Run, Parrotfish, Run

| Tamlin Wightman

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“Hobbies are for pleasure, but rituals keep you going.” ― David Mitchell


The annual Parrotfish Run on the Zambezi is about more than fishing.

Taking place between June and August, it is more than a hobby for those who take part – that is, the local fishermen living on the banks of this part of Zambia. It is part of their existence, a ritual going back decades, as their forefathers took to the same streams for the run, putting claim to certain channels and passing them on like natural heirlooms.

If you have access to a channel, you have access to life.

With the Parrotfish Run having descended upon us once more, the latest generation has taken to the waters that flow past our lodge to embark on this legacy – one that will provide them with income, as they sell the catch at the market, as well as food for many months to come.


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The Parrotfish belongs to the elephant fish family – Mormyridae.

While the locals have staked their claim to this ritual, guests are welcome to watch it take place, whether from the deck at Island Lodge or on a canoe trip down the river – getting up close to the fish traps and meeting the fishermen with our experienced guides – most of whom will take part or have taken part in the event themselves.

As the long rains come to an end, the river fills up with millions of fish from the floodplains, and pulls them downstream with it. Families come from far and wide and set up camp on the banks or on small islets between the channel, for the entire run. The fishermen anchor their handwoven fish baskets on the smaller rapids, which make for an easy catchment area. They will spend most of the day preparing, setting up, retrieving and emptying their traps, before doing it all again.

It’s a risky ritual, what with the hippos and crocodiles that inhabit these waters, but it is one embedded in the history of the Zambezi and its residents, one considered a birth right and a privilege.

Like all rituals, the run is elevated from being a mere activity to something of a ceremony, one that is anticipated all year and joyously celebrated, with campfires and music emanating from the fisher-families’ embankments come nighttime.

Take a look at some of our photographs of the Parrotfish Run below and be sure to join us for this spectacle for yourself.

Discover more from blog, Parrot Fishing On The Yemen. Pardon. The Zambezi.


Parrot Fishing on the Zambezi

 

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Parrotfish Run

 

Baskets

 

Parrotfish Run 2015 (424)

 

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Parrotfish Run

 

Traps

 

Parrotfish Run 2015 (445)

 

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Camping