The Backwaters of Kerala is a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets formed by more than 900 km of waterways. The backwaters present a unique ecosystem where freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. Local oarsmen take tourists to an amazing world of lush greenery and tranquility hidden from street views. From small wooden boats to large rice barges, there is something for everyone on the backwaters.
For overnight cruises, you set sail on a traditional kettuvallom. These giant 100 foot long boats have been adapted into fully furnished houses ranging from one to four bedrooms. Boats have open air living rooms, AC in the bedrooms and fully functioning western style bathrooms. Each boat also typically comes with a captain, a chef and other houseboat guides to take care of your every need while on board.
[box]TRAVELERS TIP: If you opt for an overnight stay on a larger boat, make sure to make time to explore the smaller, narrower waterways on a small wooden boat. The scenery, wild life and human life you will encounter on these small byways will be the highlight of your journey.[/box]
On my first trip to Kerala, I opted for a short half-day trip out on small (motorized & non-motorized) boats. It was a wonderful day slowly cruising the tiny backwater lanes taking in rural life of India. It was fascinating to see how closely connected the villagers were to their surroundings, living so close to the waters edge and using it in all aspects of life. As a first introduction to the the backwaters, it was mesmerizing and exactly what I had hoped it would be.
Fast forward more than 10 years later when I returned with my 3 year old son. I had heard mixed reports about the overnight houseboats through the years, but I knew that cruising the backwaters on a small boat would not be a long lived excursion for a rambunctious 3 year old. Instead we opted for one night on the beautifully crafted rice barges with an hour long small boat excursion added on, a perfect combination of the two.
Cruising the backwaters on an overnight tour starts around 11 a.m. ending the following morning. The one day tour provides ample opportunities for exploring the boat, relaxing while watching rural life go by as well as time for excursions down the tiny streams jutting off the main thoroughfare. You may wonder how to keep kids entertained in closed quarters, but trust me when I say that they will find entertainment in searching for animals, watching the gaggles of school kids running along the shores waving at passing boats and examining the many different types of boats on the water. For adults without kids looking for serene relaxation, longer cruises are also available venturing further out.
And now, a time lapse view of rush hour on the backwaters!
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