Plush landscapes sliced into paddy fields, mango
orchards knitted with cashew and coconut groves, tea, coffee & cardamon
plantations and war-cry of boat-racers beckon travelers to Kerala!
Kerala backwaters are an endless sensual feast. Overnighting in a houseboat
that floats its way quietly through the palm fringed waterways that sample
some of the most beautiful locale on earth, is best defined - 'sheer
exotica'. And that too when your houseboat recalls of the star cruises
replete with all amenities like one or two rooms with the bath joint, an
opened living room, a platform and a crew of three being composed of a cook,
a oarsman and a guide. The services of Dormitory are also available for
tourists. Don't miss the sight of little marine fish swimming all around
your houseboat and the Chinese fishing nets, which are believed to have been
introduced into Kerala by the traders from Kublai Khan's court.
What are the backwaters?
Technically, the network of channels, lakes, lagoons and estuaries
of over 44 rivers emptying in the Arab sea, make up the backwaters of
Kerala. Over 900 km of these backwaters are navigable and have served as
transportation routes for the localites. The network basically stretches
from Cochin - the northern gateway, to Kollam (or Quilon) - the backwaters'
southernmost end. The localites sail in traditional houseboats or
Kettuvalloms, about 80 ft long and constructed by attaching wooden boards
and cords made in thimble coir (coconut) without employing a single nail.
The best cruises
The lake Vembanad is the central and the largest stretch of
Backwaters in Kerala measuring 83 kilometers length, and crosses three zones
before reaching the sea with the port of Kochi. The lake Ashtamudi,
literally eight arms signifying the eight mudis or canals that veins a major
portion of Kollam district, is the second largest stretch and is considered
the gateway to the backwaters. However, the most picturesque stretch is
around Alappuzha, nick-named 'The Venice of the East' because of its famed
palm-fringed canal network, the intricate byways and narrow streams that
allow travelers to ferry across. The snake boat races add to the visual
The making of the backwaters
These lagoons and the lake Kayamkulam were formed in 1866 A.D, when
the large flood enveloped the top of the old ports. These backwaters then
became routes between the interior ground and the sea. Fishermen find the
backwaters spread their nets and go back home loaded with fresh marine fish.
Other than being the apple-pie of Kerala tourism, the backwaters connect
villages together and are still the only means of local transport.
What not to miss
- After you are done with romancing the backwaters, you should treat
yourself to an weekend at one of tree house Resorts - wooden lodges
roosted high up on trees in the forests of Kerala. Some enticing and
innovative bytes that will leave your mouth watering are innovative cane
basket lift which are balanced by a counterweight of water and farm
fresh organically grown fruits and vegetables in your cuisine.
- For those interested in trying their hand in fishing, angling rods
are provided on request. Nature trails and peek-a-boo with the wildlife
in the neighboring area are other options you should check out.
- Ashore Vembanad lie the top-notch resorts of Kumarakom and nearby
Bird Sanctuary where migratory birds from lands as faraway as Siberia
come between November and March.
- The Alleppey backwaters come alive with the war cry of the boat
racers during the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, with 130 ft long snake boats
having 100 rowers, 4 helmsmen and 25 cheerleaders each. Held on the
second Saturday of August on the Punnamada backwaters, this is a
favorite venue of globe-trotters and photographers.