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What's it like on a backwaters cruise in Kerala?

19th September 2012

This is a wonderful experience and there’s nowhere else in the world you can take a cruise like it! Your time is spent gently cruising through the backwaters, watching the rural life of India or bird watching. You’ll see other houseboats, but due to the size of this water mass you’ll eventually be cruising alone, watching life in the Indian villages gently floating past.

The backwaters refer to the large inland lakes of Kerala, consisting of a network of lakes, canals, lagoons and estuaries. This area of water stretches for 1900 Kms (900 Kms are navigable) and has small villages dotted around. Some are only accessible by boat. The area is green and fertile and full of rice paddies that have a constant source of water from the backwaters.

You cruise on a traditional houseboat, which is a converted “Kettuvallams”, and almost 50ft long. These palm covered boats were originally designed to carry rice, coconuts and spices to various trading centres of Kerala and the boatmen lived onboard.

As you can see from my video and photos, the boat is not materially luxurious but it is comfortably furnished and offers all the simple accommodation you would need for the night. At the front of the boat is a day bed and sitting room area with a table and chairs, in the middle is a bedroom with a double bed, fitted with a clothes cupboard, A/C, mosquito net, electric socket, and has a small bathroom with toilet, washing basin and shower. There was no hot water, but that didn’t matter! With the warm days and evenings a refreshing shower feels great. There was also a second bedroom on my boat, so it’s ideal for families.

The boat is exclusive to you and there are three crew members (two boatmen and a chef) look after your every need. The food is plentiful, fresh and delicious for dinner tonight I ate fresh prawns caught that day and cooked on the boat in front of me. There’s cold bottled mineral water, soft dinks and beer is onboard.

Surprisingly the mosquitoes were not a nuisance, so you can do as I did and sit out on deck in the evening, beer in hand whiling away the hours watching the villages, waving to the local children and learning about life on the waterways with your local crew.

Nigel Fisher

From a young age Nigel travelled to Canada and Australia and his lifelong passion for travel began. On his 18th birthday he flew to New York and took …

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