Our fourth stop (& the last for our driver Mr Girish) was the Backwaters. We’d decided to go to Kumarakom instead of Allepey, after doing a bit of research before we left and speaking to other travellers.
Although in Kms it isn’t too far from Periyar, the road was the worst we’d encounted so far (see flood damage below), winding through hilly jungle areas, so it took forever.
The effects of the flood damage from last year, are still very much evident & in some places, shocking. We passed through a town that had been almost demolished. Mr Girish explained that the town is at the base of a dam that had overflowed in the floods, to ease the pressure, the ‘shutters’ had been opened, but sadly this hadn’t gone to plan. I decided to read up on this once home & the article is here: Unrelenting rains force Kerala authorities to open dams’ shutters
Hiring a Houseboat
Ever since we’d planned to visit Kerala, we’d decided to splurge a bit & book a houseboat overnight. The original idea had come from reading the blog: Never Ending Voyage some years ago, & their post about how much they had enjoyed it.
We decided to stay in Kumarakom for 1 night & then hired a houseboat for the 2nd night. (Apparently, Allepey is more popular & crowded now. Kumarakom is quieter & unspoilt).
Houseboats are not cheap (£80-£150 per night), but this was our one treat this trip; the rest of our accommodation has been budget. Our host in Fort Kochi negotiated a good price & arranged everything.
The cost includes a welcome fresh coconut drink, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, overnight accommodation & breakfast the following morning.
The Pink Lilly – our home for the night
We’d arranged Vegetarian food which was amazing, but normally meals would include locally caught fish.
Wash day – local villagers wash clothes & themselves in the waters.
Our view from the ‘lounge’
Kingfisher – not a great photo
Chinese Fishing Nets & waiting herons
In hindsight, although the houseboat was a treat, we would have liked to have stayed longer in Kumarakom & explored the villages along the waterways by foot or bicycle.
Our Homestay Mango Homestay £26 per night, was amazing & right on the waterfront with a huge balcony. Breakfast was provided & an evening meal was extra at £5 for the two of us, including a beer (which was a welcome surprise).
A more cost effective way to enjoy the area, would have been to stay at a homestay several nights & taken day boat trips on the water & explored the water edge paths & villages by foot or bicycle. See footnote below
There are lots of Homestays on the waterfront so research before you go.
Update: We had a couple of days spare at the end of our trip and so decided to return to Kumarakom en route to Kochi. This time, we travelled by train from Ernakulam (near Kochi) to Kottayam (near Kumarakom) plus tuk tuks from the stations.
This time we stayed at:
The homestay is in the village where we stayed overnight when the houseboat had moored up for the night.
It’s a tiny little village with two places to eat (shacks rather than restaurants) & a tourist shop. It’s situated where two estuaries join the main lake. A beautiful quiet, isolated, nature spot (apart from when the houseboats moor overnight & you’re joined by a few more tourists).
It was an ideal place to chill out, walk and watch the water birds in absolute peace.
If you are on a budget, or want to take a more leisurely approach to birdwatching & nature, I recommend staying in a homestay rather than a houseboat. If you want something special & more of a pamper, go for the houseboat.
Please read up on houseboats before booking, as not all of them impact the environment around them in a positive way.