This trip is personally led by Dag Goering and/or Maria Coffey, founders of Hidden Places
US $ 3750 per person based on double occupancy
Single Hotel Supplement:
Feb 02 – Feb 13, 2014
Nov 06 – Nov 17, 2014
Feb 02 – Feb 13, 2015
Nov 06 – Nov 17, 2015
9 nights heritage hotels and villas
2 nights luxury rice boat
10 guests maximum
Funds from this trip will be donated to the Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan in Kochi, a centre for youth at risk, and to local efforts to improve the welfare of temple elephants.
Kayaking in India’s Kerala State, you’ll be enchanted by an over-abundance of beauty: between the Arabian Sea and the mountainous Western Ghats lie its stunning white sand beaches, lush tropical greenery, and a huge labyrinth of interconnected channels, lagoons and lakes – the Kerala Backwaters. In this verdant paradise, known by locals as "God’s Own Country", India slows to a relaxed, friendly pace. The climate is idyllic, and the cuisine – a fusion of the many cultures that have been welcomed here for centuries past – is astonishing. We first discovered Kerala in 2008 and were immediately enchanted – we can’t wait to return with you for a brand new Hidden Places adventure!
Our India kayaking adventure begins in Fort Cochin. This ancient settlement was first visited by Phoenician traders over 2000 years ago, and by the 14th century it was a key stop on the spice trade route for Dutch, Portuguese, British and Chinese seafarers. Starting from our boutique hotel in a beautifully restored 300 year old colonial building, we explore this fascinating settlement, checking out atmospheric spice warehouses, the church where Vasco de Gama was buried and the unique Chinese fishing nets, reputedly brought here from the court of Kublai Khan, and still in use. We also attend a stunning performance of Kathakali, the oldest dance form in India that combines drama, music, devotion and elaborate costumes to create a theatrical masterpiece.
India’s best place to paddle is Alleppey, named 'Venice of the East' because of the numerous channels meandering through it. We pick up our kayaks here and for the next four days we head deep into the backwaters, where life goes on as it has done for centuries past. We watch young men climb coconut palms to collect the sap for 'toddy', kayak alongside fishmongers selling their catch from skinny canoes and chat to children paddling to school. We may have to stop for a flock of ducks being ferried across the channel by a farmer, and for sure we'll pull up in our kayaks at a cafe to enjoy cup of chai! This is also a birder's delight, as we catch glimpse of egrets, herons, cormorants, terns and our favorite, the kingfisher, with its iridescent blue wings.
On this adventure tour in India our luggage is transported ahead of us while we paddle "inn to inn", arriving in the afternoons at our comfortable accommodation in heritage villas. Here we have cooking lessons in the famed Kuttanadan cuisine, unique to the backwaters, and enjoy an Ayurvedic massage or simply relax in a hammock as the sun goes down. Every day takes us further into the rich cultural heritage of Kerala, as we watch moving performances by Sopana devotional singers, accompanied by traditional temple drummers.
For another perspective on the Kerala backwaters we board a kettuvolam – a beautifully crafted bamboo and reed boat originally built to transport rice, now converted into a luxury mothership. We spend two days cruising past jewel green paddy fields and groves of mangos, bananas and jackfruit, enjoying fabulous meals and stopping for visits at local villages. There are bicycles at hand for those of us who want to explore the backwaters along its many narrow pathways, or we can simple meander by foot – Kerala is the place for meandering!
The rich spice belt of Kerala, at the foothills of the Western Ghats is our final destination. On a secluded organic farm in a fabulous setting, we go on a culinary journey with our hosts and in-house chef. We help them pick fresh spices, vegetables and fruit, and learn their secrets as they teach us to create extraordinary dishes, each taste balanced according to the principles of Ayurveda. We can also trek in the forest, go bamboo rafting or simply relax by the swimming pool.
Leaving this little paradise we return to Fort Cochin, where there is time for to shop in what we rate as the world’s best antiques markets, or indulge in the Ayurvedic spa, before a farewell dinner in the gardens of our atmospheric hotel.
If you’ve never been to India, Kerala is the place to start – as well as being verdant and peaceful, it is has an almost 100% literacy rate, great healthcare, religious tolerance and a rural prosperity that is reflected in the smiles of its hospitable people. And if you're an experienced India hand, but have not explored the south, join us for an intimate journey into "God’s Own Country"!
Adventure Travel has been our specialty since 1991 when we started to explore the world's most spectacular places as photographers and writers. Several years (and several books) later we began sharing our experiences with others by developing and leading adventure tours. We founded Hidden Places Travel in 2000 and quickly became renowned for our unique, off-the-beaten-track itineraries. Our support of local communities and conservation projects gives our trips unprecedented access and our loyal following of repeat guests is a testament to our professionalism and nurturing approach.
We invite you to join us on one of our life-changing adventures.
Dag Goering and Maria Coffey