Kerala HouseboatsHouseboat cruises in the backwaters of Kerala
A Cruise along the palm fringed waterways of Kerala in a Houseboat or Ketuvallom is the most enchanting holiday experience in India today. In this world of simple pleasures, you’ll skim past ancient chinese fishing nets, water lillies, lush paddy fields, coir villages, rustic homes, temples and coconut groves.
Innumerable lagoons, lakes, canals, estuaries, and the deltas of forty four rivers make up the 900 km backwater network of Kerala. The backwaters mainly covers the four districts of the state – Kollam, Alleppey (alappuzha), Kottayam and Kochi (Cochin).
The largest backwater body, the Vembanad lake flows through Alleppey (Alappuzha) and Kottayam districts and opens out into the sea at the Kochi (Cochin) Port. The Ashtamudi Lake, the second largest backwater stretch, offers the longest ride and is considered the gateway to the backwaters.
Your holiday home in this tranquil world is the comfortably furnished houseboat or ketuvallom. The Houseboats or Kettuvalloms of Kerala are giant country crafts, measuring up to 80 foot in length, retrieved from being lost to the State altogether.
Once these Rice Barges ruled the backwaters, poled along by one or two men, heavily loaded with rice, coconut and other commodities.
But in the recent times, the ketuvalloms or houseboats have been replaced by more and modern modes of transport, relegating them to neglect and decay. It takes great skill and meticulousness to construct these giant Houseboats or Kettuvaloms. Traditionally, the Houseboats was called Kettuvallam, which means a boat made by tying together pieces of wood. Unbelievably it may sound, not a single nail is used in the making of a traditional ketuvallam. Jackwood planks are joiined together with coir rope and then coated with black resin made from boiled cashewnut shells.
There used to be an entire clan of artisans who were involved in kettuvallom or houseboat construction. Today, an innovative holiday idea has restored these majestic representatives of a unique culture and with them their makers. The Kerala houseboats that cruise these emerald waterways are an improvisation on the large country barges which were an essential part of the land’s ethos in days gone by.
Modified to meet a novel concept of holidaying, the kettuvalloms or houseboats are comfortably furnished with an open lounge, one or two bath attached bedrooms and a kitchenette, and are extremely eco friendly, merging smoothly into the panorama. Every houseboat is manned by a crew – usually a cook, a Captain, and an Oarsman.
The kitchen in the houseboat or ketuvallam is the production center of the best traditional Kerala food. The availability of fishes and all along the backwater add special charm to the authentic Kerala cooking. Only fresh materials are used and purchased locally to support the economy of the village. Only authentic Kerala food is prepared under high standards of hygiene and professional competency by expert cooks, who have been specially trained.
The highest classifications awarded by Dept. of Tourism for Houseboats are Gold Star and Silver Star.