Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’, Alappuzha is a captivating town located in the southern state of Kerala, India. Alappuzha offers a distinctive backwater tourism experience through its intricate networks of canals, lagoons, and lakes. Its lush green paddy fields, coconut groves, and traditional houseboats are quintessential snapshots of Alappuzha’s rural beauty. Visitors are captivated by its serene environment, soul-soothing boat rides, and vibrant local culture.
The Vega Boat Service, an enterprise of the government, has made the enchanting beauty of Alappuzha accessible to everyone, irrespective of their budget. Affordable fares start at Rs 400 for a non-A/C boat ride and Rs 600 for an A/C one. Vega Boat Service offers an immersive, five-hour journey through Alappuzha’s majestic backwaters with a focus on distinguished service and ease. Every passenger is promised an unforgettable journey. The boat service operates at timely intervals and offers amenities such as onboard meals and refreshments, making it an ideal choice for those wishing to explore Alappuzha backwaters and lakes.
Ticket pricing and reservations
Tickets for the Vega Boat Service are priced to accommodate all budgets. A 5-hour journey on the non-air-conditioned boat costs Rs 400, making it an affordable option for those who enjoy the natural breeze of the backwaters. For individuals who prefer a cooler environment, the air-conditioned boat offers a comfortable ride at a slightly higher price of Rs 600.
It’s important to note that the boat has a seating capacity of 120, with 40 seats in the air-conditioned section and 80 in the non-air-conditioned section. Due to the popularity of this service, seats fill up quickly, so it’s highly recommended to make your bookings in advance. This strategy not only secures your place on the boat but also averts any last-minute hassles.
For reservations, you can contact Vega Boat Service at the following numbers: 9400050322, 9400050325. Remember that the individual making the reservation must be present on the day of the boat journey. This makes the booking process more secure and ensures that all passengers have confirmed their travel plans.
The journey begins.
As the clock strikes 11:00 am, the peaceful Alappuzha Boat Jetty bustles with energy. Passengers eagerly board the Vega Boat, anticipation lighting up their faces as they settle into their chosen seats. The boat, a symbol of Kerala’s traditional craftsmanship, is a visual treat. Its sturdy wooden structure, painted in the cheerful hues of the sky and ocean, stands ready for its sojourn through the tranquil backwaters. The journey commences with the soft humming of the boat’s engine, and the palette of the surroundings starts to change as the boat eases away from the jetty. The view transitions from the urban landscape to the blissful serenity of nature, with the azure backwaters flanked by lush green coconut groves. For the next five hours, passengers are set to embark on a breathtaking exploration of Alappuzha’s natural beauty and discover the charming spectacle of life along the backwaters.
Around 1:00 pm, the Vega Boat makes its first stop at Pathiramanal, a captivating island on the backwaters. This is an opportunity for passengers to stretch their legs and explore the island’s diverse flora and fauna. Referred to as the ‘Sands of Night,’ Pathiramanal houses a diverse array of over a hundred unique bird species, serving as an idyllic haven for bird watchers. The boat will wait for an hour at this point, during which passengers can take a short walk around the island or simply relax and soak in the beautiful surroundings. There is a nominal boarding charge of Rs. 10 per person for this stopover. Around this time, the staff of Kudumbashree, a local women’s initiative, will distribute meal coupons to the passengers. These meals, priced at Rs. 100 each, include a variety of traditional South Indian dishes such as fish curry, sambar, pulisseri, kakairachi, avial, thoran, and achar. After enjoying their meal and the island’s beauty, passengers reboard the boat as it resumes its journey through the scenic backwaters.
Providing a flavorful break during the journey, Vega Boat Service has partnered with Kudumbashree, a local women’s initiative, for meal arrangements. This initiative not only caters to the passengers’ culinary needs but also supports the local community. As the boat reaches Pathiramanal, passengers are handed meal coupons for a nominal fee of Rs. 100.
The meal offered is a traditional South Indian thali, a wholesome and balanced combination of various dishes served on a single plate. The thali typically includes:
- Fish curry: a spicy and tangy curry made with local fish and Kerala spices.
- Sambar: a nutritious stew of lentils and vegetables, seasoned with a variety of spices and tangy tamarind.
- Pulisseri: a yoghurt-based curry with coconut and a hint of spices.
- Kakairachi: a traditional pickle made from bitter gourd.
- Avial: a rich blend of vegetables and coconut, flavored with curry leaves and a splash of coconut oil.
- Thoran: a simple and healthy dish prepared from various vegetables and lentils.
- Achar: a spicy pickle, usually made from mango or lemon.
This hearty meal, rich in flavours and local ingredients, gives passengers an authentic taste of Kerala’s culinary heritage while they enjoy the picturesque surroundings. Despite being affordably priced, there’s no compromise on the quality or quantity of the food, making it a perfect mid-journey feast for the passengers.
Resuming the Journey Towards Kumarakom Lake
As the Vega Boat Service departs from Pathiramanal, the journey towards the mesmerising Kumarakom Lake unfolds. The boat glides effortlessly through the shimmering backwaters, passing through scenic waterways lined with verdant foliage and traditional Kerala homes. The lush paddy fields, swaying coconut groves, and quaint houseboats provide a captivating spectacle that adds to the visceral experience.
Onboard, the guests can make use of well-maintained facilities such as clean restrooms and comfortable seating arrangements. For entertainment, traditional Kerala music, both folk and classical, is played over the boat’s sound system. This calming music deepens the sense of tranquillity, enabling travellers to wholly engage with their voyage.
A prominent feature of this leg of the trip is the awe-inspiring sunset vista over Kumarakom Lake. The sight of the setting sun painting the sky in hues of orange, pink, and purple and its reflection dancing on the surface of the lake is enough to leave the passengers spellbound. This magical experience brings the voyage to a beautiful end, leaving the passengers with unforgettable memories of their journey through the heart of Kerala’s backwaters.
Bird-watching and Less-Travelled Routes
The Vega Boat Journey offers an abundance of opportunities to observe the avian life that thrives in these tranquil backwaters. The area serves as a paradise for avian enthusiasts, housing more than a hundred different bird species, from local to migratory, contributing to the region’s rich biodiversity. Among the species that can be spotted are the Kingfisher, Woodpecker, Indian Roller, Hornbill, and the highly elusive Black Drongo. The captivating spectacle of these majestic beings gliding across the sky or resting atop verdant foliage offers an enchanting sight to onlookers.
The Vega Boat journey is not confined to the main waterways; it also explores less-travelled routes, offering an authentic taste of Kerala’s backwater life. The boat navigates through narrow canals lined with local houses, providing a close-up view of rural life and the rustic charm of the region. It routes through the beautiful R Block, a man-made island reclaimed from the Vembanad Lake, enveloped by paddy fields and coconut plantations. This route is a preferred choice as it offers a peaceful escape from the regular tourist tracks, creating a truly immersive and unique experience for the passengers.
Return to Alappuzha.
As the sun dips below the horizon, the Vega Boat Service begins its return voyage to Alappuzha. This part of the journey offers a unique perspective as the landscape is bathed in the soft, fading light of dusk, casting an ethereal glow over the tranquil backwaters. The return route is a mirror image of the earlier journey, retracing the waterways through which the boat had previously navigated.
While listening to the calming sounds of traditional Kerala music, passengers can think back on the beautiful sights they have seen and the incredible experiences they have had as the boat heads back. The calm waters, the silhouette of the palm trees against the twilight sky, and the distant lights flickering from the shoreline all contribute to an atmosphere of peace and serenity.
During this leg of the journey, the boat passes through the beautiful R Block once again, offering passengers another opportunity to witness the rustic charm of the region under the moonlit sky. The journey concludes as the boat docks back at the Alappuzha jetty, marking the end of an unforgettable voyage through the captivating backwaters of Kerala. Passengers exit, their minds brimming with the unforgettable and enriching moments they’ve experienced.
End of the Journey
The journey concludes at approximately 4 p.m. at the Alappuzha boat jetty, where the Vega Boat Service first embarked. As passengers disembark, they are greeted by the bustling activity of the jetty, a stark contrast to the tranquilly of the backwaters. The docked houseboats, the evening market, and the aroma of local seafood being grilled nearby all contribute to the lively atmosphere. Despite the end of the journey, the memories of the enchanting backwaters, the exceptional hospitality onboard, and the unique insights gained into Kerala’s rich cultural and natural heritage would continue to linger in the hearts of the passengers. In a nutshell, Vega Boat Service not only offers a voyage through the mesmerising backwaters but also a journey into the soul of Kerala itself.