Spice Coast Cruises, Vembanad, Kerala

Location: Vembanad Lake, Kerala

The Spice Coast Cruises are centered around the 90km expanse of Vembanad Lake. It is the large inland lake on the backwaters of Kerala with a unique (but fragile) ecosystem unlike any other water body in the world. The lake is home to many species of fauna and flora, a lot of which can be spotted on the cruise. It is also home to thousands of humans who live along its edges and are sustained by it in numerous ways.

From ₹24,000 per cabin per night


Welcome aboard Spice Coast Cruises for a memoir-inspiring journey through the backwaters of Kerala. It’s a journey along the Vembanad Lake on a Kettuvallam, which is a large traditional houseboat. In Malayalam, ‘kettu’ means ‘to tie’ and ‘vallam’ means ‘boat’. The Kettuvallam is the most enchanting vehicle to explore the various facets of life along the backwaters.


You’ll be amazed to know that ‘Kettuvallams’ or Houseboats are handmade. They are made of huge planks of wood held together by thick coir ropes tied to knots. They are coated with fish oil and black resin made from boiled cashewnut shells. Back in the day, Kettuvallams were used to transport rice, spices and ferry people through the backwater canals. Steering the Kettuvallams are boatmen, who are specialists in navigating them along the backwater landscape through its every ripple, with ease.


You’ll revel in awe, inside the enchanting Kettuvallam. Its bedroom cabins are cozy, comfortable spaces to relax in. So, while you have your privacy and are also protected from insects and the elements, you still stay connected to nature. The boats are air-conditioned (at night) and equipped with 1 or 2 en suite bedrooms. The foredeck is a place to sit and enjoy a breezy, beautiful view of the landscape along the waters. As the boat sails, you’ll feel a mild sway in your sleep, with sounds of gentle lapping of water against the sides of your floating bedroom.


The most distinctive stand-outs of your on-boat meals will be freshness and flavour created by the members of the crew, who are also renowned for their culinary skills in regional cuisine. Seafood is the mainstay of this menu, with the fish always caught fresh from the backwaters. Aside from Karimeen, do relish the lentils and gourd made authentic with fresh pepper and mustard seeds, served with greens handpicked from the markets that dot the canals on the cruise. All of these come accompanied with steaming bowls of rice. That makes the Kettuvallam home to Kerala cuisine with some of the many hard-to-miss dishes being Karimeen, Avial and Chembu Mezhukkupuratti.


Most inhabitants of the Vembanad lake derive their sustenance from the lake through a variety of activities that include fishing, agriculture, boat building, coir rope production, handicrafts and tourism. The cruise on the Kettuvallam will be your opportunity to spend time with the local folks engrossed in their vocations – fishermen and shell harvesters at work, paddy being sowed or harvested, native toddy-tappers clambering up and down coconut trees. You could in fact try your hand at coir-making. If you’re lucky, you can taste the local favourite, ‘toddy’, a drink made out of fermented sap of palm trees.


The villages along the Vembanad lake are a blend of one common element – charm! They reflect local customs, occupations and social standing of various groups that have chosen to make their home in and around this vast and wondrous lake. Your cruise is not all water, but a bit of land too. If you choose to stay for two nights or more, you can explore the villages on bicycles and savour the flavours of local life. You’ll be amazed by the canvas you’ll ride past. Whether you choose to walk or cycle through any of these villages, you’ll celebrate this journey into a culture.


The Vembanad lake is a habitat to different flora and fauna, with the backwaters being home to many birds. A lot of them can be seen at the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary on its eastern shore. As you cruise along the backwaters, you’ll see several species, both marine and non-marine, that are a mix of native and migrant. The backwaters have a unique ecosystem comprising a variety of species, all of which make the Vembanad lake a unique blanket of water. So on your trip in a Kettuvallam, get ready to be greeted by charming sights in the sky, with a mesmerizing view of the sunset from your houseboat, forming the backdrop.

Images and content credit CGH Earth Experiences


Our bedroom cabins, in particular, are comfortable spaces to relax or rest deeply. They provide both privacy and protection from insects and the elements while keeping you intimately connected to nature around. Your sleep will be gilded with the rhythmic cries of cicadas on the shore and the gentle lapping of water against the sides of your floating bedroom as it weighs anchor at night at the lake’s centre, awaiting dawn.


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