Kottayam has a vast network of rivers and canals, which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake, 16 km from Kottayam town. The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, and is part of the Kuttanad region.
The bird sanctuary here, which is spread across 14 acres, is a favourite haunt of migratory birds and an ornithologist's paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teals, waterfowls, cuckoos, wild ducks and migratory birds like the Siberian stork that live here in flocks are a fascination for visitors. The best way to watch the birds of the Kumarakom sanctuary is a boat trip round the islands.
The lake, an enchanting picnic spot and a fastdeveloping backwater tourism destination, provides boating, fishing and sightseeing experiences, which are truly exhilarating. A number of luxury and boutique stay options makes Kumarakom a hot favourite with international tourists. The Kumarakom Tourist Village Complex of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation has independent cottages built on stilts, set among coconut and banana plantations. Holiday packages on the houseboats, traditional Kettuvallams, are an outofthisworld experience.
The serene lake comes alive during Onam with a spectacular water regatta the snake boat races. It is indeed amazing to watch oarsmen, at least a hundred in one boat, slice their way through the waters to the fast rhythm of their own fullthroated singing.