The early morning breeze coupled with the shimmering waters is an ethereal experience to wake up to in the mornings. As you glide along the banks of the water flourishing with coconut trees and banana trees, taking in the rural countryside you will completely understand the subtle yet surreal experience the Kerala Backwaters have to offer. Here is why the Kerala Backwaters are such a wonderful destination –
1. Sinuous Waterways
The Kerala Backwaters are a terrain unique in India, stretching across 900 sq km of water this area covers five major lakes, 38 rivers and innumerable canals. The meandering canals, the wide rivers , lakes and tiny streams offer a visual treat to the traveler. Palm and coconut trees, various leafy plants and bushes and mangroves grow alongside the Kerala backwaters, providing a green hue to the surrounding landscape. Traditionally used to ferry spices and produce, all these waterways are interconnected and navigable.
2. Gateway to the Rustic countryside
The backwaters are a gateway to witness the real country life of Kerala. The entire network of waterways provides livelihood and dwelling to thousands of people who fish and farm along the banks of the backwaters for centuries. On a journey through the backwaters you can not only witness unparalleled natural beauty but also get to know and see the true rural life of the region.
The old and new houses with unique Kerala style architecture which is made to withstand the monsoons of the region are a wonder in itself. No wonder Kerala is known as the Venice of the East!
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3. Verdant ecology
As you amble along the waterways you will witness a self supporting eco-system vibrant with aquatic, plant and bird life. These waterways are home to a myriad species of animals and birds, especially the water birds on the Lakes. The most well known is the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary which is host to a variety of waterfowl including the migratory Siberian Crane which comes all the way from Siberia!
4. The Cruise
One can take a full day cruise on the Kettavallam (Traditional Rice Barrage many of which have been converted to houseboats) or stay overnight on a house boat to revel in the entire experience of the Kerala Backwaters.
The best routes are from Alappuzha to Kollam, Alappuzha to Kumarakom and Alappuzha to Kuttanad. Alappuzha is the major town in the backwaters and the entry into the vast network of waterways. Ashtamudi Lake & Sasthamkoda Lake in Kollam and Vembanad Lake in Kumarakom are some of the popular destinations for tourists for fishing, bird watching and sightseeing experiences.
In India, Kerala is the only place where cruising is done in houseboats. This is something which should be experienced by all nature lovers at least once in a lifetime.