Water Paradise: A Guide to Backwaters in India
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India is filled with picturesque beaches and backwaters. These backwaters flow in between embankments where the local community is settled. Flanked by thick groves of coconut trees, the backwaters are often a beautiful pastel green due to the growth of algae on the surface.
Talking about bayous in India, it is inevitable to mention backwaters in Kerala and Goa. The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons that lie parallel along the Malabar Coast, which is the local name for the Arabian Sea Coast.
To add to its beauty, the backwaters are explored using exquisitely crafted houseboats in Goa or kettuvallams in Kerala which are the epitome of luxury, style and comfort. These houseboats are a beautiful blend of tradition and contemporary luxury. Fitted with all modern amenities and facilities, these houseboats are the best way to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the beautiful surroundings of the backwaters in India.
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These houseboats are fine examples of superior craftsmanship and excellent build skills. So be it honeymoon or family vacation, these beautiful houseboats are the first choice for holidaying tourists in both Kerala and Goa. These houseboats are available in different versions.
Besides being able to soak in the serene and tranquil atmosphere of the beautiful surroundings of Kerala, a journey in a houseboat also sheds some light on the local culture and cuisine of Kerala more closely.
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Kerala is rightly called God’s Own Country. Blessed with lush green surroundings, stunning beaches, palm trees that dot the horizon and most importantly, backwaters that have become the identity of the state, Kerala is a nature lover’s paradise. The beauty of the land is accentuated by the exquisitely crafted houseboats that silently cruise along the length of the backwaters of Kerala.
Kerala backwaters are a network of lakes which are connected by both manmade and natural canals and channels. These backwaters were formed due to the action of the shore currents and the waves which create low island barriers on the mouth of the rivers flowing into the sea from the Western Ghats.
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The backwaters of Kerala have a delicate ecosystem and home to many marine creatures such as Mudskippers, Otters, Turtles etc. The Kuttanad backwaters and the Vembanad Kayal are the most popular in India among tourists. In fact, the Alleppey district is often called the Venice of the East.
From beautiful city of Cochin to Kollam, the backwaters draw hundreds and thousands of tourists from all over the world. While on one hand local food items such as fish and vegetables are transported in a boat; on the other hand these backwaters are the venue for the famed boat race that is held in different parts of Kerala every year. Snake boat races called ‘Vallam kali’ in Malayalam are held on these backwaters every year and the event is a major crowd puller in Kerala.
Here are some of the best backwaters in India:
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Kuttanad has a beautiful labyrinth of backwaters that are connected by canals and channels. It's a part of Alleppey, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts of Kerala. The Kuttanad region has the lowest altitude in India.
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Most tourists prefer to explore the backwaters in India on a houseboat. A trip through Kuttanad is the best way to catch a glimpse of the rural lifestyle and culture of the region.
Kuttanad is also known for its paddy fields and is often called the ‘Rice Bowl of Kerala’. According to folklore, the place got its name from an incident in the mythological text book Mahabharata.
It is believed that during their exile period, the Pandavas came to Kuttanad and reclaimed land by burning down forests. The place was initially called ‘Kuttanad’ which metamorphosed into the current name slowly. Even today, on digging into the soil, coal or kari can be seen below the soil surface.
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The Alappuzha district or Alleppey district is the most recognised destination in Kerala for backwaters in India. The district is best known for the Kayamkulam lake and its intrinsic network of canals and channels between the backwaters, which have earned it the name ‘Venice of the East’. Houseboats are readily available in Alleppey to explore the backwaters.
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Some of the most exquisite destinations in Alappuzha include the Pathiramanal island, which can be reached by an hour boat ride from Alappuzha and the Kayamkulam Lake. The Kayamkulam Lake is the site for snake boat races in the district. There are a number of old colonial buildings in the district which are of much historical importance.
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Kumarakom is a popular tourist site in Kerala. This village is a cluster of little islands surrounded by the Vembanad lake in the Kuttanad region of Kerala. Apart from the lush greenery, a beautiful bird sanctuary and a breathtaking views of the Vembanad lake, Kumarakom is a hotspot for backwater cruises on the lovely houseboats.
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Kumarakom is also known for the various Ayurvedic rejuvenation centres that offer an assortment of massages that have therapeutic properties. Kottayam and Kumarakom are situated close by and are frequented by nature enthusiasts.
Munroe Island, Kerala
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Surrounded by the rivers Kallada, Sasthamkotta and Ashtamudi in the Kollam district, the Munroe Island or Munroethuruth, is a small village comprising of a cluster of eight small islands. The network of channels and canals that criss cross are the main attraction of the island.
The Munroe Island also plays host to a large number of migratory birds that fly in from different parts of the world. The commonly spotted birds in the region are the Woodpeckers, Paddy birds and Crow pheasants. A visit to the Munroe Island provides an opportunity to understand the cultivation of popular spices of India.
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Houseboat rides are the best way to explore the backwaters in the region. The coir industry is quite important in the Munroe Island and locals can be seen working on preparing the coir early morning. A backwater cruise through the bayous and connecting canals opens up the countryside to visitors allowing them to learn more about the region than they would otherwise do.
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Formed at the confluence of the Rivers Killi and Karamana, Thiruvallam backwaters are situated at a distance of 6km from the capital city of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvallam is usually associated with canoe rides, but it is these days emerging as a major hub for backwater cruises. The Veli Lagoon, which is situated very near to Thiruvallam, is a very popular spot for water sports activities.
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Kasaragod is situated in the northern part of Kerala and is generally known for rice cultivation. However, Kasaragod is now gradually becoming a well known destination for backwater cruises.
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The best known cruise destinations in Kasargod are Chandragiri and Valiyaparambu. As many as four rivers flow into the backwaters of Kasargod and there are several islands along the stretch, which are home to innumerable migratory birds.
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While most travellers associate India backwaters to Kerala, very few know that Goa is also a popular destination for backwater cruises in India. Although the idea of cruising in houseboats on backwaters in India remains the same, the experience is completely different when compared to that in Kerala.
The houseboats in Goa are exquisitely crafted out of lightweight wood and are fully equipped with modern amenities. Interestingly, a lot of these houseboats are floating pubs. For those interested in cruising along the beautiful backwaters of Goa, houseboats ply the Chapora River in Siolim and take you through beautiful routes flanked by embankments that offer a sneak peek into the life and culture of the locals.
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Passengers are offered a pick up and drop facility. Once on-board, passengers are offered delicious Goan delicacies and beverages. Passengers can indulge in fishing, swimming or even spend time playing indoor games such as chess, scramble, ludo, etc. For those interested in fishing, chefs on board can will also cook your catch in delicious Goan style.
Many boat riders also take their guests on dolphin spotting trips. The coastline of Goa is home to the adorable Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins which can easily be recognised by their hump and elongated dorsal fins. Dolphin spotting trips are usually conducted in the early hours of the morning as the dolphins are closer to the shore at this time. During the remaining hours of the day, the dolphins move deeper into the sea and disappear from human view.
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The experience on a Goan houseboat is exhilarating. There is good music, food and wine which makes the ambience festive.
Some operators take their guests on an enthralling journey to spice plantations where the cultivation of aromatic spices and preparation of products such as feni are demonstrated. During these trips, passengers also get to observe Goa in the early hours.
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The houseboat cruise in Goa also provides the opportunity to spot different migratory birds in the region. The Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary in Chorao Island is an important pit stop during houseboat cruises in Goa. This visit allows our visitors to spot and identify the native and migratory bird species in Goa.