Kerala Backwaters accommodation - Kerala Houseboat

Kerala Houseboat

Spending some time on a houseboat on the Kerala Backwaters is one of the most relaxing ways to explore this tropical area of south India.

The kettuvallam, literally ‘tied together boat,’ was once Kerala’s equivalent of a container ship, up to 100 feet long and able to carry 30 tons of cargo. Great planks of seasoned and oiled jackwood were lashed together with coir rope and seams stuffed with coconut fibre before being slathered with a nice goop of boiled cashew shells to keep it watertight. Not a single nail used. 

The same methods are still used today to build rice barges adapted for human cargo and staying aboard is a comfortable and traditional way to discover the Backwaters.There’s a bamboo and palm thatched canopy to provide shelter from the sun, comfy cane chairs from which to watch the world go by and a table to take your meals at. Inside, there are one or two simple bedrooms with en-suite loo and shower (though the water pressure is often so low you’re better off using the bucket and jug to wash).

Your private houseboat is run by a crew of two or three local men who keep the engine chugging, steer it along the lagoon and can arrange a canoe ride along a canal. A cook rustles up delicious meals in the impossibly small galley and there’s nothing for you to do except sit back and enjoy the view, lie in the sun or catch up on that holiday reading you promised yourself.

The Backwaters are popular these days but the crew will try and find a quiet spot to moor for the night. After a cold beer at sunset dinner is promptly served (before too many of Kerala’s tropical insects are drawn to the light) followed by fabulous star-gazing in the huge skies. Usually it’s early to bed and the air-conditioning is on for an hour or two before the generators turned off and the peace of the Backwaters returns once more.

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