The Kerala Backwaters


Perhaps the most famous attraction in the state of Kerala is the backwaters, a large network of lagoons, canals, and lakes that flow into the Arabian Sea.  It adds up to more than 900 km of waterways that run up and down the length of the state and there are many cities and towns that are points of entry.  You can rent a boat for a half day, full day, or even hire a houseboat and live on it for a week or more (which is very expensive!).

The backwaters are very beautiful, calm, and peaceful.  Even though it’s a major tourist attraction, I only saw two other boats out on the water during my full day trip.  As water pollution is an increasing problem, many boat companies have become eco-friendly and the boats are man-powered.  There is one man in front and one in back. They both have a long bamboo pole which they use to steer and move the boat.  The waters are shallow enough that the pole goes all the way to the river floor and the boat operator sort of pushes you along.  It’s a slow ride, but again, very peaceful.

My tour was broken down into two parts, separated by lunch.  In the morning I was on a large, covered boat that could seat around 25 people.  We stayed on a pretty wide, slow-moving river and we stopped at a place where women were making coir rope and another place were they were processing clam shells to make calcium hydroxide for fertilizer, paint, water purifier, and calcium tablets.

In the afternoon we boarded a large canoe and toured a small canal.  In the canal we saw so many cool birds: blue and yellow kingfishers (amazing birds!), racket-tailed drongos, woodpeckers, cormorants, heron, and lots of ducks.  I also spotted a water snake, which was pretty cool.  I didn’t get photos of any, of course.  We stopped at a home where many herbal plants were growing.  The coolest was the cinnamon tree. You could dig a piece of bark off and chew on it.

While I really enjoyed my day on the backwaters, I think a multi-day trip would have gotten a touch boring.  But I highly recommend the day trip to anyone visiting Kerala.





A momentary travel buddy, Carole




Coir is coconut husk, used for making coir rope


People work until they’re dead in India. No such thing as “retirement.”


Making rope


The clam shell processing “factory”


Our guide


The kitchen where our lunch was made


Lunch! It was really good.


The bathroom facilities


The view

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