The Houseboats of Kerala are a new addition to the travel and tourism of the state's backwaters. These crafts, measuring up to 120 feet in length, retrieved from the age old cargo vessels of the State. Once they ruled the backwaters, poled along by one or two men, heavily loaded with rice, coconut and other commodities. But in the recent times, these big vessels have been replaced by more and modern modes of transport, relegating them to neglect and decay. But like the phoenix it again raises to the attention of the modern world, with a difference – this time the cargo is comfort and rippling relaxation.
It takes great skill and meticulousness to construct these giant houseboats by tying huge planks of jack wood together. Curiously enough, not a single nail is used in their making of a houseboat. There used to be an entire clan of artisans who were involved in house boat construction. Today, an innovative holiday idea has restored these majestic representatives of a unique culture and with them their makers.
The Kerala houseboats that cruise these emerald waterways are an improvisation on the large country barges, which were an essential part of the land's ethos in days gone by. Modified to meet a novel concept of holidaying, the kettuvalloms (houseboats) are comfortably furnished with an open lounge, one or two bath attached bedrooms and a kitchenette, and are extremely eco friendly, merging smoothly into the panorama. Every houseboat is manned by a crew of 3 men, usually a cook, guide and oarsman.