Look at any Kerala tour plan, you will find a backwater cruise. Look at any tour advertisement on Kerala, it shows a house boat in a backwater background. Umpteen number of house boats are at your service in the major tourist locations like Alleppey and Kumarakom. All of them are competing to give you better packages to choose from. Bit away from the buzz, the Kerala State Water Transport Department, venturing with their unmatched experience and facilities, is there to offer a cruise through the National waterways.
Staying not so away from the backwater region, I have made many backwater trips by different modes and covered many parts of the region. But the recent one from Alleppey to Kollam by the KSWTD boat is the best and worthy trip I ever had. An eight hour long cruise through the national waterway covering rivers, canals and lakes by paying only 400 Rupees. National Waterway No.3 or the West Cost Canal is a 168 km stretch of inland navigational route connecting Kottappuram and Kollam.
The boat left the Alleppey jetty by sharp 10.30 am as scheduled with fifteen travelers including me. They were all foreign tourists with a Lonely Planet tour guide in their hands. All the travelers preferred upper deck for a better view and for the convenience of taking photographs. The lower deck was empty except the boat driver and other staffs. Nothing to worry, its a State owned boat service with no intention of profit making.
Initially it covers Punnamada Lake and then takes us through Pamba River with paddy fields on its both sidesThis place is popularly known as Kuttanad, where one can see the paddy fields are amazingly below the water level of the river. The only two places in the world where farming is carried out below the sea level, one is Netherland and other is Kuttanad. The boat passes through the narrow canals of Karumady, a place where one can get the glimpses of the rural life of Kuttanad. It then enters Thottappally where a huge spillway is constructed in between the lake and the sea to regulate the lake water entering to the Arabian sea. After covering Pallana, the boat halts for lunch break at a lake side restaurant in Thrikkunnapuzha.
Post lunch, the journey resumes through the Kayamkulam Lake where many Chinese fishing nets are erected in the water. Hundreds of Chinese fishing nets on both sides of the track give an amazing view. The next important place is Mata Amritanadamayi Mutt and their huge buildings known as Amrithapuri. The Ashram of the famous spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Mata Amritanandamayi .
The boat stops for a tea break at a resort called Green channel at Alumkadavu. Then comes the large industrial area of Chavara. Huge plants of KMML that undertakes mineral sand mining and production of titanium dioxide. The boat finally enters the Ashtamudi Lake, a lake known for large scale fishing. Sea gulls are hunting fish when the sun sets in the lake. We reached Kollam Boat jetty by 6.30 pm after the full day of journey. The journey through the national water way No. 3 was a memorable experience and gave a better understanding of the Kerala backwater and the life around it. A long distance route that covers many beautiful backwater places not known to many tourists and not in the reach of many private boat operators.
From Kollam Boat jetty, another boat starts at 10.30 am and reaches Alleppey at 6.30 pm. Both the boats depart at 10.30 am daily from Alleppey and Kollam.