A houseboat in its simplest form is a floating home, permanently moored in a sheltered location, with moving possible only by towing. Houseboats are defined as boats fitted up as places to live in on a river or estuary. At some places, houseboats are also used for pleasure trips, as in the Kashmir lakes.
In Kerala, a unique heritage of Kerala's cargo – carrying country boats (of large width and length known as "Kettuvallom" is local language) have been adapted in recent times into houseboats for cruising in the backwaters and canals. They provide opportunities to enjoy the beauty of nature in tropical climates and vegetative diversities.
Kerala style houseboats are peculiar and unique due to their construction on cargo – boats, propelled by long poles.
Most of these have one or more bedrooms for guests and a room for the crew. Rooms for hire by tourists have attached toilet and bathroom, a kitchenette, an open lounge and deck. Furnishing is usually luxurious.
Crew consists of oarsmen, a guide and a cook.
The cargo boats of Kerala are giant country crafts, measuring up to 80 – 90 feet in length and 16 or more feet in width in the middle. It takes great skill and meticulousness to construct these giants by tying huge planks of jack wood or other timber, without using nails. The materials that go into the making are all local and eco – friendly, like bamboo poles, coconut fibre, bamboo mats, coir ropes, etc.