Land and water share an extraordinary kinship in Kerala.The land which is believed to have sprung forth from the sea continues to bask in the tender life giving care of the waters that lap gently on its coast, cascade down its hills and valleys and rests calmly in exotic backwaters and lagoons.
There is a different Kerala along these backwaters, throbbing with its own unique culture. As a visitor to Kerala, it can be an incredibly different experience just floating on these waters in a country craft and absorbing this unusual representation of Kerala’s life.
We might begin at Alappuzha, which is hailed as the Venice of the East, because of its intricate maze of backwaters, canals and bridges. When the visitor leaves Alappuzha on a boat voyage through Kuttanad, we will find ourself traveling along canals where the level of water is often higher than that of the green fields on either side.
We could journey right up to Kochi via the backwaters. Many beautiful sights greet you along the way, such as the Chinese fishing nets, and to have been introduced into Kerala by the traders from Kublai Khan’s Court.
A beautiful backwater spot accessible from Alappuzha is Kumarakom.Breathtakingly green, the village slumbers by the Vembanad Lake. On – cruise scenery flashes up vivid contrasts of lush greens and gorgeous green of the fringed palms the ripples in the blue waters blend into little wavelets.
The place is so beautiful that Henry Baker, an Englishman, built his bungalow here in the last century. Now this elegant English bungalow is a Tourist Complex.
A 14acre bird sanctuary adds to the natural beauty of Kumarakom.Birds such as Water Ducks, Cuckoo, Siberian Storks spend happy summers here.
By the Vembanad Lake nestles a golden yellow island, Pathiramanal which is haven of peace for the tourists.
The short boat ride from Kochi will transport you to a world of quiet and peace, of warmth and friendliness.
Again from Alappuzha , you could go up to Kollam.The route winds up the Pampa river to Champakkulam, an island hamlet, there in to the Karumadi canal. The statue of Karumadikuttan is believed to be of Buddha. Some see it is as a remnant of a bygone era when Buddhist monks came to Kerala with the message of love and non- violence. Then past Trikunna- puzha, across Kayamkulam Lake and Ashtamudi Lake, finally drawing in to the ancient port of Kollam.Through out, the scenery continues to be ravishing.
Kerala is a land of rivers and backwaters. Forty four rivers-41 west-flowing and 3 east flowing- cut across Kerala with their innumerable tributaries and branches, but these rivers are comparatively small and being entirely monsoon fed , practically turn into rivulets in summer, especially in the upper areas.
The backwaters form an especially attractive and economically valuable feature of Kerala.They include lakes and ocean inlets which stretch irregularly along the coast.
The biggest backwater is the Vembanad Lake which opens out into the Arabian Sea at Cochin port. The other important backwaters are Veli, kadinamkulam,Anjengo, Edava, Madayara, Paravoor, Ashtamudi, Kayam Kulam, Kodungallur and Chetuva.
The deltas of the rivers interlink the backwaters and provide excellent water transportations in the low lands of Kerala.A navigable canal stretches from Trivandum, the capital of Kerala to Tirur in the far North.
The backwaters of Kerala- meandering inland lakes networked by canals- stretch to over 900km.Boat trips across these tranquil stretches are an experience unique to Kerala.Large Kettuvalloms (traditional country crafts over 60ft. in length) have been converted into luxury houseboats for these cruises.
Thiruvallam: It is only 6km from Thiruvananthapuram. This serene backwater stretch,
Enroute to Kovalam is famous for its 2000- year- old temple on the banks of the River Karamana, canoe rides, kayaking and cruises in traditional houseboats.
Velli: Located 8km from Trivandrum.The backwaters of Velli is a popular place for boating. Sandwiched between the Velli lagoon and the Arabian Sea is the Velli Tourist Village. Facilities at the Village include water sports and an 18-acre waterfront park with a floating bridge connecting the beach.
Akkulam: Located 10km from Trivandrum.On the banks of the tranquil backwaters of Akkulam is a popular tourist village with various leisure options including boating, a
Children’s park with a swimming pool and musical dancing fountain.
Kappil: Located 53km from Trivandum.A confluence of the sea, river and the backwater, this secluded, picturesque spot is worth the visit. The Priyadarshini Boat Club here offers boating facilities.
Kollam: Located 71km to the north of Trivandrum.One of the oldest ports in the State; Kollam is where the magnificent network of waterways begins. From the famed Ashtamudi Lake, known as the gateway to the backwaters, a 130km long system of interlinked canals and lakes winds all the way to the north. The eight –hour trip from here to Alappuzha is the longest backwater cruise in Kerala.
Alumkadavu: Located 23km from Kollam.Along the vast expanse of the Kayamkulam Lake is the picturesque little village of Alumkadavu.This hamlet by the backwaters is home to skilled artisans who craft the enormous kettuvalloms.
Alappuzha: Referred to as the Venice of the East, this backwater country with its vast network of lakes, lagoons and freshwater rivers is immensely beautiful. Venue for the world-renowned snake boat races, Alappuzha is also famous for its marine products and coir industry.
Kuttanad: Known as the Rice Bowl of Kerala because of its wealth of paddy crops, Kuttanad in Alappuzha is the very heart of the backwaters. This is one of the few
Places in the world where farming is done below sea level.
Veli Tourist Village
An exciting place for picnics, the Veli Tourist Village is built near the Veli lagoon fringed with greenery and easily accessible by road. Veli is located 8kms from Trivandrum city. The Village provides an excellent atmosphere for the relaxing.
A beautifully landscaped garden and facilities for swimming, boating etc on the placid waters of the lake attracts hundreds of visitors everyday.
Veli Tourist Village in Trivandrum is surrounded by the Veli lagoon and the Arabian Sea
which boasts of an ideal location for a perfect vacation retreat. A narrow sandbar further divides the Veli lagoon from the main sea.
For a few rupees, rides can be had in motor driven safari launches and power boats, or a family can drift about in a pedal – boat or a row boat. There are Kayaks, and even hovercraft, for the more exciting ones. While skimming over the lake , visitors will see the local fisherman ready their boats, working on their nets or polling sand – laden barges.
A small cafeteria serves ice-cream, cold- drinks and snacks, and the ground are dotted with interesting climbing sculptures designed by the well known sculptor Kanai Kunjiraman.
Kerala Backwaters: A Serene Network of Natural Wonders
Kerala, often referred to as “God’s Own Country,” is a breathtakingly beautiful state in South India known for its lush landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich heritage. One of its most iconic and enchanting natural wonders is the Kerala Backwaters. This intricate network of water bodies, canals, lagoons, and rivers offers a unique and tranquil experience that attracts travelers from around the world. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of Kerala Backwaters, exploring their history, geography, ecosystem, tourism, and the ways in which they contribute to the state’s charm.
Geography and Formation
The Kerala Backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast of Kerala. This intricate system stretches across nearly 550 miles (900 kilometers) and covers an area of around 900 square miles (2,300 square kilometers). The primary regions where backwaters can be found include Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, Kollam (Quilon), and Kochi (Cochin).
The formation of the backwaters is a result of the unique geography of the Kerala coast. A series of barrier islands separate the Arabian Sea from the coastal plain, creating a network of interconnected lakes, rivers, and canals. These water bodies were initially formed due to sediment deposition by various rivers, including the Periyar, Pamba, and Achankovil rivers, over centuries.
The Kerala Backwaters are not only a visual spectacle but also a haven for diverse flora and fauna. The brackish water of the backwaters, with its unique blend of freshwater from rivers and saline seawater, fosters a rich and varied ecosystem. The dense mangrove forests, coconut palm-lined shores, and marshy wetlands provide habitats for numerous species of birds, fish, and aquatic plants.
Birdwatchers flock to the backwaters to catch glimpses of both resident and migratory birds. Some prominent avian species found here include kingfishers, egrets, herons, and the elusive Indian darter. The backwaters also support various species of fish, including the prized pearl spot fish (karimeen), which is a local delicacy.
Traditional Life and Culture
The Kerala Backwaters have played a pivotal role in shaping the traditional way of life and culture of the people living along their shores. The waterways serve as a means of transportation and communication for the local communities. Traditional wooden houseboats, known as “kettuvallams,” were historically used for transporting goods like rice and spices. Today, these houseboats have been transformed into luxury accommodations, allowing visitors to experience the backwaters in style.
Villages and towns along the backwaters have retained their traditional charm. Residents here continue to engage in activities such as fishing, coir making (from coconut husks), and farming. The backwaters also serve as the backdrop for cultural festivals, like the Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alappuzha, which showcases the region’s vibrant traditions and community spirit.
Tourism and Experiences
Kerala Backwaters have gained international acclaim as a tourist destination, offering a unique and serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Tourists can explore the backwaters in various ways:
1. Houseboat Cruises: Houseboat tours are the most popular way to experience the backwaters. These well-appointed vessels come with comfortable bedrooms, kitchens, and open decks, allowing travelers to relax and enjoy the scenic beauty. Cruises can be as short as a day trip or extended to several days, depending on your preference.
2. Canoeing and Kayaking: For those seeking a more adventurous experience, canoeing and kayaking tours are available. These allow you to get up close and personal with the tranquil waterways and explore narrow canals that houseboats cannot access.
3. Village Homestays: Staying with local families in homestays is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the backwater communities. It also offers a more intimate and authentic experience.
4. Wildlife Sanctuaries: The backwaters are home to several wildlife sanctuaries, such as the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary and the Mathikettan Shola National Park, which offer opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.
5. Ayurvedic Retreats: Kerala is renowned for its Ayurvedic treatments, and many resorts and spas along the backwaters offer rejuvenating Ayurvedic therapies and wellness retreats.
Sustainable Tourism Practices
With the increasing popularity of Kerala Backwaters as a tourist destination, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainable tourism practices. Local authorities and tour operators are working to minimize the environmental impact of tourism, protect fragile ecosystems, and ensure the welfare of local communities.
The Kerala Backwaters are a natural wonder that showcases the stunning beauty and cultural richness of Kerala. This intricate network of water bodies, with its diverse ecosystem and traditional way of life, offers travelers a unique and enchanting experience. Whether you choose to cruise on a houseboat, paddle in a canoe, or stay in a village homestay, the backwaters of Kerala are sure to leave an indelible mark on your heart, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and cultural enthusiasts alike.