Understanding Kerala’s Waterways:
Kerala has an extensive network of waterways that lace the interior coastline for a stretch of almost 600 km. This gorgeous labyrinthine network of rivers, canals, streams and lagoons formed by the inimitable craftsmanship of nature is known as the Backwaters. These intricate water systems give life to its unique ecosystem and lifestyle.
This region has been called the Green Venice of the East by National Geographic. When one witnesses the green coconut trees turning the backwaters into a shade of emerald decked with splashes of red from a setting sun, it’s easy to see why.
Why a 7-Day Journey?
If you’re looking to gain a unique insight into an under-explored side of Kerala, nothing comes close to a week-long cruising holiday through the backwaters. Most houseboats only offer a 2 – 3-night stay and even then, the cultural immersion is limited.
With this journey, we’ve created a route that allows travellers to truly understand what life in Kerala, especially by the backwaters, is really like. Throughout this holiday, travellers will be meeting locals who’ll be your guides for different aspects of the journey – this is immersive travel at its best.
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Some of the Highlights Include:
Observing Kalaripayattu, A Traditional Martial Arts Performance
Our journey begins with action. Before we embark on our cruising adventure, guests get to witness a Kalaripayattu performance. This is an ancient traditional fighting system that originated in Kerala. The word “kalari” means battlefield and “payattu” refers to “become trained” or “ to practice”. Thus traditionally people practising this art form were those who were trained for the battlefield.
Visiting Off-the-Beaten-Path Villages and Meeting Craftsmen
This journey takes travellers through villages that are hard to find even on the internet. We’ll cruise through the scenic expanses of greenery and waterways to remote villages.
One such village is famous for ornate locks, lamps, and vessels of different sizes and designs. These handicrafts are also used locally in temples and homes. Travellers are encouraged to interact with the craftsmen and witness their indigenous method of casting the metalware.
Another excursion involves travellers meeting a family of craftsmen who are skilled at making mirrors out of a special combination of certain metals. The secret of the trade has been passed down through generations. These mirrors have the distinctive feature of 100% reflection, unlike the common mirror. Also, they’re considered an auspicious item that brings prosperity to the house.
Needless to say, boats are a big part of life in Kerala’s waterways. In another jaunt, our guests come across the building and/ or repairing of wooden boats. You might be able to see the art of building a traditional Kettuvallam -the traditional wooden boat, made by joining wooden planks using coir rope and organic resins.
Witnessing Life by the River at its Simplest and Most Beautiful
On the journey through Kerala’s backwaters, it’s possible to visit a number of beautiful villages. We encourage travellers to witness this laid-back and peaceful life, occupied with coir making, fishing and shell harvesting.
Meet the locals, the weavers, the coconut harvesters and farmers and engage in conversation about the riparian life. Watch various indigenous techniques of fishing: using shore-based ‘Chinese nets’, by drifting nets and or by hand.
Don’t miss the opportunity to cruise the interiors of these waterways where expanses of land are reclaimed from the lake for paddy cultivation.
Life here takes a more idyllic meaning and you’re guaranteed to walk away with food for thought.
Partaking in Ancient Healing Treatments
It’s not a trip to Kerala if you didn’t seek out Ayurveda. For our guests onboard the cruise, we’ve designed we visit a traditional Ayurveda centre. We encourage our guests to interact with the doctor and gain some insight into this ancient holistic way of life.
Guests can try any of the treatments that are recommended by the doctor.
Understanding the Syrian Christian Way of Life:
On our journey, we stop at a village that was settled over a 1000 years ago by Syrian Christian traders, who later converted to Roman Catholicism under the Portuguese. However, the traders and the generations to follow chose to keep their syncretic cultural heritage. This can be seen in the monumental St Mary’s Church on the riverside. Built in 1550, the foundations are said to be as old as 5th century AD. Architecturally, it is a mélange of several European styles, from the Levantine altar and structure to the Dutch arches that tower overhead.
Nothing says cultural immersion, like trying the traditional cuisine. Our guests are invited into the home of a Syrian-Christian family for a generous meal. Gourmands can also try their hand at cooking and take in the story of a family of three generations of hard-working men, and equally strong women who supported their pioneering spirit.
Watching Ancient Dances and Rituals:
From folk dances to ancient rituals, on our cruising holiday we make sure our travellers experience the truly unique side of Kerala.
We visit an ancient sacred grove where serpents are worshipped. Guests are allowed to walk inside and even see the rituals going on. We also watch traditions and rituals performed in a different way, through the medium of dance. Guest get to watch Kaikottikali, a folk dance performance heralding the onset of Onam, Kerala’s biggest festival.
Of course, no trip to Kerala is complete without watching a Kathakali performance. You’ll recognise this one from the photos. Kathakali is traditional dramatic and mimetic dance form, which plays stories from epics. It is a unique blend of dance, music, action, literature and make-up.
Being Awe-Struck by the Flora & Fauna:
An escorted canoe right through the waterways brings our guests closer to the migratory and endemic birds of the region. It’s time to explore Kumarakom, a cluster of lagoons of Vembanad lake with a backdrop of mangroves, paddy fields and coconut groves.
Try and spot the waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron and the water duck. Parrots, teal, larks, flycatchers, wood beetle, and other birds are also seen here during their respective migratory seasons.
Elephants are an integral part of Kerala culture. It is the state animal and is featured on the state’s emblem. They’re also a part of temple festivals where a pageant of caparisoned elephants accompanies fervent percussions – it’s quite a sight to watch! To comprehend the depth of this connection, we bring our guests to a shelter where they’re able to spend time with elephants.
Your Host, the Vaikundam:
RV Vaikundam is the houseboat that’s your home for the sojourn. It has nine well-appointed cabins with attached bathrooms on the lower deck and, a well-functional kitchen, air-conditioned and exquisitely set dining hall and open lounge on its upper deck.
Vaikundam is a modified version of the traditional Kettuvallom or rice barges of the past. The rooms are made using wooden panels, bamboo poles and bamboo mats, following the traditional practices but contain all modern amenities.
The wooden hull of the boat is made by joining planks of local wood ‘Aanjili,’ using strong coir rope on the segments above the waterline. The wood is coated with a caustic black resin made by boiling cashew kernel and fish oil. The wood is periodically treated with the Neem oil and Fish oil.
This is a unique holiday and nothing like this has ever been done on Kerala’s backwaters before. A detailed itinerary can be requested by clicking here.