KOCHI: How about taking a break from the serpentine traffic snarl-ups, the harrowing ride through dug-up roads, the incessant honking in city roads, and go on a cruise through the scenic backwaters of Alappuzha, Kochi, Kottayam or Kollam to enjoy the symphony of the rain this monsoon?
To woo tourists and to tap the monsoon tourism potential of the state, the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) is all set to launch river cruise through the backwaters this monsoon. It will help tourists get a glimpse of the charming rustic life of Kerala and wake up to the wonders of the overflowing rivulets and the lush green paddy fields soaked in the overnight downpour.
After launching a slew of innovative services like eco-friendly solar-powered boat service, water taxis and hop-on and hop-off services, the department is all set to roll out premium AC luxury boats in the Vaikom-Ernakulam and the Alappuzha-Kumarakom-Kottayam sectors this season.
Besides, the department has decided to conduct its tourist boat service connecting Alappuzha with Kollam through the lakes of Vembanad, Kayamkulam and Ashtamudi without halting its service even at the height of monsoon.
SWTD director Shaji V Nair says the department used to stop its Alappuzha-Kollam tourist boat service during monsoon and the service would be resumed only after tourism season gains momentum.
“Starting this season, the department will run its tourist boat services during monsoon to provide tourists with a chance to relish the beauty of inlands and the magical charm of the rain,” he said.
Besides, two AC-cum-non-AC boats will be launched in the Vaikom-Ernakulam sector and the Alappuzha-Kumarakom-Kottayam sectors by the end of June. The construction of the same is nearing completion and the department has also plans to launch a cruise boat for chartered purposes. Two more water taxis will be pressed into service to tap both the passenger and tourist traffic.
The new boats will conduct service at a speed ranging from 10 to 12 nautical miles, while the existing services are being conducted at a speed of seven knots, he says. The department is also in the process of equipping boats with Wi-Fi, mobile chargers and television facilities to woo more tourists.
The new double-decker boats will be catamaran-type which will have two engines and propellers. The installation of the global positioning system(GPS) in all boats is also on the anvil, says an officer.
The department is also exploring the possibility of starting a cargo service from Kollam to Alappuzha along the lines of the tourist boat service. A preliminary feasibility study conducted by the department officials has suggested a slew of developmental works to be undertaken before starting the service.
The canals in some regions of Alappuzha have to be drudged and a slew of warehouses, mini ports at major regions and allied infrastructure have to be developed. If it becomes a reality, a permanent cargo transportation to Kochi from Kollam is possible, which is more reliable in terms of transportation cost and time.
But it will take some time as the project requires huge investment, says a department officer. At present, the department is giving emphasis to utility services like tourist-cum-passenger boat service. In 2016, the department had carried around 1.30 crore passengers, including tourists, netting a revenue of Rs 7.07 crore. The department has around 51 services and a total of 60 boats.
On pristine waters
A trip down the Alappuzha-Kollam waterway touching some of the historic places in the region is an unforgettable experience. The Vembanad, Kayamkulam and Ashtamudi Lakes, offer an panoramic view of the picturesque beauty of the region. The luxury resorts lined up on the shores of these lakes offer eye-catching and lip smacking packages.
The statue of ‘Karumadikuttan’ on the banks of Pampa, supposed to be the statue of Buddha, the memorial statue of Malayalam poet Kumaranashan at Pallana, Kumarakodi, Thrikunnappuzha Coir Village Jetty, Aayiramthengu, Amrithapuri and Mata Amrithanantha Mayi’s ashram are some of the tourist attractions along this route.
The rustic village life too is an attraction. But the enjoyment comes at a price. “Private players charge around Rs 400 to Rs 1,000 per hour for the trip. While the department boat service charges only Rs 400 for the eight hour journey,” said Subabu, Port Master.