Indian Houseboat experiences and backwaters

Indian Houseboat experiences and backwaters

The backwaters of Kerala are a network of attached canals, brackish lagoons, and lakes that run parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. The backwaters cover an area of over 900 km and are a crucial part of the state's geography, economy, and culture. They serve as a natural irrigation system for the region's agriculture, provide a habitat for diverse flora and fauna, and support the fishing industry. The backwaters have also become a major tourist attraction in India, drawing visitors worldwide to experience their beauty, tranquility, and unique culture. Houseboats, or kettuvallams, have become a popular way for tourists to explore the backwaters and immerse themselves in the local way of life. The backwaters have been recognized as a National Waterway and are a significant contributor to Kerala's economy and identity.

Houseboats and their uses

Traditional houseboats, or kettuvallams, are a type of boat that has been used for centuries in the backwaters of Kerala, India. These boats were originally used as cargo vessels for transporting rice, spices, and other goods between villages along the waterways.Kettuvallams are made entirely ofnatural materials such as bamboo, coir (coconut fibers) ropes, and wooden planks, and were originally constructed without the use of any nails. The planks are tied together using coir ropes and then coated with a black resin made from boiled cashew kernels, which gives them their distinctive black color.The design of the kettuvallam is unique and perfectly suited to shallow and narrow backwater canals. They are long and narrow, with a curved roof made of bamboo poles and thatched with coconut leaves. The boats are propelled by a long wooden pole, which is used to push off the riverbed. Over the years, as road transportation became more prevalent, the use of kettuvallams for cargo transport declined. However, in the 1990s, local entrepreneurs began to convert these traditional boats into houseboats to cater to the growing tourism industry. Today, kettuvallam houseboats are a popular way for tourists to explore the backwaters of Kerala and experience the local culture and hospitality.

Modern houseboats are spacious and well-equipped with comfortable bedrooms, living areas, dining spaces, and outdoor decks. They are made from natural materials such as wood, coconut fiber, and bamboo, which give them a rustic and authentic feel. The boats are powered by motors and are steered by a skilled captain who navigates the waterways.

Despite the introduction of modern amenities such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and comfortable furnishings, kettuvallam houseboats have retained their traditional design and charm. They continue to be an important part of Kerala's history and culture and provide a unique and authentic way to experience the backwaters.

The Backwaters

The backwaters of Kerala are a stunning network of interconnected canals, lagoons, and lakes that stretch over 900 km along the Arabian Sea coast. They are formed by the confluence of several rivers and are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including mangroves, water lilies, kingfishers, otters, and turtles. The backwaters are famous for their natural beauty, with lush green landscapes, tranquil waters, and clear blue skies, and provide a unique and enchanting ecosystem that supports a wide variety of aquatic life. A boat ride through the backwaters offers visitors an unforgettable experience, providing a serene and peaceful glimpse into the natural and cultural heritage of Kerala.

The backwaters of Kerala play a vital role in the lives of the local community, serving as an essential source of livelihood and cultural identity. The waterways support a thriving agricultural industry, with farmers growing rice, coconuts, and other crops on the banks of the canals. Fishing is also a significant industry in the backwaters, with local fishermen catching a variety of fish, prawns, and crabs. In recent years, tourism has emerged as another significant industry, with thousands of visitors flocking to the region every year to experience the natural beauty and unique culture of the backwaters. The local community is deeply connected to the backwaters, with many households relying on the canals for transportation, water supply, and waste disposal. The backwaters are a crucial part of the region's ecology, economy, and culture, and their preservation is essential for the well-being of the local community.

The backwaters of Kerala are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it a unique and fascinating ecosystem. The waterways are lined with lush mangrove forests and coconut groves that provide shelter and food to a variety of animals. Visitors can spot kingfishers, herons, egrets, and other bird species darting around the waterways, while otters, turtles, and monitor lizards can be seen basking on the banks. The backwaters also support a thriving marine ecosystem, with a variety of fish, crabs, and prawns found in the brackish waters. The region's natural beauty and rich biodiversity make it a haven for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, providing a unique opportunity to observe the local flora and fauna up close.

Entry Fee and Houseboating Experience in the Backwaters of Kerala

A houseboat experience in the backwaters of Kerala usually spans one to two days, providing ample opportunity to explore the scenic and magical natural beauty. The journey typically begins with a leisurely cruise through the canals, with the houseboat passing by lush green landscapes and small fishing villages. Visitors can observe the local way of life, with fishermen casting their nets and villagers working in paddy fields. The houseboat usually docks at a local village, giving visitors a chance to explore the area on foot and interact with the friendly locals. In the evening, tourists can enjoy a traditional Kerala meal on board the houseboat, featuring local delicacies such as fish curry, rice, and vegetables cooked in coconut milk. The meal is usually accompanied by cultural performances, such as Kathakali or Mohiniyattam dance, which provide a fascinating insight into the local art forms. After a night spent onboard the houseboat, visitors can wake up to the tranquil sounds of the backwaters, before continuing their journey through the canals and lakes.

Top 10 Houseboating destinations in the backwaters of Kerala
  • Alleppey – Known as the "Venice of the East," Alleppey is a popular destination for houseboat cruises, featuring a network of canals, lagoons, and lakes.
  • Kumarakom – A tranquil destination known for its serene backwaters and bird sanctuary, Kumarakom
  • Kollam – Also known as Quilon, Kollam is a historic port town. Known for its cashew industry and picturesque backwaters, featuring scenic canals and a variety of local attractions.
  • Thiruvallam– A serene destination located at a distance of 15 km from the state capital of Trivandrum, Thiruvallam features a tranquil waterway and opportunities for canoeing and kayaking.
  • Kottayam – Known for its scenic backwaters, lush paddy fields, and historic churches, Kottayam offers the opportunity to explore a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage.
  • Kasargod – A remote and unspoiled beauty, Kasargod is located in the northernmost part of Kerala and features scenic waterways and a laid-back local culture.
  • KozhikodeKozhikode is a historic port town known for its spice trade and scenic backwaters. Also known as Calicut,the town offers a glimpse into Kerala's rich cultural heritage.
  • Thanneermukkom – A serene and secluded destination known for its beautiful lake and tranquil backwaters, offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.
  • Cherai – Cherai isa picturesque and beautiful destination located near Kochi, known for its mesmerizing beach and serene backwaters, it offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.
  • Valiyaparamba – Situated at a distance of 49 km from Kasargod, Valiyaparamba is a remote and unspoiled destination located in the northern part of Kerala. Itfeatures scenic canals and a variety of local attractions, including a historic fort and a traditional fish market.
Sum Up

A houseboat journey through the backwaters of Kerala is a unique and unforgettable experience, that offers a glimpse into the natural beauty and cultural heritage of this enchanting region. The interconnected network of canals, lagoons, and lakes, along with the lush vegetation and diverse flora and fauna, create a serene and picturesque landscape that has attracted visitors from all over the world. The traditional houseboats, or kettuvallams, offer a unique and authentic way to explore the backwaters, while also supporting the local economy and preserving the cultural heritage of the region. Whether you're looking for relaxation, adventure, or cultural immersion, the backwaters of Kerala offer something for everyone, making it a must-visit destination in India.

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