The Kerala backwaters 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.
The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways, and sometimes compared to the American Bayou. In the midst of this landscape there are a number of towns and cities, which serve as the starting and end points of backwater cruises. National Waterway No. 3 from Kollam to Kottapuram, covers a distance of 205 km and runs almost parallel to the coast line of southern Kerala facilitating both cargo movement and backwater tourism.
The backwaters have a unique ecosystem - freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. In certain areas, such as the Vembanad Kayal, where a barrage has been built near Kumarakom, salt water from the sea is prevented from entering the deep inside, keeping the fresh water intact. Such fresh water is extensively used for irrigation purposes.
Many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs and mudskippers, water birds such as terns, kingfishers, darters and cormorants, and animals such as otters and turtles live in and alongside the backwaters. Palm trees, pandanus shrubs, various leafy plants and bushes grow alongside the backwaters, providing a green hue to the surrounding landscape.
Vembanad Kayal is the largest of the lakes, covering an area of 200 km2, and bordered by Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. The port of Kochi (Cochin) is located at the lake's outlet to the Arabian Sea. Alleppey, "Venice of the East", has a large network of canals that meander through the town. Vembanad is India's longest lake.
The cheapest option for cruising the backwaters is on the Alleppey Tourism Development Corporation ferry between Alleppey and unattractive Kollam (eight hours), which departs at 10.30 a.m. daily from each town. The cost is around $5. (Some people will be interested to know that these boats make a stop at the Matha Amrithanandamayi Mission of the Hugging Mother to drop visitors off). Travel agents and hotels also organize boat tour packages, which start from around $12 with lunch. Many include a stop at a coir village. Some day trips also leave from Cochin, such as the recommended one organized by the Tourist Desk.
Kollam (earlier known as Quilon) was one of the leading trade centres of the ancient world, eulogised by travellers such as Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo. It is also the starting point of the backwater waterways. The Ashtamudi Kayal, known as the gateway to the backwaters, covers about 30 per cent of Kollam. Sasthamcotta Kayal, the large fresh water lake is 28.5 km from Kollam city.
The 8 hours boat ride from Kollam to Alappuzha is the longest cruise in Kerala and is delightful ride with lotuses and water lilies all around.
Kollam backwaters are renowned for verdant fishes, coconuts and cashew nuts. Kollam is located on the banks of the Ashtamudi Lake that is the gateway to the glistening Kerala backwaters. The Lake embracing eight streams covers a major portion of Kollam. Kollam Backwaters cruises make for a delightful experience. You can capture amazing sights of canals, blooming water lilies, the raucous songs of birds from the banks and the unpretentious village life, while you take the longest backwater tour in Kerala from Kollam to Alappuzha backwaters.
With the Kuttanad region and the Vembanad Kayal nearby, Alappuzha (earlier known as Alleppy) attracts tourists throughout the year. The criss-crossing canals in the area evoke comparisons with Venice, but the differences are also substantial. Each has an identity of its own. Amongst the notable sights is the palm covered Pathiramanal Island in Vembanad Kayal, one hour by boat from Alappuzha. The place is famous for the snake boat races and also has a number of historic colonial buildings and a beach. Kollam and Alappuzha connected to a beautiful lake named Kayamkulam Lake.
Alleppey is one of the most sought after backwater destinations in Kerala that not only attracts the family vacationers but also allures great number of honeymooners and nature lovers from India as well as abroad. You can also book customised houseboat tours in Alleppey depending upon your need and budget and enjoy memorable stay in the cozy and inviting lap of the Mother Nature.
The Kuttanad region is a vast area of partly reclaimed land, covered with bright green paddy fields, separated by dikes. The level of water is a few feet higher than the level of the surrounding land. It is an amazing labyrinth of shimmering waterways composed of lakes, canals, rivers and rivulets. Lined with dense tropical greenery, it offers a glimpse into rural life-styles of Kerala. Kuttanad is a backwater paradise and an ideal destination for a backwater cruise in Kerala. It is possible to drift along in a houseboat and enjoy the scenic view of the Kerala countryside.
Cochin is one of the major tourist attractions and is also very popular backwater destination as on your backwater tour Kerala. Cochin backwater is one of the most frequented backwaters of Kerala as the numerous backwater cruises either start or ends here. Apart from the numerous beautiful attractions in this city like the Jewish Synagogue, Fort Kochi and the Mattancherry Palace, built during the pre-British times the palm fringed backwater also attracts several tourists to this famous city in Kerala.
At Kochi one can go for a backwater cruise that run around the popular islands such as Bolgatty, Vyppin, Gundu and Vallarpadam. The backwater stretch is quite beautiful with palm groves lining up the banks and spread over the islands. A number of tourist destinations are at hand in Kochi, like Mattancherry Palace, St.Francis Church, Marine Drive, Shiva Temple, etc. The place also features a beach, Fort Kochi Beach, which has recently been developed into a lavish resort. The beach is an additional feature and provide space to more activities.
The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Kayal, and is part of the Kuttanad region. The blue backwaters of Vembanad Kayal and the amazing shades of green of the vegetation, combines with the quietness of the place to make it an idyllic holiday destination. Many of the resorts also offer ayurvedic treatment While Kuttanad is ideal for a house boat cruise, the resorts are the main attraction in Kumarakonam. One can also take a boat trip in Kumaramonam It is located 15 km west of Kottayam. The bird sanctuary located within the premises features some rare birds and beautiful scenes.
While in Kumarakom you can enjoy the attractions of your tourist resort, have an ayurvedic massage, try fishing or bird watching and have a relaxing holiday while on Kerala tours with Kerala Backwater. The birds you can see at the Vembanad Sanctuary in Kumarakom include, terns, gulls, herons, lapwings, kingfishers, stilts and Brahminy Kites. If you're a nature lover you're sure to be enchanted by the natural beauty of Kumarakom.
Munroethuruth or Munroe Island is a place surrounded by kallada river, Ashtamudi Lake and Sasthamkotta Lake in Kollam district, MunroeIsland is a cluster of eight tiny islands, Blessed with a number of criss-cross canals and zigzag water channels, this Island plays a host to many migratory birds from various countries around the world. You can watch birds such as King fisher, Woodpecker, Egret, Bee-eater, Crow pheasant, and Paddy Birds. There is yet another rare chance to see the traditional Indian spice plants such as Pepper, Nutmeg and Cloves.
The first community tourism programme in the State will start functioning from the Munroe Thuruthu islands. Coir making is a home industry to almost all the village living people. It is very interesting to watch the coir making by the village ladies with the help of weaving Wheels. They make the coir ropes by hand. In addition to this, on the way, you can see the process of extracting coconut oil from the "copra" [dried coconut]. Among the routine traditional engagements, duck, poultry farm and prawn breeding are common in all houses.
Kasaragod in north Kerala is a backwater destination, known for rice cultivation, coir processing and lovely landscape, it has the sea to the west and the Western Ghats to the north and east. Cruise options are Chandragiri and Valiyaparamba. Chandragiri is situated 4 km to the southeast of Kasargod town and takes tourists to the historic Chandragiri fort. Valiyaparamba is a scenic backwater stretch near Kasargod. Four rivers flow into the backwaters near Kasargod and there are many small islands along these backwater stretches, where birds can be seen.
Thiruvallam backwaters are just 6 km from Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital. Known for its canoe rides Thiruvallam is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. Two rivers, the Killi and the Karamana come together at Thiruvallam. Not far from Thiruvallam is the Veli Lagoon, where there are facilities for water sports, a waterfront park and a floating bridge. The Akkulam Boat club, which offers boating cruises on Akkulam Lake and a park for children, is also a popular tourist attraction near Thiruvallam.
The place is also popular for its temple dedicated to Lord Parashurama believed to be the creator of Kerala. A Hindu pilgrimage destination, the Parashurama temple is thronged by devotees to perform rituals in honor of their ancestors.
Kozhikode (also known as Calicut) has backwaters which are largely "unexplored" by tourist hordes. Kozhikode offers its tourists a unique backwaters experience. Elathur, the Canoly Canal and the Kallayi River are favourite haunts for boating and cruising. Korapuzha, the venue of the Korapuzha Jalotsavam is fast becoming a popular water sport destination.
The houseboats slowly moving in the calm backwaters of Kozhikode takes you on the momentous journey sailing along the Kallai river and Canoli river. Spending holidays on one of the lavish houseboats is a lifetime experience for the tourists. You can avail the service of the houseboats from the from Purakkattiri. Exotic natural beauty, green clouds and pristine beaches will surely add an extra sparkle to your journey.
The serene backwaters of Kozhikode make a perfect holiday spot. The city of Kozhikode is famous for its trade and commerce and the Malabar Mahotsavam festival. The ancient monuments, tranquil beaches, temples, blue waters and friendly people have made the place very popular among tourists. Other attractions which can be explored during a backwater tour of Kozhikode include Elathur, the Canolly Canal, Kallai river and beautiful bird sanctuary at Kadalundi.