India - Kerala

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Kerala

The Kerala backwaters are a chain of lagoons, lakes, rivers and canals lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast for nearly half the length of Kerala. They have a unique ecosystem where freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea with many unique species of aquatic life including crabs and frogs. Numerous water birds and animals such as otters and turtles live in and alongside the backwaters. The lush vegetation alongside the backwaters gives a characteristic green hue to the surrounding landscape. These Vayalar-Chenganda backwaters are remote in the sense that they are a long way from the main upstream houseboat operating areas around Allepey and the Vembanadu Lake and are untouched by the tourism industry; houseboat tourism does not extend this far downstream towards Kochi. The only other boats seen in the area are sea-going fishing smacks and canoes.

The Wayanad region lies on the southern tip of the magnificent Deccan plateau. This area is strikingly scenic: known for its picturesque hill stations, sprawling spice plantations, luxuriant forests and rich cultural traditions. In the forests one can still see the macaque monkeys, loris, mongoose, wild cats, jackals, hares- and some 350 species of birds have been reported within the district.

Palm-fringed Villages

The backwater communities of Vayalar, Chenganda, Perumbalam and Kodamthurutu each have their own character and charm and all are strikingly beautiful. Vayalar contains a centre for traditional firework making, Chenganda is known for canopy and houseboat building, Perubalam is an island, only reachable by boat, so life there is even more traditional than in other places, and Kodamthurutu relies on prawn culturing and fish farming. A fifth village, Chemmanagri, may also be visited.

People and Traditions

Formerly, prawn culture in ponds was a major source of income and fishing remains important, as well as small netted fish farming. The major source of local income is coir rope, hand spun from coconut fibres using small electric motors to turn the spinning wheel; this is largely women’s work. Some is woven into door mats for finishing outside. Many men work outside the villages. You will meet fishermen, boatmen, canoe makers, coconut harvesters, traditional canopy makers, paddy farmers and mussel collectors. Each home has a small canoe, used for travel, fishing and transporting their wares of spices, coconuts, sand and mussels.

The Houseboat

The Goodearth houseboat or Kettuvallam has been lovingly constructed by the local communities using time-honoured, traditional methods, with local Anjali wood, copper nails, fish oil and coir rope. Woven palm leaves and bent bamboo make for a patterned canopy cover and room separations. The skill of making these traditional boats has been passed down over the years from father to son. Kettuvallams were traditionally used to transport rice from the large estates upstream to Cochin and bring back building materials and spices. The owners did not want to be away from their families on these journeys, so they built cabins for the family to accompany them. Roads were built and goods began to be transported by truck so boat owners turned to tourism as an alternative.

There are two twin cabins with private facilities, an on-board galley, and a shaded seating area in front from which you can watch the scenery unfold. Please bear in mind that you may be sharing the houseboat with another party; it is possible to have exclusive use of the houseboat during your stay for a small supplement.

Mothakkara

With houses scattered amid the forests and tea and coffee plantations of Wayanad you will find Mothakkara, a delightful hillside village set at 1000m, with views across the splendid tea gardens towards the spectacular hills. The villagers rely on farming, growing mainly coffee, rubber, jackfruit, pepper and some areca. Pepper and spice production are the mainstay of the community. The ladies of the village have also created a vegetable garden. New to Village Ways this season, a guesthouse with three twin bedrooms is being constructed in a shaded part of the village, with hill views, including the prominent Banasura Peak at 2,073 m.

Discover the secrets of banana and pepper crops, enjoy spectacular walks towards Banasura Mountain and the surrounding paddy fields and waterfalls, and take a day trip to the nearby village of Thrikkappatta to visit the ladies’ co-operative of wonderfully skilled bamboo handicrafts. Enojoy local music from the ladies’ drum group and immerse yourself in village life. 

Cuisine of Kerala

Kerala cuisine is renowned for its diversity and flavour, intricately linked with the richness of its land, its history, climate and the influence of over two thousand years of trading with the Arab world, Greece and Rome. Fresh sea food and fish dishes are frequently on the menu in the houseboat but vegetarian food can also be served. Kerala is a land of tropical spices and cloves, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. Coconut milk is widely used and the spices are mild and enhance the flavour of the ingredients.

Your Village Ways holidays to Kerala or the combined Karnataka and Kerala itinerary include return transfers from Mumbai- or from Kochi for certain holidays. This includes taxi transfer from the airport and rail journeys and road transfers to the communities. We can arrange to meet you at the airport, to fit in with your flight arrival and departure times, or if you are already in India we can arrange for you to be met in the city, at the place of your choosing, to take you to the start of your journey.

Flights to Kochi for Kerala only itineraries

For itineraries commencing and ending in Kochi, Kerala we recommend flying via Mumbai, with a domestic connecting flight to Kochi. Jet Aiways offer a combined international and domestic services, or an international flight can be booked with British Airways and the domestic connections can be booked on-line with Kingfisher airlines.

We ask our guests to make their own arrangements for international travel to India. We offer some general advice and useful links regarding travel, visas, insurance, health requirements.

Information on travel in India

Climate and Seasons

The region has a warm tropical climate with three distinct seasons – monsoon, winter and summer. June to September are the main SW monsoon months. The winters are relatively cooler and dryer. Temperatures are warmer during the summer from the end of March to June, with good weather but a chance of occasional thunderstorms.

Winter Season: Nov- Feb

This is a good time for walking in the forests around Mothaakkara. The days are warm and sunny and air temperatures remaining fairly constant with maxima of 30 to 35 degrees C and minima of 14 to 20 degrees C. Kerala costal area winter temperatures are marginally lower, and these months have the lowest rainfall. Temperatures begin to rise in late February and there is a small increase in humidity. The main visitor season is during the winter months.

Summer Season: Mar-June

The temperatures start to rise, with mean maxima of around 34 degrees C and minima of 22 degrees C. The weather is still very pleasant, with the warmest Kerala temperatures, but with the occasional risk of thunderstorms especially towards the end of the summer season.

Monsoon Season: Jun-Nov

The SW Monsoon clothes the area in cloud. The air is humid but is delightfully fresh and the landscape is lush green. The peak rainfall of 500-800 mm occurs in June or July. Temperatures are around 26 degrees C during the day and fall back slightly at night to 21 degrees C.

In Kerala the monsoon is highly atmospheric with sunshine between the rains. Visitors usually avoid the main Kerala rainy season, especially June and July. Another much less intense rainy period occurs in October and November.