you ever gone houseboat cruising on the backwaters of Kerala? If you
haven’t, make sure you do. This one’s really an absolutely
wonderful, unforgettable experience!
The houseboats of today - huge, slow moving, exotic barge used for
leisure trips - are the reworked kettuvalloms of olden times. The
original kettuvalloms were used to carry tonnes of rice and spices -
a standard kettuvallom can hold up to 30 tonnes - from Kuttanad to
the Kochi port.
kettuvallam or ‘boat with knots’- was so called because the entire
boat was held together with coir knots only - not even a single nail
is used during the construction. The boat is made of planks of
jack-wood joined together with coir. This is then coated with a
caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. With careful
maintenance, a kettuvallom can last for generations.
A portion of the kettuvallom was covered with bamboo and coir to
serve as a restroom and kitchen for the crew. Meals would be cooked
on board and supplemented with fresh fish from the backwaters.
Today, the tradition is still continued and the food from the local
cuisine is served by the Kuttanad localites, on board.
the modern trucks replaced this system of transport, some one found
a new way that would keep these boats, almost all of which were more
than 100 years old, in the market. By constructing special rooms to
accommodate travelers, these boats cruised forward from near-
extinction to enjoy their present great popularity.
Now these are a familiar sight on the backwaters and in Alleppey
alone, there are as many as 120 houseboats. While converting
kettuvallams into houseboats, care is taken to use only natural
products. Bamboo mats, sticks and wood of the aracanut tree are used
for roofing, coir mats and wooden planks for the flooring and wood
of coconut trees and coir for beds. For lighting though, solar
panels are used.
the houseboats have all the creature comforts of a good hotel
including furnished bedrooms, modern toilets, cozy living rooms, a
kitchen and even a balcony for angling. Parts of the curved roof of
wood or plaited palm open out to provide shade and allow
uninterrupted views. While most boats are poled by local oarsmen,
some are powered by a 40 HP engine. Boat-trains - formed by joining
two or more houseboats together - are also used by large groups of
What is truly magical about a houseboat ride is the breathtaking
view of the untouched and otherwise inaccessible rural Kerala that
it offers - while you float! Now, wouldn’t that be something?