Kumarakom Backwater – “The Vembanad Lake”, the longest/largest lake in India, and also the largest lake in the state of Kerala (Area: 2,033 km, Length: 96.5 km, Width:14 km) in Kottayam-Kerala is Simbly a Paradise on Earth! Eat, Drink and be Merry- and that’s what you do when you cruise around on the house-boat on this lake. 3 kgs of Chemmeen (medium prawns); 3 kgs of Konju (Tiger prawns); 3 kgs of Karimeen (pearl spotted fish); 2 kgs of Njandu (crabs); 2 kgs of Red Piranha fish; 2 kgs of Mussels; 1 kg of Yellow Cat Fish; 2 kgs of Duck; 2 kgs of Chicken; 2 kgs of Rabbit meat; Unlimited Appam, Puttu, Iddiappam, Idli, Parota, Chapathi; 10 tender-coconuts; 2 doz bananas; Bunch of Veggies; 6 litres of Toddy, 3 cases of Beer, 4 bottles of Scotch, and much more, was consumed in less than 38 hours by six hungry men namely Dr Kiran Shetty, Subin Mathew, Leslie D’Souza, Rajesh ‘Brake’ Naik, Rajesh Kumar and yours truly (Alfie), who ate and drank like “Agoli Manjanna”, to satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst? With all that food and drinks, we all might have added a few pounds, and some might have even increased their level of Cholesterol and BP. But who cares, when we have doctors, pills and off course, Health Insurance!
Kerala, “God’s Own Country”, is a land specially blessed by nature’s bounty. Whether virginal beaches, backwater, wildlife, picturesque lagoons or lushly wooded hills, Kerala has every kind of scenic beauty imaginable. A newly married couple can spend their honeymoon at a special destination, quietly together closely sharing some exciting and new experiences of their new journey of life, or group of revelers could enjoy a memorable and fun trip of their life lifetime at a perfect destination in Kerala. A cruise in the backwaters of Kerala is a remarkable experience, an opportunity to enjoy and contain an unhurried pace of life. Floating along on cool tranquil water one can experience at hand the unusual representation of Kerala life. Unbelievably beautiful emerald paddy fields, pulsating mangrove forests, coconut groves and canopies and enchanting waterways and canals decked with white lilies – little wonder that Kumarakom Backwater can be considered as a “Paradise on Earth”.
Toddy from the Coconut Tree……
Now I know that, Kerala is not only a “God’s Own Country” , but also a “Heaven on Earth” or one could say “A Paradise on Earth”. Eat, Drink and be Merry, when you decide to explore Kerala, with your family or friends. When my friends, Dr Kiran Shetty and Subin Mathew called me asked if I was interested in joining them on a trip to Kottayam-Kerala to spend couple of days at Kumarakom Backwater on a house-boat – where I had to pay only for the train fare, and rest of the expenses was on them, I readily agreed without any hesitation on a deal which was hard to resist. And to tell you frankly, OMG, this was one of the best and memorable cruise that I ever had in my life cruising on Vembanad Lake, the longest/largest lake in India, and also the largest lake in the state of Kerala (Area: 2,033 km, Length: 96.5 km, Width:14 km) on a traditional house-boat. Although I have taken boat cruises on Lake Michigan-Chicago/Lake Virginia-Orlando, Florida in USA; Lake Ontario in Ontario, Canada; and the Barra de Coyuca Lake in Acapulco, Mexico in the past, but “The Vembanad Lake” cruise was “Simbly Awesome and Simbly Memorable”!
Boarding the 6.20 pm Malabar Express from Mangalore Central Railway Station towards Trivandrum on Friday, 4 June 2016, we reached our destination Kottayam at 5 am on Saturday. Taking a taxi, we drove 10 kms towards Kumarakom Heritage resort, where we freshened up and relaxed for few hours before we boarded the House-Boat at Vembanad Lake at 11 am. With unique architecture and unparalleled traditions, Kumarakom Heritage Resort has been built in accordance with ancient traditional Kerala architecture. This resort has been created using some of the structures from an eminent traditional Kerala ancestral home known as “Cherpunkal Mana”- a marvelous architecture built a century ago. The wooden pillars, wood works, carvings, roofing, tiles, have all been carefully taken from the demolished site and cautiously joined to rebuild the replica of the “Mana” (House) keeping all the heritage characters intact. The rooms, modern amenities and facilities have been added here in all its purest form. It was a cozy, comfortable and great place to relax after a tiresome train journey.
After a sumptuous breakfast comprising of Kerala style dosas and Appams with delicious and spicy egg curry, it was time to head towards Kumarakom Vembanad Lake for the great adventurous and pleasurable journey on the traditional house-boat “Anasuya” owned by Salimon MP, who is a friend of Subin. Not only, Salimon was the owner, he was the helmsman/skipper of the boat, and above all a great friend of all of us, who provided the best hospitality during the nearly 33 hours that we were all housed in his boat. “Anasuya” had two rooms of king side beds, both air-conditioned, and with all modern amenities/facilities. Most of the cooking of the fish and meat that we purchased was done in the boat kitchen by chefs with years of experience. These chefs meticulously prepared some traditional Kerala fish and meat dishes which were simply finger lickin’ good! The spicy flavored Kerala cuisine was a perfect combination to go along with the cocktails/mocktails/beer/toddy. Next day morning we were all shi…..fire? Pills for Diarrhea and heartburn carried by us came in handy to relieve us from the symptoms!
With nearly 3000 boats moving around close to each other on this vast Vembanad lake, it was like the traffic at Hampankatta junction, but without any congestion/traffic snarls-the house boats sailed smoothly and carefully without bumping into each other, without disobeying rules or getting into accidents. Knowing that there was a retired RTO ‘Brake Inspector’ in our group on the boat, skipper/helmsman Salimon navigated the boat under control and not over-speeding. Cruising on the lake you can get a glimpse of green hills, mangrove forests and coconut groves interposed with waterways, offering excellent opportunities for Aqua Tourism. This pleasure trip on Vembanad Lake gave us an opportunity to explore the rich flora and fauna that is supported by this enchanting water world. Sources revealed that The Vembanad Lake happens to be an important Aqua Tourism destination that entices tourists to its luxury picnic spots by the dozen. With the nearby Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary that is home to exotic water birds, a boat cruise at this breathtaking tourist attraction will leave you speechless with wonder and excitement.
We also learned from Salimon that Kumarakom is a serenely beautiful and scenic backwater destination, a charming peninsula jutting into the ever-effervescent Vembanad Lake that is dotted with plenty of traditional rice boats and canoes, leaving a scene that is immensely pleasing to the eye. The backwater houses a variety of species of both flora and fauna. It’s rich in marine life especially the exclusive kumarakom karimeen or pearl spotted fish, konju or tiger prawns, njandu or crabs, chemmeen or prawns and many more. As and when the monsoon winds bring rain to the shores of Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom gets transformed into a rich fertile land. The streams and lagoons break their banks to nourish the shrubs that sprout from every available space. The place is renowned for its mangrove shores and the bird sanctuary.
No doubt that the entire state of Kerala is blessed with plenty of rivers and the resources of many are still untapped. The waterways of Kerala play a main role in the economy of the state, links remote villages and islands with the main land. The water ways provide a cheap and economical mode of transport. It is an incredibly different experience to cruise in the backwaters in country boats, absorbing the beauty of Kerala villages. The scenery flashes up vivid contrasts of breath-taking greens and deep blues. Boat rides, houseboat cruises and holiday package. The serene lake comes alive during Onam with a spectacular water regatta-the snake boat races. After cruising for nearly 33 hours on Lake Vembanad, we checked into Rama Varma Union Club, where we spent our last few “Happy Hours” before our train departure time to Mangaluru at 11 pm by Haveli Express.
In conclusion, When nature is all you need to recuperate, Kumarakom Backwater is undoubtedly one of the most invigorating and fascinating places to unwind in Kerala. The slender coconut palms standing here, there and everywhere, its never ending paddy fields, meandering lagoons and backwaters and mangroves with nestling birds of a hundred varieties will all serve to calm and inspire your mind. Pristinely beautiful Kumarakom is a charming emerald peninsula jutting into the picturesque Vembanad Lake dotted with innumerable traditional country rafts, boats and canoes. The fresh water of the lake flows into the mainland making a labyrinth of lagoons, canals and waterways. The Vembanad Lake with its majestic canals, streams and distributaries along its banks weave an intricate and enchantingly beautiful web. The gorgeous green of the fringed palms ripple in the blue waters and blend into wavelets. The whole atmosphere spells peace, bliss and tranquility. So if you are looking for some fun on the water and also scenic beauty of the nature by the water, “Kumarakom Backwater-The Vembanad Lake” is the place to mark on your for your next vacation.