Spending a night or several days cruising the backwaters is one of the best experiences in Kerala
When it comes to backwaters tourism, all roads lead to Alappuzha – also known by its colonial name of Allepey – a district consisting of a large network of inland canals, earning it the nickname “Venice of the East”. For centuries, these waterways were the lifeline of the trading outpost, with kettuvallams transporting rice and spices between settlements, until roads became a more efficient avenue to carry goods.
The boats were then converted to cater to tourists, establishing the backwaters tourism in Kerala in the 1990s. We enjoyed an overnight houseboat cruise down Pamba River with Lakes and Lagoons, one of the best houseboat tour operators in Alappuzha (Allepey) with a fleet of 21 luxury boats. While they may look traditional on the outside, modern-day houseboats are run by powerful engines and are well-furnished on the inside, with air-conditioned bedrooms and Western-style toilets. Onboard cooks and waiters prepare and serve the meals at the kitchen at the rear, and serve local meals in the dining area.
Onboard cooks prepare native cuisine like fried fish and curries
An upholstered lounge area behind the helm is the best spot to kick back and relax, admiring the peaceful scenery of the backwaters slide by. The thick groves of tall and slender coconut trees were interrupted by brick-roofed village houses and Portuguese churches. Now and then, villagers standing on small canoes would cross the river. School boats ferried pupils along the river who would smile and wave at our houseboat. Farmers would herd swimming ducks to their pens, and women would wash laundry while their children jumped and played in the water. Laborers hauled cargo from boats to waiting trucks by the riverside. A tranquil escape can also be had by experiencing Gangtok tour packages in Sikkim, an off-the-beaten-track mountainous northern Indian state.
We also spotted many kinds of birds along the way, which were a delight to observe and photograph. Kingfishers and bee-eaters roosted on tree branches and electrical wires, while egrets and herons perched closer to the water. White ibis were scouring the muddy rice fields and Oriental darters with their snake-like necks patrolled the river, before landing on coconut trees with their wings spread out to dry under the sun.
A canoe crosses the Pamba River during sunset
An Oriental darter perches on a coconut tree to dry its wings under the midday sun
By late afternoon, our houseboat detoured into a tributary and docked by a small village, where we watched a golden sunset over the backwaters. We spent the night on the boat while it was moored by the riverbank, and were ferried back to the jetty where we departed from the previous day. Besides experiencing an authentic Ayurveda massage, spending a night or two on a houseboat amidst the lush countryside is definitely one of the highlights of any trip to Kerala.
Kettuvallams typically spend the nights docked by the riverbank
This blog post was made possible through Kerala Blog Express, a blogger tour organized by Kerala Tourism that took 27 travel bloggers from 14 countries on a two-week journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Wayanad. The exclusive tour was held from March 9 to 26, 2014. Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I accept advertisers as long as they are relevant to travel, tourism, adventure and outdoors. For advertising inquiries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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