There is water, water and water everywhere at Kuttanad. Mostly for exploration by the tourist and for fishing and agriculture by the natives. Kuttanad is the lowest region in India with 500 sq km of the area lying below sea level having a unique elevation range from 0.6 m above to 2.2 m below sea level. But the locals have learnt to adapt and they do it with grace and skill. This is evident in the way they cultivate paddy where large tracts of lands are reclaimed for cultivation by building an embankment (dyke) to keep the water out (the level of water is a few feet higher than the land). The emerald green paddy filed are scattered all over Kuttanad and thus the area is called the “Rice Bowl of Kerala”. They are one of the particular delights of Kuttanad backwaters cruises.
Kuttanad backwaters meander between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats. It is a breath-taking maze of scintillating waterways comprising lakes, canals and rivers that run 75 km long. It comes under the picturesque Alappuzha district called the “Venice of the East.” Kuttanad is one of the most explored areas for backwater cruises immensely popular among tourists eager to try the kettuvallams or local houseboats. About 120 of the total 600 kettuvallams in Kerala operate here.
Kuttanad is fed by four major Kerala rivers, Pampa, Meenachil, Achankovil and Manimala that supports a lush green profusion of coconut plans and banana trees ever competing for space along the water edge. During the backwater cruises, the verdant vegetation creates a relaxed ambiance which also includes large spreads of casava and yams fields and flocks and flocks of water birds. Kuttanad backwaters cruises also offer glimpses of charming village life. Similar to the Thailand floating market, vendors on small wooden boats ladened with vegetables, fish and grocery will holler for your attention hoping to make a sell. Oblivious to the noise around, several fishermen line the shore who are easily identified from the traditional cane basket (Ottal) they carry and their nets. It is this primitive feel that has won for Kuttanad a great fan following along with the delicious backwater fish delicacies and toddy that are always available at the small traditional wayside eateries.
But if you want to catch Kuttanad at its best then time your backwater plan with the Nehru Trophy Boat Race. It is a popular tourist attraction in Kerala. The competition is held at Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha during the Onam harvest festival in August. During this time the entire town is in a carnival spirit and the entire population comes to watch the competition which has several teams of 100 men rowing 100-120 feet long canoes competing feverishly for the trophy.