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Old 3rd August 2015, 10:38   #1
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Default Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

In the eary 1980s, I tagged along with my father when he went to attend a function at a village called Kavalam, in the Kuttanad region of Kerala. Those days Kavalam was accessible mainly by regular passenger boats and we boarded one from Alleppey. The memories of that wonderful journey on the backwaters (long before the houseboats put the Kerala backwaters on the global tourst map) had remained with me ever since.

I love my home state and enjoy travelling the length and breadth of Kerala. Whenever possible I use public transport. On my vacation to Kerala last month, I was determined to do a backwater trip again on a scheduled passenger boat. This travellogue attempts to narrate my journey which happened on a wonderful July day, where the rains mercifully kept off but the climate was at its best. Being my first attempt a travelogue and having only a mobile phone to shoot pictures with, my apologies in advance for a less than perfect output.

Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has improved its services by leaps and bounds. There are now a lot of JnURM Volvo buses on the main routes including inter district ones. I started my journey on one of these from near my home near Kochi airport around 7.30 AM. More than hour later (thanks to the disruptions due to Metro construction), the bus put me down at Vytilla Hub, the main transport interchange at Kochi. I was pleasantly surprised to find that another Volvo to Pathanamthitta via Alleppey and Changanacherry was ready for departure at the terminal. Boarded the second bus which put me down at the Alleppey KSRTC Bus station shortly after 10 AM.

After a quick breakfast , I made my way to make enquiries at what is the hub of scheduled water transport services in Kerala - the Alleppey terminus of the State Water Tensport Department (SWTD) which is a 5 min walk from the bus station.
Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_135708.jpg

Inside was a comprehensive time table (in Malayalam- this a boat terminus primarily for the local commuters)

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_133240.jpg

I orginally wanted to take the SWTD service to Kottayam but the next service was only at 1130. The mention of a 1045 "See Kuttanad" service in the time table caught my eye. And there was another display advertising this service

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_133401.jpg

"See Kuttanad" is a regular passenger boat service from Alleppey to the hamlet of Kainakary touching manhy other villages enroute. The journey takes about an hour one way and the boat turns back immediately to make it possible for a two hour round trip. This schedule is not a regular tourist service like the 8 hour Alleppey Kollam service. What the SWTD has done is use a double decker boat on a regular commuter service. The lower deck is for commuters and has lower fares (Rs 15 One Way). The upper deck has cushioned seats and has a higher fare and primarily used by tourists . But still at 40 Rs oneway for a one hour journey on the upper deck, the cost is very reasonable. People usually do the round trip and another ticket is issued once the boat turns around at Kainakary. The boat has many regular stops and is a great way to see the backwaters. To put costs in perceptive a six hour boat cruise on a houseboat cost an average of 6000 Rs for two people . Ofcourse all mod cons and food is included, but if you want to experience the backwaters of Kerala in a natural setting, "See Kuttanad" is a great alternative. There are five round trips a day.

So "See Kuttanad" it was for me. Around 1045 as advertised, the scheduled passenger service boat pulled in to the terminus having completed its previous trip.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_105737.jpg

About 8 of us got on baord on the "tourist" upper deck. A few from Tamil Nadu and surprisingly a few of us locals as well. The conductor came around soon and issued tickets. He informed that he will issue one way tickets and will come around again on the return leg to issue the ticket for the return journey.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_122004.jpg

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 4th August 2015 at 09:11. Reason: Spacing.
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Old 3rd August 2015, 13:47   #2
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala Backwaters in a regular passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

We started 15 minutes late at 11 AM. The initial journey was through a narrow canal with a road running along side.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_110303.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_110253.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_110345.jpg

Soon the ferry pulled into the first of many scheduled stops.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_110639.jpg

And after that we passed another ferry - the regular single deck ferry which operates on the Kottayam-Alleppey route.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_110559.jpg

The dry docks of the State Water Transport Department soon approached. This is the boat repair yard.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_110736.jpg

This was followed by the "boat" breaking yard.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_110838.jpg

Soon we hit the broad expanse of the Punnamada lake

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_111146.jpg

It was only time before the houseboats made its appearance. There are different types and this is a big money industry.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_111803.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_111756.jpg

Being off-season still (July) most of the houseboats were parked in their yards.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_111916.jpg

Another enroute stop.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_112147.jpg

There are just not house boats and passenger ferries out in the lake but also "freighters" as well.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_112329.jpg

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 4th August 2015 at 09:12. Reason: Spacing.
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Old 3rd August 2015, 16:32   #3
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala Backwaters in a regular passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

More pictures:

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_112522.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_112821.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_112830.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_115853.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_113644.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_123522.jpg

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 4th August 2015 at 09:12.
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Old 3rd August 2015, 17:35   #4
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala Backwaters in a regular passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

The conductor issuing tickets in the lower deck.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_124502.jpg

Suddenly as we were approaching our destination Kainakary, an unexpected big bonus, the higlight of the trip. The snake boat "Chambakulam" Chundan was out on the lake, the crew practicing for the upcoming Nehru Trophy boat race. These boats are rowed by a crew of 100 + rowers and this was the first time I had seen a "Chundan Vallam" (Snake Boat).

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_120050.jpg

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_120105.jpg

A signboard on the lake indicated Chambakulam where the boat was based was not too far away.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_121301.jpg

Soom we reached our destination Kainakary. The conductor came up to inform they are turning back straightaway and if we want to continue in the boat we can purchase our return tickets. I returned back on the same boat.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_122127.jpg

On the way back we saw the practicing "Chambakulam" boat crew again .

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_123346.jpg

And after a most enjoyable 2 hours, I reached back Alleppey SWTD terminus around 1.30 PM. Just before we reached, we passed near the Ramada hotel with quite a few house boats parked nearby.

Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service-20150723_132013.jpg

I completed the "nostalgia" trip but taking a bus to Changanacherry. The Alleppey Changanacherry Road (SH 11) is the main road link to some of these villages.

This trip was without a doubt the highlight of my vacation this time in Kerala. I also did a four hour house boat cruise in Kumarakom soon after with a friend, but enjoyed the "See Kuttanand" service much more. An initiative such as this from the Kerala state government (as per the conductor the service is running for five years) is highly laudatory as it gives an alternative to the expensive house boats.

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 4th August 2015 at 09:12.
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Old 4th August 2015, 09:14   #5
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Default re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 4th August 2015, 10:32   #6
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Roaming around in the ferry boats is really relaxing, and surprisingly economical. I too fondly remember my ferry ride in a local boat with the regular commuters in Kumarakom. Thanks for sharing, this goes on the things to do in Kerala list
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Old 4th August 2015, 10:47   #7
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

This is the first time I am hearing about this service - at just about two hours this is a perfect ride. Thanks for bringing it out

How frequent is this service?
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Old 4th August 2015, 11:12   #8
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Thanks a lot. Good to know about this option to see beautiful backwaters.
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Old 4th August 2015, 11:40   #9
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Nice report. Thanks. First time hearing about such a service. Sounds simple and fuss free.
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Old 4th August 2015, 11:50   #10
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

The "See Kuttanadju" service is apparently running from 2012 (although conductor mentioned five years).There are five services currently . As of now timings are 0550, 0815, 1045, 1335 and 1615. It is the same double deck boat which does all the five trips. However do cross check in advance with SWTD (State Water Transport Department) Alleppey station master office as some times the boat may be taken off for maintenance . In that case a regular single deck ferry should run on the same route as this is primarily a commuter service. But this is a great way to have a brief introduction to the back waters.

Another alternative is take a frequent single deck ferry which runs to Nedumudi which is in on the Alleppey Changanacherry Road. You can return back on the same boat or take the bus on the return. There are now quite a few JnURM Volvos running on the AC road via Nedumudi to places as far away as Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta.

This is the second consecutive year i am doing the local boat trips. Last year it was the SWTD boat from Kollam to Sampranikodi, on the Ashtamudi lake. Cost was just 12 Rs Return and journey again took two hours up and down. At both places the local SWTD people at the boat stations and the conductors were very courteous and helpful. And since the terminus at both cities are next to the KSRTC bus stations, access is very easy.

At both Kollam and Alleppey, there are District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) offices . Howver they are not the places to eqnquire about the SWTD passenger ferry services. I did not try Alleppey DTPC this time , but my experience at the Kollam DTPC office last year left me fuming. May be I was unlucky that day, but the person I spoke to at the Kollam office had an attitude of she cannot care less! On the otherhand the SWTD station master at Kollam actially encouraged me to take the trip (on that occasion it was not a planned trip - I had just three hours to kill before a meeting).

Last edited by TKMCE : 4th August 2015 at 12:13.
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Old 4th August 2015, 15:17   #11
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Good Information provided. I remember my trip to the backwaters in kerala, kumarakom was the place i guess, where we had hired a house boat for 6 hours and the owner cooked food for us onboard. Being a vegetarian I had to survive on pineapple & toddy

Someday would love to stay overnight on a house boat decked in the middle of the ocean in Alleppey
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Old 5th August 2015, 09:41   #12
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Thanks for sharing. This would be helpful for the tourists from north India especially. They normally end up with the cut throat house boats were many of them needs to experience back waters. Like you told it hold true for the genuine backwater experience. There are longer routes to Kollam, Kottayam, Kumarakom etc which can be tried also. Just carry some food if it is in way of food time as you get nice space inside the boat and i am sure they wont object provided plastics are avoided.
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Old 5th August 2015, 15:41   #13
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Thanks for sharing these details and pictures TKMCE. What would be the best time to visit these places in Kerala typically? Mainly for the tourists from other states.
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Old 5th August 2015, 15:58   #14
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

Nice photos, superb log and ofcourse very useful information to people like me (budget guys)., Thank you so much. All these days I've been worrying to do one ride in Alapuzha and sure this is looking like the one for me. Should plan one soon I'll take the lower deck rather, on a sunset cruise .

Last edited by Ddrive : 5th August 2015 at 16:01. Reason: Corrections
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Old 5th August 2015, 22:03   #15
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Default Re: Cruising the Kerala backwaters in a passenger boat - The "See Kuttanad" service

I have visited Alapuzha twice and See Kuttanad service has provided excellent boat riding experience on backwaters at the least cost possible. And the duration of a trip is just right for me and has been just right for my friends / family. Fond memories of seeing backwaters and houses lined alongside the backwaters and the lifestyle of people living there. Of course, if you would like to stay overnight or have drinks and food on the boat, a private ride is the best option.
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