Cormorant fishing is an ancient Chinese practice that has been carried out for decades, and is a must-see during your time exploring Guilin and the Li River. The art of cormorant bird fishing is an excellent night-time display where majestic cormorant birds have been expertly trained to dive for the fish in the river, and it can be booked as an optional excursion on our Very Best of China tour. It’s the perfect activity to enjoy before setting off the next day to discover the immense natural beauty of the Li River by day on a scenic cruise.
After being transported from your hotel to the Li River jetty by your driver and guide, with the journey taking approximately 15 minutes, you’ll board a boat and travel a short distance out into the river. From the middle of the river, you can fully appreciate the show and see the cormorant fisherman at work with a 360-degree view.
This show typically takes place after sunset, with a group of cormorant birds standing by ready to fish, perched on gas-lit bamboo rafts. These lit-up rafts illuminating the river are a brilliant sight to see, even before the cormorants begin their diving. Cleverly trained by the fishermen, watch as the cormorants gracefully dive under the water, hunting for fish, before emerging and bringing their catch back to the fishermen. The cormorants also have threads tied around their necks, to prevent them from swallowing the fish, and to bring them back to the boat if needed. They are however rewarded for their work with smaller fish for their hard work in bringing the large fish back for humans.
Watching a cormorant fishing show is the best way to get up close and see this traditional practice in action. The art of cormorant fishing is still practised even today by the fishermen of the Li River, although to a lesser extent than in previous years, as more efficient fishing methods have been developed. Even so, many local fishermen still appreciate the simplicity and beauty of cormorant fishing. Most of the Li River is also closed for fishing for environmental reasons, so the cormorant fishing shows in Guilin are often one of the only ways to see the masters at work cormorant fishing on the Li River.