Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kumarakom - Paradise in God's Own County

Click on the images to view them full size, otherwise you're not getting the full picture!


Kumarakom is a picturesque village in Kottayam, Kerala famous for its backwaters, resorts and houseboats. Located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake which is the largest backwater in Kerala, Kumarakom is a very popular tourist destination. The Kumarakom Bird Santuary hosts many species of migratory birds and you can find a wide variety of flaura & fauna.

Map courtesy Maps of India.

Getting There

Kumarakom is around 15 KM drive from Kottayam. The nearest airport is Cochin Internation Airport. As of writing, an average taxi fare from Kottayam is INR 600 (one way) and from Cochin Airport is INR 1600. You can either ask the resort to book you a taxi or catch one at the airport or railway station.


Fishermen heading home at sunset. The Vembanad lake is famous for its local variety of fish - Karimeen (Pearl Spotted Fish), Chemmeen (Shrimp) and Konju (Prawns).

Resorts


We stayed at Lakesong resort by Eastend Hospitality group. There are plenty of other resorts around including super luxury, ultra expensive ones like Radisson, Kumarakom Lake Resort & Taj. Radisson for example has lake facing villas with each villa having its own private swimming pool. There are also other lower cost options like Illikkalam Lake Resort.


Most of the resorts have an Ayurvedic center and will arrange houseboats as a part of the booking package. With respect to food, I chose the modified American Plan so that all meals were included, without which food can burn quite a hole in your pocket.


April to Sep is typically off-peak season for resorts and houseboats in Kumarakom and Oct to March is peak season. Christmas/New Year time would be the most difficult period to get a booking. Rates are also much higher during peak season so we chose to go in Sep beginning to get a better deal and also because the crowds will be much less. One disadvantage during this period is that the monsoon can wreck havoc with your plans, we were very lucky in this regard and had only light showers to deal with.


One set of cottages in Lakesong resort, Kumarakom. The construction was utilizing red brick and wood in the tradition Kerala style and the cottages and other buildings in the resort were really beautiful.


Balcony of the cottage. In the cottages that we stayed in, the balcony faced the inner water body, basically canals from the lagoon. There were ducks & geese around who would strut around the canals.


Most of the resorts in Kumarakom are located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake. Access to the lake front is either right outside your cottage or a short walk away.


Local fisherman diving for oysters from a Kettuvallam, the traditional fishing boat. He would dive and collect oysters (my assumption) from the lake bed.


The lake is covered with patches of Water Hyacinths that show up as dark shadows in this picture. One of the fastest growing plants, some species of Water Hyacinths are known to double its population in two weeks.


Lush green views are the norm at Kumarakom, if you are facing land that is! During off-peak season, you get the entire resort almost to yourself.


Rains are a more or less constant companion during this season in Kerala. One just needs to accept this and keep updaing plans dynamically!


Not exactly my preferred mode of transportation, especially since it was raining! The canals crisscrossing the resort was an excellent idea, it was so pleasant to see water all around.


Kumarakom bird sanctuary is very famous for migratory birds. There are also plenty of other bird species found near water bodies, and one gets to see literally hundreds of birds during the boat cruise.

Houseboats


Houseboats are very common on the lagoon, along with the smaller boats (Kettuvallam) used by the local people. There are around 160 houseboats in Kottayam and more than 600 in Alapuzha.

We arranged the houseboat cruise/stay through the Lakesong resort, however, it is possible to book houseboats directly if you prefer not to stay on land. Like in the case of resorts, there are all sizes and shapes of houseboats available at various price ranges. One can choose to hire a houseboat for a day cruise only or for over night stay.

We took a three bed room house boat since there were 3 familes including my parents and sister's family.


The seating/dining area towards the front of the houseboat. They even had an LCD television hooked up to a small home theater system. Bring your own DVDs if you want to watch anything other than Malayalam or Hindi movies!


Spacious bedrooms with fan and air conditioning. Except for the windows opening out to few feet above water level, the gently rocking motion of the lake and the sound of the engine, one can hardly make out that we are in a room floating on water.


Amongst the three attached bathrooms on the houseboat, this one had a shower cubicle and another one had a bath tub! The water for these comes from overhead water tanks and the sewage is supposed to be treated and pumped out (and not dumped into the lake, thankfully!).


The three bedroom houseboat we stayed in was more than 100 feet long and access to all rooms is through this long corridor. The room are all on one side and the windows open out to the lake.


A fully modular kitchen in the houseboat, complete with all equipment including gas stove and chimney. The staff on the houseboat prepared tasty Kerala dishes for us, including excellent fish preparations.


The Kettuvallam of a local toddy tapper. Toddy (or Kallu in Malayalam) is the local liquor obtained from coconut trees. We tasted the sweet liqueur directly from the tapper as he came back with his day's collection.


This canal runs right into the lobby of the Lakesong resort and one can enter the lobby through a traditional Kettuvallam.


A Kingfisher stood patiently on the bridge looking for fishes in the canal. Before I could change my lens from wide angle (17-85) to zoom (70-200), it had dived and caught one fish and proceeded to gobble it up, periodically hitting the fish against the bridge to kill it (I guess!).


Coconut palms and backwaters, the magic of Kerala. The sunset is special to Kumarakom though, and used to light up the sky like it was on fire. I was lucky to be blessed with more or less clear weather during the two evenings I spent in Kumarakom. Unfortunately, it rained heavily in the morning, so I did not get a chance to see what the sunrise looked like in this amazing place.

I almost slept through the first sunset as I kept the alarm for 5 AM instead of 5 PM on my mobile on the day I arrived. Lucky for me, my father woke me up at 5:30 PM and I rushed out to capture some of my best sunset photographs. Since this posting is more of a travelogue, I will include the other photographs in subsequent postings.

Contact Information

Eastend Lakesong Resort
Tel: +91-481-2526300
E-mail: lakesong@eastend.in
Web: www.eastend.in

Kailasom Houseboats
Tel: +91-481-2525980
E-mail: info@floatingcastleindia.com
Web: www.floatingcastleindia.com

Links

More about Backwaters in Kerala at WikiPedia. Official website of the Kerala Tourism organization at http://www.keralatourism.org/.

3 comments:

  1. hi Roshin,
    This is from kailasan floatingcastle houseboat,Kumarakom.We saw ur blog and we are very happy to see the photos and decsription about our houseboats in ur blog.And we are giving our thanks to u for that.We strongly believe that u had a fantastic day in our houseboat.We welcome u again to our houseboats to spent ur holidays.and please advice ur relative and friends if they r realy looking for a fantastic houseboat trip.

    Our contact details are: 0481 2526316(off)
    +91 9961030509
    +91 9947448112

    Email:info@floatingcastleindia.com
    Web: www.floatingcastleindia.com


    Thanks a lot..........

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kerala is a must-visit destination, blessed with beautiful beaches, backwaters, green mountains.I have been in Kerala for one week. I stayed with my family at Kumarakom Lake Resort. Loved the ambiance there. I have traveled across Kerala and found this to be one of the most charming Kerala Hotels. Interesting designs and good seafood cuisine.And I just spent one day and night in Kerala Houseboat. Really, Wonderful experience, in God's Own Counrty.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Roshin,
    nice work.
    could you please give ur e-mail id or phone number here .
    or please push me a mail to welcometokumarakom@gmail.com

    happy to invite you to welcome2kumarkom.com

    ReplyDelete