventeen years on, and he believes that the new patterns of movement and breeding are becoming established showing how, like the fort, the sea is also ever changing environ that ebbs and flows according to what life throws at it.

You don’t have to talk to Eranga for long to discover that this man is totally at one with the ocean that lives as the mistress of his heart, captivating his imagination and calling him to the water at least once every day. Eranga may leave the water without a scratch but by the time the coral had finished with me I looked like I’d been given a once over with a cheese grater, but its worth it to see the sea world first hand and appreciate the magnificent shell and coral man made fort walls that tower over this idyllic spot.

Once you have had your fill of the sea and its rich marine life, do stop for a tea and buy a few souvenirs to support this lovely family through two of the hardest years in fort business history. Buying locally from a small family owned businesses right now is essential to keep the living community going as they are the heart beat of this four hundred year old fort. It also a chance to really make a difference as a traveller exploring this beautiful island.


Portrait of Eranga
Eranga in his diving kit
Eranga walking through corals
Enjoy the fort beaches. They are always great places to take the kids to cool down
To reach the beaches, go through the coral and shell walls
Galle Fort is even more impressive when viewed from the air


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