Vembanadu Lake is the largest water body in Kerala’s lowlands, stretching 60 km long and 16 km across at the widest areas. The famous, labyrinthine backwaters display their grandeur here. Along its shore, poets and painters have drawn inspiration from ancient times. Resorts and hotels followed in their wake as tourism increased.
Sunset and dawn are the best times in the backwaters. The twilight moments are ideal for lazing in the lake – facing portico or on the long, wooden jetty projecting into the lagoon. At the break of dawn, the long sleek fishing boats can be seen making their unhurried forays into the lake, punted along by solitary fishermen silhouetted against the gray sky. Flocks of white egret birds and black cormorants may be seen skimming over the placid waters looking for their breakfast. If the air is still, the calm surface of the lake looks like a sheet of glass. Sometimes, vision of wind ruffling the waters may be seen.
At night, lights from small country boats can be seen flashing in the distance like fireflies.
After sunset, in the receding dusk, the lake gets enveloped in a surreal twilight. It is a magical time. Evenings in the backwaters have a mesmerizing effect, with the languorous lagoon aglow in twilight’s last fleeting rays.
A visit to a boat-building yard on the shores of Vembanadu Lake would be interesting. Houseboats, canoes, small sailboats, etc. are turned out regularly from the yards. They are built completely of wood, according to ancient traditions in the area, by skilled craftsmen. Nails and metallic parts are not used as they would corrode gradually due to chemical reactions. Instead, coconut fibre and ropes made from it are used to tie together the wooden planks. This kind of joints is reinforced with cashew resin, which make the craft waterproof. The craft for houseboats (called ‘Kettuvallom’ in local language Malayalam) are made this way.
'Pathiramanal', a little island on the backwaters is a favourite haunt of hundreds of rare birds, some migratory.
This island is between Kumarakom and Thanneermukkom. It is accessible only by boat.
Kumarakom is synonymous with some of the best that Kerala has to offer to tourists – swaying palms, languorous lagoons and boat rides. The famous backwaters of southern Kerala display their true grandeur here. For, most travelers, Kumarakom ranks high on the list of holiday destinations. One visit is all it would take to find out why.
Also worth a visit is the bird sanctuary about 9km away from Kumarakom, on the southern bank of Kavanar River. This sanctuary is home to a variety of migratory birds, including those from Siberia in the polar region, apart from numerous other species like several varieties of herons, darters, marsh harries, teals, kites, bitterns, etc.
Flocks of egrets skim homeward, their whiteness almost touching the waters.