Saturday, 17 January 2015

Kumarakom - Best Backwater resort in India

The state of Kerala is endowed with such tremendous natural beauty that tourists are constantly attracted to it. There are so many towns and interesting tourist destinations that tourists are spoilt for options. One such destination is Kumarakom. It is a famous tourism destination not far from the city of Kotayam which is just 16 km away. Kumarakom is well known for its backwater tourism. All this backwater tourism is set up in the backdrop of the Vembanad Lake which is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the country and the largest in Kerala. Kumarakom village basically consists of a group of small islands on the Vembanad Lake. It is part of the Kuttanad region. The Kumarakom bird sanctuary is the favourite haunt of migratory birds. Ornithologists will just love to spend time in the bird sanctuary. It is spread across 14 acres and is home to a number of avian species such as Egrets, darters, herons, teals, waterfowls, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian Stork. These birds flock the sanctuary during season and tourists are especially fascinated to watch these birds.

Kumarakom is also home to a diverse species of flora and fauna. Apart from the bird sanctuary, there are other places of interest too. The Vembanad Lake is home to many marine and freshwater fish species. It is teeming with life and species such as Pearlspot, known as Karimeen locally, and shrimp are found here in abundance. The bird sanctuary and the Vembanad lake make Kumarakom a very beautiful place and a major tourist destination. The climate in Kumarakom is balanced and tropical. Both the south west and the north east monsoons bring rains to the region. The weather is conducive for tourists throughout the year, although some might not prefer the rainy months.

The mainstay of the local economy is fishing, agriculture and tourism. The balanced climate of Kumarakom is conducive to cultivation. The place has abundance of mangrove forests, coconut groves and paddy fields. Fruits like Banana, Mango, Tamarind, Jackfruit, Ambazhanga, Chaambenga, Peraycka, Aathaycka and Pineapple grow here in abundance. Coffee and cocoa plantations too are found here. Yam and colocasia are cultivated too. The canals of Meenachi River and the interspersed waterways are tapped for irrigation. The construction of the Thanneermukkam bund has ensured that connection between the backwaters and the sea is cut off. So the tidal movement of the water in the canals has stopped and it is not as salty as it used to be in the olden days when the water in canal moved in and out with the sea water. Since the waters are pretty much stagnant these days, it has caused the growth of water hyacinths forming a beautiful green carpet studded with lilac flowers.

Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are the religions practiced in Kumarakom. There a number of churches, temples and also a Jumma masjid in the town. Fish is a staple food in Kumarakom as in most parts of Kerala. Small boats called vallam and gill nets are used for fishing. The most sought after varieties of fish in the region are the black clam, Pearl spot and shrimps. Tourists can even get a boat ride on these fishing boats. Especially honeymoon couples will love these boating trips.

Kumarakom is world famous for its boat races and houseboats. There are a wide variety of houseboats and the place is renowned the world over for the top notch house boat experience on offer. Most of the houseboats are used for tourists these days but special boats known as Kettuvallam is used by the locals to go fishing or to transport goods. Most of the tourism in Kumarakom mainly revolves around the backwaters of the Vembanad Lake. There are several luxury and budget resorts lined up on the shores of the lake. These resorts provide tourists with facilities for boating, yachting and fishing. Such trips offer tourists with panoramic views of the lake. The Bird Sanctuary can also be approached by water by use of canoes. These trips are carried out by local fishermen at the entrance of the sanctuary. Dawn and dusk are the best time to visit the sanctuary. Even though the bird sanctuary timings are between 6 AM and 6 PM, its best to avoid the afternoon sun.

The annual Kumarakom boat race attracts millions of tourists from across the country and around the world. The boat race happens around Onam festivities. Over one thousand oarsmen in boats of all sizes and shapes participate in the event. The most sought after race is the Iruttukuthi in which 50 oarsmen row each boat during a race. The races are conducted in the canal near the central market place. All these races are contested in order to win the Sree Narayana Ever Rolling Trophy. The Taj Garden Retreat, the biggest and most modern tourist resort in Kumarakom is set up in a Victorian two storied bungalow which was built by Alfred George Baker in the year 1881. It is built on huge pieces of Teak rafters. The bungalow was the house of the Baker family for four generations spanning over a 100 years. The bungalow along with the bird sanctuary and the lake are places of interest for tourists from all over the world. The Bungalow still has a grand, imposing presence and is a silent reminder of an age gone by. Its design and architecture are simply spellbinding. Kumarakom has recently been declared as a special tourism zone (STZ). Tourists will just love spending a few days in Kumarakom. An enchanting backwater destination that Kumarakom is, it offers tourists many other leisure options. Apart from the premises of the lake, boating and fishing facilities are also available at the Taj Garden Retreat. Then there is also Waterscapes, a backwater resort developed by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). Waterscapes has independent cottages built on stilts and it is set amidst coconut groves and offers panoramic views of the backwaters.  Holiday packages involving houseboats and traditional Kettuvalloms (rice barges) offer great experiences and tourists, especially honeymoon couples should make use of such packages.

Kumarakom is accessible by road from Kottayyam which is 16 km away. The nearest airport is the Cochin International airport which is 94 km away. Kottayyam is also the nearest rail head which is just 13 km away. There is also a waterway leading to Kumarakom from Alappuzha. Intercity bus services are abundant and a ride from Kottayyam to Kumarakom should take about half an hour. Pre paid cabs can be hired from the Cochin Airport. The awesome beauty and tremendous landscape of Kumarakom are just hard to describe in words. Such beauty must be experienced in person. Anybody visiting Kerala should definitely include Kumarakom in their itinerary.

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