The Perancak Fishing Boats… West Bali is probably as close as you can get to the “real Bali”. Where the impact of tourism has been minimal. And you can still see the Balinese living their lives much as they always have.
It also has some very pleasant surprises and I recently stumbled on one courtesy of the Secret Bali guidebook. I think I may own every guidebook published on Bali, but none have anything about the Perancak fishing boats!
So, I was quite intrigued and decided I needed to go and see for myself. Which, from Canggu in South Bali where I live, involves a three-hour motorcycle ride. And will take you through the large town of Tabanan and then up the south-west coast of the island.
Where To See The Fishing Boats?
There are two places where you can see the boats – on the river at Perancak itself and Pengambengan fishing harbour.
I opted for Pengambengan and was very happy with the overall experience. Although the difference between visiting the harbour late afternoon for the sunset and early morning for the sunrise was significant!
Now that I understand a bit more about the boats and their crews I will go back and check out Perancak. So watch this space…
Pengambengan: Late Afternoon – Peaceful and Serene…
Until I went to Pengambengan I had no idea that there is quite a substantial fish canning industry there. It is centered around the small town of Cupel and is really quite “industrial”
The harbour is where the fishing boats unload their catches. Late afternoon is very quiet as the crews and everybody else are in their villages. Then as the sun starts to go down the whole area turns from industrial to quite serene as the boats are illuminated beautifully!
The incredible late afternoon light and the still waters of the harbour provide an almost perfect backdrop. One that sets off the amazing colors and decorations of the boats. The sheer vibrancy of it all is almost psychedelic in its intensity!
Pengambengan: Early Morning – Frenetic!
I really had no idea what to expect when I arrived at Pengambengan harbour just after 5 the next morning… It was still pitch black and yet the place was a hive of activity!
Several of the boats had just returned with what seemed full catches and the race was on to get the fish ashore.
That is a completely manual process that is done by teams of two carriers, who shoulder the load between them. The boat crews load the fish in to large baskets which are then lowered over the side to the waiting carriers. A stout bamboo pole is used to support the basket and then walk it to shore.
Given that the carriers are shoulder deep at the boat, this is a really tough task. But, in true Balinese fashion, they just get on with it!
At the shore, the baskets have to be carried up the slope and then over to the nearby weighing hall. And then its back out for the next load until the holds are empty.
The Perancak Fishing Boats: Fish Liberators…
As I wondered around taking photographs I noticed the group of some 12-14 ladies who were split in to two sub-groups. The larger group were in the water and the members of the small one were “hovering” around at the shore.
As the carriers took each basket from the boat, the in-water ladies kind of mobbed them!
Then I realized that what they were doing was grabbing as many of the fish as they could… Similarly, the hoverers on the shore were simply waiting for their chance to “liberate” some of the catch!
In terms of the overall opportunity, the in-water ladies seem to be able to liberate more fish than their on-shore colleagues. Mainly because the on-shore ladies literally only have seconds to strike…
The in-water ladies really have a tough gig as they are out in the water for hours. But, again in true Balinese fashion, everybody just gets on with what they have to do!
Please check back for the update when I have photographed the Perancak fishing boats on the river at Perancek. And if you liked this post please take the time to follow me on Instagram.