24 independent reviews for Kerala backwater holiday, India

These full and frank independent reviews are from travellers who have booked directly through Responsible Travel. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travellers below.


review 13 Jan 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

We enjoyed almost every moment of our holiday in Kerala. The highlights included two sunset backwater boat trips, swimming in freshwater pools, an elephant ride, fabulous fresh homecooked meals, the beach and spice tours. We loved the wonderful homecooked fresh Keralan meals and the conversations around the table with the homestay owners.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Have a look at the map and the range of activities. We chose not to go to Periyar and we were very happy with our itinerary.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I certainly felt that this holiday benefitted local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

This holiday was absolutely fantastic in every way. Possibly the best family holiday that we have ever had. Jos organised everything perfectly.

review 30 Oct 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The whole holiday was truly memorable and exceeded expectations from beginning to end. All the home stays, plus the boat, were very comfortable with lovely surroundings and wonderful home cooking. Our hosts were very welcoming and gave us insight into life in Kerala.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

The first week in October proved to be a good week before the main tourist season gets underway. We were fortunate with the weather with only one rainy day while we were travelling. Jos tailor made our itinerary and we were pleased that we chose to spend two nights on the boat.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Using home stays rather than hotels meant that our money went straight into the local community rather than a hotel chain. The local guides, cooks and others employed by the home stay owners took pride in their work and there seemed to be genuine respect between the employers and the employees.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

The holiday was excellent. I would certainly recommend it to others.

review 24 Feb 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Visiting around Munnar with time to see nature and lots of bird life, made more memorable as we had a knowledgeable driver who showed us many birds. The Kathakali Dance event in Cochi gave an interesting insight into the historical parts of the area and was well worth seeing all the make up as well as the dancing.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Mosquito repellant definitely needed in and around Cochin especially at night and if visiting prawn farms. Consideration of amount of tip if you have a driver/guide for several days.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Our benefits to local people were a visit to a prawn farm,taking a local boat ride,seeing the Kathakali dances, eating out in local restaurants and stopping to see a lady making rope from coir.. If we did reduce impact or support conservation we were not aware of it.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Programme was well put together and managed considering our rather short time in the area.

review 19 Jan 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It was all wonderful but I think the time we enjoyed most was at Vanilla County, Teekoy. We found Baby Matthew and Rani to be the most wonderful hosts and their staff were lovely. After arriving we had lunch then we were told to come quickly to see an elephant working in the forest nearby, so we all piled into a jeep and witnessed such wonderful teamwork between elephant and men as they moved tree trunks down a difficult forested slope. We also went on an amazing trek through the hills and swam in fresh water pools. Also, Rani's cooking was amazing! The converted rice boat was another highlight.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

To take cool clothes, mosquito repellant and a good camera.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, I think it benefitted local people, especially plantation owners who had found it necessary to diversify into opening up their homes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was an excellent holiday and a real privilege to accept hospitality from hosts at homestays. Our driver was also very helpful and kind (Mr. Shahul). The other thing we appreciated was visiting different areas of Kerala.

Read the operator's response here:

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review 1 Mar 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

There were too many memorable highlights to select a single one, mostly the beautiful and friendly people of India, the contact and exchange with them will stay in our hearts

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

- Ask for trekking oppurtunities in Munnar, and explain what kind of trekking you are interested in - Some of Fort Kochis most interesting sights (Synagogue and Dutch Palace) are closed on Fridays - Try to get bikes while on a homestay in the backwaters, here traffic is relaxed enough to try for a European ;)

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, locals were involved nicely. We didn't ask how much they were paid, but it seemed very ok Environmental impact was not especially low or high, we were discussing the possibility for having Solar Panels with some of the homestay owners, which - given the sun situation in southern India - would be a great thing for them... but they are pretty expensive still in India...

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was a wonderful holiday, very well organized by our local host. Everything went seamlessly and especially the contact with the locals and the homestays was fantastic. There is not one negative thing I could come up with. THANK YOU

review 25 Apr 2014

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Our final stop, for three days at the coast, in northern Kerala. As the road became smaller and smaller we felt sure the car had taken a wrong turn. Fewer and fewer houses to be seen and no sign of the sea. Then the road came to an end. From here you walk, we were told! Out with the suitcases and on with a search for a likely path, in which direction we were unsure. Then came our host, through the trees to guide us. A 10 min scramble but once down to the beach thatīs where we stayed. Remote is the word. Three km of empty beach except for a few fishermen, excellent curry three times a day and.....WiFi!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

In Kerala go north. Away from the bulk of the tourist crowds. Take a long train ride. Unbelievably cheap. Enjoy the food. Curry for breakfast is the best way to start the day.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We booked through and used local people and that helped. Gramam Homestay was not only a beautiful place but Jos and his wife that run it and who organised our trip were the perfect hosts and brilliant organisers and co-ordinators.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was just about the best holiday ever, though of course not long enough. Everything went like clockwork. The people we met were friendly. Kerala is wonderful.

review 25 Nov 2013

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It's really hard to pick a single highlight, there were so many. For all the incredible sights, it was probably something quite simple - a sunset canoe ride around the lagoon at the back of the home stay is something I think that will stay with me forever.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Homestays are without doubt the way to see Kerala. These are some of the best places I have ever stayed - secluded, comfortable and beautiful with a feel of luxury usually only found for significantly higher price, combined with personal, friendly service that made you feel you were staying with friends.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, all the accommodation was in homestays, benefitting independent businesses who in most cases were just families.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I had high expectations, based on previously exceptional holidays with Responsible Travel, though this exceeded every one. The itinerary was perfect, and once we were there, everything flowed flawlessly and we were made to feel that the whole experience was very tailored and personal. The accommodation, the food, the people... all fantastic. Even when things had to be changed, there was no stress. In our case, a general strike meant we had to be whisked out of our final homestay in the small hours of the morning to avoid being stranded, with Jos kindly putting us up again for the final day. If we had travelled independently, we would likely have missed our flight. If we had travelled with a large company, we would probably have been dumped at the airport 12 hours early. In this case, we felt we had all the benefits of independent travel (flexibility, time etc.) with the knowledge that Jos was looking after us and would take care of us come what may.

review 14 Mar 2012

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

What made this holiday for us was the homestays - the chance to get to know our hosts and also to meet other guests. We appreciated the care that was taken to look after us and the fact that every homestay was different. We were particularly glad that we had extended our holiday to include a train journey to the Kannur Beach House.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

You can totally rely on Mr Jos Byju, who organised the holiday for us, and made all the bookings. We left ourselves very much in his hands as far as the planning of the holiday went, and did not regret it. All our requests were met, and everything went smoothly from start to finish. We enjoyed visiting the primary school, seeing the Western Ghats, and the warm welcome of the Brahmin family on our last night. It was a low-key holiday, strolling around the villages and meeting local people, which is what we had hoped for. We found that we hardly spent any money at all - this is definitely not a 'shopping' holiday!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Insofar as the holiday was organised by a local company and we were staying in homestays and eating local food.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Having read the information on the website, it was everything we had hoped for.

review 23 Mar 2010

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Everything was lovely. We all had a fabulous time. The Homestay at Munnar was especially spectacular, the attention we received there perfect. The tea plantations were gorgeous and the backwaters at Alleppy beautiful. All in all, the activities met our requirements and the experience was amazing.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I would recommend a visit to Kerala India to anyone. Beware of the mosquitoes! We were well prepared with the necessary repellents and had no problems. Also reading about your destinations before visiting them obviously does help to get to know the culture and customs.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I do! We spent time with locals and even after our return are still in contact with them. Our children mixed and played with local children which was an enriching experience to all involved.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I would rate it 9.5/10. I am inclined to give it a 10/10, but there is always room for improvement!!!

review 22 Jan 2010

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The people!!!! I met an Indian young person when I was eighteen, and have always remembered her and her family ......they had something special personality wise. Again in my thirties , I met an Indian person on a cultural trip in Denmark, and there was this gentleness and caring that seems no longer part of western society. Having been to India now, I realise it's another world where one is valued as a person and treated with the kindness and care you might expect to receive from close family in the "developed" world. I felt respected and accepted for myself. These were lovely people, it was enriching to live in such a society even for a short while.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Go, be brave, leave the well- trodden tourist trail, go up the mountains ...live with the families...it's much more in tune with the pulse of the country. Trust people to plan for you.. it's India ..they will not betray your trust. Be sensitive, in your dress and demeanour, this is a culture with values. Enjoy its diversity...landscapes spiritual beliefs, culinary treats ....

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Well I really hope so....we had lots of interaction with local people...hopefully the small group aspect of this kind of trip, is less obtrusive than bus loads of tourists arriving en masse..

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

It was an amazing trip! We were so relaxed at Jos's house and enjoyed the lovely food and friendship at the various homestays etc. The boat trip on the backwaters was so comfortable, unique and memorable. Our driver was always there on time, courteous and efficient...a real gentleman. We are really glad we travelled in this way.

review 19 Apr 2009

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

For the children washing and riding the elephants near Periyar, for us adults probably the backwater cruise at Alleppy. The homestays were really well chosen and each provided a different and interesting aspect of Kerala. The hosts were all lovely people and enthusiastic about showing their country to visitors and the home cooking was excellent and a great insight into what Keralans really eat.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take very light clothes, it gets very hot. Two or three nights at each homestay is ideal as it gives you a better idea of each place you say at. Booking a package tour is often cheaper than booking flight on its own and will give you a few days at end of tour at beach to chill after touring. Take tranquilisers for road trips some of the driving particularly on narrow winding roads was... interesting.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes local people involved in trips such as prawn fisherman, palm tree tappers, local farmers etc. Biggest eco no-no is huge amount of empty plastic bottles from water.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Superb you can leave arrangements in Jos's hands with confidence of a great trip. Everything worked brilliantly from train trip back to Trivandrum to Rice boat picking us up from dock of homestay dead on time. Special interests, places you particularly want to see will be accommodated

review 9 Oct 2008

We had always wanted to visit India so our honeymoon was the perfect opportunity. We wanted to see the real India and didn't want to spend all our time in western hotels, but still wanted a bit of romance! The homestays were a perfect choice for us, combining the excellent hospitality each of the families provided, with the best local knowledge of what to see and where to visit. Not to mention the amazing home cooking that you just cant get elsewhere. Jos made everything so easy, we let him know what kind of holiday we wanted, and he arranged everything! (Homestays, transfers, visits and excursions). The homestay is in an idyllic setting on the back waters, and the cottage we stayed in had everything we needed. (Including an open air shower!) We enjoyed the quite location where we could sit amongst the coconut tree's and watch the sunset over the back waters. Jos also organised two other homestays for us, each of which was fantastic and gave us a new experience to add to our holiday. We would fully recommend this homestay to anyone who wants a real experience of Kerala. It truly gave us the holiday of a lifetime. Thanks Jos!

review 9 Feb 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Staying with local people and getting a real feel for the county - and the amazing meals!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

The homestays are great, not at all basic, and the people involved are so friendly. Jos' organisation was great and it made it an effortless way to see an amazing State.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Most definitely. Several homestays use solar power to heat water. Local people own the homestays and other locals are employed there. Money is brought into communities that often wouldn't see tourists others.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Absolutely wonderful.

review 28 Dec 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

A day and night on a house boat in backwaters of Allepey.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Remember that a "homestay" can be something close to a small hotel or a true home with basic service only and a real family atmosphere.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

We hope that our presence and spending time in a village brought some positive social impact to the village. We certainly did benefit from the experience.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

9 out of 10.

review 19 Nov 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Sight seeing in Cochin, watching a rain squall on a houseboat in the backwaters, spending time on a rubber plantation and learning about the variety of crops. Eating all the home cooking was a particular highlight.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Go shopping when the opportunity, try all the food offered, do not stay the night at Thani Ilam, but it is worth a day visit.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, as we only stayed with local people and nowhere was air conditioned.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

A really interesting, enjoyable holiday with four very different locations.

review 29 Jul 2007

The holiday was very good and it was lovely to lodge at the homestays; it gave an insight into a way of life I could never get if I had just lodged in sterile hotels. Everyone was very kind and nothing was too much for them to do. A few comments: Please put on your website that there is not enough time in monsoon time to get clothes washed and dried due to the humidity, so people should be advised to take a lot of clothing to wear. Also the trek in Periyar was really worrying - there was no warning about the standard of health needed on the trek, neither on your website nor prior to the trek itself in Periyar. I think it should be pointed out that the trek is uphill and quite arduous if not young and fit - I was neither. I had to stop every 2 steps; nearly fainted three times; there was no shorter route; no contact by radio to tell base that someone was in trouble. Quite frankly, if I had collapsed on the trek, being a lawyer, I was ready to sue the arse off everyone when I returned to the UK. There must be some warning given. Please rectify. You (or someone) should also point out that you need to tip the taxi driver 100 rupees a day. At least it is a guide as to how much money to change when in India.

Read the operator's response here:

Unfortunate to hear Amrit Mangra had such a worrying experience at Periyar. Usually before the trek, the guide was supposed to describe the details of trek and ask the traveller to choose for soft /hard / adventurous trek at the sanctuary depending on one's age, health and interest. I assume this has not happened to Amrit and her son, and I take this very seriously. I will ask the people organizing treks to take appropriate action and especially to carry equipments for communication in case of emergency while trekking which is not a practice now. This is a very welcome suggestion. More guidelines about Monsoon requirements will also be provided to guests while booking. It is not at all compulsory that travellers should pay Rs.100 per day as tip to the taxi driver. It is simply personal and should be an act of love for best service given by a driver or any other local person involved in an activity while on a holiday! Thanks Amrit, for more creative holiday insight!

review 6 Apr 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

This was a most successful and enjoyable 5 day tour, efficiently organised by Jos Byju. We booked a package including flight and hotel through First Choice, as this cost no more than a scheduled flight-only arrangement. Anthony, our driver, collected us from our hotel on the Monday morning as arranged and we spent our first night at Emerald Isle Homestay, where the highlight was a wonderful boat trip through the backwaters. The accommodation, hospitality and food were all very good indeed and I wish that we had stayed there an extra night. We treated ourselves to first-class ayurvedic massage at a very reasonable price and enjoyed the open-air showers afterwards. Our second night was spent at Jos's own homestay near Cochin. I felt that one day and evening was enough to see Cochin, particularly as it was so hot and humid. However anyone wanting to do a lot of shopping should probably stay an extra night here. The highlight in Cochin was the Kathikali dance/music performance in the evening. Our two final nights were spent at Vanilla County, run by the delightful Baby Matthews and his family. Here the hospitality was just outstanding and we were made to feel like family friends. The food was wonderful, mostly organic and home-grown and there was loads to see and do in the area. I would have liked to have stayed there 3 or 4 nights. Being higher, it was cooler and less humid, so more comfortable.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take it slowly in the heat and don't try to see everything too quickly. The journeys take longer than expected, so stay longer at each homestay to allow time for relaxation. Upgrade to an air-conditioned car, especially if travelling in March/April. Maybe extend the tour to include Munnar and/or Periyar. We were pleased to have some beach/swimming pool time both before and after the tour. Although I organised that through another tour operator, I expect that Jos knows some homestays at Varkala or near Kovalan. Take torches as the electricity supply in remote rural areas can be unpredictable.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

All the employees at the homestays, as well as our driver, were local people, so I assume these holidays are supporting local employment.

4. Any other comments?

Four stars. I have no hesitation in recommending people to use Jos's services. Everything happened exactly as we had arranged it with Jos and there were no nasty surprises! All the homestays were comfortable and full of character and we learned far more about the local culture than when staying in big international resort hotels.

review 10 Apr 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Arriving at the different homestays and finding them all to have their own unique quality. The hospitality of the people we met and their knowledge of their country and surroundings. The beautiful natural landscape. The fresh, tasty food. Our driver and guide Rojin who was knowledgeable, reliable, extremely helpful and great with the kids.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Take long trousers and stout shoes for the jungle safari. Be prepared for a stuffy night if you stay on a house boat (admittedly we went at a very hot humid time of year - April.) Trust Jos to select comfortable, character-filled and varied homestays for you with a smooth running, varied and extremely interesting itinerary.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

The homestays are run by local people so yes. Also local guides, extended family members and employees of homestay families involved in sightseeing/cooking /other activities but obviously we don't know how they are paid. We made sure we tipped all involved. We decided that we would take a water filter next time as we were creating far too much plastic waste from drinking bottled water. At least one homestay provided filtered water.

review 9 Jan 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It was difficult to isolate any one part of the holiday - the entire trip was just a delightful experience. We stayed in a variety of different houses - all different but equally interesting, comfortable and welcoming. The food was just excellent, travel arrangements were straightforward and our whole trip went smoothly. Four of us travelled together and we all agreed that this had been a truly memorable holiday - the only reason we don't describe it as "simply the best holiday I have ever been on" is that we've all been fortunate enough to have some great holidays and would struggle to single out any one as being "the best". We have nothing but praise for Jos - his organisation was excellent and his choice of accommodation was perfect. We stayed in Fort Cochin at a relatively new homestay in a great location close to Jew Town. We had dinner at Jos' own homestay - a delightful setting and excellent food. We then moved on to Emerald Isle in Alleppy - tranquil, relaxing, and a wonderful setting. The houseboat was perfect and a great way to see the backwaters. Vanilla County where we spent three nights was very different but the plantation setting in the foothills of the Western Ghats was a very pleasant change from the backwaters, a beautiful house and very friendly hosts. Finally, two nights at Thani Illam gave us a really homestay - we were very much part of the family! Overall, we felt that this was an excellent holiday - a great way to see Kerala and excellent value for money.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Extend beyond the standard 7 nights 8 days if you can. If you like to relax and watch the world go by, ask for an extra night on the houseboat. Make sure you take a torch - short powercuts were quite common. Take a pair of binoculars - the birdlife was just amazing. There is a one hour boat trip available from the hut opposite the Kathakali Centre in Fort Cochin - it takes you round the islands in the harbour - its shaded and a very pleasant way to see some of the sights of Cochin. Try the ayurvedic massage at Emerald Isle. People are very friendly - expect lots of smiles and greetings - I don't think I have ever been wished "Happy new year" by so many people! Expect quite a bit of hassle from souvenir sellers/restaurant owners at the area round the Chinese fishing nets, otherwise, there is comparatively little hassle. Once you leave Cochin there are few if any shopping opportunities so if you're after souvenirs etc, Fort Cochin or Jew Town are the places to shop. If you're looking for a guidebook, shop around - we took the Lonely Planet South India book but it lacked detail because it was covering such a large area. Take swimming gear - you can swim in the backwaters at Emerald Isle and there were two rock pools for swimming at Vanilla County. If you're looking for flights, we travelled with Emirates via Dubai to Cochin - much easier than flying via Mumbai where you have to change terminals - and reasonably priced.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Always difficult to judge, but we ate a lot of locally purchased food and apart from succumbing to a couple of cans of diet coke, I don't think we consumed any western branded or imported products. In that sense, what we spent stayed in the country rather than being lost via imports. Two of the four homestays and the houseboat provided jobs for people locally - Baby Matthew at Vanilla county said that he had provided jobs for 4 people because of his homestay activities. Our houseboat was diesel powered rather than being polled and if you're concerned about this, there are houseboats which don't use diesel engines but I'm not sure about the cost implications though I'm sure Jos would be able to tell you. Overall, we were happy that the holiday was low impact and did benefit the local economy.

4. Any other comments?

We wouldn't hesitate to use Responsible Travel again and would happily recommend it to anyone!

review 30 Dec 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Our holiday in Kerala was fantastic! The most memorable things were the communal meals with the hosts and the other guests at the homestays. Sitting round a big table in the beautifully warm climate, eating delicious food and discussing an amazing range of topics was thoroughly enjoyable. This was particularly true at many of the accommodations.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

A tip for other first time visitors would be that if you want an interesting itinerary arranged for you Jos Biju at the Homestay near Cochin does an excellent job.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I certainly believe our holiday benefitted local people as we stayed in homestays which meant the money went directly to our hosts and other they employed. The only aspect which didn't directly benefit locals was the flight which we arranged through Manos but I don't know if there is a better system. Obviously we have to get there in order for the local people to gain in the way they did. The size of the homestays 8 -10 max is right any bigger would spoil the experience and have too big an impact. Jacob Mathew at one of the accommodations had some very good ideas on responsible tourism. He grew what he needed to feed his visitors and he provided things to do which were not usual tourist activities.

4. Any other comments?

I would give our holiday 5 stars! and I have been recommending your site and the homestays I found on the site and through Jos to my friends.

review 25 Dec 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The most exciting bit was probably the bareback ride on an elephant around Alleppey beach - but it was all memorable - the food, the colours, the variety of homestays, the excellent hospitality, the service...

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

You will be treated like a king or queen which comes as quite a shock if you're used to backpacking! And expect to get caught in houseboat traffic!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, local people benefited but those organising the homestays are already homeowners and therefore comparatively well off. Some other local people are given work at the homestays, but there is no real evidence that money made from tourism is supporting the wider local infrastructure, particularly in terms of basic sanitation. Unfortunately, some families living in shacks around the coast and lakes are forced to use the beautiful beaches and backwaters as toilets. In addition, the serene backwater environment is being increasingly spoiled by houseboat diesel pollution and the negative effects of tourism (although I believe there are new laws in place to try and minimize this).

4. Any other comments?

Bearing in mind that a holiday in today's India is never likely to be a completely luxurious experience, we really enjoyed our Keralan homestay holiday. Jos Byju (who organised the 8 day homestay package, as well as being the owner of this tour company, our first homestay) is a wonderful, calm, intuitive host and both he and the other homeowners (Baby Matthew at Vanilla County and Abi at Arakal) did everything possible to make all our stays very special. The quality of the food and accommodation, variety of activities and the combination of lake, plantation, beach and backwater houseboat environments, was really stimulating as well as very relaxing. We would thoroughly recommend this package to anyone who is prepared to think as well as luxuriate. ***** - our lives have definitely been changed. Thanks, your website was really helpful!

review 4 Feb 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The people were so nice, friendly and generous, the food was amazing every single meal, and the backwaters were beautiful. I am from India and have visited North India numerous times, but this was by far the best holiday I have ever been on. My girlfriend was visiting India for the first time and she also said it was her favourite holiday. It was very well organised by Jos Byju

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Extend it for longer than the 7 days cited: particularly spend an extra day in the Heritage homestay in Allepey as one night was not enough, maybe try to add another homestay into the mix.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes - all local people were employed, and the food was all organic and local. One night was spent on a houseboat and I think this was the worst aspect in an environmental sense as obviously the boat needed to be fuelled, and I think that in the future the backwaters may be swamped with houseboats which will adversely affect the backwater environment in terms of noise and other pollution.

review 4 Oct 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The homestays and our driver Ramish were excellent. The food was superb local specialities especially at the vanilla plantation homestay. All homestays we visited were very welcoming and relaxed; we had a great impromptu cookery lesson in the emerald isle homestay! Generally a much better experience than staying in a top hotel!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I would possibly miss out on the houseboat which was relaxing but not the most interesting part of the holiday.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, to an extent. It provided work for some local people and the homestays minimised use of plastic bottles.

review 15 Dec 2004

I would like to submit a review of our fantastic holiday. Jos Byju was such a considerate, helpful and well organised host, I really feel that his homestay and tour planning service should be well publicised! Although we had only two weeks in Kerala, thanks to Jos Byju at this operator, we were able to experience real life in this wonderful part of India. His family welcomed us into their homestay, a beautiful property on an island just off Cochin. Lyma's home cooking was delicious and our spacious en suite bedroom with terrace was spotlessly clean and stylishly furnished. Jos also arranged for us to visit other parts of Kerala and, with our own driver to take us to each homestay, we experienced floating along the backwaters of Alleppey in a rice barge, seeing first hand organic pepper, coffee and vanilla plantations, swimming in natural pools and bamboo rafting in the Periyar tiger reserve. Every homestay offered the same high quality en suite accommodation set in stunning scenery, a warm welcome from our hosts and superb home cooking. We had a magical trip that we will never forget. Thank you Jos and family, for your generosity and a wonderful experience in Kerala. About responsibletravel.com We really enjoyed our holiday, especially because we felt sure that our money was going directly to the people that we stayed with and not a tour operator. I heard about you by chance in an article by Anita Roddick in the Guardian last year. I think you provide a fantastic service. We had some trouble with our visas and Tom, your colleague was really helpful, going out of his way to provide written proof of our travel plans. It was much appreciated! We will never travel with anyone else and advise all our friends to do the same!

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Unedited reviews from other travellers

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
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