It is a canvas aesthetically enriched by mother nature. Kumarakom is a small village that has water, playing a major role in the day-to-day activities of its occupants.
The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake. Some are naturally formed and others reclaimed from the backwater. This village forms part of the Kuttanad region, famous as one of the biggest rice granaries in Kerala. The backwaters here are the feeding and breeding area for numerous species of fishes. Of the mangrove vegetation found here which is crucial to the ecological balance of this region, three species are unique to Kumarakom.
Kumarakom's history is also tagged to an English settler by the name of Henry Baker. During the middle of the 19th century, Baker settled down in Kumarakom, captivated by its natural beauty. Obtaining permission from the then rulers of the land, the Travancore kings, he converted part of the backwaters into paddy fields and started rice cultivation. Baker is also credited for pioneering the cultivation of rubber on man-made embankments at Kumarakom.
Besides his interest in agriculture, Baker also took care of the environment. At Kumarakom, he planted mangroves for protecting the embankments. He also left a sizeable portion of the land undisturbed for the birds, which later developed into a bird sanctuary. This bird sanctuary is visited by travellers in large numbers these days. Baker's home at Kumarakom, locally known as Baker's Bungalow is now a five-star hotel - the Taj Garden Retreat, run by the Taj Group of hotels. Boating and fishing facilities are available to guests staying in this hotel.
The bird sanctuary at Kumarakom, spread across 14 acres is a favourite haunt of migratory birds and is an ornithologist's paradise. Some of the avian occupants here include darters, egrets, herons, cuckoo, teals, waterfowls, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian stork. These feathered beauties invariably find visitors to Kumarakom fascinated by their presence and activities. This bird sanctuary is home to about 90 species of local and about 50 species of migratory birds. A boat trip around the Kumarakom Sanctuary is an option to watch and enjoy the bird population.
Kumarakom has now become one of the most frequented backwater destinations by travellers coming to Kerala. Its never-ending vistas over the years began to attract travellers from around the world. The backwaters in and around Kumarakom now offer some of the memorable cruises on houseboats. These are traditional rice barges converted into houseboats. Plying on the vast backwater expanse of the Vembanad Lake, these cruises provide visitors with sights and experiences that are unique to this backwater region.
Yet another attraction for visitors planning to spend some days at Kumarakom is the beautifully laid out backwater resort - Waterscapes of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation. This resort features independent cottages built on stilts and set amidst coconut groves with panoramic view of the Vembanad Lake. Holiday packages including houseboats, and other exciting tours are available here.
The village of Kumarakom, crisscrossed by canals and caressed by backwaters can be reached by road and via waterways. This backwater destination also has some of the best heritage homes and ayurvedic centres. Homestay and farmstay facilities have become quite popular in Kumarakom and have become the latest means for visitors to experience and enjoy the culture and lifestyle of this backwater village.
The Kumarakom village is also the first in Kerala, where the programmes under Responsible Tourism were launched in 2008. This destination in a short period of time has become a role model in Responsible Tourism, not only in the state, but also in the country.
Nearest railway station: Kottayam, about 16 km.
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 76 km from Kottayam town.