Have you ever gone cruising in a houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala? If you haven't, make sure you do. This one is really a wonderful and unforgettable experience!
Present day houseboats are huge, slow moving exotic barges used for leisure trips, and are in fact reworked version of kettuvallams of olden times. The original kettuvallams were used to carry tons of rice and spices. A standard kettuvallam can hold up to 30 tons from Kuttanad to the Kochi port.
The kettuvallam is held together with coir knots. Not even a single nail is used during the construction of the boat.. The boat is made of planks of jack-wood joined together with coir. This is then coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. With careful maintenance, a kettuvallam can last for generations.
A portion of the kettuvallam was covered with bamboo and coir to serve as a restroom and kitchen for the crew. Meals would be cooked onboard and supplemented with freshly cooked fish from the backwaters.
When the modern trucks replaced this system of transport, some one found a new way that would keep these boats, almost all of which were more than 100 years old, in the market. By constructing special rooms to accommodate travelers, these boats cruised forward from near-extinction to enjoy their present great popularity.
Now these are a familiar sight on the backwaters and in Alappuzha alone, there are as many as 500 houseboats.
While converting kettuvallams into houseboats, care is taken to use only natural products. Bamboo mats, sticks and wood of the areca nut tree are used for roofing, coir mats and wooden planks for the flooring and wood of coconut trees and coir for beds. For lighting though, solar panels are used.
Today, the houseboats have all the creature comforts of a good hotel including furnished bedrooms, modern toilets, cozy living rooms, a kitchen and even a balcony for angling. Parts of the curved roof of wood or plaited palm open out to provide shade and allow uninterrupted views. While most boats are poled by local oarsmen, some are powered by a 40 HP engine. Boat-trains - formed by joining two or more houseboats together are also used by large groups of sightseers.
Different Kinds Of Houseboats
The growing popularity of the houseboats has made way to different types of Houseboats too. The modest Kettuvellams that once possessed one or two quarters and an area for kitchen and storage in a modest manner has undergone massive makeover retaining its old world charm. From three, four, five and upper deck houseboat the options are plenty for you to choose. You can hire a private houseboat for yourself or make use of the grand upper deck houseboats for corporate get together or family rendezvous. Kumarakom houseboats have a vast spread of houseboats with different accommodation facilities for you to choose for suiting your budget and needs.
Upper Deck Houseboats
The upper deck houseboats have appealed to the likings of the corporate community. The upper decks and increased number of rooms and leisure cruise for a day or two sets the perfect atmosphere to mix work and pleasure. You can have your conference meetings and then head to the deck to enjoy your lunch. As a matter of fact, the deck business and lunch combination also makes sure that your subordinates or partners do not disappear after making a quick appearance.
The upper deck houseboats are air conditioned and well furnished. And you’d be surprised they are even fitted with state of the art gadgets. Additionally you can coordinate with the boat authorities to check on your requirements for audio-video presentation, close circuit TV, video conferencing, internet, and intercom so on and so forth.
Since these houseboats cater to the needs of the white collar top notches, the cuisine served is prepared under international standards. The food dominantly remains ethnic but can be customized depending on your requirements. Safety measures have been well taken care of with adequate fire extinguisher aptly placed. Fire pumps, life rafts and experienced lifeguards are always available at for quick rescue operations in case of a mishap.
Unlike the traditional houseboats that have dominant usage of bamboo and coconut fiber ropes, the upper deck houseboats have coir carpets that allow its occupants to enjoy the scenic view of the backwaters from the comfort of their houseboat room. The upper deck houseboat does not compromise any eco value and hence from the septic tank to the usage of the generator to power the A/c on the boat has been well taken care of. The bio-septic tank is researched and certified by central research laboratory that it’s fit to collect the fecal discards and will not pollute the backwaters.
Kettuvellam rice boat journey
The old rice barges were then called Ketuvellams that transported goods and cargos from one place to another serving as the prime mode of transportation. The disappearing Kettuvellams made a comeback and appealed to a mass of tourists from across the world. Built from jackfruit logs, leashed with coconut fiber and coconut nails, these Kettuvellams were converted in a fashion to house one two three and four bedrooms. So you could hire Kettuvellams for a day or two for yourself or on sharing basis and enjoy the serenity of the Backwaters.
The existence of punting houseboats in Kerala is surreal. Boating in the maze of canals on the punting houseboat coupled with the intricate surroundings of the nature is an experience that’s not easy to describe. The methodical process of the punts rising skywards and descending in to the water slicing the backwaters is hypnotic to watch. The punting process demands the strength and muscle to rise and drop in the serene waters and to watch the boatsman do that with his bare hands is jaw dropping.
Houseboats are made of jack wood which in ancient times was used to transport goods, cargos, food items from one place to another. Braided palm leaves, aracanut trees and coconut husk masks were used to make the quarters and toilets in the punting boats. However, today the boats retain a lot of traditional touches but have also seen some modifications. Present day houseboats are well equipped to offer a sophisticated and mind blowing stay experience.
The old houseboats often comprised of rooms meant for sleeping and would long towards both ends and broad in the center. The central part is where the quarters and kitchen were placed, and the boat would also have place to accommodate the oarsman who would row the boat with a long pole.
The whole rowing of the boats process helped the boatsman to stay afloat and travel from one place to another watching fishermen catch fish or local vendors on the banks of the waters selling goods. Sometimes the entire family would stock up enough good and float around finishing their business they’d set out to.
Motor boat/ speed boats
Motor boats and speed boats are quicker and affordable way to experience the beauty of the backwaters in Kerala. The different kinds of motorboats have different seating capacity and vary from accommodating between ten to fifty passengers. The motor boat costs vary for an hour long cruise depending on the motor boat you choose. The lesser seating capacity, the higher is the price. The options of boarding an open speed board and covered motor board is also available.