Exploring the backwaters of Kerala is a true microcosm into the cultural and geographic diversity India has to offer. Kerala is famous for its network of 1500km of both manmade and natural canals. The views are refreshing and soothing to the eyes, and it’s an experience that will re-connect you to mother nature.
The best way to enjoy these bewitching canals is through renting a luxurious houseboat. These boats have a long history with the region, and are the perfect way to relax and savor the leisurely pace of travel. The majority of the houseboats are hired from Alleppey, the gateway to the backwaters in between Kochi and Kollam. One can spend either a few hours or a couple of days in the boat, which caters everything a five-star hotel would provide.
Accompanied by a navigator and a cook, the journey starts in the morning to explore the backwaters. Meandering through the coastal areas, one can see the native villagers consumed in their daily chores. Around mid-day, the boat stops at one of the local markets where visitors can buy their choice of fish, lobster, crab, and prawns for the boat’s cook to transform into lunch back on board. Replete and relaxed, the journey goes on, only to sail into the setting sun to discover what is referred to as, ‘God’s Own Country,’ up close. The view of the sunset is a spectacular event to experience throughout the canals and lakes. The evening can be spent on one of the islands, allowing guests to explore the village life of the locals, before retiring to your quarters on the houseboat.
The backwaters have a unique ecosystem due to the combination of freshwater from the rivers meeting the seawater from the Arabian Sea, resulting in an abundance of wildlife native to area. The famous Ashtamudi Lake is home to numerous aquatic species like crabs, mudskippers, and frogs. Also birds and animals like terns, kingfishers, darters, and turtle are innumerable in the area.
A traditional competition prevalent in the Kollam region of Kerala is Boat Racing. 100 foot Chundan vallams or snake boats are used for the races, where muscular oarsmen set out to show their dexterity and stamina by powering their vessels only with their own strength.
The best time to visit the backwaters is in the winters, and also when it rains, as navigable routes are brimming with wildlife and weather is more comfortable.