Diana and her husband Trevor first travelled to Kerala, South India in the late 80s and fell in love with the place and the people. They kept returning and couldn’t understand why so many people visiting India either went to the North for the culture or Goa for the beaches when South India had both. So in 1998 they set up a company specialising in tailor-made holidays to Kerala and South India – at that time no other UK operator did this. Working with local people, offering accommodation beyond the ‘brand’ hotels, taking their customers off the beaten track and a fair trade policy was their ethos from the start. This company is considered the pioneer of travel to Kerala and is much respected there.
Individual holidays have a lower impact on the environment as waste, power etc is minimal. Travelling independently means that our customers have the opportunity to interact with the locals. Because this cruise takes you way beyond the range of most houseboat trips, you will find yourselves visiting villages where tourists rarely go.
Our houseboats are operated by Lakes and Lagoons - one of the original and best houseboat companies. They are ISO 9001-2000 certified and were the first houseboat tour company to attain this. Kerala Tourism have a rating system for houseboats and we are pleased to report that the air-conditioned boat used on this cruise has been awarded a Silver Star. The stars are awarded based on safety, quality and service.
Lakes and Lagoons is a purely Indian owned company and all their staff are local people. Each boat has a crew of three – a guide/cook and two boatmen. All the furnishings & equipment on board is sourced and purchased locally and all the food served is bought in the local markets and cooked on board. The food is ethnic home cooking (most recipes handed down through the family of the cook) and may include curries made from locally grown organic vegetables and fish caught in the backwaters themselves.
Kettuvallams are country boats and were originally used for the transport of goods. The advent of roads and bridges throughout the Kuttanad region of Kerala (known as the backwaters) meant that these traditionally made boats were being phased out. But tourism has brought them back and the artisan boat-makers are busy again. The boats are still made in the traditional way from natural materials - wood (mostly anjili), coconut and bamboo.
The ground handling of this tour is provided by our local agent and we supply him with 90% of his turnover. All of the drivers and staff are local people. Thus we have fifteen local families that are directly financially reliant upon us. Our drivers have a contract and are paid a monthly wage. This is very unusual in South India where most drivers are normally employed on a commission-only basis (not easy for such seasonal work).
All of our customers are supplied with detailed information about their holiday. We supply general advice relevant to all customers as well as more specific facts about your particular tour. These documents offer our customers lots of advice and guidance including how to obtain an Indian Visa, which immunisations are recommended, how much to tip people, how to dress appropriately and how to behave in National Parks. We support local charities and invite our customers to do so too (details are supplied with your travel documents).
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