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Cruise the idyllic Kerala backwaters by houseboat

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Formed by the 40 odd rivers that flow down to the Arabian Sea from the Cardamom Hills, this network of canals, lakes and estuaries comprises one of India’s most enchanting areas - a rural, riverine expanse of verdant coconut groves and rice paddies. The scene is idyllic and the mood – romantic.

A trip to South India is incomplete without a journey on a traditional house boat. Locally called as “kettuvolam”, the beautifully designed ‘stitched’ boats were built to transport rice and other cargo along the intricate web of rivers, lakes, lagoons and linking canals that form the backwaters.

With the reduction of water borne transportation these boats have been imaginatively converted to very high standards to cater for the most demanding of visitors with elegant bamboo and cane superstructures that protect you from the sun and heat while allowing you to experience life in rural Kerala in unhurried comfort.

Today these giant 80ft long craft have been converted into comfortable, furnished houseboats with one or two en-suite bedrooms, an open lounge and eating area, a deck, a kitchenette and a crew comprising captain and cook.

Cold water showers are available but the crew can provide a bucket of hot water on request and the bedroom air-conditioning can be switched on at night.

You board your houseboat for lunch and cruise the backwaters until the boat moors just before dusk. If you are looking for a bit more luxury there are luxury cruises like the Oberoi Vrinda or the Malabar Discover that unlike the usual Kerala houseboat have been blended with the traditional hull of a wooden rice barge and contemporary tropical architecture, creating the space for an air-conditioned suite.

The Cabins are elegantly designed with timber flooring. Each has its own private and well-appointed bathroom with shower. They have a sundeck above that becomes your grandstand as the beauty of life along the waterfront passes by.

The rural landscape is fascinating – emerald paddy fields merge almost seamlessly into the limitless sky and the fringing sea. Homes line the waters’ edge and life is lived in the open. Watch the local inhabitants bartering and trading on the backwaters. It is rare that one can see life at such a relaxing pace.

The backwaters are indeed the streets of this coastal strip of Kerala and you get an inside view on it. The climate remains tropically indulgent allowing for lush orchards of mangos, bananas, jackfruit, oranges and lemons and much more.

Closer to the coastline where the backwaters merge with lakes that open to the sea, the brackish waters support a wealth of shellfish and various types of fish all harvested by flotillas of fishermen in delicate, fragile looking dugouts and canoes.

Meals are served on board, and there are places where you can get ashore to stretch and explore the villages on foot and take pictures. Enjoy backwater cruise, as your boat meanders through the tranquil network of water canals, dotted with busy hamlets, lush green paddy fields.

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