Watertravel & Waterside Destinations
Kettuvallams are moored, waiting to take passengers on backwater cruises.
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Kettuvallams are moored, waiting to take passengers on backwater cruises.

Kettuvallam Cruise in Kerala Backwater

It’s common to hear a kettuvallam called a “rice boat.” In fact, many of those you’ll see in the Kerala backwater are working boats hauling copra and other commodities.

The elder boatman had an idea which led to Kerala's Kettuvallam Cruises.

The genesis of kettuvallams such as are pictured here, so I heard, is that one elder boatman had three daughters reaching marriageable age at about the same time. He was pressed for cash. Then the idea came to him that hauling passengers might be more profitable than hauling goods. He suggested the idea to the people at Tourindia’s office in Thiruvananthapuram — the name which replaced the city’s more easily pronounceable old one, Trivandrum. They liked it and the backwater cruise was born.

Kettuvallams such as this one are outfitted with a head and berth, as well as side panels that open to make an awning. The experience of drifting lazily along — that is, lazily from the passenger’s point of view; the boatmenKettuvallams such as this one are outfitted with a head and berth.put a lot of umph into the poling — has to be one of the world’s most enjoyable travel experiences. In the quiet of the placid backwater, while the sky makes its quick tropical transition from blue to copper to red, it’s easy to forget that you’re not far from a launch site for India’s budding space program.

View of backwater lake in Kerala from undr the awning of a kettuvallam

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Copyright Don Douglas