The continous chain of palm fringed backwaters (large lakes) that run parallel to the sea coast is a pride of Kerala. It is a vast network of lakes, lagoons, canals and rivers. The lakes are separated from the sea by a broad or narrow strip of land and are connectd to the sea by permanent openings called "azhis". Kodungallor, Kochi, Neendakara etc. are important azhis which developed into harbours. Due to there connection with the sea the back waters experience the tides of the sea so that the water level rythmically goes up and down twice every day.
The back waters are an integral part of the lowland life. It is a water world and presents magical scenes all over. Mostly on either side of the open lake is a system of canals with narrow, palm fringed strips of domestic holdings among them. The only way of communication and contact with the outside world for the people there is through the water. Most of the families have small canoes in which the children go to school and the elders go for drinking water and to the market.
The backwaters are of brisk activity: large canoes with boisterons children going to school or clamouring workers going for their works, large cargo boats drifting leisurely with their sails spread, women buried neck deep under water catching prawns an d fishes and the banks throbbing with activities in coir industries or "Kopra Kalams" (Places where coconut is dried). The serene and seductive landscape with the placid water, the coconut palms and Chinese nets poised above the water : all will engrave lasting memories in the minds.
A cruise through the backwaters is the best way to enjoy it. A wide range of boats are available. Large mechanised boats, exclusively designed house boats (where cruise, food and stay can be arranged) speed boats and tiny country crafts (locally known as Valloms) may be hired.
The backwater cruise will take one through the palm fringed lakes, rustic villages, long stretches of lush green paddy fields, Chinese fishing nets, shady canals, coir (coconut fibre use to makes ropes, carpets etc) manufacturing centres, cashew markets and fishing villages.
Farming of paddy in the backwaters presents a wonder in agriculture. Huge bunds of mud are raised around a very large area (hundreds of hectors). Water is pumped out from there. Many huge pumps are employed continuously until the land is exposed. The paddy is sown. Pumping the water out is a continuous process until the paddy is reaped. People of Kuttanadu owed to Joseph Murickan for initiating this sort of farming in the first half of the last century.
The heart of the backwater land is Allappuzha (Alleppey) known popularly as the “Venice of the East”.
Snake boat race is a water regatta unique to Kerala. This is considered to be the largest group event in the world. Each boat is 100 ft long and carriers over 120 oarsmen and singers. The boat races will take you to the age of ancient naval warfare which these water crafts trace back its origin to. It is a show of breathtaking strength, rhythem, shouting and singing. Thousands who throng the banks add colour to the event.
Kuttanad is popularly known as the “rice bowl of Kerala”. This is one of the few places in the world where farming is done below sea level. The backwaters or in land waterways flow above the land level and it is an amazing feature of the backwater land. During rains the fertile top soil and minerals from high lands get deposited in these low lying areas and make it one of the most fertile parts of Kerala.
Extensive areas are reclaimed from Backwaters and protected by walls built arount it. This is one of the wonders of the indigenous agricultural know how of Kerala. Cultivation is done 4 to 10 feet below sea level. A leisure trip in local country crafts, motor boats or houseboats around these regions is a memorable experience.
Alumkadavu can be best discribed as the house boat building centre of Kerala. The houseboats or Kettuvallams were used as vessels to carry rice in olden days but now-a-days they are transformed into luxery house boats for tourists. One can see the different stages of house boat building here.
Pathiramanal (sands of Midnight) is a small island in the middle of the backwaters. This is a favourite haunting ground for rare migratory birds from all around the world.
This little backwater village has shot up to glory because of its enchanting backwaters, intricate canal networks, mangrove forests, emerald green paddyfields and coconut groves. Traditional country crafts, houseboats and canoes will take one through the h eart of this little waterworld. Kumarakam houses some of the excellent resorts which provide comfortable accommodation, Ayurvedic massages, yoga, meditation, boating, fishing and swimming facilities.