House Boats Kerala
Backwater Real Estate, Cochin Backwaters.

The traditional house boats Kerala - the kettuvallams - were, before the advent of trucks and buses, the main mode of transport through much of Kerala. Winding their quiet way through the green glittering backwaters of the state, these large wooden boats were used to transport both men and material across the area.

Renting houseboats Kerala designed like a kettuvallam (rice barge) could be one of your most expensive experiences in India. But a backwater tour India is usually worth every Rupee you spend. Drifting through quiet canals lined with coconut palms, eating delicious Kerala food, meeting local villagers and sleeping on the water, it is a world away from the clamour elsewhere.

House boats Kerala cater for couples and groups. There are boats with one or two double bedrooms to even up to seven bedrooms. Food is generally included in the quoted cost. You'll have an onboard chef to cook it.

Houseboats can be chartered through a multitude of private operators in Kollam and Alleppey. In Kollam, book ahead as there are fewer boats. You can also opt for Cochin backwaters tours.

Houseboats are big business in Kerala; some operators are unscrupulous. The quality of boats varies widely, from rust buckets to floating palaces - try to check out the boat before agreeing on a price.

Travel-agency reps will be pushing you to book a boat as soon as you set foot in Kerala. But it is better to wait till you reach a backwater hub. Choice is greater in Alleppey (500 boats and counting), and you're much more likely to be able to bargain down a price if you turn up and see what's on offer.

In the high season you are likely to get caught in backwater-gridlock. Some travellers are disappointed by the number of boats on the water. Sometimes it is difficult to travel by houseboat between Alleppey and Kollam, or between Alleppey and Kochi.

Expect a boat for two people for 24 hours to cost about Rupees 4,500 to 6000; for four people, 5,500 to 8,000; more for larger boats or for air conditioned boats. Shop around to negotiate a bargain - though this will be harder in the busier seasons. Prices triple from around 20th December to 5th January.

Crafting of Kettuvallam (House Boats Kerala)

The crafting of a kettuvallam is in itself an extremely interesting process. The boat is constructed from a range of materials, which include jack wood, bamboo poles, beaten coconut fibre and coir ropes. Today, the tiny town of Karunagapally , 23 km from Kollam, is the main centre for the Kettuvallam-producing industry.

Kettuvallams are made completely without the use of nails. The construction of one of these house boats Kerala begins by tying together planks of jack wood, using coir rope, and then smearing the surface with a resinous black substance made by boiling cashew nuts. For good measure, fish oil also is rubbed onto the surface, helping to cure it. A hut-like structure of planks, coir thatch and poles is an integral part of the kettuvallam.

Tourist Boats and Local Ferries

Tourist boats travel regularly to Kollam, with the ATDC and DTPC boats operating a similar schedule, departing at 10.30 and arriving in Kollam at 6.30pm. From the jetty just outside the KSRTC bus stand, much cheaper local ferries travel to Kottayam and a group of satellite villages in the backwaters.

Regular services run to Champakulam, where you pick up less frequent boats to Neerettupuram and Kidangara, and back to Alappuzha again. This round rout ranks among the Kuttanad's classic trip, but you'll need some help from one or other of the tourist offices to make sense of the timetables.

House Boats Kerala and Environmental Issues

Pollution from houseboat motors is becoming a major problem as boat numbers swell every season. The Kerala authorities have introduced an eco-friendly accreditation system for houseboat operators.

Among the criteria an operator must meet before being issued with the 'Green Palm Certificate' are the installation of solar panels and sanitary tanks for the disposal of waste. Ask operators whether they have the requisite certification.

There has been talk of running boats on cleaner natural gas, though we are yet to see this being implemented. Consider choosing one of the few remaining punting, rather than motorised, boats if possible.

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