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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

Cruising Alleppey’s backwaters by traditional house boat

Staying on a houseboat has become a rite of passage …

By Ambily Jayakrishan
General Manager at Lakes and Lagoons

Since Alleppey’s dawn, houseboats have been synonymous with its beautiful backwaters. These rice barges, known locally as kettuvallam, are constructed using wooden planks, and made into a curvaceous shape with coir (strong and thick natural fibre) woven in the area. In the old days kettuvallam were used to transport produce like rice and spices from one village to another. They’re so integral to the area’s history and culture that staying on a houseboat has become a rite of passage for any visitor even if it’s just for one night.

My fleet of 25 houseboats range from one to four rooms and vary in style. In the old days, you had to punt, but now the boats are motorised so you can cover more ground quicker – although if you want to explore the smaller inland canals by wooden canoe we can certainly arrange that. Those narrow passages are particularly beautiful when the hyacinths are in bloom. You see all these purple colours sprouting from the carpets of thick green.

All the guides, like me, are from Alleppey so know all the places of interest. As you float down the many rivers, lakes and lagoons you’ll see people fishing from the banks, tending to their prawn nets and climbing the palm trees to hack at the palm hearts for toddy. It’s been like this for hundreds of years. You’ll also be astounded by the amount of migratory birds you’ll see. Their presence as they flit through the skies adds to the area’s natural vibrancy.

We have an onboard chef working from a menu that’s typically Keralan. Pearl spot fried fish is a favourite of mine, flavoured with numerous spices, as are the fish curries using the freshest fish and locally grown vegetables – simple but delicious. There’s nothing quite like eating lunch watching the palms roll by and the sun bouncing off the water. It’s easy to see why we call this God’s own country.


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Alfred & Ambily Jayakrishan

A native of Alleppey, Ambily is passionate about her job. She joined as Front Office Manager, then worked her way to the upper management position she holds today. She has developed a well-trained team mostly from the backwater villages who help guests discover their serene home. Striving to create the best travel experiences – word of mouth being her favoured marketing tool – Ambily absolutely loves meeting people from around the world.