This placid resort village of the Kuttanad backwaters drags the muse out of even the most poetically challenged. So pack your quill and head for what are arguably the most beautiful acres along the Kuttanad backwaters, to palm-fringed canals, clumps of coir retting in water, a fishing boat returning with the day's catch....
The Vembanad backwaters have to be experienced slowly, leisurely and languidly. The best way to do it is to hire a kettuvallom, the traditional rice boat-turned-houseboat.
These floating hotels range from tiny canoes to houseboats capped by elaborate superstructures of bamboo and rosewood, panelled with mats of screw pine. KTDC (Tel: 0481-2525861/ 64) offers motorboat, speedboat and pontoon boat rides. There are scores of private operators too, at the boat jetty.
Take the waterways past paddy and coconut groves, mangroves, along freshwater canals and rivers that debouch into Vembanad Lake. Pathiramanal Island, a 10-acre isle an hour's ride from the bird sanctuary is an ideal midway point for a backwater picnic.
Around Onam, the waters of Vembanad at Kumarakom come alive with boat races such as the Kumarakom Arpookara Vanitha Jalmela and the Kavanthikara Boat Race. It is also possible to fish in these waters. Some of the resorts also offer water-skiing and windsailing.
The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is spread across 14 acres on the eastern banks of the Vembanad Lake. It is best to visit the sanctuary on foot by a 1.5 km long walking track, where you are likely to spot heron, darters, storks, teals and common egrets.
You can also take a boat ride, which brings you closer to waders like waterfowl and ducks, and some fliers like parrots, larks and flycatchers. Between November and February the sanctuary turns into a transit lounge for migratory birds. Timings 6am-6.30pm
Bay Island Driftwood Museum
As you drive in from Kottayam or get off your houseboat at the Kumarakom Jetty, a distinctive building with its pillared verandah and sloping tiled roof at Market Junction invites inspection. This unique museum displays 'the art of the sea' - chiselled driftwood gathered from the beaches of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, hence the name.
The driftwood pieces were chiselled by curator Raji Punnoose, a retired teacher, into shapes that vary from a crocodile found off Port Blair's Wandoor Beach to a sculpture of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose addressing an audience from wood collected off Mayabender Beach in Middle Andaman. You can also purchase some sculptures here.
Timings 10 am-5 pm, Sundays 11.30 am-5 pm, Mondays closed Tel: 0481 2525634
Kumarakom has many expensive resorts and quite a few inexpensive homestays. Most offer ayurvedic treatment and bakcwater cruises.
Kumarkom Lake resort
Tel: 0481 2524501
Cleverly designed pool appears to merge with the waters of Vembanad Lake. The resort has an ayurvedic centre and offers backwater cruises, bicycles, cooking classes, fishing, a gift shop, health club, sightseeing, speed boats, swimming pool with jacuzzi and water sports.
Tel: 0481 2524491
Coconut Lagoon has heritage mansions and bungalows, which were traditional tharavads. Each was brought here from different parts of Kerala and carefully reassembled. Coconut lagoon offers a pool, rice boat cruises, country boat rides and ayurveda. It is near the Bird Sanctuary gate.
Vivant by Taj Kumarakom
Tel: 0481 2524377
This resort is a beautiful property with 33 rooms. The resort boasts the Baker's Restaurant and Sunset Bar, a swimming pool, gym, ayurvedic treatments and water sports, sightseeing, cruises on the backwaters and fishing.
Tel: 0481 2523300
Backwater Ripples has 34 rooms, a restaurant, a swimming pool, water sports and an ayurvedic spa.
The Zuri Kumarakom
Tel: 0481 2527272
The Zuri is Kumarakom's one of the new resort, offering 62 rooms and 10 pool villas, on the banks of the lake. They have two spas, a fitness centre and a couple of restaurants here.
Tel: 0481 2524253
Waterscapes has cottages facing Vambanad Lake. Apart from offering a pool, an ayurveda centre, boating, birdwatching at the Santuary and angling, the staff will take you to Pathiramanal Island, and to watch toddy-tapping in paddy fields.
Tel: 0481 252826, 27
An intricate lace work of canals intersects the 17-acre waterfront property. The 28 cottages are all constructed on the banks of the canals, each accessible by boat or by foot over cobbled pathways and rustic bridges. The cottages are located on 13 islands and you can fish out of the windows.
Tharavadu Heritage Home
Tel: 0481 2525230
It is connected to the Bay island driftwood museum, is among the nicest.
GK's River View Homestay
Tel: 0481 2597527
It is on the banks of the Meenchil River in Pulikkuttyserry. It offers 5 rooms, ayurveda, boating, taxis and sightseeing.
Philipkutty's Farm is in Vechoor, north of Kumarakom, with five waterfront villas.
Dining at Kumarakom
You can dine at any of the hotels here, including the homestays, with prior reservations. Dine on delicious Kuttanad food at different spots of the Vembanad Lake shore.
Grilled lobster, karimeen pollichathu and creamy prawn curry is on offer at Kumarakom Lake Resort's Vembanad Seafood Bar, which offers a beautiful view of the lake. The resort also offers the Ettukettu and Thattukada restaurants.
The speciality at Coconut Lagoon's Tharavadu and Fort Kochi restaurants is also seafood. "Waterscapes" has Pearlspot Restaurant offering karimeen and various dishes of duck, another Kuttanad speciality.
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