Have you heard of Kumarakom? If you are an enthusiastic tourist and if you know something about the tourist spots in India, you must have heard of Kumarakom also. It is in south India, in the state of Kerala. The main attractions here are the backwater expanse and the houseboats that sail through it. Come and relax. There is no place like this in this universe.
God’s Own Country, that is Kerala
Have you ever come to Kerala? If you are interested in experiencing the real beauty of nature, you should come to Kerala. Yes, we Keralites proudly call it the Gods Own Country, which it really is. This state in the southern parts of India is filled with greenery. It is renowned for its rivers, backwaters, beaches, highlands and the lush green foliage that fills everywhere.
Kumarakom, the Most Attractive Place in Kerala
Kumarakom is the most renowned countryside attraction for tourists, in central Kerala. The nearest town to Kumarakom is Kottayam which is about 16 kilometers away. Kumarakom is a beautiful stretch of land projecting into the backwater known as the Vembanad Lake. Coconut palms line the banks beautifully. Vast expanses of paddy fields splashed with green color cool your eyes. Mangroves with umpteen varieties of birds perched on them are a treat to the eye. House boats, a specialty of Kumarakom are seen sailing through the backwaters along with country rafts and canoes.
Kumarakom has a variety of species of flora and fauna. Its rich aqua life includes exclusive species like Kumarakom Karimeen (a spotted fish used to make delicious dishes), Konch (Tiger Prawns) and Njandu (a variety of crab). The bird sanctuary is another attraction of Kumarakom. It is a haven for both native and migratory birds.
The most attractive part of tourism at Kumarakom is the houseboat. Houseboats here are very large country boats equipped with all modern facilities. Houseboats have bedrooms, kitchen, dining room etc. It is a pleasure to sail in them through the Vembanad Lake, imbibing the scenic beauty of rural Kerala. You will never forget the experience.
A little about the history of Kumarakom
The history of Kumarakom starts with the respectable English man and visionary named Alfred G. Baker. Alfred G. Baker formed the main part of Kumarakom, reclaiming it from 500 acres of wetland. The Baker family hailed from Essex in England. Henry Baker Sr. was a missionary who came to India in the early nineteenth century. His two sons Alfred and Henry Jr. were born in India. They lived in Kerala and both of them are remembered for the many contributions they had made in the social, economic and educational sectors of this state. Alfred Baker chose Kumarakom as the place for his enterprising activities.
Alfred G. Baker requested the King of Travancore (At that time the state of Kerala was not formed and Kumarakom was part of the State of Travancore, ruled by the King) to grant him 500 acres of wetland in Kumarakom. His intention was to develop the land for cultivating paddy and coconut. In 1847, the King granted him the land.
It was a Herculean task to reclaim the land from the Backwaters. Baker, with help of native workers accomplished the project. The wetland was filled with earth and leveled. Of the newly developed land, 150 acres were used to plant coconut trees and the rest, for cultivating paddy. But he left about ten acres of the land for the free growth of vegetation. This part of the land later became the haven of umpteen varieties of birds, both migratory and native. Now it is the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary.
Alfred G. Baker died when he was 72. He was buried at Kottayam, the nearby town. Robert George Alexander Baker, the grandson of Alfred G. Baker, who later became the owner of the Baker Estate, left Kumarakom for England with his family in the 1960s and settled in Essex. The property at Kumarakom was managed from there for the next fifteen years. Robert George Alexander Baker died in 1989, in England. The 100 acres of land and the house where four generations of the Baker family lived was finally sold to the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation in 1982. It was then leased to the Taj Group of Hotels.
The Taj Group renovated Baker’s bungalow and converted it into the first modern tourist resort in Kumarakom. It is now known as Vivanta by Taj, Kumarakom and stands as a monument of the Baker family’s contributions to the development of Kumarakom.
The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
As said earlier, of the 500 acres of land Alfred George Baker received from the King, ten acres were not used for cultivation. This part of the land lies on the southern bank of the river known as Kavanar. He planted mangroves there. Soon this became the haven for local and migratory birds. It is now known as the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. Migratory birds from as far away as the Himalayas and even Siberia are seen in this sanctuary. About one hundred and eighty species of birds were spotted here.
The period from June to August is said to be the best time for bird watching at this place. From November to February large numbers of migratory birds are seen. Sail through the Vembanad Lake or River Kavanar in a houseboat or motorboat or canoe and you will be able to watch them. You can also take a walk along the one and a half kilometer walkway inside the sanctuary.
Houseboat Cruise, the Main Attraction of Kumarakom
On hearing the word Kumarakom, the first thing that comes to the mind of anyone who has visited Kumarakom is the houseboat. Houseboats are actually small resorts floating on water. They have one, two or three bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, lounge etc. Some of them are air-conditioned. Many have TV sets, electric fans, cold and hot water in bathrooms and many other facilities. Two storied houseboats are also there. Some large ones have conference halls also. Business meetings are arranged by many companies in houseboats. The food cooked and served in houseboats is very delicious.
While cruising through the Vembanad Lake you take in the scenic beauty of rural Kerala. The view of the bird sanctuary is marvelous. Migratory and local bird varieties like water ducks, herons, egrets, cormorants, Siberian storks etc. can be seen in large numbers. Most of the resorts here arrange Sunset Cruise. Tourists are taken on houseboats during sunset to have the magnificent view of the Vembanad Lake.
Kumarakom, Not for Hectic Activities
What is tourism for you? For some, it is a hectic activity like boarding a vehicle in the morning and moving from place to place, peeping through the window of the vehicle to view the countryside and other places you are passing by, reaching some distant place in the evening and sleeping in some hotel, boasting to yourself of having seen the maximum number of places in the minimum time and like that. But Kumarakom is not for such speed. Speed is not the word here. You should come to Kumarakom to relax. Relax your mind and body. You stay in a good tourist resort for two or three days. Enjoy the beauty of the place. Sail in a houseboat. Imbibe the rustic beauty of Kuttanad, the area of which Kumarakom is a part. Lie down with your head resting in the lap of mother Nature and relax. Forget the rest of the world. Just think that there are only you and the beautiful Kumarakom in this world. Then forget about time and finally of yourself too.
Experience the Goodness of Ayurvda
Ayurveda is the ancient system of medicine in India. Ayurvedic spas and health care centers are there in all the main tourist resorts of Kumarakom. Rejuvenating and stress relieving treatments are available there. Experienced Ayurvedic doctors and masseurs are available at the spas and health care centers.
How to Reach Kumarakom
Kumarakom is in the State of Kerala, in South India. The nearest town to Kumarakom is Kottayam, which is 16 Km away. The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport which is 85Km away. There are the other two international airports in Kerala, namely, Kozhikode(Calicut) and Thiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum). Trivandrum is 175 Km away and Calicut, 180. From these airports you can reach Kumarakom by road. You can reach Kottayam by rail from these places and then from Kottayam, by road to Kumarakom. Reaching Kumarakom from Kochi (Cochin) by boat is also possible.
This article was originally published on Wikinut. Read the original article with photos and videos
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