The Backwaters of Kerala Are A Unique Geographical Phenomenon

The Backwaters of Kerala Are A Unique Geographical Phenomenon

The Backwaters of Kerala

Renowned worldwide for its picturesque landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and diverse flora and fauna, Kerala, known as ‘God’s Own Country,’ offers every traveler a unique and immersive experience. However, the true heart of this tropical paradise lies in its serene backwaters – a network of brackish lagoons, lovely lakes, and winding canals that meander through the length and breadth of the region. The backwaters of Kerala present a tranquil escape, far removed from the bustle of urban life, and serve as the perfect setting for a rejuvenating vacation amidst nature’s bountiful splendor.

The backwaters of Kerala present a unique landscape of interconnected lagoons, lakes, and canals fringed by lush tropical vegetation, coconut groves, and rice paddies. This picturesque setting offers tranquility and a distinct natural charm, making it a paradise for nature lovers. One of the most popular attractions of Kerala’s backwaters is the traditional houseboat (Kettuvallam) cruise. These floating villas offer a luxurious stay while cruising through the scenic waterways, providing a truly immersive experience of the backwater life. Many of these houseboats come equipped with all the luxuries of a modern hotel, including air-conditioned rooms, a kitchen, and even a balcony for angling.

The backwaters are home to various bird species, including kingfishers, cormorants, darters, and countless migratory birds. This variety of species makes the backwaters a haven for bird watchers and nature photographers.

The Geography of The Backwaters of Kerala

Kerala’s backwaters are a complex and intricate network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes, and inlets formed by over 900 kilometers of waterways. They stretch parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) and include five large lakes linked by canals, both artificial and natural, fed by 38 rivers. This magnificent labyrinth of shimmering waterways is set amidst lush greenery and presents an ever-changing scenario of sights, sounds, and fragrances.

Naturally, the backwaters result from a unique geographical phenomenon known as “estuaries,” where the freshwater from rivers meets the saltwater from the sea. Over thousands of years, the water action in this region created a network of interconnected canals, lagoons, lakes, and inlets. This coastal morphology was further accentuated by waves and shore currents creating barrier beaches and islands. These physical conditions resulted in forming an extensive and intricate system of backwaters.

From a human perspective, the system of backwaters in Kerala has been significantly influenced by the people who have lived in the region for thousands of years. They have harnessed the natural waterways for irrigation, transportation, fishing, and other purposes. For instance, they carved out additional canals to facilitate trade and communication, enhancing the existing backwater system.

These water bodies have played a major role in the economic and cultural life of the region. The system of backwaters is thus a complex and delicate ecosystem created by the interaction of natural forces and human ingenuity.

Alleppey: The Backwater Hotspot

Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East,’ Alleppey (Alappuzha) is the most famous destination for exploring Kerala’s backwaters. The highlight of a trip to Alleppey is a leisurely cruise on a traditional ‘Kettuvallam’ (houseboat), offering panoramic views of the surrounding greenery and glimpses into the rural lifestyle of Kerala. These houseboats are a revamped version of the olden days ‘Kettuvallams,’ equipped with all modern amenities and luxuries. They offer an enchanting overnight stay, with the gentle lull of the water and the vibrant night sky overhead.

Kumarakom: A Tranquil Retreat Among The Backwaters of Kerala

Located on the shores of the vast Vembanad Lake, the largest backwater stretch in Kerala, Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands. The place is also a bird lover’s paradise, with the renowned Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary housing a plethora of different migratory birds. Houseboat cruises in Kumarakom are also popular, and many tourists prefer this quieter and more serene setting.

Kollam and Ashtamudi Lake

The district of Kollam (Quilon) is another gem in Kerala’s backwater tourism. The gateway to the magnificent Ashtamudi Lake, Kollam is home to some of Kerala’s most picturesque and tranquil backwaters. A trip from Kollam to Alappuzha is the longest backwater cruise in Kerala, offering an eight-hour journey that is a delightful experience of the coastal waterway lifestyle.

Kuttanad: The Rice Bowl of Kerala

Kerala Cuisine
Cuisine of Kerala

Kuttanad, with its maze of shimmering waterways against the backdrop of lush paddy fields, offers a glimpse into rural Kerala’s rustic charm. It’s the only region globally where farming is done below sea level. The scenic beauty and serene village life of Kuttanad will enchant any visitor.

More To Explore

A trip through the backwaters also allows tourists to observe and interact with local culture. They can witness traditional methods of fishing, local people tending to their paddy fields, and women making coir products. Visits to nearby villages offer insight into Kerala’s rural life and traditional practices. The backwaters are a great place to explore Kerala’s rich and diverse cuisine. Many houseboats offer traditional Kerala meals prepared with locally sourced ingredients, providing a gastronomic delight.

Kerala is known as the land of Ayurveda. Many resorts and treatment centers around the backwaters offer traditional Ayurvedic therapies and massages. These treatments and the serene natural environment offer a rejuvenating experience for the body and mind. For the adventurous, there are options for canoeing and kayaking through the narrower channels of the backwaters. These activities offer a more intimate exploration of the backwaters, away from the popular tourist routes.

With their majestic beauty and serene surroundings, Kerala’s backwaters offer a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you spend a few nights aboard a luxury houseboat, explore the labyrinth of canals in a canoe, or enjoy the beautiful surroundings, the backwaters of Kerala are a destination that will captivate your senses and soothe your soul.