Kerala Houseboats – The Essential Guide (Part 5)

This is the fifth and final part of Kerala Houseboats – The Essential Guide. In Part 1 we explained what Kerala houseboats are, in Part 2 we let you know what to expect on a houseboat trip, Part 3 talked about the sights and sounds you’ll experience on your journey, while Part 4 focused on the practicalities of booking your houseboat trip.  This final section addresses the often overlooked environmental considerations of houseboat trips, and answers the commonly asked question ‘Is it worth it?’.

What environmental impact do Kerala houseboats have?

Kerala houseboats have become a very popular way to explore the backwaters of Kerala, which has led to a rapid increase in the number of boats in the waters, especially around Alleppey where there are hundreds.  The diesel-guzzling outboard motors that some houseboats use have had a significant impact on the delicate ecosystem of the backwaters.

I must admit that we didn’t give this much thought when we booked our trip, or while we relaxed on board and enjoyed the beautiful scenery passing by. It was only when we stayed at a backwaters homestay near Alleppey after our trip that we realised the problem the houseboats cause.

The local people told us that by the end of the tourism season each year the river becomes so black and polluted that they can’t use it for bathing and washing clothes. This is a major problem, as many houses don’t have running water so they depend on the river. We were shocked that the houseboat trip we had enjoyed so much was having such a terrible impact on the lives of people living in the backwaters. It definitely made us rethink whether we could recommend a trip to others.

How do I choose an eco-friendly houseboat?

Luckily, there is increasing pressure from locals and tourists for houseboats to clean up their act. There are environmentally friendly options available, so it is still possible to enjoy this wonderful trip.

The most eco-friendly option would be to choose a punted houseboat, rather than one that uses a motorised engine. This means your boat would be propelled the traditional way by an oarsman with a long bamboo pole. Obviously this is a much slower way of travelling so you wouldn’t be able to cover long distances, but you would travel at a leisurely and relaxing pace in complete silence.

The other option is to look for houseboats that have a Green Palm Certificate. This is awarded by the Department of Tourism to houseboats that adhere to eco-friendly measures such as using alternative energy, recycling rubbish and disposing of sewage safely.

When booking your houseboat trip make sure you ask these questions. It is only by pressure from tourists that houseboat operators will change their ways and protect this stunning environment.

Is a houseboat trip worth it?

‘Is it worth it?’ is a commonly asked question about Kerala houseboats. Is it worth the expense? Is all the hype really true? The short answer is yes! It honestly is an incredible and unique experience is a truly beautiful place. If you’ve read all five parts of this guide then hopefully you’ve been convinced, and will be enjoying this wonderful journey soon.

Have you been on a houseboat trip? Leave a comment and let us know about your experience.

If you are planning a trip on Kerala houseboats let me know or leave a comment if you have any questions or if I’ve missed anything in this guide.

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9 Responses to “Kerala Houseboats – The Essential Guide (Part 5)”

  1. […] fifth and final part of our Kerala Houseboats guide explores the environmental impact of houseboats, and answer the […]

  2. […] Part 5 addresses the environmental considerations of Kerala houseboats, and answers the question ‘Is it worth it?’. […]

  3. Ramani says:

    Can you please suggest a place where one can go and book an houseboat in Alleppey? Thanks and regards.

  4. Erin says:

    I don’t have any specific company recommendations, but head down to the jetty and the houseboat operators will find you! Or you can ask through your hotel/guesthouse.


  5. Anshal says:

    Nice post.. cleared lots of doubts. Keep up the good work!!

  6. Erin says:

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad you found it useful.

  7. Rich says:

    Would you recommend a houseboat trip for a young family (we have a 2yr old)? Terrific guide/blog

  8. Erin says:

    We don’t have any particular recommendations. We just turned up at the jetty and picked a boat that looked good.

  9. Timothy Daniel says:

    We just got back from a houseboat trip in Alleppey. The operator is a company called Global Vision Tours and they operates boat with the name AquaMelody. This is my second trip with this company. We went there the 2nd time because of the good experience we had the first time. However, the 2nd trip left a sour note because of their less than transparent pricing and incourteous customer service. We ended up paying Rs. 4,000 more on demand for services we did not ask for or us.