Cruising the Backwaters of Kerala

Aside from mountain resorts, historical landmarks and beaches, there is another reason why you should visit India. And this time, it is found in the country’s southwest region. The backwaters of Kerala will impress any traveler with its natural and manmade canals, and lagoons that stretch for hundreds of kilometers.

KeralaAdding to this massive amount of water are 5 other lakes and 38 rivers that end up into the Arabian Sea. Yes, it is water everywhere in between small strips of land in this Indian state. These backwaters are first and foremost the main sources of fresh water, and home to diverse groups of marine life. But over the years, the Kerala backwaters have been a major tourist destination in the Indian state.

There are three backwater regions in Kerala. The most accessible among the three is the Vembanad, which is also renowned for its beauty. The region covers the Alapuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts, and also contains the longest lake in South Asia – Vembanadu Lake. Alappuzha town possesses one of the biggest and most picturesque canal and lagoon networks. It is one of the favorite spots for tourists to visit. Another village that has become also became a tourist is Kumarakom, which not only houses a bird sanctuary but also celebrity holiday residences. The other two main backwater regions are the Kannur-Valiyaparambu Backwaters and Astamudi Lake.

So what is the best way to explore all these beautiful attractions? Hop on a boat for a day or more! The boats, cruising the Kerala backwaters, are attractions themselves. The vessels are actually the traditional types, and are called kettuvallums (roofed boats). Kettuvallums can measure up to 70 feet in length and have a capacity of 30 tons. They were originally intended for transport and were made of wooden planks tied together by coconut ropes.

Kerala1In recent years, the Kettuvallums have been converted into houseboats for tourism and cruising purposes. These houseboats are equipped with amenities like toilets, bedrooms, kitchens, and bars. It is also very common to have navigating crew and kitchen staff onboard. So while you safely go through the scenic, cultural and historical spots in the backwaters of Kerala, you can enjoy a sumptuous meals and drinks.

The more modern, bigger and elaborate ones, owned by large companies, are multi-story and air-conditioned, and have observation decks. Some even have halls or open spaces for parties, meetings and conferences. However, if you intend to discover the beauty of the backwater landscape, consider keeping it simple and more environment friendly by opting for the more traditional houseboats operated by locals.

There are various cruising packages offered by several companies and groups around Kerala. The rates for these cruises depend on the season. The cruise itinerary usually allows you to stop at the most significant cultural or historical landmarks around the backwaters. It is also possible for you to swim at some spots along the itinerary. A number of the houseboats run a 22-hour cruise, but expect these boats to be anchored from 8:00 pm until the early morning of the next day because night sailing is legally prohibited for safety reasons. It is also possible to get on an 8-hour cruise if you prefer not to do an overnight.

About Author:

Arie Boris has extensive travel industry experience, including business and sales development for commercial aviation, the International emergency assistance & travel insurance industry and a national association of travel agents. He was a contributing editor to several print and Internet travel publications, including Fieldings’ Worldwide Cruise Guide and was part of the start up team for CruiseCritic. He has written over 400 cruise ship reviews. Arie also produces and hosts Cruise Gourmet Voyages, a variety of fundraising & theme group cruises for various charitable and arts organizations. He has produced theme cruises for a variety of special interest groups including opera, comedy, spiritual retreats and fan clubs for TV shows like Dark Shadows and Dancing with the Stars!