As urban life gets more and more centered around itself, city dwellers are increasingly taking off on nature trips to keep in touch with their inner selves. The soothing colors of greenery and the gentle music of moving water are Mother Nature’s natural healers.
Not to be missed are Kerala’s enchanting backwaters as one of nature-lovers best locations. This breathtakingly beautiful destination offers nature at its best. What makes the backwaters so enchanting is the amazing network of lakes, lagoons, rivers, canals and estuaries that stretch to almost the entire length of Kerala state. The backwaters date back over the centuries and were once the state’s highways for transporting coconut, rice, rubber and spices. A cruise through the backwaters is not to be missed as it leaves you rejuvenated and refreshed, as you skim through gentle waters and gaze at the splendid sunsets, swaying palms, lush paddy fields and rustic village life.
Ashtamudi Lake is the most visited backwater and lake visited in the state and should be on your must-see list. It is a large, palm-shaped (sometimes describes as octopus-shaped) water body, and is second in size only to the Vembanad estuary and ecosystem. It has eight branches or channels, and hence its name Ashtamudi , with Ashta meaning eight and mudi meaning coned. Both sides of the lake are covered with dense greenery, coconut groves, swaying palm trees and interspersed with towns and villages. This lake is also known as the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala and is well known for its houseboats and backwater resorts. Kollam is the main city located on the right bank of the lake and is famous for its history as a port city. A number of great hotels can be found in this city, including The Raviz, where you can stay and get royally pampered after a long day spent conversing with Mother Nature. It’s built on an island like structure and provides you with the peace of being away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Kerala is one of the most well-connected states in India, and can be reached by air, rail or road. The international airport is barely 70 km away in Trivandrum.
The Ashtamudi Lake is 16km long and offers one of the most popular and longest backwater cruises in Kerala. There are a variety of boats available to travel in as you enjoy the panoramic views of the numerous islands which dot its silently lapping waters. A slow-moving country boat affords you enough time to savor the view as the boatman gently dips his paddle, sending out rippling rings that shimmer in the sun. Some of these islands are inhabited and offer a great view of untouched rural life at its best. Of over the two dozen islands and islets, Munroe Island and Chavara Thekkumbhagom Island are the more popular among tourists.
Munroe Island, located 27km from Kollam, is framed by the backwaters of Ashtamudi Lake and Kallada River. It is named after Colonel John Munroe, a British Resident of the erstwhile Travancore state who is credited to have integrated several backwater regions by digging artificial channels. The discovery of stone-age tools and megaliths stand testimony to the history of this islands inhabitant.
This island shelters a quaint little village where you can enjoy a drink of fresh tender coconut water that leaves you feeling as if you have just imbibed nectar from the heavens. The local people living here lead a simple life that revolves around their source of livelihood, which is mainly fishing, spice cultivation and coconut and its products. Coir weaving and coir retting are an amazing treat to learn about as you roam the 13.37km island. You also get to watch a variety of birds that fly in with the changing seasons as you soak in the quiet atmosphere. Shutterbugs will have ample opportunity to click away to their hearts content, yet struggle with their cameras as it’s impossible to capture the full essence of island life on film. The people are very warm and loving and you wave away nostalgically to the children as the boatman weaves his oars and leaves the island before the impending dusk.
The lake and its life have inspired many a poet and writer to capture its beauty. And after having spent a day on an inland water cruise to Munroe Island, surely your mind will also come up with a poetic line or two!