Backwaters refers to the large inland lakes of kerala,consisting of an entire network of lakes , canals,estuaries and curious water formations.The backwaters of kerala stretch over 1900 kms, providing, drinking water and irrigating paddy fields.
The water ways of kerala have played a main role in the economy of the state. Riceboats and small ships used to ply in these waters, carring coconut, rubber,rice and spices to various trading centres of kerala. Even today , these waterways link remote villages and island with the main land .It is an incredibly different experience to cruise in the backwaters in country boats, absorbing the beauty of the villages.
A beautiful backwater spot ,kumarakom, slumbers by the vembanad Lake, The scenery flashes up vivid contrasts of breath -taking greenery and deep blues. As the boat glides along, the gorgeous green of the fringed palms ripple in the blue waters and blend into wavelets .For an enthralling and intensive experience on the backwaters one should take a rigorous ride on a ferry from Quilon to Alleppey ,lasting almost 9 hours. But if you are less adventurous , there are short cruises arranged by private boat-owners in greater comfort .A cruise between Alleppey and kottayam could be an unforgetable experience.You can also travel up to Cochin via these waterways .On a boat voyage to Alleppey through the Kuttanad rice bowl of kerala , you can find yourself travelling along canals where the level of the water is often higher than that of the green fields on either sides.
The life of kerala revolves around the waterways . Rice and every other commodity are transported by special boats. A wonderful boat culture has developed in this region. On the way you could ask your boatman to take you into one of the thatched country toddy shops for a glass of the fermented water which is served with delicious array of fish and meat. Explorers of the Backwaters drifts under little hump-backed bridges ,through long avenues of palms and past temples and churches.
You are greeted on arrival at the Cochin International Airport/Railway Station and transfer to your hotel. Afternoon sight seeing by boat visiting, Jewish Synagogue, Dutch Palace, St. Francis Church, Chinese fishing nets and Bolgatty Palace. Overnight stay at hotel.
Early morning, depart for Kumarakom (125 kms - 4 hrs) check into your hotel by noon. Afternoon, visit neighboring places. Overnight stay at hotel. Kumarakom is a unique backwater destination situated on the banks of Vembanad lake. Kumarakom bird sanctuary is a favorite haunt of migratory birds from across the world which makes it a renowned bird watching centre. It is also a centre for houseboat cruises.
After breakfast, board in Houseboat, sightseeing and cruises to Alleppey. Overnight at Houseboat. (Traditional Kerala food will be served). The houseboats are giant country Crafts, measuring up to 80 feet length. It took great skill and meticulousness to construct these giants by tying huge planks of jack wood together, without the use of a single nail. Today these are the most exciting tourism product in India, which usually has one or two bath rooms, an open lounge, deck, kitchenette and a crew comprising oarsmen, a cook and guide.
Morning, it is the time to bid fare. Transfer to airport/ Transfer to airport/railway station to your destination.
Is your arrival in the City of Kochi. Set on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, Kochi is a city of cultural diversity – winding streets, shady trees, Kathakali dance, modern Indian art, 500-year old Portuguese houses, mosques, a tiny Jewish community with ancient roots - and ferry boats scuttling backwards and forwards. Once you are settled into your hotel, we can take an evening stroll around the city.Overnight: (1 nights) The Old Courtyard Hotel, Fort Cochin (200 year old Portuguese building, centered around a cobblestone courtyard).
We'll take the six hour drive to Periyar. On our way, we'll stop off at Thomas' ancestral home, 120 years old and hidden amongst the trees. As guests, we'll share lunch with his brother's family who now live in the house, drink toddy and rest. For exercise, we can take a quick tour of the local rubber processing factory that helps provide a living to small-scale producers in the area.Periyar is a 777 sq km forested wildlife reserve - home to bison, antelopes, sambar, wild boar, langur, elephants and tigers. It is home also to the indigenous Mannan tribe, who help conserve the reserve in exchange for income from eco-tourism. Living in the outskirts of the reserve, they run many of the activities ? trekking, bamboo rafting, night treks, elephant rides and plantation visits. Over the next two days, we'll participate in these activities, and spend time with the Mannan people, visiting their homes and village. Options including a day cycling through the interior villages of the reserve.Overnight: (3 nights) The Bamboo Grove. These traditional bamboo and mud huts are built in the reserve. Beautifully kept and well equipped they offer a wonderful chance for you to wake up in the midst of the forests. Traditional south Indian dishes are cooked to order in an adjacent kitchen.
In the 1960's Tamil plantation laborers from the hills of Sri Lanka were repatriated to India. Gavi - an area of rainforest administered by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation Ltd -is one area where they settled . Rationalisation of the labour force and subsequent cut backs threatened the livelihoods of the Tamils, so a plan was made to open up selective areas of the wilderness to ecotourism, thus providing them with a source of income.The 30 km drive to Gavi takes us into the depth of rainforest, where large herds of elephants, bison, deer & the big cats roam freely and where tourism is still in its infancy. You can take lazy strolls (making sure you are in the company of your guides always - lots of elephants around), go rowing on the boat in the lake or trek for hours.
For the more adventurous, there's a programme of camping in the wilderness at Meenar, or to Valley View with its spectacular views of Chenthamara Kokka?the deep ravine and the dense forests down below. Treks are led by experienced local guides who have grown up around these forests.If you are a birder, the forests at Gavi are home to over 260 species of birds?the Malabar Hornbills, Sunbirds, woodpeckers, King fishers and myriads of Mynas, Drongos, Cuckoos and Bulbuls.Overnight: (two nights) Green Mansions, forest ecolodge at Gavi.
Travelling by car, then boat, we arrive at Vinod's family homestay near the market town of Alleppey. The home lies on the banks of the river, set amidst paddy fields. Here we'll spend the next four days, freely exploring the tranquility of the Keralan backwaters.The island is home to its own village ? around 400 homes ? connected to Alleppey by a scurrying of wooden canoes that regularly arrive and depart. You can take it easy, relaxing, swimming, exploring the island and sampling the fresh toddy from the coconuts. Or crossing the waters, you can visit the fruit and vegetable market, the ancient Bhagawati temple or the 1000 year-old Saint Mary's Church.
There's a local pottery factory, ayurvedic massage, or you can go cycling through the necklace of villages of Kuttanad.Most luxurious of all is the houseboat ? a converted rice-barge ? used for cruising along the backwaters. Reclining on cushions and drifting through quiet canals, you'll pass through paddy fields grazed by ducks, floating markets, local toddy shops, temples and churches. Lunch, dinner and overnight stay is possible on board.Overnight: (three nights) Emerald Isle homestay - warm family hospitality, courtyard gardens, hammock and nearby chai shop.
We'll make the one-hour train journey back to Kochi. Backwater Retreat is located in Aymanam in Kumarakom which forms the backdrop of Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize winner novel "The God Of Small Things". This retreat is the only one which stands on the banks of the River described in Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize novel.The major characters in "The God of Small Things'' are mentioned as spending their time on the banks of this river.Travellers from different parts of the world come to this place after reading the Booker Prize novel "The God of Small Things ". We'll watch the fishing with Chinese fishing nets (and do some amateur fishing ourselves), the rope-making, crab farming and boat building.From here, we can also take our 'insiders' tour of Kochi city, taking you away from the tourist attractions and straight to the people who live and make their living from the city. Overnight: (2 nights) Backwater Retreat ? warm hospitality, homely, historical and unspoilt.
After a farewell meal, we'll take the one-hour drive to the airport for your departure back home.