Kerala is one among the “Fifty Destinations of a life time” named by the National Geographic Traveler in a special collector’s edition issue that was released by the turn of the millennium. The Backwaters of Kerala are a network of interconnected rivers, lakes, canals and water inlets. They form a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes that are parallel to the South Western Coast of India which is otherwise known as the Malabar Coast. The backwaters of Kerala provide one with a world of serenity and wonderment. The networks of waterways that form the backwaters include five large lakes that are linked by various manmade as also natural canals. These backwaters extend over almost half the length of the state of Kerala and are fed by about thirty eight different rivers. The backwaters of Kerala were formed by the action of the waves and the shore currents. They formed low barrier islands across the mouths of the various rivers that originate in the Western Ghats and flow across Kerala. The coastal regions of Kerala thus have a large network of waterways. Inlets from the Arabian Sea, the estuaries of many rivers lakes and natural as well as manmade canals that connect the various coastal towns and cities of Kerala.
Over 900 kilometers of the backwaters of Kerala are navigable. The local people have used these backwaters as a means of transport for over centuries. These backwaters with its network of interconnected canals and its labyrinthine water system of numerous rivers lakes and inlets can be compared to the American Bayou. A tourist can travel along these backwaters and take in the sights sounds and smells of Gods own country.Amid this landscape of the backwaters of Kerala are located various towns and cities which are unique in their own way. These cities and towns serve as the start point and the terminus of the various boat cruises conducted on the backwaters of Kerala. For example the National Waterway Number 3 which connects a number of destinations enroute from Kollam to Kottapuram, covers a distance of 205 kilometers and runs parallel to the coastline of the state of Kerala. This stretch of waterways is utilized for the movement of both men and materials as well as to facilitate tourism on the backwaters.
The backwaters of Kerala have a unique ecosystem. These backwaters form the meeting place of the fresh water from the lakes with the salt water of the Arabian Sea. At certain areas like the Vembanad kayal for example, a barrage have been built near Kumarakom to prevent the salt water of the Arabian Sea from entering deep inside, so as to keep the waters of the lake fresh. Farmers use this fresh water for irrigation purposes. The backwaters of Kerala support many unique species of aquatic life. Crabs, mud-skippers, frogs, animals like otters and turtles, and birds like kingfishers, terns, darters, as also cormorants all live together in harmony with nature in the backwaters of Kerala. The flora of the backwaters include palm trees, pandanus shrubs, bushes and a number of leafy plants all form a visual treat.
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