Kerala diaries 1: A day on a houseboat

If any place that we visit has houseboats, you can be assured that the OH and I will grab a chance to stay on one. We love houseboats that much, and why shouldn’t we, with them being as pretty as they are? Staying on a houseboat is an experience in itself, one that we love indulging in time and time again. This time around, when we visited Kerala, we took the opportunity to stay on a houseboat for a day, again.

The houseboats in Kerala are very different from those in Kashmir, in the sense that the former are quite simple while the latter are elaborate and grand. Keralite houseboats are made of the parts of a coconut tree, while the ones in Kashmir are largely made out of walnut wood, with beautiful carvings and classic, royal furniture. Also, while the houseboats in Kashmir are stationary, the ones in Kerala plow on the waters, taking you to the interior of the lakes, making your stay a thoroughly memorable affair.

We decided to take a houseboat plying on Lake Vembanad in Kumarakom, instead of going to Alleppey. What with the heavy rains in Kerala, it is now off-season. There were hardly any tourists, which translated into hardly any houseboats moving in the lake.

I am always in awe of how an entire house – including a sitting room, two bedrooms and a kitchen – have been constructed atop a boat, and this time was no different. The minute we checked into the houseboat, I spent some time leisurely roaming through the rooms and admiring them. These houseboats are equipped with all modern conveniences, including aircon, television and DVD player. The only source of power is a generator, though, which is usually switched on only late in the evenings, to ensure that the boat does not face a short supply during the night.

Each houseboat comes with a crew including a captain, a couple of cooks and a helper. We were lucky to have two awesome cooks on board, and they cooked some lovely food for us. The one day that we stayed on the houseboat, we were in nature heaven as well as foodie bliss.

If Kerala is God’s own country, I would say Kumarakom is the lap of God. Whichever way you look, the view is gorgeous. Our captain took us to some beautiful parts of the lake, filled with greenery (not that Kerala lacks in greenery in any part!). It was such a treat for our city-jaded eyes!

In the middle of the lake, there is no sound except the chirping of birds and the lapping of the waves against your boat. Music of an entirely different level altogether! I cannot describe the feeling of peace that one feels at this stage – you have to experience it to know what it is.

We got to see some beautiful birds during our cruise. This black one especially charmed us with his antics – dashing into the water at full speed, disappearing inside for a full 10 minutes, then resurfacing and drying out his wings thoroughly sitting on top of a post, only to dunk himself into the water again!

Once it begins to darken, the houseboats are moored for the night. You can choose to get down and explore the stretches of green in the villages next to which they are usually moored. We did just that, and had a lovely time.

Small waves gently rock the houseboat through the night, and the lapping of the water against the boat lulls you into a sound sleep. Nature’s own lullaby for her children!

You can imagine what we would have felt to wake up to a sight like this… πŸ™‚

The next day, the houseboat again begins its cruise. Now, you can see fishermen on their daily rounds, searching for the bounty of the waters. Most of them wave cheerily to you as you pass by.

As always, I grew sad as the cruise came to an end and it was time for us to move on. Only the promise of another ride, as soon as possible, from the OH could cheer me up. πŸ™‚


55 thoughts on “Kerala diaries 1: A day on a houseboat

  1. Hi .. Could you please give me some guidance on a good place of stay and a reliable houseboat operator? We are planning a trip for the end of December and some tips would be of great help. Thanks!


    1. @Aarthy

      There are LOADS of houseboats plying on Lake Vembanad, and as far as I know, all of them are good. They are all reliable, because they are governed by an association. You could ask the hotel you book to get you a reservation with a houseboat guy. They usually have references.


  2. These are some lovely pics! If I remember correctly, you had a houseboat experience in Kashmir too, didn’t you? If my memory functions correctly, can you tell me how the both experiences compare with each other?

    Kerala has always been in my list. Someday…


    1. @Dreamer

      Hope you get to go to Kerala soon. πŸ™‚

      Yes, we stayed on a houseboat in Kashmir, too. I have linked to that blog post here. Do take a look.

      The houseboat experiences in Kashmir and Kerala are very different from each other. I have written about that, too, in the post.


      1. In Kathmandu. 7 hours drive from here is the one of the best lake in Nepal – Fewa Lake in Pokhara. Sure it reflects the majestic Annapurnas but we do lack the houseboats.


      1. Yeah – I’d gone on a trip with a big crowd of my cousins. We didn’t stay overnight, but it was an entire day’s trip in the backwaters of Alleppey. Incredibly memorable and incredibly beautiful πŸ™‚


  3. The way you write your travel stories, after reading them I am left with plotting and planning my vacations πŸ™‚

    Never stayed in a houseboat till date, not sure if the owners will take a bunch of hyperactive and screaming kids inside their immaculate moving homes πŸ˜‰


  4. I want to so go on ah ouseboat TGND ! I passed up an opportunity to stay on one for a week, a couple of years back. K and I are planning Kerala as well. Beautiful pictures! And to wake up to this, wow! How many days can you stay on a houseboat? Is there a limit/ does it depend on the journey? If you wish to just keep wading through the waters, can we extend our stay?


    1. @Kismi

      Hope you get the opportunity to stay on a houseboat soon! πŸ™‚

      You passed on a chance to stay on a houseboat for a week!! 😦

      You can stay on a houseboat for as long as you want to. As long as you pay for your stay, it doesn’t matter to the owners how long you stay put. πŸ™‚ It is just like staying in a hotel – just that this is a moving accomodation. However, I would really not recommend doing it for more than a day, considering that there is no power on a houseboat except for the nights when the generator is switched on. Also, sometimes, water supply on a houseboat is not adequate or the water is not clean, making it difficult to take baths or even brush your teeth. So, a day – or a maximum of two days – should be good, for the experience.


      1. Thanks for that TGND !

        Yeah about 3 years back, a gang of guy-cousins stayed for 5 nights and absolutely made use of every opportunity to show off.

        I will take your suggestions πŸ™‚


  5. Oooh…I’m drooling over these pics. I have to get some tips from u for October when we go to kerala :)) I’ve never been in a houseboat either.


    1. @Aparna

      Oh, then you should definitely stay on a houseboat this time. October will be tourist season in Kerala, I am guessing, so you will meet a lot of other houseboats while you are cruising. πŸ™‚


      1. we went and came back!!! fortunately, hardly any tourists which was really nice…….post coming up πŸ™‚


  6. We were traveling with 11 students so we just did the 4 hour boat ride, but we saw the wonderful houseboats. I hope to do that another time, if we are so fortunate to return. Check-out my blog on the 4 months we were in incredible India… Namaste…..Anne


  7. Do I even need to say anything except sigh ?

    Btw, another snippet – these kind of boats were originally used to transport cargo, before all these places got connected by roads. Can you imagine, four wheelers started reaching our house just about less than 10 years ago?


  8. It all sounds so very magical. I’ve never been on a house boat. It has been on my list for ages, but has been on of those elusive things. Your travelogue just makes me yearn!

    And lovely pictures, as usual! I especially loved the way you have captured the bird!


    1. @Smitha

      Staying on a houseboat is, according to me, a must-do thing before one kicks the bucket. πŸ™‚ Hope you get to do it soon!

      BTW, have heard of a lot of places overseas that also have houseboats. Why don’t you try out some such place there?

      Thank you so much, Smitha! πŸ™‚


  9. hey, that’s so cool. Lucky u! I would love to be in the house boat, lying on the bed and listening to the sound of water splash as waves rock the boat. Hows the feeling like?


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