Kumarakom is on man-made land reclaimed from the vast Vembanad Lake. The name Kumarakom was derived from the deity of its oldest temple Kumaran. Kumaran's Akam or place became Kumarakom. The place was fertile and most suitable for cultivation of rice and coconut trees. This village was part of Vadakkancore kingdom. But in 1750 Marthanda Varma the King of Travacore conquered and annexed it to Travancore. The first Christian Church was built here in the year 1769 in the land granted by the King of Travancore.
The modern history of this exotic backwater village started with the arrival of the English farmer Alfred George Baker in 1847. He reclaimed 500 acres of Vembanad Lake and made garden land and paddy fields. He built the Baker House (also known as the History House). Mr.Baker was the beloved Kari Saipu (possibly an elision from Baker Sahib) of the locals. Four generations of Bakers lived in the house until 1962. It is reported that they spoke Malayalam, the local language, and even wore the "mundu", which is the traditional formal wear of the people of Kerala (a plain white dhoti, with golden silk lining). The Baker Memorial School in Kottayam, was started around 1825, by members of the same family. The Baker House itself was in ruins, until it was taken over by the Taj Group and restored into a luxury heritage hotel. (For an elaborate stdy visit www.kumarakomvillage.com ,P.G.Padmanabhan- Kumarakom-An Insider's Introduction)
Situated in the Kottayam district of Kerala, which is already known for its lush greenery, this exotic backwater village adds more than a sparkle to it. The landscape basically consists of a cluster of island villages in and around the large "Vembanad Kayal" backwater body (which is also, incidentally the largest in Kerala), with a plethora of branched bodies all lined by beautiful, thick, lush and peaceful greenery. A large number of coconut trees line the horizon to add the perfect tropical touch to the landscape.
With the onset of the monsoon rains, some time around June, the little streams and lagoons break their flow beds and irrigate the fertile land to an overwhelming cover of green. Shrubs, grass and bushes cover every available inch of land to provide a fantastic treat to the eyes with the morning dew and surface mist on the water bodies, spotted in colors with blooms of algae and lillies.
Flora and fauna
Kumarakom is home to a wide variety of tropical flora and fauna. An important point of interest is the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, where a significant number of bird species are known to make migratory visits. The park area covers around 15 acres and functions under the aegis of the government of Kerala. Originally, developed as a rubber estate by the English colonial enterpreneurs, it was formerly known as the Baker estate. One of the important migratory species is the Siberian crane. Other tropical species such as the egret, heron, waterfoul, ducks, moorhens and kingfisher are commonly found.
The Vembanad Lake, is home to many marine and freshwater fish. Varieties of shrimp, prawn and fresh water fish are boutiful. The "Pearl spot" fish is found in relatively lower numbers, and is a local delicacy.
Kumarakom enjoys a well-balanced tropical climate.The lowest and highest temperatures recorded are 60.8 F and 100 F. There is always a cool, fresh breeze, which makes even the warmest weather readily agreeable after sundown. The South West monsoon is from early June to early August. However, slight drizzles persist till early November. Average rainfall is 1100 mm per year.
Approximately 2 hours from Cochin International Airport.
via Kottayam (16km)
via Cochin International Airport (75 km)
The destination is most popular for its backwater boathouse rides. Rentals are relatively expensive, but well worth every penny if you can also get a good chef on board, who is well versed in exotic local cuisine. It would be well worth to research on reliable service companies and demand for a good chef, while making your booking.
The local cuisine of Kerala is a large variety of lesser known delicacies of the most exotic genre. It is markedly different from cuisines from other parts of india, in its emphasis on non-vegetarian culinary and liberal use of a wide variety of spices. It is heavily influenced by the Syrian Christian taste buds. The local saying goes "If thou are in the land of rat snake stew, thou shalt choose the thickest piece". So do not hesitate to try even more exotic menus like frog legs, donkey stew, crane fry, which can be found in the local toddy shops.
Some of the popular items are listed below:
Sip tender coconut. Refresh yourself with a sip of cool tender coconut and a scoop of its soft white flesh. Ask your tour guide to arrange for fresh madhura kallu (sweet toddy extracted from the coconut palm) and have it the Kerala way with exotic karimeen pollichathu (coal baked fresh water fish), spicy pickles or kappa (cassava) and fish curry. Optionally, a visit to a toddy shop (locally known as a kallu shappu) can be a good experience. Toddy shops across the state are known to serve excellent spicy seafood, fish and all kinds of meat with matured alcoholic kallu.
Without a doubt, the best option is hiring a houseboat for the true experience. A large number of companies offer board and tour on houseboats. Again, good research can save you bucks and a word of caution to insist on getting a good chef, for the true exotic kerala cuisine experience. There is almost no equal to the peaceful boathouse ride in this piece of tropical paradise. The lazy morning glory sipping authentic kerala tea, that one can experience is simply beyond words, of course, followed by a sumptuous breakfast, to venture into a busy day of doing nothing at all. If we may, it would be a wonderful day to start your day with appam and chicken stew.