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This area is a vast network of lakes, canals, estuaries and deltas teeming with aquatic life.

The canals are still the main highways for the villages in the area and one of the highlights of a trip to South India is to take a backwater cruise on a traditional rice barge that has been converted into a houseboat. This can last for just a night or two, or longer if you are feeling more adventurous.

A typical cruise route will take you slowly through villages, allowing you to observe rural life and customs without feeling at all intrusive. You can see girls picking mussels, and villagers’ toddy tapping, fishing or making coir products from coconut husks. Kerala’s bird life is amazing with a huge variety of species including kingfishers, crow pheasants, cormorants, drogues, woodpeckers, ducks, bee-eaters and kites.

What better way to end to a hectic Indian itinerary than by gliding through tranquil waters, surrounded by tropical landscapes and under shimmering blue skies? Backwater cruises operate all year round, although the best time is the dry winter season from October to March.

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: lion-tailed macaque, sloth bear, lesser frigatebird, Bonelli’s eagle, Asian elephant
  • Where: Kerala, India

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Jungle Trails of Southern India

Discover India’s unspoilt south: explore the backwaters of Kerala by houseboat, view elephants at Nagarhole National Park and enjoy guided walks, game drives and boat tours in Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. Covering six very different national parks and reserves, this trip is a complete wildlife immersion!

  • When to go: Oct-Apr
  • Duration inc. flights: 16 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £4,595 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Alleppey Houseboat

This beautifully constructed traditional houseboat is an ideal way to explore the emerald backwaters of Kerala and enjoy some birdwatching as you peacefully drift along. It is completely private, with your own captain, guide and cook, who will treat you to a Keralan feast as you watch the sun set.