Review of Houseboat in Kerala Backwaters
Let us continue with our love affair with God’s own country and in this post revisit the magical famed backwaters of Kerala. Though you may find backwaters in many places in Kerala right from Trivandrum to Kollam. Indeed these famed canals are the lifeline of most of the coastal Kerala and are the preferred mode of transport. These backwaters in Alleppey are home to beautiful birds, some action-packed snake boat races but above all for the famous Houseboats of Kerala.
I have written about my cruises in the Alleppey backwaters when I visited the Champakulam Church one of the oldest Portuguese Church in India. But I kind of never wrote about how was my experience of staying in a houseboat overnight in the backwaters of Kerala. Now, this brings me to a bit of nostalgia, takes me back how Jugaad innovation is the backbone of Indian ethos. For a long time the backwaters were used for transporting all the produce especially rice to the ports and bigger cities in Kerala, because the roads were really bad, but then at some point of time road infrastructure in Kerala became better and it was economical and faster to carry rice on roads using various means of surface transport.
Now Kerala had good roads and a fleet of unused rice boats. Then somebody got an idea as the tourism in Kashmir was taking a hit somebody thought of why not convert the rice boats into houseboats like the Shikaras and houseboats of the famous Dal Lake. So one by one the rice boats got converted into Houseboats and were rented out to tourists, who lapped up the experience of staying in them and cruising in the backwaters at a leisurely pace slowly watching life in slow motion around them. No wonder Houseboats in Kerala are loved by Honeymooners as they have the boat to themselves. But if you are looking for solitude, do remember to check how many rooms the houseboat has as some of them have 2, some even 3 or 4 rooms on a single houseboat depending on the size.
As we were part of the Kerala Blog Express, we were divided into groups of 2 and threes depending on the number of bedrooms on each houseboat. While each bedroom is a fully furnished room with attached bath, AC, double bed and even a study table, it is the common area on the deck that offers the best view.
The skipper of our Houseboat Captain Mohan was a taciturn fellow, preferring to speak in monosyllables when spoken to, but our Chef cum, guide cum man Friday Johnny could hold a conversation on his own and enhanced our knowledge about the backwaters, Kerala cuisine, labor issues, history of various Churches that we saw etc.
Johnny our Chef, cum guide cum man Friday, could not only hold a conversation he could also dish out a mean meal in the brief moments he would vanish from our eyesight to do some abracadabra in his Kitchen at the back of the houseboat. For the lunch, he dished out some salad, rice, beans, papadams, and some mean meen curry ( Meen in Malayalam = Fish ) and a few other side dishes that in my ravenous attack on the food, I did not even bother to find the name of. ( Note to self. When clicking picture please ask name of the dishes in future )
Post lunch me and Nelson my fellow travel blogger on the boat just relaxed on the deck while Johnny enhanced our knowledge about Kerala. It was somewhere here that we got down the houseboat and followed Johnny like a pug to the Champakulam Church. This will be a good time to check my earlier post about life in Backwaters of Kerala and have you participated in my Kerala Travel Book giveaway, that has posts and pictures from 27 travel bloggers from around the world?
In the evening the houseboats anchor at their designated spots and you can find 10 or at some places, even more, boats parked together. There is no movement of houseboats in the night as there is some kind of unwritten understanding between the fishermen and houseboat owners.
And as the boat anchor fishermen start putting their nets in the backwaters that are removed with the catch just before the waterways become busy again. All this while various birds like Herons, Egrets, Darter, Ducks etc continue to look for food in the backwaters. And you see a mutual respect for tourists, fishermen, and nature all around you.
Trivia: Do you know Alleppey is also called Alappuzha , and is sometimes referred as Venice of East. Though I would say Venice is the Alleppey of West 😛
Once our boats were anchored we decided to take a walk along the canal and ventured into a village nearby, only to stop once again to listen to the hymns coming from the village church only an earshot away from a Shiva Temple. While returning I saw this family catching fish in a very interesting way. They will put some flour in a bowl and lower the bowl in water. As some small fish will come to eat the balls of flour they will take out the bowl out while the fish continued to nibble, unaware that soon they will be served in supper.
One of the girls, who were supervising the collective attempt of hunting and gathering fish through innovative exploitation of weakness identified by researching the foraging behavior demonstrated by Craniate chordate organisms moving in a school, invited us for dinner that was still being lured into the trap. But I was keener to get some of the mangoes on a tree nearby. The bananas were not yet ripe otherwise, I would have tried them too.
How is the experience of Spending a night on Houseboat of Alleppey Kerala
When we returned to the anchored boat, Johnny was ready with some hot tea and snacks which we gobbled after our refreshing walk along the canal.
The post-dinner time was spent exchanging travel stories under the moonlit sky listening to the buzz of insects in the bushes on shore. Some of them dared to come to the boat in search of an easy meal trying to threaten with their proboscis but taking a clue from the wild pachyderms that we saw earlier, we have covered ourselves with impregnable layers of grease sold as the mosquito repellant.
Soon the perils of the modern world took over and we were busy uploading pictures of Kerala on Instagram and retired to our rooms cooled by the humming ACs.
Here I was in the middle of backwaters of Kerala with working ACs, and a 3 G connection that worked better than WiFi we got in some of the hotels we have stayed so far. Not bad I would say for a former rice boat, now boosting Kerala Tourism! Though I would have preferred no phones to disturb the bliss, alas the modern traveler who travels to get away from everything yet frets if the phones don’t work.
There was no need for a morning alarm for the birds started singing at the crack of the dawn and some of them were found staking a claim on the very chair that was mine in the evening.
As I looked around I found some of the most beautiful scenery around me drenched in morning mist reflecting the smiling sun reminding me once again that I am in Gods’ Own Country.
“In backwaters of Kerala you bow your head in respect for the harmony with which the local communities, tourism and nature coexist and complement each other. One of the mornings I got up to photograph birds and found two of them right on the next houseboat peacefully waiting for passing by fish, and at just a few meters away a fisherman was laying his net to catch some crabs. I was happy to click pictures, the fisherman was happy catching his crabs, and the birds were happy knowing that I am only there to click pictures and not to harm them in any way, except to stake claim on the chair on the deck that we both thought the other party is trying to monopolize.”
Soon it was time to go to the next destination and the houseboat moved towards the main boarding jetty in Alleppey and before we knew Johnny was ready to through the anchor in waters as Captain Mohan dexterously parked the houseboat within an arm’s length of the next one.
So long backwaters, I will be back!!
How to book a houseboat in Kerala: We stayed in the Houseboat owned by a company called Lakes and Lagoons and the service, food, rooms and the common areas all were impeccable. You can check tariff & book online, packages for Kerala Houseboats on Lakes and Lagoons (Phone no: 0477 2266842). The packages for the overnight stay with cruise start at around 7 to 8000 rupees per night for twin sharing, including meals, depending on the season and type of boat chosen.
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🙂 🙂 🙂
I enjoyed the houseboat as a one time experience in Kumarakom. When i visted Alleppey in 2019, I peferred staying on the beach & taking a shikara ride around the backwaters.
The local ferries by SWTD are also a good local experience.
I have gone 3 months back, that time have been taken deluxe boat, but now again plan we want better what is the difference between Premium or Luxury bot house rooms?
Amazing. I’am also like to live and enjoy in houseboats. Thanks for sharing this information.
We did read your review before booking. Your post shows up on the first page on Google which searching for houseboat stay review, so indeed we have read your post. 🙂
ha ha..:) . you guys are just fantastic..good to have such fantastic readers / fellow trvelers … 🙂
nice article. expecting more.
Looks like an amazing experience!!
You should try it when in India… 🙂
Wow! Awesome place! And yeah, it’s great to have a chef! haha You really are a traveler! 🙂
Thanks Raymond… I love to travel…. 🙂
That’s a beautiful houseboat, how many person can it carry?
Well besides a crew of 3-4 they can carry people as per the rooms typically varying between 1-4 bedrooms per houseboat, most common being 2 rooms
Wow, those boats look pretty cool. It’s funny how good ideas come out of necessity. I would love to get a chance to ride on one of those!
i wouldnt mind staying in a houseboat. looks fun!
🙂 It is ..
The houseboats anchored in backwaters of Kerala look so beautiful, I love your professional photos, the trip to Kerala must have been a great one, indeed!
Thanks Vanessa… Kerala was one of my best trips so far… I can go there again and again..
My first time here. Just loving it. What lenses have you used to capture the birds , may I ask? Amazing job!
Hi Ratna: Welcome to dest Traveler. Thanks for your kind words. I only have a basic 55 -300 mm VR Nikon lens.If you are serious about birds I suggest go for a 400 mm or above lens.
What a joyful post with lots of great food. You’ve opened my eyes to the joy of boathouse living. What a thrill.
The interior looks so much bigger thatn the exterior of the boat. However, I do not think this type of trip is for me. – Fred
Well Kerala has a lot to offer and House Boat is just one of them….and yes the outside does not gives a true picture of what is inside a houseboat
Kerala seems a nice place to visit and the foods sounds appetizing. BTW, another fine review
Wow! I wish I could visit a houseboat. That looks so unique and new for me. Lucky you
🙂 thanks Manu…
Living in a houseboat in Kerala looks like a really great experience. It’s also a scenic tour and a way to be in touch with their heritage.
What a very nice experience, a houseboat!
I love your images, the colours are so vibrant. And spending a day in the houseboat seems relaxing indeed!
Thanks a lot Tiffany…always good to see you here on desi Traveler
i sooo envy you 🙂 i really wanted to be part of this whenever kerala launches a contest for travel bloggers around the world. thanks at least i have a little “feel” of what happened with the trip.
india is in my travel bucket list next year 🙂
Thanks Maria… I was there in the first year, and the second season ended now. I am guessing Kerala Blog Express will happen next year also… do keep an eye on the same. All the best
I very fondly recall my day/night on a houseboat in Kerala. Your photos and comments took me right back. It’s an experience doubtful I’ll every forget, and if possible, all travelers should make plans to check off their list.
Hi Chris: So good to see you here.. thanks for stopping by…I too highly recommend staying in Houseboat during Kerala Trip
I would love to experience something like this! So unique and enriching! Thank you for sharing with us =)
I can honestley say I didn’t know these houseboat were a thing. I thought they were like dirty trailer on the water but these things are beautiful. I kind of want one for a weekend
Hi Martha : Actually these houseboats are pretty luxurious with Air-conditioning, hot running water, a chef/cook traveling with you. Only since you are in backwaters and beyond you need to be prepared for some insects .. but that is something all tropics have….
Such a wonderful experience. Gorgeous vistas and delicious food, as you float away.
Thanks Niranjan..yes great view as you float away 🙂
I do that so many times, not knowing the name of the dish! And it sounds like such a lovely experience!
I try to take notes, while clicking food pictures but always forget 🙁
Johnny sounds like quite an interesting person. 🙂
And what a transformation for the humble rice boat, right? The interiors look awesome.
Haven’t been there, done that :(. (There have been a couple of foiled plans). Hoping to do it soon; Lakes and Lagoons will be looked up. Thank you for the recommendation.
Hi Dee… I would strongly suggest try the Houseboat on your next trip, just go with open mind as it is a different experience compared to stay in a hotel room..
Nice pics! The Kerala houseboat is one of my favourite experiences in India too. Been a long time – should do it again soon 🙂
You must 🙂 Kerala Houseboats are a world in themselves 🙂
looks yummy and cool 🙂
Not to demotivate any houseboat seekers are the business, My.. actually our experience at the houseboat was miserable. We planned our honeymoon in Kerala and a night in houseboat was one of it, which we were excited about. We booked a single bedroom boat and was told one of the best and paid about 9500 for one night.
we started at 2pm and it was GOOD till 5pm as mentioned by the desi blogger, waters, picture square views, reasonably good food, nicely decorated room ( we informed them it was our honeymoon trip, so the special decoration at an extra cost of 500 Rs) etc.. at 5 pm our captain cum cook cum caretaker etc dropped the anchor near to a field and said the boat is parked till next day 7 am.
Thereafter our excitement turned to horrible experience. Mosquitoes, humidity, and various unknown creatures started flying all around us and started biting (eating) us. We tried to get in to the room; our nicest captain said AC is ON only between 9pm and 6am and refused to deviate from his rule book even while i offered him an extra pay for the 4 hour AC. and it was humid to the core. unbearable sweat. cannot sit outside due to the biting creatures. we were dying to see the clock reach 9 pm. at 9.15 PM THE captain switched on the AC after struggling a bit with his generator.
we were okay till 10.30 and the AC was off. while i checked with the captain he said, its automatic and switches off on its own and he is helpless. It was like, we were locked in a steam room and someone sadistically switching on and off the heater and cooler ensuring heater for maximum duration and cooler for the minimum just to have a feel of AC. we could not do much as caption said it is one of the points in his rule book written by the owner of the boat, that not to mess with the AC as it is very costly. we spent the first night after the marriage in a miserable condition as if someone cursed our marriage.
I was eager to see the sunlight and get out of the so called luxury Suit room boat. By 7 AM our captain prepared breakfast (continental and desi mix) and said boat is starting in 10 minutes and you
need to finish eating by 7.45 since sail to the dropping point is only 45 mins. we finished the breakfast in 20 mins and took about 10 mins to pack our bags.. to our surprise.. the boat was already parked at the dropping point.
while called the travel agency that booked the boat to explain our condition, the nice lady said she will investigate and respond. Later evening she said, everything was arranged and executed as promised in our houseboat quotation.
Later we discovered the issue was, the timing that we took the boat .. its good only during certain months. since we went in first week of October and it is after the massive rains its generally not good for house boat stay.
I suggest please be cautious on the boat, the reputation of the travel agency, and the month of travel. and and and carry your own gear to deal with the blood sucking creatures 🙂
Oh Mr. Sastry I am so sorry to hear about your experience.. .but like I mentioned we were prepared for the mosquitoes and had lotion applied. The parking and lights etc. are as per government regulations to make sure there is minimum impact on the environment and livelihood of fishermen. Keep traveling and thanks for your detailed comment 🙂
I have been to this place 2 years back.
Staying in the house boat is an awesome experience.
Hi Swati.. I agree with you…