They slip past slowly like birds on the water. Several times throughout the day, even after the sun begins its descent, you’ll see one, here and there, with new faces each time. New men at the helm, for it is almost always men.
The Tonga tribe of Zambia that we share the banks of the Zambezi with have long used the mokoro for fishing and transport along the river, the fourth largest in Africa. It is one of a family’s most treasured possessions; the answer to food, money and movement and all that those three facilitate.
If you have travelled through Africa before, you’re most likely already familiar with the mokoro, the traditional dug out canoe used not only by the Tonga people of Zambia but also the tribes living around the Okavango Delta in Botswana, where travellers share in the custom, canoeing down the waters in mekoro (plural for mokoro) themselves.
For us at Royal Chundu, we like to keep our guests in an inflatable canoe, but our neighbours, many of the people we work with, use their mekoro for crossing the great river and for fishing, particularly during the Parrot Fish Run.
Without the mokoro, fishermen would not be able to benefit from the annual Parrot Fish Run that hits the river usually during July and August. It is said that a family can survive a year on the fish caught in this one season. Some of the fish caught are sold in the local market and some kept, dried and eaten throughout the year.
Read Relais & Châteaux’s blog, Parrot Fishing on the Yemen. Pardon, the Zambezi for a closer look…
The risk of the wild and dangerous down below is very real and many fishermen have lost their lives to the hippos and crocodiles that inhabit the waters. But it is a risk they’re willing to take.
A traditional mokoro is crafted out of large, hard indigenous trees, hollowed out from the tree’s trunk. When they wear down, a new tree is harvested for this purpose.
Over the last year, we have been watching our mokoro men, photographing their daily passing from our spot at River Lodge and Island Lodge, to bring you, the life of the mokoro in these images below… We hope you enjoy and visit us soon to capture your own photographs of this African icon.