I have now been on a houseboat, canoe and kayak in the Kerala’s backwaters. While all are fun ways to explore the backwaters, each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this post I am going to compare all the three modes of exploring the backwaters in the God’s Own Country. Even though the experiences happened over two trips, I was exploring the Vembanad Lake on all the three excursions. So, the experiences are of the same region and comparable. So Kayak, Canoe or a Houseboat, that is the question!
What you will like most of course depends on your own preferences. If you wish for luxury, houseboat is what will suit your needs. After all you can get a houseboat which has air-conditioned bedrooms and dining areas. As there is a kitchen too, getting tea on the holiday is easy. However due to the size houseboats can go only in wide water channels.
A canoe is somewhere mid way between a houseboat and kayak. It gives you some comfort and it takes you into narrower water lanes. Some may say it is neither here nor there! But if you want to be more adventurous without going all the way, canoe is a good option. It certainly takes you closer to the villages in the backwaters.
If you want to go on an adventure kayaking is what you will enjoy. You are just this high from the water and you can touch it anytime you want. You can see our kayak was going close behind a local boat. Such intimate experiences are not possible in the bigger vessels. You also get plenty of exercise while kayaking.
So here is the table mapping my experiences of it all kayak, canoe and houseboat. Take your pick, or in fact do indulge in all.
|Gives you some amount of luxury||Gives you the least amount of luxury||Gives you the most luxury|
|Has no kitchen||Has no kitchen||Has a kitchen|
|Is motorized||Not motorized||Is motorized|
|Gives you no exercise||Gives you plenty of exercise||Pampers you and gives you good food|
|Can go in narrow water channels||Can go in narrowest water channels||Can go in wide water channels only|
I am not a morning person! And the canoe ride started at 7.30 am. That meant I had to get up at 6.45 at least. I don’t take much time to get ready anyway. When I turned up at the reception of the Kumarakom Lake Resort, they took pity on me and told me to go and have a cup of tea/coffee. I am a tea person but the coffee at the resort was divine, so for a very short while I switched loyalties. I left like a different person with a cup of coffee inside me. I concluded after the trip that a canoe ride in the Vembanad Lake is thing of beauty for observing the life in the backwaters up close.
True to the theme of the trip to Kumarakom, I had the whole canoe to myself. As we got out into the waterway I sat on the first chair. The canoe was covered and the chairs seated in the shade. As soon as we gained a little distance I asked if I could sit at the front of the boat. The permission was given to me and that is where I firmly remained for the rest of the journey, even though the spot had no shade.
By now I have been in the backwaters in a houseboat, canoe and a kayak (on a previous trip). Each has its own advantages but then that is the topic of a separate post. A canoe can get into narrower water channels than a houseboat but a houseboat offers luxury.
I wonder how the residents of the backwaters feel about the boats of tourists with their cameras? I mean they come to the canal to wash something and their goes a tourist, click! However this bunch of kids had fun and wanted me to click a picture of them splashing about.
A canoe can take you closer to the birds. When you take a trip through the backwaters, do expect to see birds up close. The trouble is that the canoe is always moving and it is difficult to get focus right. This was my first sighting of a Darter.
It is looking at the pictures I realized that the Vembanad Lake is a mirror, it doubles the beauty of the Kerala Backwaters! As it was the monsoons, the greenery was even more startling, if that is possible!
I had visited Alleppey in 2013 but I do not remember seeing so many lotus before. They were such a joy, and the joy was double because of the reflections!
It is more probable on a canoe to catch a duck shaking off water from its body. And if I manage to get a half way decent picture, it is an added bonus. I saw a Kingfisher with a small fish in its beak, but that delight is mine only. The picture is so blurred and bad and I do not dare to share it!
If not a yellow submarine, how about living in a yellow house by the backwaters? I would say it could be the next best thing to the yellow submarine!
By going around in the lake for a few times, I got the feeling that Kumarakom has many resorts. But even then, they are tucked away in various corners. At no point I got a feeling that the place was overrun with resorts!
The most common site on a canoe (or any other) trip are the houseboats. After all there are about 500 in and around Alleppey alone!
While I am was a short canoe trip, people actually live around the backwaters. They have to do many of their daily chores with tourists gliding around! I had a zoom which I was using for most of my photographs. But I was somehow reluctant to point it out at people. I would exchange a smile with them instead!
We took a circular path and I was deposited back in time to have my breakfast at the resort. The good folks had kept refreshments for me in the canoe but I truly didn’t budge from the front of the boat for the while trip! My eyes were glues to the camera and the scenery. The trip was soothing to the eyes. The fresh air did wonders for my appetite.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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