A vast network of narrow canals, lakes, rivers and lagoons between Cochin and Kollam (Quilon) make up Kerala’s unique Backwaters. Hidden from view from the road the area is filled with groves of mango, papaya and jackfruit, rice paddies and fields of tapioca beneath palms that form green archways over the narrowest channels.
Boats of all descriptions are punted, sailed or motored between the villages carrying people to and from their homes and goods to market. Villagers tend to flocks of ducks and prawn farms, stand in water up to their necks, picking up fish from the muddy bottom with their toes, or dive for mussels. Clothes, bodies, pots and pans are washed on the water edge. Little cormorants, snake birds and night heron, kingfishers and egrets are regularly seen.
Once called the Venice of the East, by Lord Curzon, a Viceroy of India this description of Alleppey rather stretches the imagination these days. It is a busy working town and from here hundreds of houseboats, large converted rice barges, set off to ply the waterways . They used to transport goods, but with the collapse of the coconut farming industry and the modernisation of roads, their popularity with visitors is a godsend to local people. As well as providing a valuable source of income it has also revived an ancient form of boat making that might otherwise have been lost. However, if you’re feeling more adventurous you might prefer to explore by paddling your own canoe or jumping on board a government ferry. They are crowded but offer an authentic view of life.