All aboard the Karma Houseboats
At Karma Kerala we are simply Kettuvalom Krazy
A Kerala houseboat cruise is a wonderful, if not the perfect way to experience and see the famed Kerala backwaters. The backwaters stretch from the North of Kerala right the way down to Kollam in the south of the state and are a connected set of waterways, rivers, canals and lakes. Much of the backwaters is not navigable however, so for most people the backwaters is that stretch of water that runs from Vembanad lake to the south of Cochin down towards Kollam with its heart in Alappuzha (Alleppey)
The classic houseboat cruise features an overnight stay aboard and, starting from Alappuzha or Kumarakom at the southern tip of Vembanad, navigates through the rice paddies and canals that run south towards Kollam. This area of Kerala has few roads and is serviced by waterborne taxis and buses that putter and chug their way round the villages and settlements that cling to the edge of emerald green paddy field blocs.
Although life in these villages has changed a great deal in the past twenty years, there is still something timeless about the way people carry on their business in their narrow houses facing the waterfront. It is still common to see locals using the canal waters as hair salon, dishwasher and bath. The slap, slap, slap of clothes being washed and pummeled against stone is common. The cry of the fish seller paddling along canals announcing his wares is as common as the cry of the birds. Old men still sit beside the canals engaged in the customary fierce Kerala political debate.
Our Kerala Houseboat Cruises
We offer a range of different cruises to suit different visitors. We can arrange anything from a simple day cruise through to longer overnight cruises. Our boats range from romantic single cabin traditional Kerala houseboats through to larger group boats with up to 6 cabins that can sleep 12 adults. Generally, our cruises start from Alappuzha or Kumarakom, but we can also start from Kollam in the far south or in north Kerala.
Our favourite cruises combine some of the lakes and then potter around the canals mosying our way around the villages and farm of the backwaters interior.
A Typical Kerala Houseboat
Almost all Kerala houseboats (the Kettuvallom is the traditional name for them) are based on old rice boats that were really barges that transported the rice from the inland rice paddies (the Kuttanad) to the coastal port of Alappuzha (Aleppey) from where it travelled to Arabia and beyond. They were punted across the waters and sometimes had a small sail to help keep them moving. They were covered in a palm thatch to protect the rice from sun and damp. Today's rice boats have retained their distinctive shape which always reminds me of a large snail. This distinctive shape is unique to the Kerala boats and gives them a great charm as well as being very practical for visitors aboard since they make the most of the spacious breadth of the design.
In layout, all boats tend to be the same except for the largest boats. The captain sits in the bows (front) of the boat where he steers. Immediately astern (behind) him is a day cabin with day bed and comfortable seating. This adjoins the dining area. In some boats there is a private balcony/bridge above the day cabin where guests can sit and look down on the waterways as they cruise along. Beyond the dining area are the cabins which combine a sleeping cabin with an ensuite shower room and lavatory. At the stern is the boat's galley (kitchen) and crew sleeping quarters. Facilities vary from boat to boat: some are very luxurious with AC throughout, TVs in the cabins. Others are more plain with only AC in the cabins and an open day cabin. We can arrange according to your preferences.
A typical day aboard a Kettuvallom Houseboat
Days vary but a typical day on a more extended cruise starts with breakfast moored beside a canal. Our breakfasts are cooked aboard the boat and feature a combination of traditional Kerala breakfast like Putu as well as omelettes, toast, juice, tea and coffee. After breakfast, we set off and cruise, stopping to see interesting things and also wander around. We moor again at lunchtime which features a range of local dishes that are usually vegetarian, fish and meat dishes with the sticky local Kuttanad short grain rice.
After lunch, we set sail once again and continue our exploring with you lying across the day bed, watching the world go by. We travel at a very sedate pace of a few knots which gives you a lot of time to see what is happening. If you are like us, you may find yourselves snoozing in the heat of the afternoon sun: the combination of the gentle rocking and the distant growl of the engine in the rear is soporific in the extreme. As the light begins to drop, we moor for an early evening drink and supper. Houseboats cannot cruise at night as the locals set fishing nets across the canals and open waters which would be destroyed by the propellers. After dinner, which is cooked aboard again and has a similar feeling to lunch you can sit and chat, read or simply take in the quiet before retiring to your cabin for what we hope will be a very good night's sleep! Sweet dreams!
Do You Share the Boat?
We do not offer shared boats. Each boat is for you and your party alone. We think it is both safer and more fun.
Do you serve alcohol?
No. Kerala law forbids the sale of alcohol. However, you can bring your own and make up your own cocktails. We recommend a dark rum or bacardi which is an ideal sundowner when combined with freshly pulped pineapple. The alternative is a mix of Bacardi in a sweet coconut and drunk through a straw.
How do we meet the houseboat?
We can arrange transfers for you if you are coming from the city. You can make your own way. If you are staying in the backwaters, we can come and meet you. Talk to us about your requirements.
Food aboard the Boat
We serve freshly cooked Kerala food on the boat that is cooked in the galley (kitchen) for you. We can serve veg and jain-veg if required. Otherwise the food is a combination of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes complemented by the fat local Kerala rice that is grown in the backwaters and is different from traditional Basmati rice.
Many visitors find the prospect of mosquitoes a little bit worrying. The first thing to know is that the backwaters are nothing like as bad as you expect as the presence of so many fish, frogs, birds all preeying on mosquitoes really manages their numbers. At night, we tend to use AC in the rooms and mosquito spray as well as coils on the open decks to keep them away.
What Makes the Karma Approach Different?
What you See is What You get!
A study of many online booking sites will show you that something funny is going on with boats being advertised that look the same as others but have different descriptions. What is going on, you might ask: basically what you see is not what you get. They are advertising using multiple boat images and then getting one after booking! We show you pictures of the actual boat we are booking for you!
We have selected what we think are the best houseboats in the fleet and ignored all the houseboats we think are not up to scratch.