Kerala, fondly called God’s own country, is a region located on the Malabar Coast of south-west India. Kerala is a narrow strip of coastal territory that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation and reaches to the Arabian Sea. Blessed with pristine beaches, mist shrouded hill stations, supine backwaters, clement weather and vibrant and varied culture, Kerala is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
Apart from beaches, hill stations, wild life sanctuaries and exotic art forms, the most famous of attractions of Kerala is its Backwaters. Backwaters are an exclusive Kerala phenomenon. It is a labyrinth of manmade and natural canals and inlets, estuaries of over forty rivers and five lakes. Before bridges, roads and ferries came; backwaters were the means of transportation for local people. Apart from that, Backwaters also sustained the means of livelihood of local people like agriculture and fishing. Backwaters are continuing to play that economic role by contributing to tourism economy by attracting scores of tourists to it.
The shores and backwaters together make for fabulous landscape with shores lined by abodes, swaying coconut trees, verdant flora and lush green paddy fields, fishing nets and various activities of life; and backwaters marked by water flowers especially water lilies. The reputation of this landscape is far reaching and many return to savor it again and again.
Now Houseboats are the icons of Backwater tourism. Kerala Houseboats are modern day luxurious versions of erstwhile “Kettuvallams”. “Kettuvallams” were used to transport rice and other household items through Backwaters. It has thatched roof over wooden hulls to offer protection from elements of nature. Although the form remains same, Houseboat Kerala is two to three storied affairs with one to five bedrooms. Apart from sleeping space there is provision for dining space and a sit out open on all sides, from where tourists can savor the exquisite beauty that is Kerala Backwaters. Houseboats come attached with generators and full time air condition is available. Also western style toilets are attached. Although houseboats are motorized, they are run with a sluggish pace. A crew including a cook accompanies tourists. The menu is usually indigenous with local fish but it will change according to wishes of guests.
Houseboats come of a length from ninety five to hundred and fifteen meters and width thirteen to fifteen meters. The wood used is that of “Anjili” (Wild Jack). All the accessories that go into making are local and eco friendly. No nails are used instead coir is utilized by tying.
Spending a night in houseboat docked in backwaters is a heavenly affair. You can see boats as spots of light moving far away and also abodes as dots of illumination afar. To get a local feel tourists have the option of switching off electric lights and spending time on light of lanterns alone. If you are lucky you could also get to see fireflies illuminating branches of trees in the distance blinking eternally. The degree of enjoyment will be greater if the night is moonlight.
Although backwaters are all Kerala phenomenon Backwater tourism thrives in Alleppey, Kochi, Kollam and Kumarakom. Houseboat cruises can be had from any of these places. There are world class accommodation facilities available in Kumarakom and the quality of service offered is high class.
For more information about Houseboats in Kerala visit www.keralahouseboats.org.in
Houseboats – Icons of Backwater Tourism