A holiday to India would never complete without a trip to the world famous Kerala backwaters. The tranquil backwaters are a much needed respite for any discerning traveler. The pace of life is much calmer and the scenery is stunning – a haze of blues and greens studded with exotic palm trees.
The backwaters have a unique ecosystem – freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea and is a unique feature of Kerala. The region has captured the imagination of tourists from across the globe with its remarkable scenic beauty. The surrounding landscape with palm trees, shrubs, various leafy plants and bushes grow alongside the backwaters.
Life along the backwaters
A backwater cruise along the palm-fringed waterways of Alleppey and Kumarakom is one of the most enchanting holiday experiences anywhere in the world. In this world of simple pleasures, you will skim past ancient Chinese fishing nets, water lilies, lush paddy fields, coir villages, rustic homes, temples and coconut groves.
A houseboat cruise offers you a chance to learn about the life of local village people through a Kerala Village tour. Kerala’s backwaters are throbbing with its own unique culture .
The Kerala Houseboat Experience
A Kerala houseboat, known as Kettuvallam in the local language Malayalam, was used to transport the rice harvested in the fertile fields alongside the backwaters to towns in ancient days. Kettuvallam means a boat made by tying together pieces of wood. Not a single nail is used in the making of a Kettuvallam and it is built by joining together anjili wood panes with coir ropes and then by coating with black resin made from boiled cashew nut shells. The materials that go into the making are all local and include eco friendly bamboo poles, coconut fiber ropes, bamboo mats, coir carpets etc.
Modern Kerala house boats have fully furnished single, double, triple and even five bedrooms with a sundeck, private balcony, kitchen and toilet. In addition there is also separate rest room. You’ll even find a television (not that you’d want to watch it!) and a crew comprising two oarsmen and a cook .
It takes great skill and meticulousness to construct and navigate these giant Houseboats by tying huge planks of Anjili tree and the staff has been trained properly. All Houseboats have adequate safety measures and Kerala government and tourism department conducts periodic audits and inspections to ensure safety of tourists.
Food & Dining
When you book a Kerala houseboat cruise for one night all meals will be served on board. The cuisine is continental, south Indian, North Indian or traditional Kerala flavored with the local specialties; delicious local fish.
How to select a Kerala houseboat package?
Starting point of a Kerala Houseboat Cruise is Alleppey or Kumarakom. Houseboats are available for rental from prices starting from Rs.3500 (£40) for a Non A/C to Rs.40000 (£450) for a super luxury houseboat with butlers.
If you are opting for one of the world famous honeymoon packages in Kerala you’ll be spoilt with special arrangements of a candle lit dinner and flower arrangements.
Food preferences (Vegetarian/ Non Vegetarian) has to be specified before the boat leaves from the shore. On prior request fishing and canoeing can be arranged. You can catch the fish from the river (if you are lucky) or buy the fish from the visiting fisherman in the boat who will come to your houseboat and give to your chef to cook.
While many Kerala Houseboat Cruises take tourists from a particular point and bring them back to around the same point next morning there are some specific cruises mostly in the Alappuzha area, such as:
- one night cruise from Alappuzha to Thotapally via Punnamada Lake
- two nights cruise from Alappuzha to Alumkavadi
- one night cruise from Alappuzha to Kidangara
- one night cruise from Alappuzha to Mankotta
Travellers, tourists and locals alike have been captivated by the charm of these serene waters and the simple pleasures of life that cannot be enjoyed anywhere else in the world. Time will stand still as the waters shimmer in the glint of sunlight. The silence is broken by the sounds of nightfall descending with the croaking frogs taking up the chorus of evening song. This is what it feels like to be enclosed in the embrace of nature.