The tourist footfall in Kerala has been on the rise for a number of years now. The verdant lush greenery of the Western Ghats on the inner state border coupled with the long golden coastline embracing the Arabian Sea and the breathtaking beauty of the backwaters meandering serenely through the hinterlands makes for some of the best gifts of nature to mankind. The almighty has surely blessed Kerala bountifully with natural beauty that draws people from not only other parts of India, but abroad too.
While oceans and beaches abound in numerous other parts of the country too, it’s the backwaters in Kerala that are truly unique to this region. They comprise of a mix of freshwater and seawater at the point where they drain into the sea and are a complex series of lagoons, lakes and canals surrounded by lush greenery from all sides. Welcome to the true beauty of Kerala! The best way to enjoy the serene backwaters is to take a leisurely cruise down these waterways that have an almost mystical quality to them.
Though you can go for a backwater cruise from Trivandrum, Alleppey or Kumarakom, it’s Ashtamudi that’s really famous when it comes to backwaters. This huge lake that has eight creeks draining into it and is shaped like an octopus or palm frond is also known as the ‘gateway to the backwaters’ and located at Kollam city. A houseboat cruise down these waters makes for an unforgettable unique experience that’s very popular with the tourists and honeymooners alike.
You can opt for a day cruise, enjoy the natural beauty of placidly-moving waters with just birdcalls to disturb the silence and peace; enjoy a typical Kerala lunch with freshly caught fish from the backwaters and be back by sunset. Alternatively, you can go for the overnight houseboat cruise where you can anchor towards the shore at night and spend the night star-gazing to the music of the whispering waters and gleaming lights from afar. Watch the unbelievably beautiful colors of dawn break over the waters as you re-start your journey towards Alleppey, the ‘Venice of India’.
The houseboats, also known as ‘Kettuvallam’ are a throwback from the past when they were used to transport goods for trading. The modern Kettuvallams are more exotic and far-removed from the earlier houseboats. These amazing leisure boats are constructed entirely without using a single nail and include the use of locally-sourced natural products like jack-wood planks, bamboo flooring, sticks and wood from the areca nut tree for the roof and coconut tree for beds and furniture. The body of the boat is lashed together with coir before being coated with a black resin from boiled cashew kernels.
With careful maintenance, these boats can last for generations. Modern houseboats come equipped with 1-7 bedrooms, a fully-functional kitchen and European bathrooms along with fully air-conditioned rooms. A generator or solar panels provide the electricity.
These houseboats come in various categories of star ranking like hotels and are pretty luxurious. Fresh meals are provided onboard and all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery! No trip to Kerala is complete without a houseboat cruise, so stop-over in Kollam next time, which is easily accessible by road, rail and air, and make a date of it!