Fondly called God’s own Country, Kerala is a magical piece of land blessed by bounties of nature galore. Situated in Malabar Coast of south western India, this verdant region is cradled between Western Ghats and Arabian Sea. Pristine beaches, mist shrouded hill stations, emerald landscape, serene Backwaters, exotic flora and fauna and suave art forms – the treasures Kerala keeps in its chest are numerous. Of these, backwaters is the single most attraction unique to Kerala.
Backwaters are an exclusive Kerala occurrence. Backwaters are a complex network of manmade and natural canals and inlets, estuaries of over forty rivers and five lakes. Before ferries, roads and bridges came into existence backwaters was the means of transportation for local people. Not only that they depended on Backwaters for means of sustenance like fishing and agriculture. True to its economic nature, Backwaters is contributing nicely to tourism economy of Kerala. The shores and Backwaters together make for breathtaking landscape with shores lined by abodes, swaying coconut trees, emerald flora and lush green paddy fields, fishing nets and various activities of life and backwaters marked by water flowers mainly water lilies. Scores of tourists throng to Kerala Backwaters to savor the exquisiteness of Kerala Backwaters. Alleppey, Kochi, Kollam and Kumarakom are main places where Backwater tourism thrives.
Houseboats are the buzzwords of contemporary backwater tourism. Houseboats Kerala can be mainly arranged from Kochi, Alleppey, Kollam and Kumarakom. Houseboats are modern day luxurious versions of erstwhile “Kettuvallams”. “Kettuvallams” were used to transport rice and household items through backwaters. “Kettuvallams“ came with thatched roofs over wooden hulls to offer protection from elements of nature. Although the shape remains same, Kerala Houseboats are two to three storied affairs with one to five bedrooms on offer. Apart from sleeping space, there is dining space and sit out open on all sides from where the tourists can relish the visual delight that Kerala backwaters is. House boats come attached with generator providing for air condition and also western style toilet is adjoined. A crew including a cook accompanies guests and the menu is mostly indigenous variety with local fish high on the list. But, in the end taste of guests matter.
Houseboats are ninety five to one hundred and fifteen meters in length and thirteen to fifteen meters in width. The wood used to carve the houseboat is that of “Anjili”(Wild Jack). The accessories that go into the making of houseboats are local and eco friendly. It is to be noted that no nails are used but coir is utilized by tying.
Honeymooners mostly prefer Kumarakom. Kumarakom is a tiny village in the Vembanad Lake and there is a bird sanctuary which is frequented by migratory birds especially Siberian Cranes, there. While on cruise in Kumarkom Houseboats you are treated to music of birds. Kumarakom is also blessed with all bounties of Kerala backwaters in excess.
Spending a night with Houseboats docked in Backwaters is an ethereal experience. If you wish, you can ask to switch off electric lights and spend time in lanterns alone to get a local feel. One can glimpse boats as lights on motion and houses as spots of illumination. If one is lucky, one may also catch glimpse of fireflies adorning the branches of trees, blinking eternally.
Rama Shankar is an eminent analyst and writer in Travel & Tours related topics. He has authored many books on Kerala houseboats and Alleppey Houseboats. Find more information at http://www.houseboats-kerala.org/.