Kerala Backwaters & Houseboat Information.
When there was no road interconnecting different part of Kerala especially Alleppey, Kumarakom and other places which are surrounded by canals and rivers then the only option of transporting goods and materials from one place to another place is by big wooden boats. These big wooden boats are famously known as Kettuvallams. In Malayalam language Kettu means Knot and Vallam means Boat. These boats were constructed by joining special wooden plackets side by side by coir. These big kettuvallams are manned & driven by two or three people with long bamboo poles who also used to live in the boat when traveling from one place to another place. They used to cook their own foods in the boat and have a place to sleep in the night.
When there were road constructed in the low lying areas and people used to travel by road and these goods and materials is being transported by road then these big boats become idle. At the same time Kerala tourism was also growing and there was plenty of opportunity. By the initiative of Govt and some private parties, these boats were modernized and become houseboats.
But a time come when most of these wooden boats got transformed into Houseboats, need arise to construct boats for houseboats. Due to its huge expenditure for annual maintenance, alternative options like steel boats and fiber boats are become common.
Due to overcrowding of houseboats in Aleppey and Vembanadu Lake, the Govt has put a cap on new constructed houseboats from 01 Jan 2015. No body will be allowed to construct and operate new boats in Aleppey or Vembanadu Lake from 01 Jan 2015.
Facilities in kerala Backwater Houseboats.
Houseboats are just like a home. Basic facilities in a houseboat includes a master bed room with attached bathroom, a lobby where one can relax, fully equipped kitchen with 3 assistants (1 cook, 1 driver and 1 helper) entirely for just the occupants of the boats. Authentic Kerala food is being prepared and provided for the guests.
All the houseboats are equipped with music system, DVD with in house movies, play items like Chess, Carom board, fishing rods etc.
There are also modern houseboats which have running hot water, Jacuzi, bath tub etc. These will cost more on usual prices.
What makes Houseboats so attractive?
Unlike hotels, where the guest is staying and taking their taxi for sightseeing, once a guest is checked in houseboat at 12pm, it makes a cruise through the backwaters, canals and rivers. One can experience the greenery on the both side of the canal or river, how the people live, how they use the river and canals in their daily life, fleet of ducks, green paddy fields, and local product selling cannoning boats – all these make a new experience for the guests.
Houseboats become an unavoidable part of Kerala tour packages because this houseboat experience is beyond imagination. This is one of the best places where guests can relax and make sightseeing and learn about Kerala culture.
General Information of Houseboats
Here are some general information regarding Kerala Houseboats which including Houseboat license details & other government rules for Kerala Houseboats.
Houseboat License & Insurance
Houseboat license and periodical inspection is being carried out by officials of Kerala Ports. They inspect the boat every year and issue fitness certificate. To issue fitness certificate, the boat should have obtained a valid certificate from pollution control board, insurance which covers boat, passengers and staff etc.
Classification of houseboats.
Since after the houseboat holidays become most sought after destination among international and domestic guests visiting Kerala, the number of houseboat operated in Kerala backwater increased dramatically. All the houseboats owned and operated in the backwaters are private ltd companies or individual owners. To ensure quality, Govt has implemented some basic criteria so that certain standard of the boats should maintain. During the yr 2000 the Govt has classified the houseboat basically into two classes. Gold star and Silver star (basic category). The proposal could not improve much on the standards as the conditions put forward by the Govt was basic and the new generation boats was much better than what the Govt asked to maintain. Just for example, one of the condition to get Gold Star is “minimum width of the bed room should be 7ft. The new generation houseboat bed room size is minimum 2ft width. At present the classification of the houseboats are not mandatory to get license.
Now days the ownership of respective companies or group make their own classification making Deluxe, Luxury, and Premium etc. In some companies the basic category is Deluxe, then premium and high end is branded as Luxury.
Hoseboat Trip Time, Check in and Check out time.
Generally, Houseboat check in time is 12 P.M and check out is next day 09:00 Hrs. Some agencies allow check out at 09:30 Hrs. The check in and check out time is strictly maintained due to every day booking of boats. Since most of the booking of houseboats is exclusive private boats, the boat is supposed to be ready for check in at 12 P.M for the guests. In case of delayed checkout of previous guests, further check in will be delayed, and this may lead to complaints. Therefore, late check out from houseboat will not be allowed by respective agencies.
Houseboat cruise time is from 12:00 Hrs to 17:30 Hrs with 1 hr lunch break. The boat will be hankered or stationary from 17:30 Hrs till next day 07:30 Hrs. Next day it starts at 07:30 Hrs and stop at 09:00 Hrs. There may be 30 minutes plus and minus depend upon different houseboat agencies.
Why the Houseboat stop at 17:30 Hrs?
There are many people living on the banks of Vembanadu Lake, Alleppey canals and backwaters who depend on fishing for their livelihood. These fishermen are allowed to spread their fishing nets around the time of sunset and remove the same from the water by next day early morning. In case if the houseboat is operated, the fishing nets will be damaged which make huge loss for the poor fisherman community. There are instances where the fisherman asks for compensation which goes upto Rs 20000. Since the houseboat owners are not ready to give the compensation, Govt had imposed strict regulation for operational timing of houseboats.
Why ac not working during day time?
The houseboat is built in such a way that the guests should enjoy the stay, and enjoy the natural beauty of the backwaters of Kerala. As mentioned earlier, the houseboat has a lobby in front of the boat which is having relaxing chairs, sun deck and a dining table. When the houseboat makes a cruise from 12:00 Hrs to 17:30 Hrs, this is the only time the guest can enjoy & feel the natural beauty of Kerala backwaters. When it stops at 17:30 Hrs or 18:00 Hrs, the guest does not have more options except to use the bed room, watch a movie etc. Since most of the time the guest is sitting in the lobby and watching the scenic beauty of Kerala backwaters, AC is being provided in the bed room after the dinner. This is the procedure adopts by all the boats. There are few exceptions on this which is given below.
Since there are more requirements for good boats and facility by the guests, some of the agencies started constructing modern houseboats which have partial or full glass cover in the lobby. This partial or full glass cover in the lobby can provide full time air conditioning. These kind of boats will also protect from insects and mosquito after the sun set. Some of the agencies are also branding their boats are premium and giving full time ac in the bed room. But guests who are looking for a full time ac houseboat should ensure that the boat is fully glass covered. It is not worth to take a boat which is charging money for full time ac and ac is being provided in the bed room.
Very recently some of the travel agents and houseboat agencies are providing sharing houseboat to reduce the cost. Even some of the travel agents are not mentioning the same and the guest only knows when check in only they came to know that they got a sharing houseboat. We strongly recommend taking a private boat rather than going for sharing to save some money. Main problems about sharing boats are below when 3 different couples are being offered a houseboat with 3 bed rooms on sharing.
- Lobby in the houseboat is the main area guests used to sit and have relaxing sightseeing. Most of the houseboats dining table is also placed in the lobby which is being used by the guests. In this case, one lobby and dining table is being shared by unknown three different couples. Naturally there will be a problem since three unknown couples sharing a common dining table.
- Proper check in is a problem. Suppose one couple is staying in Alleppey and he is ready for check in at 12 P.M, but other one couple is coming from Kovalam and reaching at 13:00 Hrs only. In this case the boat start at 12 P.M, cruise for 40 mins and then come back to jetty to receive the guest at 13:00 Hrs. In case the third couple is coming from Munnar and he got delayed and reaching only at 15:00 Hrs, then either the boat need to wait till 15:00 Hrs or make some sightseeing and come back to jetty to receive other couple. The ultimate result is loss of sightseeing.
- Security problems. Since these different couples joining together for an overnight stay, in case of any theft or any other problem faced by the guests, the boat staff may not be able to interfere.
Cheapest Houseboat in Kerala
There is no such houseboat called cheapest houseboats. To operate a houseboat it needs huge expense like diesel, petrol for generator, salary and allowance for three staff on board etc. A houseboat needs an annual maintenance of minimum 1.5 lakhs depend on the size of the boat. Therefore, if any agency offering a cheapest houseboat, or claim to have “best rate”, the guest should know that he will be compromising on the below.
- Cruise by houseboat. The boat operators used to drive the boat very slowly to reduce the diesel consumption. It does really affect the cruise route and sightseeing.
- It stops for more than 2hrs in the pretext of lunch break.
- No filtered water is being provided in the boat. Except cooking, water for all other purpose is being used from the lake or canal itself.
- It stops some unauthorized place to take power for the boat.
- Qualities of bed sheets, pillow, maintenance of boat etc are all compromised.
- No quilt with bed covers in bed room. Just one blanket is being provided for repeated guests.
- No toiletries provided in the washroom.
- Just one towel is provided for a couple.
SreesTours, a local travel agent in Kumarakom provides very good houseboat with excellent service with very competitive prices.