The scintillating backwaters of Kerala are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) of Kerala state in southern India. The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, both manmade and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range.
Traditionally, boats of varying shapes and sizes have been used in the transport of men and materials on the Kerala Backwaters. The “Kettuvallam” in particular were popular for the shipping of rice and spices and other goods between Kuttanad and the Cochin port. A Kettuvallam is about 67 feet in length and has a width of around 13 feet in the middle. The materials used in the construction of the Kettuvallam are local and eco friendly; bamboo poles, coconut fibre, ropes, bamboo mats, carpets etc. The main wood used is “Anjili” (Artocarpus hirsuta).
‘Kettuvallam’ means, ‘stitched boat’ and can be over 70 ft long and possesses a capacity of 30 tons. They are made up of wooden planks joined and stitched together with coconut ropes and is painted with cashew nut oil from inside and fish oil on the outside. Everything used in these boats are handmade and not even a single nail is used in its construction. However, with careful maintenance they do last for generations and one can see ‘Kettuvallams’ that are more than a century old. In the earlier days, boatmen on long journeys usually caught fresh backwater fish such as ‘karimeen’ (pearl spot) and ‘kalangi’ (barramundi) and feasted on non perishable food supplies such as lentils and local large grained red rice flavoured by inexpensive spices such as coriander, ginger, dried chillies, turmeric and black mustard seeds.
With the advent of modern transportation, the ’Ketuvallams’ soon faced a downward spiral in business. until they were redeemed by the tourism industry and were remodeled into the luxurious houseboats that are now one of the chief attractions of the tourists.
House Boats for Tourism
The year 1991 saw the advent of houseboats used for the purpose of tourism with Tour India pioneering the development of backwater tourism by introducing first Kettuvallam Houseboat (Rice Boat) for comfortable cruise in the canals
Most of the latest designs incorporate 3 bedrooms with toilets, a living space and kitchen. There are several variations ranging from lesser rooms to large living space and maybe a deck balcony at the roof level. Normally, the platforms that cantilever from the hull are used as balconies. Innovative changes have been made to accommodate modern fittings. For fixing the toilet seats, shower tray and ceramic floor finish a concrete slab is laid at the floor level. These toilettes are made of steel cabinets with a network of steel meshes on which beneficial bacteria are grown with the help of a catalyst named actizyme.
The three main types of houseboats currently used in the backwater tourism are the:
Deluxe Houseboats: which includes facilities such as front living area and bedrooms with a beautiful wooden ceiling with overlapping logs to give it a contemporary feel. The bedrooms of the deluxe A/c Houseboat have complete glass windows stretching across most of the wall to offer the guests a complete and uninterrupted view of the backwaters while travelling. It is less expensive and can have AC operational from 9pm to 6 am and a common menu.
Premium Houseboats: has all the facilities as above in addition to an Ac functioning full time as well as a special menu .
Luxury Houseboats: provide high quality service matched by high finesse and a contemporary feel. The bedrooms of the Luxury A/c Houseboat have complete glass windows stretching across ¾ths of the wall to offer the guests a complete and uninterrupted .view of the backwaters while traveling Each bed in the Luxury A/c Houseboat is located at the exact height of the window, so the guest gets a good view even while lying on the bed. Each room in the Luxury A/c Houseboat has a dressing mirror, luggage compartment, writing table, wardrobe, attached bathrooms and air-conditioning.Few operators provide such grandiose services.
Kerala houseboats are of excellent construction and luxurious furnishing with exquisite flooring, hull and canopy. They are in the best of conditions, usually with a sun deck, spacious living / dining area and each rooms with attached bathrooms. The kitchen are maintained with utmost cleanliness and protected from hazards using adequate safety measures. Each of the boats come with a valid license from the tourism board.
Booking a Houseboat
There are two types of cruises: day cruises and overnight cruises. Usually the overnight cruise is suggested by most people.
There are a zillion cruise operators who offer houseboat services. They often offer it as a part of packages via tieups with tour operators or directly lease out right at the deck or by providing information online. The prices usually varies according to season and festivities. The biggest problem is determining the best of services and genuineness of the offers.
At backwaterbreaks.com, these numerous cruise operators register with the website providing their information and the details of their houseboats and services including photographs of each vessel offered for a cruise and the corresponding seasonal rates. These details are cross verified by the backwaterbreaks team.This enables the traveller to compare rates as well as the quality of the services provided and book the required houseboat sitting in the comfort of their homes. Once the houseboats are booked, the traveller will receive the contact details of the corresponding cruise operator and can further customise any prior requirements. In short, backwaterbreaks.com provides a smart alternative to leverage houseboat booking to a global level.