Difference between revisions of "Kerala Backwaters"
Revision as of 17:58, 31 March 2008
Backwaters in Kerala is a network of 1500 kms of canals both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other.
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.
While hill resorts and beaches can be found in other parts of India, the backwaters are unique to Kerala. Meandering through the coastal areas of Kerala is a 900 kilometers (560 miles) long intricate network of lagoons, lakes, canals, estuaries and deltas of several rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea.
The most beautiful and accessible part of the back waters is the Ernakulam area, where Cochin harbour is. The 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.
There are both expensive and economical hotels available with harbour and backwater views.
Ashtamudi ('eight hair') Lake and Vembanad Lake are the two most important gateways into this backwater network.
Before trucks became common, the main cargo transportation was through backwaters by 'Kettuvalloms'. Kettuvallom loosely translated means: ‘tied boat’. They can be as long as 70 foot, with a 30 ton capacity, made with wooden planks joined and tied together with coconut ropes and painted with cashew nut oil outside. Nowadays many kettuvalloms have been converted to House Boats by enterprising boat owners with amenities like beds, kitchens, bars & toilets. They are available on hire for fixed rates (varies according to the season). The package usually includes tour along the backwater with stops at various place with historical or cultural importance. The menu usually includes the fresh water catch along with the seasonal sea food.
The backwaters flow through almost all the districts of Kerala -- Alappuzha, Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Kottayam, etc. Almost all the stretches have breathtaking views. Not to be missed are the Thiruvallam backwaters, Kumarakom (on Vembanad lake) and Kuttanad.
Many travellers stay on houseboats, but you can also find many resorts dotting the backwaters. Most of these are converted ancestral homes where you can stay with the family and have a feel of the local culture and cuisine.
There are few homestays in the island of Kumbalangi, Bolghatty etc. But to see the backwaters, you don't have to stay in any of the islands, there are hotels in mainland Ernakulam, from where you can go the islands, or backwaters.