Feb 18, 2016

Coastal India Series- Destination Poovar, the stunning estuary of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala

Estuary is the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tides from the ocean meets the river stream and forms a transition zone between river environments and maritime environments provide high levels of nutrients both in the water column and in sediment, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats.

I had heard of this term for the first time when I was researching our stay at Kovalam. Poovar happens to be a small waterfront hamlet along the River Neyyar which flows through this hamlet and drains into the Arabian Sea. Poovar is a 75kms drive from Kovalam and has many luxury accommodations including the Club Mahindra properties.

To enjoy this magnificent destination one has to take a backwater cruise. There are many Boat Companies that ply this trip and you get a choice of boats (Motor boat, Country boat or a Shikara) to choose from for your cruise. You can book your trip online as well. Usually the ride is for a couple of hours with a 30 minute stop at the golden sandy beach of the estuary.

Backwater, Poovar, Sunset Cruise, Kerala

My son plays captain of the ship in our traditional houseboat on the Neyyar river

We sailed out in a typical Kerala House Boat that swayed through dense mangrove waterways that were home to many exotic marine birds. A slow and winding ride which occasionally interspersed with fishing villages that had their respective boats parked on either sides of the banks brought us closer to our final destination. Indeed was an interesting view to hold.

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Parked boats along the river bank of Neyyar River

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Young boys from the nearby hamlets have a playful time while we sway through the curves to our destination.

Every hamlet would have people carrying out daily chores along the banks and kids swimming in the water while the elders performed their duties. At a distance we could see vast and fairly empty winding roads that had an occasional motorbike whisk past with a pile-on rider that reminded you that modern civilization is just around the corner. As we were on a sunset cruise many of the images were merely silhouettes!

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Silhouette of the not so far-off city life!

Navigating through our winding water paths we finally surfaced on a much wider water expanse. Clearly a space where more flowing tributaries merged in therefore making the waterscape look wider & bigger. As we were done with discussing this point, at a distance not very far, we could see some broken patches of golden sand with interspersed spray of surf. My son jumped with excitement knowing very well it was beach time again!

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Finally at the estuary where the river meets the salty ocean.

Indeed was. We alighted at this spot only to realise that the small golden patch was a really large stretch and a majority of this bank was wedging into the ocean. The setting sun cast a golden hue on the shimmering sand and it was a visual treat like never before! Each wave would've been twice my height and interestingly the mixing of the waters added to the heaviness of the waves, perhaps!

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Sonny boy and me race up the beach to feel the waves.

It was kind of scary while we watched but I am sure if we were surfers we'd have jumped right in and have ridden these waves!

We spent the next half hour soaking in the beauty, playing with the waves and somewhere feeling very thankful to God for having seen such a beautiful natural wonder. The setting sun perhaps never looked as radiant and left its lasting orange in the skies for a long while even after it had set.

As the sun sets it leaves behind the orange hue.

The perfect shot where the sunset is in progess while the moon gives a quick glimpse against the orange sky

With this we got back into our respective water machines and headed back to shore where the vacation still had a promise, a promise of exploring some more and as for me, a secret desire to be back here again, very soon.

Sensuous2Spiritual Recommends:

  • Stay at Poovar if you have never experienced the estuary. I plan to do that for sure during my next visit!
  • Take a traditional Kerala Houseboat ride and feel the local ways of living through the backwaters.
  • Carry swimwear. It is way too tempting to not get into water. 
  • Have a set of good binoculars handy and if you are into photography then this should be paradise.
  • Drink 'chaya' ~ hot tea by the waterside stalls. Is a fun experience to have.
  • Ask your boatman to play some good Malyalee songs. Adds to the ambience!          

Important Tip:

Don't forget to carry some mosquito repellent cream for your ride back. It gets dark and notorious for mosquitoes. The only drawback if you are on a sunset cruise.

Silhouette of the upstream ride after the sunset.

As we approach some of the hamlets, now closer to our parking bay!

More on the Sensuous2Spiritual Coastal India Series

Stay tuned for more and until then leave me with you comments. It could be about your own experiences while touring these places, recommendations or simply some kind words that will shower love for Sensuous2Spiritual! :)



Feb 17, 2016

Coastal India Series- Destination Kovalam, in the state of Kerala

Kovalam is a beach town by the Arabian Sea in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. Kovalam literally means a grove of coconut trees, which is reflective of this town from every possible angle.

Kovalam, Beach, Kerala, Fishing Boats, Vacation

Fishing boats parked at the Kovalam Beach in the backdrop of the famous Kovalam Coconut Groves

Originally a quaint fishing village, it was discovered by the Regent Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore in the 1920's. She constructed her beach resort Halcyon Castle in this quaint coconut grove village which eventually became a popular tourist destination; owing to the Hippy movement that was headed to Ceylon in the early 1970's. Kovalam has ever since become a popular International Beach destination and fairly known in the travel circuits.

Every morning and evening the fishermen come to the beach, build their canoe and sail out to sea for their prized catch. They also take tourists for snorkelling trips on a clear weather.

Fishermen construct their canoe for their evening fishing schedule.

Kovalam beach, Juma Mazjid, Leela Palace Kovalam

Fishing in progress at the Kovalam Beach with a partial view of the Juma Mazjid

While at Kovalam being a beach bum is absolutely necessary, hence one can find exotic luxury resorts to beautiful homestays near the beach quite easily. There are 3 distinct beaches at the 17 kms Kovalam beach stretch- Lighthouse Beach, Hawa Beach and Samudra Beach.

Apart from the beaches, Kovalam is also popular for its Kerala Ayurvedic Massages and it is a must have on your itinerary. Many of the stay options come with exotic massage packages and if you don't already have one included definitely try out one from a recommended source.

Sensuous2Spiritual Recommends:

  1. 'PIZHICHIL' massage at the Leela Kovalam Spa, a 60 minutes relaxation technique where pieces of cloth dipped in warm medicated oil are squeezed by hand continually and uniformly over the body from a defined height as skillful hands simultaneously massage the oil into the skin. This treatment increases blood circulation, nourishing muscles and nerve tissues to provide a rejuvenating effect.
  2. Snorkel along the Kovalam reef with the Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society. These trips begin from the lighthouse beach and is a great way to experience the aquatic life which includes Scuba Diving trips.
  3. Hire a fisherman canoe at the beach and experience the fisherman's life at sea. You will find them early mornings and again closer to sunset. Just walk up to them and ask for the ride of your life. :) 
  4. Walk/cycle along the village roads and experience the local life of the Kovalam habitat along the fishing net clad homes, a distinct coastal Kerala feature.
  5. 'Deepam Deepam', a traditional ritual of Kerala homes when they light the 'Nilavilakku' ~ tall lamp every morning & evening irrespective of the religion they follow. It is believed that lighting this lamp at both these times brings in knowledge and wealth. The ritual followed in the evening is a sight to behold. A local friend would be of great help for experienvcing one of these! :)      
    This lamp is lit twice a day, once early in the morning and again early evening. It is believed that lighting this lamp bring knowledge and wealth to their homes.

    Nilavilakku, a tall lamp that is lit twice in all traditional Malyali Homes

    Important Tip:

    Being a tourist hot-spot, the prices of almost everything is increased by ~150%. Do keep your negotiation skills handy. Helps many times! :)

    Things to do keeping Kovalam as the stay destination:

    There are many day excursions that can be planned if you are staying at Kovalam. Infact exploring Thiruvananthapuram while staying at Kovalam is a good plan. You can also take trips to the following places while at Kovalam:

    • Thiruvallam- Parasurama Temple, 2000-year-old temple on the banks of the River Karamana. 
    • Vizhinjam- 2kms from Kovalam, explore the Fishing Village, Rock-cut Cave Temple, Marine Aquarium
    • Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary has a picturesque dam site serving as its gateway and is a popular picnic spot, which comes with a watch-tower, crocodile farm, lion safari park and deer park. Boating facilities are available at the reservoir along with an elephant rehabilitation centre at Kottoor situated nearby ~ 45 km
    • Ponmudi, an idyllic hill station ~ 75 km
    • Varkala, a calm and quiet hamlet, lies on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram district ~ 65 km
    • Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of India, where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet. Kanyakumari is famous for watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets, especially on full moon days  ~ 90 km 

    Elephant Rehabilitation Center at Kottoor brings you up-close to the elephants of Kerala 

    Crocodile Farm, Lion Safari Park, Deer Park, Boating is a 45km drive from Kovalam and is a great picnic spot.

    Neyyar Dam that has the Crocodile Farm, Lion Safari and Deer Park. It is also popular for its boating facility.

    Poovar- the stunning estuary is our next destination

    Next up is a quick tour of Poovar, an estuary on the outskirts of Kovalam. A must do in case you stay at Kovalam or plan a few days stay at Poovar as it is the perfect backwater experience closest to Kovalam.

    Stay tuned for more and until then...


    Incase you want to know more about Kerala:

    Kerala is the southernmost state of India, also known as 'Gods own country' because of its mythological relevance (believed to have taken form due to the axe felled by the Hindu Deity Parshuram- a reincarnation of Vishnu) and thereafter to the homogenous mix of religious cultures (Hindu's, Muslims & Christians call this home for decades, very secular in its habitat). But furthermore, it is the landscape that merges the lush green Sahyadri Range into numerous water bodies eventually mixing into the Arabian Sea. Kerala also boasts tremendous historic relevance and is a melting pot of numerous cultures, which almost large part of India is! All this adds to the mysticism of this land and when coupled with its rustic hospitality & charm it becomes the ultimate tourist destination of the country.

    Feb 15, 2016

    Coastal India- A postcard series that brings alive the Indian Shoreline

    With mid February rapidly passing by, I am sure we can feel winter give way to the beautiful blooms of spring. A time when we move away from the extreme colds to colorful long days as March and April begin to approach.

    Well as for me, it is a that time in the year when my family plans on a lot of holidays especially since the next some months bring along a few long weekends and who can dismiss the need to plan for the impending vacations (spring & summer breaks)! As a family who loves water, for us, the beach is always our first port of call.

    Summer Vacation Bucket List, Beaches of India, Travel by air & rail, Holiday Destinations

    Destination planning for the Spring-Summer underway!

    Lazy mornings that drift into long afternoons that merge into golden yellow sunsets- all this along the shoreline! Yes, this sounds like that PERFECT holiday...!!!

    sunset, beach, hammock, coastal India

    Feeling the sensuous sea breeze and watching the sun set at a distance, perfect make of a holiday!

    So as I delve into my treasure trove of escapades that will help me plan our next destination I intend to share some of my memories & journeys as a series of postcards coupled with a few recommendations for all you lovely people. Some of the destinations I will cover through this series will be:

    • Maharashtra- Tarkarli & Homestays of Sawantwadi, Murud
    • Goa
    • Karnataka- Kaup 
    • Tamil Nadu- Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry
    • Kerala- Kovalam, Poovar

    Hope you feel the Sensuous2Spiritual enthusiasm through these posts!


    Feb 7, 2016

    Weekend postcards: Harmonious flight of the free willed avian (Greater Sand Plovers)!

    Mumbai becomes home to many migratory bird species during the months of October through March. The moderate climate of the city brings these graceful species to make this otherwise concrete city their home. It is a great opportunity for the Mumbaikar to experience few harmonious nature moments (if we choose to do so)!

    Greater Sand Plovers are a rare vagrant from Western Europe that have been found in lands as far as North America. They are known to migrate to warmer land during winters to breed.

    Migratory birds from lands as far as Iceland flock the South Asian land in the winters. Seen at the Vashi Salt Pans in the month of February 2016. Wilderness, Migratory birds, Plovers, Birding Grounds
    A flock of Greater & Lesser Sand plovers rhythmically burst into a flight while many others continue to stay on course their food hunt at the sand flats of Navi Mumbai. 

    The Plovers breed in the semi-deserts of Turkey and eastwards through Central Asia. They nest in a bare ground scrape. This species is strongly migratory, wintering on sandy beaches in east Africa, south Asia and Australasia.

    Family Outing Tip:
    Watching these beauties busy and in flight is truly a sight to behold. S2S suggests you pack a flask of steaming hot coffee, some sandwiches and a good set of binoculars for an impromptu picnic by the creeks of Mumbai. Lay out a picnic mat, put on that sun hat and enjoy the beauty around this natural habitat.

    We spent the most amazing February morning with my son and my school friends who were visiting us from other parts of the world. 
    More on the avian kinds at S2S Chronicles:

    I will share more weekend postcards of this trail over the next few weeks along with destinations where you can venture for these exciting brakes in the otherwise mundane Financial Capital of India.