Beckoning Backwaters: Poovar
The Arabian Sea is particularly rough during the monsoon months and policemen stand guard even as beaches are cordoned off and red flags indicating...
The Arabian Sea is particularly rough during the monsoon months and policemen stand guard even as beaches are cordoned off and red flags indicating danger prevent enthusiastic tourists from getting close to the water. To feel giant waves caress one’s feet before retreating to their source in a tamer form therefore becomes a luxury but “God’s Own Country” has its compensations The chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian coast with backwaters formed by the action of waves and shore currents across the many rivers flowing down provide a unique ecosystem where freshwater rivers meet the sea.
About 35km from Trivandrum, the state capital, is one such wonder offering a feast to the eyes through nature’s munificence. The Poovar backwaters where the Neyyar River flowing down the Agasthyamalai Hills is joined by the Poovar and Viraly lakes before merging with the Arabian Sea. The place is famous for its pristine beaches, beautiful estuaries and exotic resorts and a biodiversity that leaves you hankering for more.
Returning from a road trip to Kanyakumari we stop by at the Leela Inn, a nice looking restaurant with glass walls overlooking the main road for a leisurely lunch after three and a half hours of being on a not too great road.
It is about 3.30 pm when we drive down the narrow path where the boats for the backwater cruise are anchored. We are on time for the cruise with the last boat scheduled to leave at 5 pm. We take a small motorboat that can accommodate 10 people and wear our life jackets as we survey the thick vegetation on both sides of the waterbody. Coconut trees, palms, shrubs, bushes and leafy plants growing along the backwaters provide a green hue to the surrounding landscape as we begin our journey with our boatman-cum-guide Jude.
“This is a 12km cruise that takes about two hours and allows you to explore the beauty of the backwaters. We have the golden sand beach on one side and exotic staying places like Isola Di Cocco, Estuary Island, Poovar Island resorts and Mahendra resorts on the other. There are floating restaurants that serve different cuisine and many fishing villages on the way,” Jude informs us in impeccable English. As I smile in appreciation he seems to guess my thoughts telling me that there are many foreign tourists, who visit particularly from November to January helping him brush up his English speaking skills.
As we cruise along, we navigate through narrow stretches where branches of huge trees on either side form an arch and sounds of birds and leave rustling against the wind provide pleasant background music. “Aren’t you reminded of the movie Anaconda as we pass through this stretch?” our boatman queries and while we nod in agreement gasping in delight at the sight of fruits that look like mangoes warns us. “These are poisonous fruits that look like mangoes. The only difference is that if you eat this then the “man---goes” he laughs and we can’t help but join him.
A cormorant drying its wings is pointed out as the bird in a “Titanic pose”, a colourful kingfisher, a crane in a meditative stance and a tern gliding past add value to this idyllic haven of biodiversity. As we move ahead we see a fisherman waiting patiently for his catch lowering the net with practised ease, an old man from a nearby village bathing in the flowing water and traffic on a bridge with inhabitants going about their daily chores.
The Kerala backwaters have been used for ages for transportation, fishing and agriculture our guide informed us as he steered the boat towards a breath-taking spectacle. Framed against the azure blue sky was a perfect strip of golden sand that separated the river from the sea with milky white waves rising up and receding in synchronisation. We got off here walking on the slipping sands and feeling the waves lash our feet before retreating ever so quickly.
While resorts have their own boats to ferry their guests there are more than 20 private operators and the tourism service of the state government catering to tourists who visit all through the year we are told. Our guide Jude is one of the many licensed boatmen who is trained in dealing with crisis situations that may arise on the cruise. Those staying at the resorts can see the beauty of the backwaters after sunset when the sky takes on a crimson hue and the birds return to their nest.
The sound of the sea changes rhythm but continues in the silence when all other creatures are at rest. Fresh flowing river water, the mighty sea at a distance, lush green vegetation dominated by coconut trees and a skyline that changes hues – the Kerala backwaters are truly a nature lover’s delight. A retreat from the humdrum world they can be replayed in the mind’s eye at will.