The houseboats, as we know them today, the huge, slow- moving, exotic barges used for leisure trips - are the renovated kettuvalloms of olden times. The original kettuvalloms were used to carry tons of rice and spices from Kuttanad to the Kochi port. An average kettuvallom can carry up to 30 tons.
The kettuvallam or 'boat with knots'- is so called because the entire boat is held together with coir knots alone. Not a single nail is used during the construction. The boat is made of planks of jack-wood jointed together with coir. This is then coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. With careful maintenance, a kettuvallom can last for generations.
Back in the day a portion of the kettuvallom was covered with bamboo and coir to serve as a restroom and kitchen for the crew. Meals would be cooked on board and supplemented with fresh fish from the backwaters. The tradition is still continued on the houseboats of today and typical Kerala cuisine is served by the crew on board, who themselves come from Kuttanad, the heart of the backwaters
When modern trucks replaced this system of transport, a ingenious idea was implemented to keep them afloat. Most of these houseboats were more than a 100 years old and still in good condition. By constructing special rooms to accommodate travellers, these boats cruised forward from near- extinction to enjoy their present popularity. Now these are a familiar sight on the backwaters and in Alleppey alone, there are as many as 300 houseboats.
While converting kettuvallams into houseboats, care is taken to use only natural products. Bamboo mats, sticks and wood of the arecanut tree are used for the roofing, coir mats and wooden planks for the flooring and the wood and coir of coconut trees for beds. For lighting solar panels are used.
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Today, the houseboats are fitted with all the creature comforts of a good hotel including furnished bedrooms, modern toilets, cozy living rooms, a kitchen and even a balcony for sunbathing or angling. Parts of the curved roof of plaited palm open out to provide shade and allow uninterrupted views. While some boats are poled by local oarsmen, most are powered by a 9 HP engine. Boat trains - formed by joining two or more houseboats together - are also used by large groups of sight-seers.
What is truly magical about a houseboat ride is the breathtaking view of the untouched and otherwise inaccessible rural Kerala that it offers , while you float!
Now, wouldn't that be something?
The Marvel Cruise houseboats are certified by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala in two categories - Golden and Silver. The Golden category houseboats have more spacious rooms, tiled toilets, hand - shower, kitchen, sit-out and superior amenities.
The Houseboats are certified Golden Category Houseboats use only Eco-friendly products for the construction as well as maintenance. Solar energised fans and lights, bio septic plumbing etc. are also another facet of the Golden Category Houseboats
Features of Houseboat Tourism
Trip and stay is from 12.00 Noon to 10.00 am on the following day in the case of a standard one-night booking.
The houseboats are be manned by 3 men - a captain, an engine driver and a cook. All the staff are from in and around Kuttanad with some basic training in hospitality. They speak the local language - Malayalam, but can understand English because of their experience in the tourism sector.
The food is normally prepared according a fixed menu - if individual preferences are not intimated in advance. Fish for lunch and chicken for dinner is planned on the daily. The simplicity of the meals had by the boatmen of the past is still served even today.
Solar energized lighting is available on the houseboats.
Most of the products used for the conversion of the Kettuvallam into a houseboat are traditional and eco friendly - bamboo mat for roofing, coir mat on floors, bamboo ply for the walls etc.
Most of the houseboats have 2 twin bedded rooms, with attached toilets (with Western closet, hand - shower, wash basin), kitchen with an LPG stove, sit-out with chairs and a sundeck. Full moon nights are breathtaking on the deck.
The houseboats which are powered by small outboard engines are allowed to move in the canals, lakes and rivers only till 5 pm, after which they are anchored in a safe lake area. 5 pm to 6 am is the time at which the local people go fishing in their small country boats and any power boats or noise disturb their fishing activity which is their livelihood.
The houseboats are certified by the Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala in two categories - Golden and Silver. The Golden category houseboats have more spacious rooms, tiled toilets, hand - shower, kitchen, sit out and superior amenities.
You are free to tip the crew as this will help to supplement their income earned during the six month tourist season.