Navigating the Kerala Backwaters by Houseboat
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How many trips are inspired by a work colleague’s computer background? Des sits opposite me and had this stunning sunset on his PC screen. I later found out it to be the Kerala Backwaters in India.
Now I just need a reason to visit the Kerala Backwaters
As luck would have it a friend of mine called Keerthi was getting married in Bangalore in March. That meant that Kerala became one of teh destinations to factor in to our 10 day trip. Including the Backwaters and THAT sunset!
The Kerala Backwaters is a network of 1,500km of lagoons fed by 38 rivers, which extend from one end of Kerala to the other. The most popular way of exploring them is by hiring a ‘houseboat’ for a day trip. You can stay in one overnight or even hire a houseboat for several days.
A day or an overnight trip?
We opted for a day trip based on some TripAdvisor research. Depending on the boat you chose, it could mean “lights out” out at 10pm (when the cook/captain go to sleep in the communal area). The 7 of us would have wanted to stay up a little bit later than that. Also the aim was to “see” the Backwaters and witness sunset and we were happy to do that during the daytime. For a good blog on the alternatives to houseboats check out http://www.fivedollartraveller.com/dont-alleppey-houseboat-kerala-backwaters/
Also check out what to look out for when deciding to stay in one go here – http://globetrottergirls.com/2012/08/how-to-book-a-houseboat-in-kerala/
So having followed Globe Trotter Girl’s advice we didn’t book a houseboat in advance. Instead we checked out the boats the afternoon before. This was a little bit stressful as it meant 7 of us agreeing on a boat and whether it would be a day or night trip. However at least it allowed us to see facilities and the state of the onboard toilet in advance.
We wanted to experience sunset which is why the overnight stay was winning. Then someone had the lightbulb moment of asking the boat owner to stay out a “little” bit later than usual on the daytrip … and he did! The 7 of us got the best of both worlds but didn’t have to stay on-board overnight.
In the end the 2-bed Paradise looked nice and we didn’t have to got through the “hard sell” act with its captain which some of the other boat owners were tending to do. We agreed on a price of 6000 Rupees (£60) and then wandered off to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
All aboard! Time to set sail
The next day we boarded at midday and set “sail”. These bigger boats can’t explore the smaller canals but that mattered not. The wider channels felt just as picturesque having seen them for the very first time.
During the journey lunch was provided and we stopped off at a small hut built up on a levee selling king prawns. The prices felt extortionate so we politely declined, re-boarded and continued on our 5mph journey. Midway through the day we tried our hand at fishing using pieces of bread while skilled workers climbed up the palm trees to collect coconuts behind us.
We moored up for sunset and was back at the dock by 19:00. We couldn’t find that exact line of trees from Des’s PC background but we got pretty close!
So the houseboats can be expensive. However a day trip is an option, and there are other cheaper alternatives (ferries, canoes) but at least you can say you went on an actual houseboat.
Somewhere to stay beforehand?
Away from the boat we decided to stay 2 nights in Alleppey in the delightful Homestay called ‘Alapatt Homestay’. It’s run by Raj and his extended family. The location was spot on as it’s very close to the bus station and just a 400m walk to where the houseboats are moored up. So it was as “cheap as chips” but still allowed us full choice of what to do out on the Backwaters. At 5000 Rupees (£50) for 3 rooms for 2 nights it was very good value indeed!
Has anybody stayed on a houseboat overnight and would recommend that instead? 🙂 Now India was pretty hot, but it’s not as hot as the hottest place on Earth!