The Keralan Backwaters Experience

The Kerala backwaters are canals, rivers, and lagoons all connected together over a huge area.

The Backwater Experience

house boat

house boat

More than two thousand kettavallams or houseboats travel the backwaters. They used to be grain barges transporting rice but have been converted into comfortable house boats fr tourist use. They have motors and travel at about seven knots an hour.  This is a fantastic experience. You see real rural life, children playing, women doing the washing , and men –  well not doing much! We also took a canoe ride along some of the smaller channels in this unique eco- system. Here there are small mammals and water birds along with frogs and crabs to be seen.

We had a cook, not a very good one, our festive dinner was a slightly singed flat fish but the fun of the day outweighed the dodgy culinary experience!


This island village in the backwaters makes its money from showing tourists the rural way of life. It does it very well , they are genuinely welcoming and you don’t feel, as you so often do, that they are going through the motions to put on a show.


On a particularly hot and humid night we saw a kathkali show. This is a traditional south west Indian dance. It uses elaborate costumes, face masks and make up.

. There are one hundred and one traditional stories that last for hours but there are shortened versions for tourists. The actors are traditionally male and use controlled eye and hand movements to tell their story, The facial expressions or rasas are all learnt as are the murdas or hand movements.  We sat and watched a very ordinary looking small Indian man apply make up on stage to turn himself into and amazing creature. The colour of his make up tells you about the character. Basically the good guy is green and the bad guy is red. The yellow guy is gentle and the black one is aggressive. This dance drama tells you a story. You get a leaflet to explain but  doesn’t matter that you can’t understand it. It is beautiful and dramatic.