These unique boat Kettuvalloms are one of the most important tourist attractions of India, it’s like time travel into a quiet morning of another century. Kettuvalloms have almost everything: bedrooms with terraces, balconies with comfortable seating, bathrooms and even kitchen with private chef. It is some sort of floating hotel for tourists wishing to get acquainted with the memorable sights of India. The Kettuvallom or ‘boat with knots’ is so called because the entire boat is held together with coir knots only – not a single nail is used during the construction. The boat is made of huge planks of Jack wood or ‘Aanjili’ and joined with coir. This is then coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. A portion of the Kettuvallom is covered with a canopy made of the wood from the arecanut tree and bamboo mats and coir and served in the old days as a rest room and kitchen for the crews. Kettuvalloms were formerly used for the transport of goods like rice, spices and coir from the isolated villages of the interior to the towns. A Kettuvallom, which measures from 20 – 25m in length and from 4m – 4.5m across, can hold up to 30 tons of cargo. Two men punting at each end with long bamboo poles moved these huge barges. With the advent of roads, bridges and modern transportation, these Kettuvallom gradually disappeared from use. There used to be an entire clan of artisans who were involved in Kettuvallom construction.
Made with wooden planks, joined and stitched together with coir ropes and painted on the outside with cashew nut shell oil or fish oil. A distinctive feature of the Kettuvallam is the design suggesting the possible Chinese influence. These Kettuvallams were used for transporting huge quantities of heavy materials from one place to other. In certain areas Kettuvallams are still used for transferring Coconut Husk, Sand and other goods. In earlier days since all places were not well connected by roads, Kettuvallams were the main source of transportation through the Kerala backwaters. It took long journeys ranging from 5 to 6 days, sometimes weeks even to transport things. Kettuvallams equipped with all modern facilities and requirements are called Houseboats. The houseboat has a living room, a sunbathing deck, and bedrooms with attached European style bath and a kitchen. The boat has solar lamps and fans. Without experiencing and enjoying a houseboat cruise, the trip to Kerala will not be a complete one.
Kettuvallams, the large traditional houseboats are converted into floating luxury dwelling units. These house boats are available in all sizes and shapes, the most popular accommodation type being a suite, having one or two bath attached bedrooms, one living room, kitchenette, an open lounge, deck and a crew comprising oarsmen, a cook and guide. The houseboats are generally powered by a small outboard engine, allowing one to cruise along the backwaters. A recent innovation is a small conference room in a houseboat.