Negombo fish market Sri Lanka

Negombo Fish Market, Sri Lanka

This isn’t always on the top of people’s to-do list when visiting Sri Lanka but I think if you have the time it’s worth a visit the Negombo Fish Market. It’s an hour drive North of Colombo and just 20 mins from the airport, so it makes for an interesting last stop. I say last because, if you make this your first stop it may be a shock to the system if not used to 3rd world countries. Smelly fish markets are not always for everyone. However, if you can appreciate the local lifestyle and if fish doesn’t gross you out then give it a try. It’s a photographer’s playground!


Negombo fish market Sri Lanka

Negombo Fish Market:

What to expect

It’s a very local scene in a busy little town. The first catches come in from as early as 4:30 am. I suggest to get there early if you want to get the best experience. It doesn’t have to be at the crack of dawn but between 7-9 am is ideal. It’s quite busy and entertaining. Watching the fresh catches come in as well as the hustle and bustle of people buying and selling is mesmerizing. The mean-faced old ladies are my favourite, hacking away at their fish as if part of a ruthless mob gang!


            Negombo fish market Sri Lanka                Negombo fish market Sri Lanka

It’s perfectly safe, I promise!

What really blew me away was the endless scene of salted fish being laid out to dry in the heat of the day. Salted and dried fish are delicacies in Sri Lanka. Each and every fish gets laid out by hand on hessian sacks, across large areas the size of sports fields, and turned back breakingly one by one until they have dried out.


            Negombo fish market Sri Lanka                Negombo fish market Sri Lanka

Have an open mind and heart

You may come across a jolly local fellow named Raja. He will sidle up beside you and start giving you a tour of the market without you really asking for it. It seems he’s the self-proclaimed local tour guide at the Negombo fish market. Normally this would irritate me as I hate being hassled and feeling like I’m being duped into something because I have a foreign accent. A shameful wall to always have up but unfortunately sometimes a necessity. However, Raja’s warm smile, great English and really interesting knowledge of our surroundings got to me.


                               Negombo Fish Market Sri Lanka                                Negombo fish market Sri Lanka


So, I let it go and just enjoyed myself. There was no threat and I was really intrigued by how this whole operation worked and also all the different species of fish around us. Most of them I had never seen before, so I was grateful for the chaperon. He was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining, as well as patient while I was taking a million photographs. He even picked up on my enthusiasm and pointed out things to me that would look good through the lens.


            Negombo fish market Sri Lanka                Negombo fish market Sri Lanka


When I was ready to leave, I thanked him kindheartedly for his insightful and friendly tour. There was no begging or pressure for payment but, of course, he deserved something. Not quite sure of what amount would be appropriate, I braced myself for an argument and possibly being harassed for more dollars (again, that awful wall). I gave him the equivalent of about $5, and with a toothless grin he joyfully accepted, pouring out his gratitude! I felt a bit guilty at my initial frugality, but he was happy and so was I. My faith in the genuine kindness of humanity had been slightly restored once again. Sri Lanka’s magic will do that to you…


Negombo fish market Sri Lanka


Read More:

Top 10 Things To Do in Sri Lanka

Exploring Colombo – Things To Do

Best Restaurants in Colombo

Top Activities – Ella

Hiking Adam’s Peak

Take The Scenic Train – Ella to Hatton

Learn to Cook Sri Lankan Food

The Land of Ceylon – Lipton’s Seat


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