Kerala, eulogized as God's own country is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. The state of Kerala is a beautiful narrow strip of land by the Arabian Sea full of beaches and backwaters, churches and coconut groves. Within
that too, a holiday cruising the backwaters is the most enchanting of
Backwaters are unique to coastal Kerala,
where a vast network of water-bodies - lagoons and canals, criss cross
inland. This has given rise to settlements on narrow strips of
reclaimed land, where the inhabitants sport an inimitable lifestyle.
They subsist by fish farming or coir-making and traverse the backwaters
in country boats. This unique ecosystem is a big draw with tourists, also because it is spread over a large part of coastal Kerala
from Kochi to Kollam or Quilon. Alleppey, or Alappuzha, a
not-to-be-missed backwater destination is called the 'Venice of the
Private tourist operators and government tourist agencies run a range of backwater cruises to and fro different destinations; the tourist
therefore has an array of customized cruises to choose from. You can
take a short trip from Kochi to Kottayam to acquaint yourselves with
the backwaters and to get a trailer, so to say. If you wish to explore
further (no doubt, the shorter trip would have left you asking for
more) you can take the highly-popular 8-hour Alleppey - Kollam tour.
Country boats cruise
These cruises are well-organised with a typical Kerala meal of karimeen (a
local variety of fish) and rice thrown in. But still you'll be
well-advised to carry some refreshments and snacks to supplement their
hospitality. More often than not, a well-informed guide will point out
the flora and fauna of the ecosystem around. Around Vaikom, short of
Kottayam you enter the narrow canals or what are the backwaters; here
you will have to get out of your motor boats and climb into small country
boats. This can carry 5-6 people and are pumped by tall bamboo poles,
sometimes even by old boatmen who are very hardy. The weeds, water
hyacinths have clogged the water alleyways at places and you may find
the boat getting stuck often. Fortunately, these waters are very
shallow and the boatmen will get down pushing and prodding the vessel
into moving again.
Spice village and coconut groves
There are wonderful brief halts at villages to show tourists
the art of making coir from coconut husks. At other villages, tourists
will witness toddy-tapping and will be treated to farm fresh tender
coconuts. This break, where you can see the spice and cashew
plantations, is a wonderful complement to the boat ride. At many places
you will be greeted by cheerful children swimming and dunking in the
waters with gay abandon.
Set adrift on the backwaters - in style
The Alleppey- Kollam tour can be done in a house boat or kettuvallam
stretched over 2-3 days. These boats are well-equipped and have a
bedroom with an attached bathroom and a kitchenette. Food and beverages
are stocked and a cook is available to look after your culinary needs.
You could even take the shorter Alleppey- Kumarakom cruise. Kumarakom
on the banks of Vembanad lake rich in paddy-fields is a fascinating
backwater destination. The bird sanctuary there is definitely worth a
So loll in the lap of luxury in a houseboat and experience
time stand still. Let your children discover their sea legs; it will
promise to be a completely different and out-of-the-ordinary experience
for your tiny tots. It will be a great opportunity for them to see
nature at its best at close quarters.
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- The Indiaparenting Team