Lake Eber in Afyonkarahisar, in addition to housing hundreds of small islands, is a picture of rare majesty. The region’s population of 30,000 makes its livelihood off the floating islands through fishing at the many coves. People who support themselves through fishing and reed-making wrestle with their daily lives while living in homes made of reeds, similar to the types of houses found in Vietnam. In these strange houses which are illuminated at night by gas lamps, huge snakes and mosquitoes inevitably turn up. The region’s residents, though they confess their responsibility in disrupting the natural balance of the lake, all agree that if Lake Eber is left alone, it will remain nothing short of amazing.
In order to share in their experiences, at three in the morning, filled with excitement, we departed for the reed houses in a motor boat. Departing from moats filled with morning frost, we arrived at a small boat that was waiting for us in front of a corral. Our boatman vahap was setting foot on shore for the first time in weeks in order to meet us. We boarded a four-meter-long, quite narrow boat that resembled a canoe and wondered “Can five people fit in there?” My friends -- three nature-loving photographers, our boatman Vahap and I squeezed in.
The crackling of the reeds and noise of the birds accompanied the one-and-a-half hour journey to the small island which we would use as a base. We watched the sun rise from one side and from the other we tried to take pictures of the fishermen waiting for us in boats and gliding through the islands.
When we arrived, we noticed the island was swaying. Fishermen with scorched faces and rough hands welcomed us. Close to sunrise we again sailed out onto the lake. In the sun’s glow, we planned to take photos of the reeds waving, the birds flying and the kingfishers diving to their prey. The lake was covered in hundreds of nets and they are checked many times throughout the day. In this way the motionlessness of the fish caught in the nets drew our attention. Vahap said the fish were dying due to anoxia caused by factory run-off.
Eber Lake has a rich diversity of birds; it is one of the most diverse ecosystems in Turkey. The birds’ uneasiness drew our attention to the disturbance of the ecosystem caused by unchecked fishing and a lack of regulation. Taking photographs increased their nervousness. Even if we were at a distance, they immediately flew away. When we were able to come up close, even the storks became nervous.
The company of snakes
Moving through the waterways, we witnessed snakes going from one side of the boat to the other side of the harbor. Some were small and some large. Between the reeds there were harbors with one or two canoes in front of them. We turned over to a side where boats from the small village of Yakasenek, which we knew from before, were docked. We were concerned about replenishing our water and catching unique images on our cameras.
The most exciting part of the trip took place here. While sitting in the shade of a willow tree we were startled by a call from Vahap. When we came, we saw a snake about two meters in length swallowing a barracuda twice as thick as it. We were about to take great photos but at that moment a large gust of wind blew. Lightning struck and rain began to fall, much to our disappointment as we had planned to snap some shots of the shelters and the shining meadow grass that stretched across the watery earth.
Out of necessity we left Adaköy, heading to the floating island we had chosen as a base, and after leaving one of the boats at the island we had to change our plans and try to return to shore so as not to get caught in the rain. But our boat continued forward and practically dove into the lake because of the increasing revving of the motor and the brewing storm. When we arrived at the shore it was 8:30 pm. Despite the diminishing speed of our boat atop the windy plain, the strong breeze blew right at us as we froze inside our sopping clothes.