Kerala backwaters are a unique nature and are found nowhere else in the world. Backwaters are a network of lakes, canals and estuaries and deltas of forty-four rivers that drain into the Arabian Sea. Backwaters of Kerala are a self-supporting Eco-system teeming with aquatic life. The Canals connect the villages together and still used for local transport. Over 900 km of this labyrinthine water world is navigable.
“KETTUVALLAM” means stitched boat. They are 70 feet long, made with wooden planks, joined and stitched together with coir (coconut Fibre) ropes and painted on the outside with cashew nut shell oil or fish oil. A distinctive feature of the Kettuvallam (Houseboats) is the design suggesting the possible Chinese influence. These Kettuvallams(Houseboats) were used for transporting huge quantities of heavy materials from one place to other. In certain areas Kettuvallams (Houseboats)are still used for transferring Coconut Husk, Sand and other goods.
In earlier days since all places were not well connected by roads, Kettuvallams (Houseboats) were the main source of transportation through the Kerala backwaters. It took long journeys ranging from 5 to 6 days, sometimes weeks even to transport things. Boatmen rarely stopped along the waterways for meals. Their diet consisted of freshly caught backwater fish, like Karimeen (pearlspot) and Kalangi. Non perishable staples such as lentils, local large grain “red” rice and inexpensive spices like coriander, ginger, dried chillies, turmeric and black mustard seeds were packed by them before embarking on a journey. Boatmen used to stay in the Kettuvallam which had all the basic facilities.