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Kerala Backwaters

Posted : 28 September 2017 01:20:14 | By TWO Bureau | Two Bureau

Kerala Backwaters


The backwaters have a unique ecosystem- freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea.


Backwaters in Kerala is a network of 1500 km of canals both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. Backwaters is one of the major tourism product of Kerala, being unique to the state. Traditionally used as one of the main transportation alleys, today backwaters offer a rejuvenating experience for tourists visiting Kerala.


Kerala has over 900 km of interconnected waterways, rivers, lakes and inlets that make up the Kerala backwaters. In the midst of this beautiful landscape there are a number of towns and cities, which are the starting and end points of backwater cruises. National Waterway No. 3 from Kollam to Kottapuram, covers a distance of 205 km and runs almost parallel to the coast line of southern Kerala facilitating both cargo movement and backwater tourism.


The backwaters have a unique ecosystem - freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. In certain areas, such as the Vembanad Kayal, where a barrage has been built near Kumarakom, salt water from the sea is prevented from entering the deep inside, keeping the fresh water intact. Such fresh water is extensively used for irrigation purposes.


Many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs and mudskippers, water birds such as terns, kingfishers, darters and cormorants, and animals such as otters and turtles live in and alongside the backwaters. Palm trees, pandanus shrubs, various leafy plants and bushes also grow alongside the backwaters, providing a green hue to the surrounding landscape.


Vembanad Kayal is the largest of the lakes, covering an area of 200 km², and bordered by Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. The port of Kochi (Cochin) is located at the lake's outlet to the Arabian Sea. Alleppey, "Venice of the East", has a large network of canals that meander through the town. Vembanad is India's longest lake.


The houseboats in Kerala are huge, slow-moving, exotic barges used for leisure trips. Keralan Rice Boats are a reworked model of Kettuvallams (in the Malayalam language, Kettu means "tied with ropes", and vallam means "boat"), which, in earlier times, were used to carry rice and spices from Kuttanad to the Kochi port. Kerala houseboats were considered a convenient means of transportation. They have thatched roof covers over wooden hulls.


The backwaters can be explored by hiring a boat for one or several days. If you go for more than a day, the boat usually comes with a navigator and a cook, which provide you with various facilities when exploring the backwaters


Boats in a variety of shapes and sizes have traditionally been the main means of transport of men and materials in the Kerala Backwaters since olden days. In particular, the house boats were used to ship rice and spices and other goods between Kuttanad and the Cochin port. It was a three-day affair in those days. A standard house boat, which could be about 100 feet long, can hold up to 30 tons, and that is as much as three big Lorries can. For the royalty, these boats even became comfortable living quarters. It was the important mode of transportation in coastal Kerala just because of its accessibility to the most remote areas.


It took the vision and entrepreneurship of a couple of enterprising young men to refurbish one of these leviathans, hoisting on to it a wooden super-structure incorporating a huge bed room, a toilet, a kitchen and an open balcony. The ancient houseboat with a modernized interior became a hot favorite with tourists.


As the houseboats glide over the Kerala backwaters at a leisurely pace, the sights are new, the sounds are new, and every sensation comes across as new with every passing moment. A cruise along the mirror-still lagoons, picture-book lakeside, palm-fringed canals and shimmering rivulets of 'God's Own Country' is the most enchanting holidaying experience in the country. With a cruise along the palm-fringed waterways turning to be part and parcel of holidays' itinerary, the traditional Kettuvallam has emerged as the mascot of Kerala Tourism.


A houseboat is about 60 to 70 feet (about 18 to 21 meters) long and about 15 feet (about 5 m) wide at the middle. The hull which is made of hundreds of fine but heavy-duty planks of jack-wood is held together absolutely by coir knots (not a single nail is used). This framework is then coated with a caustic black resin extracted from boiled cashew kernels. And it lasts for generations. The roof is made of bamboo poles and palm leaves. The exterior of the boat is painted with protective coats of cashew nut oil.


The Kettuvallam is motorised and is steered in deep waters by means of oars or a rudder. Long bamboo poles or 'punts' are used to propel in shadow areas. The crew of a Kettuvallam comprises two oarsmen and a cook or chef. Fresh food, cooked in inimitable Kuttanadan style is the rage of the international tourists. Basically, the Kettuvallam was originally designed to transport cargo, and as such many design changes had to be made to make it a tourist vehicle. The height of the roof was increased to get sufficient headroom. A plank was laid all through the length to reduce the disadvantages of the curved shape of the hull for walking and comfortable seating. Windows and other openings were provided for light, airflow and view. The entrance is provided in the centre of the linear axis with a top hung panel.


The world-renowned for its natural beauty and accessible part of the back waters is the Vembanad backwater stretch located in districts of Ernakulam, Alapuzha and Kottayam area. Vembanadu lake is the the longest lake in South Asia and listed as prestigious Ramsar sites, with rich bio-diversity. The north Vembanadu lake opens to sea at Cochin habour. The Cochin coast is dotted with numerous islands interconnected by ferries and bridges, adorning the Queen of the Arabian Sea like a necklace of pearls. The islands break the waves from the sea, thus ensuring that the back waters are calm and navigable. Among the islands, Wellingdon Island deserves special mention as it houses the Port of Cochin and the largest Naval presence in India: the Southern Naval Command.


More than 400 Kettuvallams ply the backwaters; Alappuzha is the citadel of house boats. There are some 120 of them, well maintained and perfected as luxury liners there. The house boats have all the creature comforts of a good hotel: well-furnished bedrooms, modern hygienic toilets, cozy living rooms, a beautiful kitchen and in some cases even a balcony for angling. We are sure that anyone would enjoy this as an experience of a lifetime.


Kerala  Tour

6 Days 5 Nights

Destinations covering Cochin - Athirapally - Munnar -Thekkady – Kumarakom


Day 01

Arrival at Cochin Airport (assistance arranged on arrival) and drive to Athirapilly - about 63 km. Check in to the hotel on arrival and spend the day at leisure.

Overnight stay is arranged in Athirapilly.


Day 02

After breakfast check out from the hotel and drive to Munnar (5 hours drive) on arrival check into the hotel. Spend the day at leisure. Overnight stay is arranged in Munnar


Day 03

After breakfast spend the day with local sightseeing. Local sightseeing of Munnar includes visit to Mattupetty Dam, KundaleLake and Echo point. Afternoon proceed to Rajamalai where the rarest species of mountain goat, "Nilgiri Tahrs", can be spotted. Overnight stay is arranged at Munnar.


Day 04

After breakfast check out from the hotel and drive to Thekkady, on arrival check into the hotel. Proceed for the sightseeing tour of Thekkady .

Optional activities like Boating at PeriyarLake, Spice Plantation visit and Elephant Ride can be done at an extra cost.

Overnight stay is arranged in Thekkady.


Day 05

After breakfast check out from the hotel and drive to Kumarakom. Check in to the hotel. Afternoon proceeds for local sightseeing in and around Kumarakom.

Overnight stay is arranged in Kumarakom.


Day 06

Morning, after breakfast check out from the hotel and drive to Cochin airport for your flight back home.

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Vikalp Bhardwaj 

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Tags : backwaters, unique, ecosystem, freshwater, rivers, meets, seawater, Arabian, Sea.

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