Paddle into Nature's Silence | Maravanthuruthu

When the beams of the sun hit the earth, herds of goats are taken in canoes to graze on the grasslands of the alluring shores of Maravanthuruthu in Kottayam. This is the greatest view any destination can offer a passionate traveller and Nature lover, exploring at the ground level. Kayaking through the narrow canals of the Maravanthuruthu Island, encircled by lush greenery and small villages, will give you not only a glimpse of local life but also unforgettable experiences of both the land and the river. Guess what? This explains the success of the Responsible Tourism initiative in Maravanthuruthu.

Paddling the narrow canals Paddling the narrow canals

Located at the banks of the Muvattupuzha, the land of Maravanthuruthu laid the foundation for Responsible Tourism one year ago by introducing a Kayaking Club and supporting the local business, the first Water STREET (Sustainable, Tangible, Responsible, Experiential, Ethnic Tourism) village launched in Kerala. In the initial phase of the project, the panchayat cleaned 18 canals, and lined both sides with mangrove- and traditional mats made of coir to prevent soil seeping. In addition to the canals, kayaking is also extended to the sparkling waters of the Muvattupuzha. The duration of the activity is three hours. The programme starts at 05:30 am and ends at 06:30 pm.

Improving the Local Lives

Exploring the local life Exploring the local life

Introducing kayaking to the island opened up self-employment options for women. They started preparing the traditional Kerala cuisine and serving it to the guests. Among the dishes, 'Aviyal' (a side dish made with multiple vegetables) has become the favourite among both domestic and international visitors. Here, they get a chance to interact closely with the residents in their homes and savour the food. Paddle through the local villages and treat your taste buds with these traditional meals. Tourists will also get a chance to swim in the refreshing water, while enjoying the sunrise and the sunset.

Kayaking to the Thuruthumma area on the island will take you on a nostalgic trip, back to the old tea shops of Kerala. Enjoy the lip-smacking traditional cuisines, starting from snacks to the main course, while listening to old Malayalam movie songs at Udayan's tea shop.

"The number of tourists has grown since Responsible Tourism was implemented, and our business is also growing. Among the many dishes, 'Puttu and Kadala' is in high demand." This is what Udayan says about how the initiative is supporting his livelihood

"While setting the ground for the Kayaking Club, we never thought the project would be so successful. Apart from the cuisines and kayaking, the project serves as a great platform to introduce the island's own handcrafted products to the global market. As the duration of kayaking is only three hours, we are also looking forward to coming up with full-day packages that will completely engage the visitors," says Ajmal Ashraf, one of the members of the Kayaking Club.

Encouraging Rural Craftsmanship

The rural artisans have been relying on coir-making and traditional handcrafts such as screw pine mats and coconut husk products for years. Asokan, who has 24 years of legacy in making beautiful figurines using coconut husks, has expressed his gratitude towards Responsible Tourism for making his passion come alive.

This project not only gives us the opportunity to showcase our talent but also creates self-employment opportunities," says Asokan.

"At first, it was just a leisure time activity for me. Now, my passion is earning me money. A lot of people visit my workshop either to buy the products or just to see the making process. A few have also expressed their interest in craft-making, and have enjoyed their hands-on experiences, added Asokan

Art Street - Reflecting the Life of Maravanthuruthu

The murals that depict the island's history The murals that depict the island's history

Maravanthuruthu welcomes you with stunning and intense wall paintings on both sides of the road that reflect the life and history of the island. A picture of a boy lifting and balancing a massive log of wood is a representation of the hanging bridge to Thuruthumma, which eliminated the long-standing agony of the islanders by tying their land to the mainland. A series of murals of rare endemic birds, fishes and other tales are all part of the wall paintings.

According to A. A. Noushad, the Art Convenor of Maravanthuruthu, Responsible Tourism has initiated the scheme to plant numerous trees and flowering plants which will highlight the charm of the landscapes. People have started to recognize that the initiative is genuinely paying off and assisting them in meeting their needs. The island will undoubtedly develop into a plastic-free, aesthetically pleasing, and environmentally responsible tourism spot.

Stepping to the Next Phase

As the second phase of the project, the Kayaking Club is also planning to bring up the idea of 'Bottle Boats' made with discarded plastic bottles collected from the island. Such boats will be utilized for implementing the 'Floating Market' project, as a means of supporting the business of the inhabitants. The plan is to have floating shops that sell handicrafts, authentic cuisines and drinking water to visitors. This initiative will lead the way to an eco-friendly tourism experience.


Canoeing through Maravanthuruthu Canoeing through Maravanthuruthu

The Maravanthuruthu Water STREET project received global awards for its adequate water conservation initiative as part of Responsible Tourism at World Travel Market, London, and the award of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) Indian Sub-continent. It also received special mention for being an excellent example of how water bodies can be protected and maintained through tourism activities. Further, it bagged the Gold Award for its innovative concept and model of Water Street in the Street Project of the State Responsible Tourism Mission.

In addition, the project has assigned 40 houses to ensure that the canal is free of waste. This will help maintain the purity of the cleaned water bodies. The natives have come up with shikara boats and canoes to make the project more fascinating. Apart from Water Street and Art Street, Maravanthuruthu is setting the ground for Green Street, Village Life Experience Street, Food Street and Agri Street. The Responsible Tourism Mission is providing all necessary training to the local people.

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