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Exploring Kerala’s Backwaters: Why you should Travel by Kayak…

January 11, 2018
Our guide with his hilarious (but very practical) sunhat!

The glistening backwaters of Kerala are one of south India’s most prized landmarks. Miles upon miles of beautiful waterways that weave through local villages and farming communities. Renting a houseboat for the night is considered by many to be the best way to travel through the lagoons. These large boats are like floating hotels, but they come with a BIG price tag to match. If you’re an adventurous type or on a budget, then here’s my top tip…DON’T rent a houseboat, take to the water on a kayak instead.

Traveling through India? Be sure to check out my other blog posts with 30 Travel Tips for Rajasthan and Northern India and Backpacking Rajasthan: Delhi to Jaisalmer

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Aboard our kayak!

Aboard our kayak!

5 Reasons why you shouldn’t Hire a Houseboat in Kerala

1. An overnight stay can cost between 5,000 – 20,000 Indian Rupees (£58 – £232). That would have been the most expensive thing we’d done in the whole of India! The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is 100% true here. This should not be seen as a budget activity.

A typical houseboat in Kerala

A typical houseboat in Kerala

2. They are terribly polluting. From petrol fumes to leaving a trail of litter floating in the water. Kayaks are far more eco-friendly.

3. These large boats cannot fit down the smaller, narrow waterways so for the majority of your trip you’ll likely be surrounded by other houseboats.

The backwaters are jam packed with houseboats, hire a kayak to take in the narrower waterways that the big boats can't travel down

The backwaters are jam packed with houseboats, hire a kayak to take in the narrower waterways that the big boats can’t reach

4. I’ve heard horror stories from other travelers about the poor conditions of these boats – dirty bed sheets and cockroaches in the bedroom.

5. For this very reason, it’s advisable to view the houseboat before you agree to climb aboard. But, if like us you arrive in Alleppey the day before you wish to travel then that may be a bit tricky as the boats head out on the water from 8am each morning. (You can book boats in advance through an agent or your accommodation, but I’d still recommend you see it before you head out on the water).

Travel by Kayak instead

Get in a kayak! Kayaking is by far one of my favourite ways to travel. It’s affordable and keeps you fit.

We booked a four hour tour with Oscars Cruise through our wonderful hosts at Alleppey Beach Garden (I’d highly recommend a stay if you’re looking for somewhere close to the backwaters).

After arriving at Oscars, we were whisked away on mopeds to a local village where we boarded the kayaks. There was the choice between single and double kayaks – I opted for double so I could snap away while Chris paddled along!

Life on the backwaters

Life on the backwaters

The initial paddle was a little tricky as we navigated our way across one of the major crossing channels for the larger houseboats, but soon we arrived in some of the more peaceful canals.

Peace and serenity away from the big noisy houseboats

Peace and serenity away from the big noisy houseboats

We took a moment to shelter under a nearby palm tree – we’d set off just after lunch and it was hot!

Our guide was great fun and very knowledgeable. Check out his crazy, but very practical, sunhat.

Our guide with his hilarious (but very practical) sun hat!

Our guide with his hilarious (but very practical) sun hat!

We watched as children crossed the waterways on their way home from school.

Street life on the waterways

Street life on the waterways

Kayaks do not disturb the local wildlife in the same way as the big gas-guzzling boats do, so you’ll be surrounded by birds and turtles and all manner of animals.

It's great for bird lovers!

It’s great for bird lovers!

We saw the famous houseboats from afar, and joked about how bored the passengers looked. We stopped at a cafe on the banks for a refreshing coconut and some freshly cooked prawns on the bbq.

Choosing fresh prawns for the bbq

Choosing fresh prawns for the bbq

What if Kayaking isn’t my Thing?

Not a problem. There are plenty of other options…

Board a public ferry. Join the locals on their daily commute. Journeys range from 20 minutes to 2.5 hours and cost a few rupees (less than a pound). Try the ferry from Alleppey to Kottayam – budget travel at its best! One step up would be the government run tourist ferry. Visit the State Water Transport Department for journey details and times.

The public ferry at sunset

The public ferry at sunset

Hire a Shikara. These long covered boats come with a roof, seating and driver. They can fit between 6-25 people. Expect to pay around 1,000 Indian rupees (£11.60) in the high season.

Or a local canoe. If you’re not keen on paddling yourself then hire a canoe for a few hours and get someone else to do the hard work.

To think this is someone's home...

To think this is someone’s home…

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Have you ever considered kayaking in Antarctica? Slightly different climate! Read this post from fellow travel blogger Travel For Life Now.  

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Travelling by Kayak - Kerela Backwaters

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1 Comment

  • Reply Kayaking in Antarctica-Tips & Recommendations - travelforlifenow.com April 21, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    […] If Kayaking in Antarctica seems too cold to you, why not try Kayaking in the Kerala Backwaters? Read this post from fellow travel blogger Travel […]

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