A houseboat is a boat that has been designed or modified to be used primarily as a human dwelling. Some houseboats are not motorized, because they are usually moored, kept stationary at a fixed point and often tethered to land to provide utilities. However, many are capable of operation under their own power.
The kettuvallams (Kerala houseboats) in the backwaters are one of the prominent tourist attractions in Kerala. More than 2000 kettuvallams ply the backwaters,120 of them in Alappuzha. Kerala government has classified the tourist houseboats as Platinum, Gold and silver.
The kettuvallams were traditionally used as grain barges, to transport the rice harvested in the fertile fields alongside the backwaters. Thatched roof covers over wooden hulls, 100 feet (30 m) in length, provided protection from the elements. At some point in time the boats were used as living quarters by the royalty. Converted to accommodate tourists, the houseboats have become floating cottages having a sleeping area, with western-style toilets, a dining area and a sit out on the deck. Most tourists spend the night on a house boat. Food is cooked on board by the accompanying staff – mostly having a flavour of Kerala. The houseboats are of various patterns and can be hired as per the size of the family or visiting group. The living-cum-dining room is usually open on at least three sides providing a grand view of the surroundings, including other boats, throughout the day when it is on the move. It is brought to a standstill at times of taking food and at night. After sunset, the boat crew provide burning coils to drive away mosquitoes. Ketuvallams are motorised but generally proceed at a slow speed for smooth travel. All ketuvallams have a generator and most bedrooms are air-conditioned. At times, as per demand of customers, electricity is switched off and lanterns are provided to create a rural setting.
While many ketuvalloms take tourists from a particular point and bring them back to around the same point next morning there are some specific cruises mostly in the Alappuzha area, such as the one night cruise from Alappuzha to Thotapally via Punnamada Lake, two nights cruise from Alappuzha to Alumkavadi, one night cruise from Alappuzha to Kidangara, and one night cruise from Alappuzha to Mankotta. There are numerous such cruises.The most exciting thing on the backwaters of Kerala, however, is the Kettuvallam ( traditional houseboat ) which has become the most popular tourism product in India today. In a land as water bound as Kerala it wouldn't be an unusual sight, but for a visitor to God's Own Country a houseboat gliding along the vast green expanse of the backwaters is the most amazing spectacle in the world. Even more enchanting is a holiday in the houseboats of Kerala.
Beypore, located 10 km south of Kozhikode at the mouth of the Chaliyar River, is a famous fishing harbour, port and boat building centre. Beypore has a 1,500 year-tradition of boatbuilding. The skill of the local shipwrights and boat builders are widely sought after. There is a houseboat-building yard at Alumkadavu, in Ashtamudi Kayal near Kollam.
Connected by artificial canals, the backwaters form an economical means of transport, and a large local trade is carried on by inland navigation. Fishing, along with fish curing is an important industry.
Kerala backwaters have been used for centuries by the local people for transportation, fishing and agriculture. It has supported the efforts of the local people to earn a livelihood. In more recent times, agricultural efforts have been strengthened with reclamation of some backwater lands for rice growing, particularly in the Kuttanad area. Boat making has been a traditional craft, so has been the coirindustry.
Paddy fields in the Kuttanad region at a level lower than that of water in the canal Kuttanad is crisscrossed with waterways that run alongside extensive paddy fields, as well as fields of cassava, banana and yam. A unique feature of Kuttanad is that many of these fields are below sea level and are surrounded by earthen embankments. The crops are grown on the low-lying ground and irrigated with fresh water from canal and waterways connected to Vembanad lake. The area is similar to the dikes of the Netherlands where land has been reclaimed from the sea and crops are grown.
Kerala Houseboats Cruise / Kettuvallam Cruise
The houseboats in Kerala, south India, are huge, slow-moving, exotic barges used for leisure trips. They are a reworked model of Kettuvallams (in the Malayalam language, Kettu means "tied with ropes", and vallam means "boat"), which, in earlier times, were used to carry rice and spices from Kuttanad to the Kochi port. Kerala houseboats were considered a convenient means of transportation.
The popularity of Kettuvallams has returned in the function as major tourist attractions.
Such a houseboat is about 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 m) long and about 15 feet (4.6 m) wide at the middle. The hull is made of wooden planks that are held together by ropes of coconut fiber; the usual wood is 'Anjili'. The roof is made of bamboo poles and palm leaves. The exterior of the boat is painted with protective coats of cashew nut/fish oil.
Many tourists are attracted to Kerala Backwaters by the charm of staying on a houseboat, which provides the unique experience of living on the water in a cedar-paneled elegant bedroom, with all the conveniences of a luxury hotel. Alleppey's hundred or so houseboats are moored along sections of the Kuttanad andVembanad Lakes and the Kuttanad River, each decorated fancifully and named romantically and even whimsically. Like hotels, houseboats vary in degree of luxury and have been accordingly graded by the Department of Tourism. A luxury houseboat, like a luxury hotel has fine furniture, good carpets and modern bathroom fittings, while the 'D category' (the lowest category) of houseboats, like low-budget hotels, is spartanly furnished. Like hotels too, houseboats vary widely in their locations. Some overlook the main road, others look out onto lotus gardens and yet others face tiny local markets and villages, which are also floating on the lake. All houseboats, regardless of category, have highly personalized service. Not only is there always a "Crew" for every boat, but the owner and his family are often close by. The cost per day of hiring a houseboat includes all meals and free rides from the houseboat to the nearest Villages and back, as no houseboat on the Backwaters is directly accessible from the banks.
Every standard houseboat provides a balcony in the front top, a lounge, dining room, pantry and 3 or more bedrooms with attached bathrooms. All houseboats not moored to the bank of the river or lakes provide a shikara as a free service from the houseboat to the nearest Ghat (jetty). Virtually every houseboats in Kerala has been approved by the department of canal board and should be approved/authorised by Tourism department.
In the Malayalam language "kettu" means knot and "vallam" means boat – the two together make the local name "kettuvallam". Each houseboat is constructed using the ancient principles and techniques of boat building by the local carpenters using 'Anjili' wood. Coir ropes are used for fastening the wooden planks together.
Kettuvallam is a house boat widely used in the Indian state of Kerala. These have thatched roof covers over wooden hulls. The traditional kettuvallam is mainly used for promoting Kerala tourism.
Boats in a variety of shapes and sizes have traditionally been the main means of transport of men and materials in the Kerala Backwaters since olden days. In particular, the house boats were used to ship rice and spices and other goods between Kuttanad and the Cochin port. It was a three-day affair in those days. A standard house boat, which could be about 100 feet long, can hold up to 30 tons, about as much as three big lorries can carry. For the royalty these boats even became comfortable living quarters. It was the important mode of transportation in coastal Kerala just because of its accessibility to the most remote areas. However, the scenario changed. Motorized road, rail and air transportation scored over the slow and staid country boat, with people opting for speed.
A kettuvallam is about 67 feet in length and has a width of around 13 feet in the middle. The materials that go into the making are local and ecofriendly; bamboo poles, coconut fibre, ropes, bamboo mats, carpets etc. The main wood used is "Anjili" (Artocarpus hirsuta). There are houseboats with fully furnished single room, double room and triple rooms.
The hull is a series of wooden planks, long cut and carved, tied together using coir with coconut fibers stuffed in between. The hull which is made of hundreds of fine but heavy-duty planks of jack-wood is held together absolutely by coir knots (not a single nail is used). This framework is then coated with a caustic black resin extracted from boiled cashew kernels. And it lasts for generations.The kettuvallam is motorised and is steered in deep waters by means of oars. Long bamboo poles or 'punts' are used to propel in shadow areas. Bamboo beams sprouting off on the sides are used as foot holds for the same. Bamboo is used for the framework of the roof and splits of bamboo are used for weaving mat for roofing.
Basically the kettuvallam was designed to transport cargo and as such many design changes had to be made to make it a tourist vehicle. The height of the roof was increased to get sufficient headroom. A plank was laid all through the length to reduce the disadvantages of the curved shape of the hull for walking and comfortable seating. Windows and other openings were provided for light, airflow and view. The entrance is provided in the centre of the linear axis with a top hung panel.
Most of the latest designs have incorporated 3 bedrooms with toilets, a living space and kitchen. There, of course, are variations. Some have a lesser number of bedrooms but with a large living space and maybe a deck balcony at the roof level. Normally, the platforms that cantilever from the hull are used as balconies. Innovative changes have been made to accommodate modern fittings. For fixing the toilet seats, shower tray and ceramic floor finish a concrete slab is laid at the floor level. The soil outlets of the toilet seats are taken through the hull and let out to the flowing water beneath. The water for use is stored in a plastic tank kept at the top portion of the main body connecting to the kitchen and toilets. The pipes, tank and other synthetic materials are covered with coir or panambu to maintain the aesthetic quality of the eco-friendly materials.
Modern house boats have been designed to meet the Green Palm/Gold Star Certifications by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala, which has recently enacted regulations, stipulating the standards of Kerala houseboats or Kettuvallams.
Kerala was placed among the `50 destinations of a lifetime' by National Geographic Traveler in a special collectors' issue released just before the turn of the millennium.
The Hindu wrote, "A cruise along the mirror-still lagoons, picture-book lakeside, palm-fringed canals and shimmering rivulets of `God's Own Country' is the most enchanting holidaying experience in the country. With a cruise along the palm-fringed waterways turning to be part and parcel of holidayers' itinerary, the traditional kettuvallam has emerged as the mascot of Kerala Tourism."
More than 400 kettuvallams ply the backwaters and there are various routes which are popular among the tourists.
Alleppey Houseboats Kerala
Alappuzha is the citadel of house boats. There are some 120 of them, well maintained and perfected as luxury liners there. The house boats have all the creature comforts of a good hotel: well-furnished bedrooms, modern hygienic toilets, cosy living rooms, a beautiful kitchen and in some cases even a balcony for angling. The crew of a kettuvallam comprises two oarsmen and a cook. Fresh food, cooked in inimitable Kuttanadan style is the rage of the international tourists. Tourists can opt for a day cruise or an overnight stay in a houseboat. Most tourists prefer to stay overnight in a houseboat as it offers a holistic backwater experience.
Tour operators have been coming out with innovative options. The Kannur District Tourism Council has launched a `Nadi Darshan' (river viewing) programme in association with a private resort at Kattampalli as an initiative to popularise the kettuvallam for tourism promotion and as effort to let people know more about the Valapattanam River, one of the largest rivers in the region and the life stream of the district.
The Kerala backwaters are a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) of Kerala state in southern India. The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, both manmade and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state. The backwaters were formed by the action of waves and shore currents creating low barrier islands across the mouths of the many rivers flowing down from the Western Ghats range.
The Kerala Backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways, and sometimes compared to the American Bayou. In the midst of this landscape there are a number of towns and cities, which serve as the starting and end points of backwater cruises. National Waterway No. 3 from Kollamto Kottapuram, covers a distance of 205 km and runs almost parallel to the coast line of southern Kerala facilitating both cargo movement and backwater tourism.
The backwaters have a unique ecosystem - freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. In certain areas, such as the Vembanad Kayal, where a barrage has been built near Kumarakom, salt water from the sea is prevented from entering the deep inside, keeping the fresh water intact. Such fresh water is extensively used for irrigation purposes.
Many unique species of aquatic life including crabs, frogs and mudskippers, water birds such as terns, kingfishers, darters and cormorants, and animals such as otters and turtles live in and alongside the backwaters. Palm trees, pandanus shrubs, various leafy plants and bushes grow alongside the backwaters, providing a green hue to the surrounding landscape.
Vembanad Kayal is the largest of the lakes, covering an area of 200 km², and bordered by Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kottayam, and Ernakulam districts. The port of Kochi (Cochin) is located at the lake's outlet to the Arabian Sea. Alleppey, "Venice of the East", has a large network of canals that meander through the town. Vembanad is India's longest lake.
Snake Boat Races - Vallam Kali
Chundan vallams or snake boats are narrow boats over 100 feet (30 m) long, with a raised prow that stands 10 feet (3.0 m) above water and resembles the hood of a snake. Traditionally these were used by local rulers to transport soldiers during waterfront wars. In modern times, it has spawned a new sport – theVallam Kali (boat race). Each chundan vallam accommodates about a hundred muscular oarsmen.
Boat races are occasions of great excitement and entertainment with thousands gathered on the banks to watch and cheer. Most of these races are held in the Kuttanad region of Alappuzha.
Constructed according to specifications taken from the Sthapathya Veda, an ancient treatise for the building of wooden boats, these boats are anywhere from 100 to 138 ft in length. With the rear portion towering to a height of about 20 ft. and a long tapering front portion, it resembles a snake with its hood raised. Its hull is built of planks precisely 83 feet in length and six inches wide.
Aries Punnamada Chundan, an initiative of the Aries Group of Companies, is widely acclaimed to be the longest Snake Boat with a length of 144 ft.
'Aries Chundan', the first ever snake boat made of steel, entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest canoe crew accommodating 141 people on board. This `chundan' has found place in the Guinness Book of World Records and Limca Book of Records for the longest snake boat made of steel. P K Babu from Kainakari was the chief architect and master brain of this 'chundan' and this innovative project was funded by Mr.Sohan Roy S.K. This innovative steel snake boat had a scientific design which was based on the latest scientific methods in naval architecture. The boat's shape and stability had been designed using the famous 'Autoship' software. The strength had been analysed by a finite element method, an overhanging test was conducted to analyse the longitudinal strength and a sinking test was conducted to prove its 'unsinkability.'
It is decorated with golden lace and a flag along with two or three ornamental umbrellas.
Traditionally each boat belongs to a village, and the villagers worship that boat like a deity. Only men are allowed to touch the boat, and to show respect they should be barefooted. To make the boat slippery while in the water, it is oiled with a mixture of fish oil, coconut shell carbon and eggs. Repair work is done annually by the village carpenter.
Capacity and Usage
Traditionally it will be commanded by a Kaarnavan / Karanaadhan Village leader)with First Adanayampu and under him there will be three main oarsmen who control the movement of the boat with a 12-foot-long (3.7 m) main rudder-oar (Adanayampu). Sitting two to a row along the length of the boat, there will be 64 oarsmen, representing 64 art forms (or on occasion 128 oarsmen). They row in rhythm of the vanchipattu (boatman's song). There will be around 25 singers in a row at the middle between the oarsmen. In the middle of the second half of the boat is a platform for eight people to stand from where the main singer will lead the song. They represent the Ashtadikpalakas(the Devas or Gods who guard the eight directions). A colourful and decorated umbrella also will be there.
Kerala Backwater Regions
Kollam (earlier known as Quilon) was one of the leading trade centres of the ancient world, eulogised by travellers such as Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo. It is also the starting point of the backwater waterways. The Ashtamudi Kayal, known as the gateway to the backwaters, covers about 30 per cent of Kollam. Sasthamcotta Kayal, the large fresh water lake is 28.5 km from Kollam city.
The 8 hours boat ride from Kollam to Alappuzha is the longest cruise in Kerala and is delightful ride with lotuses and water lilies all around. The historic Thangasseri Fort is near Kollam, which is situated 71 km north of Thiruvananathapuram.
With the Kuttanad region and the Vembanad Kayal nearby, Alappuzha (earlier known as Alleppy) attracts tourists throughout the year. The criss-crossing canals in the area evoke comparisons withVenice, but the differences are also substantial. Each has an identity of its own. Amongst the notable sights is the palm covered Pathiramanal Island in Vembanad Kayal, one hour by boat from Alappuzha. The place is famous for the snake boat races and also has a number of historic colonial buildings and a beach.
The Kuttanad region is a vast area of partly reclaimed land, covered with bright green paddy fields, separated by dikes. The level of water is a few feet higher than the level of the surrounding land. It is an amazing labyrinth of shimmering waterways composed of lakes, canals, rivers and rivulets. Lined with dense tropical greenery, it offers a glimpse into rural life-styles of Kerala. Kuttanad is a backwater paradise and an ideal destination for a backwater cruise in Kerala. It is possible to drift along in a houseboat and enjoy the scenic view of the Kerala countryside.
Kottayam – Kumarakom
The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Kayal, and is part of the Kuttanad region. The blue backwaters of Vembanad Kayal and the amazing shades of green of the vegetation, combines with the quietness of the place to make it an idyllic holiday destination. Many of the resorts also offer ayurvedic treatment. While Kuttanad is ideal for a house boat cruise, the resorts are the main attraction in Kumarakonam. One can also take a boat trip in Kumaramonam It is located 15 km west of Kottayam. The bird sanctuary and the drift
Srinivas, a singer summed up: "Imagine opening your eyes every morning to a sheet of still, blue water and majestic palm tress gently swaying in the breeze. To define the feeling in one sentence: Nature undisturbed by man is wonderful and inspiring, and Kumarakom is just that!"
Munroethuruth or Munroe Island is a place surrounded by kallada river, Ashtamudi Lake and [[Sasthamkotta Lake]] in Kollam district ,MunroeIsland is a cluster of eight tiny islands, Blessed with a number of criss-cross canals and zigzag water channels, this Island plays a host to so many migratory birds from various countries around the world. You can watch birds such as King fisher, Woodpecker, Egret,Bee-eater, Crow pheasant, and Paddy Birds. There is yet another rare chance to see the traditional Indian spice plants such as Pepper, Nutmeg and Cloves.
The first community tourism programme in the State will start functioning from the MunroeThuruthu islands.Coir making is a home industry to almost all the village living people. It is very interesting to watch the coir making by the village ladies with the help of weaving Wheels. They make the coir ropes by hand. In addition to this, on the way, you can see the process of extracting coconut oil from the "copra" [dried coconut]. Among the routine traditional engagements, duck, poultry farm and prawn breeding are common in all houses.
Kasargod in north Kerala is a backwater destination, known for rice cultivation, coir processing and lovely landscape, it has the sea to the west and the Western Ghats to the north and east. Cruise options are Chandragiri and Valiyaparamba. Chandragiri is situated 4 km to the southeast of Kasargod town and takes tourists to the historic Chandragiri fort. Valiyaparamba is a scenic backwater stretch near Kasargod. Four rivers flow into the backwaters near Kasargod and there are many small islands along these backwater stretches, where birds can be seen.
Thiruvallam backwaters are just 6 km from Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital. Known for its canoe rides Thiruvallam is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. Two rivers, the Killi and the Karamana come together at Thiruvallam. Not far from Thiruvallam is the Veli Lagoon, where there are facilities for water sports, a waterfront park and a floating bridge. The Akkulam Boat club, which offers boating cruises on Akkulam Lake and a park for children, is also a popular tourist attraction near Thiruvallam.
Kozhikode (also known as Calicut) has backwaters which are largely "unexplored" by tourist hordes. Elathur, the Canoly Canal and the Kallayi River are favourite haunts for boating and cruising. Korapuzha, the venue of the Korapuzha Jalotsavam is fast becoming a popular water sport destination.
Kerala backwaters/Houseboat cruise – routes