About Kerala Houseboats
About Kerala houseboats or the Kettuvallams as they are known, are the main highlights of the Kerala backwaters
Types of Houseboat
One Bed Accommodation
The one bedroomed houseboats are considerably smaller than the two bedroom boats but this time smaller is actually better. The one bedroom houseboat comes with a lot more features and make an ideal cozy heaven for couples after a bit of privacy.
Unlike the bigger boats, there is usually a sundeck which is great for sunbathing but even better for gazing at the bright Kerala stars. There is a small kitchen from which sumptuous keralan cuisine is served.
Unlike the bigger boats you will also get the opportunity to stop the houseboat any place you like to take photographs.
Ok, now one thing you will notice about kerala houseboats are that these these boats are big. When I was there, we managed to get seven of us in one of these boats and we still felt lonely! We had a huge round table which was great for drinking and playing cards etc. There is also a television but I do not know why you would want to use that!
Each bedroom has an attached bathroom. There is a large living area used for dining and plenty of room to laze about in the sun. There is seperate accommodation for the crew so you barely see them, unless they are bringing out various snacks or fine cuisine.
The Kerala Houseboats are also known as Kettuvalloms, which means 'Boat of knots', were originally used for general transport. They would carry tons of rice and spices from Kuttanad to the port at Cochin (Kochi).
The boats could usually carry about 30 tons of goods (about three lorry loads) and the journey would usually take them about threee days to complete.
Since the arrival of lorries in India, they became obsolete until the insurgance of tourism into the area. The boats were already equipped with small kitchens and crews, were refitted and turned into the floating equivalent of a five star hotel. In fact, the houseboats have proved so popular as floating hotels, ther is now almost twice as many as there was before.
The Kettuvallam or 'boat with knots' as it is known locally, was so called because the entire boat is held together by knots. Made from the tough fibre of coconut, not one single nail is used during the construction.
Building a houseboat
Most of the houseboats average 70 feet in length and 15 feet wide. They are made using ancient techniques and principals passed down through families of carpenters. They are made from long planks of wood, known as Anjili, and held together by lenghty bits of rope made from cocconuts.
The hulls of the boats are made from jackwood which is abundant around theKerala backwaters. The lengths of wood are tied together using the coconut rope and then more coconut fibre is stuffed into the gaps. This framework is then coated with a caustic black resin extracted from boiled cashew kernels which lasts for an amazingly long time.
The Kettuvallams are motorised and steered by a huge rudder. Long bamboo poles or 'punts' are used to push the boat along in shallow areas. Bamboo beams sprouting off on the sides are used as foot holds for the same reason.
Bamboo is used for the framework of the roof and splits of bamboo are used for weaving mat for roofing. Cashew Nut oil is then used as a varnish to ensure a protection for the houseboats.