Being a coastal land, Kerala abounds in beautiful backwaters. The spectacular beauty of Kerala's backwaters grabs the imagination of the people coming to this part of the world. The backwaters of Kerala are abuzz with economic activities and are lined with traditional villages and greenery all around the place. The natural beauty of Kerala backwaters can be well appreciated through traditional Kerala houseboats. The serenity felt in the still waters surrounded by the ever graceful natural beauty have every little care emerging from inside, to make this trip to the "God's Own Country" an experience to cherish for lifetime.
Traditionally, the houseboats in Kerala are called Kettuvallams, meaning a boat made by tying together pieces of wood. It is amazing to note that not a single nail is used in the construction of a Kettuvallam. Jack wood planks are joined together with coir rope and then coated with black resin made from boiled cashew nut shells. The materials that go into the making of a Kettuvallam are all local and eco-friendly, like bamboo poles, bamboo mats, coconut fiber ropes, coir carpets, etc.
These boats were used as the mode of transport, in the early times, from isolated interior villages to the towns. But with the development in modes of transportation in recent times, these boat services have been laid off. Now, the giant 80-foot long Kettuvallams have been transformed into even bigger and splendidly furnished houseboats, and are back again as a major tourist attraction. A Kettuvallam generally has one or two bath attached rooms, deck, kitchenette, an open lounge, and a crew comprising two oarsmen and a cook. Traditional lanterns are used as lights in the houseboats.
The number of these houseboats has strikingly gone up from 2 houseboats from the late 1990s to about 200 currently, providing direct employment to more than 500 people and indirect employment to about 2,000 people. Even the size of these houseboats varies from about 95 feet in length and width of around 13 feet for a midsized houseboat to 107 feet in length and about 19 feet in width for a big houseboat. With houseboats now being one of the major tourist attractions in the state of Kerala, the Department of Tourism has come up with evaluating the houseboats according to their safety and service standards and rating them as Gold Star, Silver Star, and Green Palm.
The houseboats/Kettuvallams of Kerala are the best way to appreciate the natural beauty of Kerala backwaters.