Discovery

Lake Vembanad, Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from

Eco-friendly houseboat with contemporary design and silent electric motors for exploring the quieter backwaters (sleeps 2-4)
The success of Keralan backwater cruises in recent years has seen a huge increase in pollution, with hundreds of diesel-powered boats plying through these fragile ecosystems. Malabar Escapes, provider of stylish hideaways like Malabar House, Serenity, Purity and Trinity, wanted to create a pollution-free and energy-conscious houseboat, without sacrificing any of their renowned flair and craftsmanship.

They took a traditional kettuvallam (stitched hull) and added a well-insulated aluminium-plywood superstructure, an energy-efficient LPG engine and two silent electric motors (front and back). A battery bank allows these to be charged during the day and is used for light and power at night. And, as the boat is narrower, it can slip through the backwater hinterland away from the standard (and now crowded) Alleppey cruise. Inside, it's stylishly decorated and surprisingly roomy for such a slim boat - the perfect setting to relax in after dark, with a friend or partner.

Highs

  • This is an eco-friendly houseboat with all mod cons, including air conditioning
  • The design is simple and classy
  • It cruises undiscovered parts of the increasingly busy backwaters to ensure tranquility and privacy
  • You'll find excellent staff and service
  • There's lots to see en route: temples, dance displays, farms, bustling markets...

Lows

  • You have to start (or end) at Privacy on Vembanad Lake, as it shuttles between there and Alleppey
  • It's not as pretty as the traditional riceboats

Best time to go

From a climatic point of view, by far the best time for a backwater cruise is from the end November to March, when the weather is dry, clear and not too hot. April and May are normally quite dry but getting rapidly hotter. From May through to October there is first a southwest monsoon in June and July and then a milder northeast monsoon in mid October/November, which bring rain and wind to the whole region. There is usually some respite in August and September, which are quieter than the peak season.

Our top tips

Time your visit for September and you can plan your trip on Discovery to coincide with Alleppey's Nehru Trophy, a spectacular snakeboat race which takes place every year.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Luxury Houseboat
  • 2
  • All meals included
  • Over 2s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Sun deck
Room:

Rooms

The bedroom and living room lie in the double-glazed lower deck, built with an insulated sandwich of aluminium, rockwool and plywood. They are protected from direct sunlight by a system of pretty louvred windows and sun sails, meaning a low energy output is required to keep cool.

The contemporary tropical interiors are streamlined and sleek, with white walls, polished dark wood floors and crisp lines. The comfy queensize bed is clothed in 100% cotton which feels cool to the touch, while the 2 L-shaped sofas in the living room can be made up as children's beds. Jewel-coloured silk cushions and a few carefully chosen pieces of artwork provide stabs of vibrant colour.

The bathroom is small but stylish, with piles of fluffy towels and white tiles that contrast beautifully with dark wooden units. It has a shower with hot water provided by the engine's cooling system.

The 3 staff sleep in separate quarters with their own shower and cabins.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Extra beds
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge

Eating

The boat moors every few hours for meals, prepared by the onboard staff and served outside on deck to the sound of lapping water. Canopies shade you from the sun during the day; in the evening you dine under the stars, with candles lending a warm glow.

Breakfast can be fresh fruit and eggs or local fare such as idli (steamed rice cake) and dosa (a savoury rice and lentil pancake) with coconut chutney and banana.

Lunch and dinner feature high-quality Indian cuisine, with a focus on freshly caught seafood. Specialities include delicious fish and spicy prawns, as well as zingy salads and dishes with a Mediterranean influence. One stop will include a traditional Keralan lunch served on banana leaves and staff are always on hand to provide refreshing drinks or rustle up a snack or two.

The boat has two fridges, a cooler and kitchen appliances, all run by a separate compressor coupled to the engine, which also produces ice for chilled water. The 2000-litre freshwater tanks ensure a plentiful supply.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Take in the ever-changing vistas as the barge makes stately progress at a speed of about 6 knots through open backwaters and narrow canals. You'll pass local boats and small villages where children play, mooring every few hours for a chance to stretch your legs and dip into local life

  • Visit Vishnu temples, watch martial dance displays, see a brass manufacturing town and explore a rubber tapping farm - all including on a standard itinerary

  • You'll also visit a gorgeous ancestral home where you feast on a traditional Keralan lunch, served on banana leaves

  • Alternatively, you can take a tuk-tuk ride inland to visit Kerala's vibrant shops and market stalls

  • Or just relax on the sunny deck, read a book and watch the world float serenely by

  • Don't forget to keep an eye out (and your camera present) for flocks of exotic birds flying past, or migratory Siberian storks

  • When the boat is moored at Privacy, you can use the swimming pool or explore Lake Vembanad in its canoe, sail boat or motorboat

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

This is an ideal family holiday with lots to do and see as the boat explores the backwaters.

Children stay free until the age of 5 if they do not need an additional bed. For older children (or those under 5 requiring their own bed) there is a charge. The sofas in the living room can be made up into extra beds.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Kids Activities on site:

  • The backwaters up close
  • Birding
  • Swimming at Privacy
  • Canoeing

Families Should Know:

You're on the backwaters, so care is needed

Distances:

  • Airport: 2.5-3 hours
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
8/
Food
8/
Service
7/
Value
8/
Overall

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