Responsible Tourism in Kumarakom, Kerala

Kerala is receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly and while being called God’s Own Country, some of us may start to wonder how it manages to remain such a divine experience for travelers. One of the answers is through responsible tourism. In 2007, the Department of Tourism of the Government of Kerala established the Kumarakom Responsible Tourism project to foster sustainable tourism development in the state. The state has also started responsible tourism projects in a couple of destinations but so far Kumarakom Responsible Tourism is considered to be the most successful one.

Responsible tourism in Kumarakom, Kerala, India

We had the chance to be part of a tour with the responsible tourism team in Kumarakom and we’re excited to share about this authentic follow-the-locals experience, which is also supportive of the local community. Kumarakom is a cluster of small picturesque islands around Vembanad Lake. The village is well-known for its backwaters, delicious cuisine, and greenery. While the area features some 5-star resorts such as Aveda Kumarakom, where we stayed, it is still home to local culture and traditions carried through generations. So without further ado, here are our responsible tourism activities in Kumarakom.

Responsible tourism in Kumarakom, Kerala, India

We started early in the morning to avoid the heat, from Kavanatinkara. Our guide Sabu conducted a short briefing session to familiarize us with the picturesque landscapes and the lush green surroundings of Kumarakom. We boarded a traditional shikara boat and started sailing the canals. We passed lovely green carpets (dense growth due to the stagnated water) with pale lilac flowers carpets. Our guide plucked a water lily and made a beautiful necklace out of it.

We reached Manjira village. After receiving a warm welcome to Ajitha’s home we got to work. First, our hosts showed us how they make shampoo out of hibiscus leaves. Then we observed the fascinating process of coir making and later I got to try coir spinning which was not a super successful endeavor. We put on traditional Keralan sari and mundu and it actually felt pretty comfortable. Maybe we lived in Kerala in past lives.

We traveled in time when they showed us how to climb a coconut tree – there’s the traditional way using a thalappu and the modern way using instruments developed by scientists more recently. Nace could go all the way up to the top of the tree if we didn’t have to continue with tasting fresh passion fruit from the garden and saying goodbye to our kind hosts.

We continued with the boat to visit another local house – this time Sathi welcomed us and demonstrated a very peculiar craft – weaving coconut leaves and creating screw pine products. Some of us tried and it’s not easy! Sometimes we don’t put a lot of thought into how products we take for cheap and machine-made are actually quite the opposite!

Our guide Sabu showed us some tried-and-true fishing tips. Net fishing is a traditional way of fishing in the canals of the backwaters. We watched curiously how he cast a net and caught some small fish with ease. This way the famous Karimeen fish, shrimps, and prawns of Kerala are caught.

The last thing we admired before boarding the boat back was toddy tapping. We observed how the famed Kerala beverage, toddy, was extracted from the coconut tree and drank fresh out of the pot. It tasted like sweet nectar. If you leave the toddy to ferment during the day, then you have an alcoholic drink in the evening. The toddy tapper walked on ropes tied between the tops of adjacent coconut trees to reach the palm flower. Usually, they beat the flower for three days. Once beaten, the flower is then cut to allow the sap to drain into the pot.

On our way back from the responsible tourism activities in Kumarakom, we observed the everyday life around the canals. People brushing teeth in the water, doing the laundry, taking a bath. They say that people born there are resistant to many kinds of bacteria. Our shikara boat was traveling not only on the water in space but it felt like we traveled a bit in time. It was an immersive journey through lush nature where people live in harmony and respect, arts and crafts mastered and passed on through generations, and kindness and smiles. True heaven on Earth!

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*This experience and our trip to Central Kerala were courtesy of Kerala Travel Mart and Kerala Tourism. As always, all opinions, thoughts, and reviews are our own!

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2 Responses

  1. Ketki

    Fantastic documentation of the morning spent learning about Responsible Tourism Activities in Kumarakom. Kerala is a pioneer in promoting such amazing activities.

    • So glad we had this tour, really! We want to see more destinations doing such responsible projects until it becomes the only way of tourism. 🙂