Backwater in Cochin
Cochin Backwaters Tourism, Kerala Backwaters
Backwater in Cochin is not as popular as those down south in Alappuzha and Kumarakom; still offers a lot to the visitors.
Kochi (Cochin) lies on the Malabar Coast, spreading across the Vembanad Lake where it meets the Arabian Sea. The city's many islands -Bolgatty, Gundu, Willingdon, Vypeen and Vallaprpadam - lie scattered tantalizingly across the area offering a range of attractions, historic and natural, to chose from.
The other defining element in assimilating this city is the symbiotic relationship between land and water that one witness here. The best way to discover it is to take a cruise along the backwater in Cochin from Ernakulam to Perumbalam and back, which should take about two hours. Cast off at sunrise and the silence, unbroken but for bird caw, resembles the world at the beginning of time.
The Kerala backwaters are home to thousands of fisher folk. You can see them gliding along their graceful canoes, wide nets trailing. In the shallows, they can be seen beating the water with palm-leaf switches and then gathering stunned fish by the armfuls.
On the return leg, proceed to the harbour mouth to just wet your keel in the ocean. Between Fort Kochi and Vypeen, the gentle breeze tousles the surface of the water, hinting at what lies beyond.
Hiring a Kerala houseboat to go exploring the backwater in Cochin City itself is a great experience. The KTDC operates day-long cruises in the vicinity, including highly popular trips which take visitors to nearby coir villages and vast coconut plantations. In addition, government departments plus a number of private operators too run ferry services linking the different sections of Kochi and Ernakulam to each other. For those who have more time longer cruises-on a kettuvallom, preferably- are recommended for a truly unforgettable glimpse of the backwater in Cochin.
Cochin Backwaters Tourism and Harbour Cruises
KTDC's half-day Kochi boat cruise is a good way to orient yourself, but doesn't stop for long in Mattancherry of Fort Cochin, so give it a miss unless you're pushed for time. Departing from the Sealord Jetty on Shanmugham Road, Ernakulam, it calls at Willingdon Island, the synagogue, Mattancherry Dutch Palace, St. Francis Church, the Chinese fishing nets and Bolgatty Island. Book at the KTDC reception on Shanmugham Road. In addition, most of the five-stars fronting the harbour, including Brunton Boatyard and The Vivanta by Taj- Malabar, offer sunset cruises for guests.
Backwater Trips South of the City
Coir-production, rope-making, toddy-tapping, fishing and crab-farming are the main source of income in the backwater villages south of Kochi. Easily reachable via the national highway, they're scattered over an expanse of huge lagoons and canals, flowing west behind a near continuous beach.
KTDC day-trips offer a leisurely and affordable way to explore the area, but they're not as well done as those run by the Tourist Desk (Their counters in Fort Cochin and the Main Boat Jetty in Ernakulam). The cost include hotel pick-up, transfer to the departure point near Vaikom, 30km south, a morning cruise on the open backwaters, a village tour, a Kerala lunch buffet on board the kettuvallom and an afternoon trip through narrow waterways in a much smaller punted canoe.
It is also worth considering the trip out to Kumbalaghi village-an award-winning community-based tourism project where proceeds are shared among the villagers. You start the tour with an auto-rickshaw drive to the city limits, where you're transferred to country boat for the punted 20-to 30- minute crossing to Kumbalaghi itself, on Kallancherry Island. Guided visits around the settlement and its various industries are followed by lunch next to the lagoon, where you can try hand at fishing with a proper Chinese net (a great photo opportunity).
Kumbalanghi, beautifully situated on the waterfront, is a great place to watch the sun set.
Some of the Popular Cruises from Backwaters in Cochin
Kumarakom, the tiny and lush green hamlet on Vembanad Lake, makes for an excellent cruise option from Kochi. Bird-watchers and lovers of natural beauty alike should find this a rewarding trip, filled as it is with plenty of scope for a bit of ornithology as well as loads of great photo ops. The distance between Kochi and Kumarkaom is about 80km, and the cruise is a leisurely one.
Ending at Alappuzha, this two-day, 60km cruise is a popular one. The boat sails gently along the surface of the Vembanad Lake, stopping over at Pathiramanal Island to allow a bit of bird -watching. Alappuzha district itself, the heart of the backwaters of Kerala, is worth getting your camera out for.
Another hot favourite. The Kochi-Kollam route makes its way past age-old villages that appears caught in a time warp; along the way are the Vembanad Lake, the town of Alappuzah, the rice-growing region of Kuttanad and Punnamada Lake, where the annual Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race is held.