If you are in Kottayam, you need not look further than Vaikom to find a perfect one-day getaway. Matsyafed Palaikari Fish Farm in Chembu village on the Vaikom-Ernakulam route is a haven of delicious seafood delicacies which should be reason enough to visit this place more than once.
The farm is like a tiny island on the Vembanad and that is the secret of the fresh fish, praws, clams, and more served here during lunch meals, the cost of which is included in the ticket of Rs 250 per person.
A day at Palaikari
Start your day with a walk on a path lined with coconut trees that takes you to the farm office. You will encounted the fish cultures on the way and farm workers will be more than happy to explain the entire process to the ones interested.
The standard ticket includes more than delicious fish meals. You can take boat ride on calm waters of the lagoon. You may go around on a motor boat or pedal your way around it and work your appetite on a peddling boat. You can also try your hands at fishing here and not without incentives – you are up for a huge discount on the fish you catch here.
Apart from the basic fish meals, you can order from an overwhelming menu that included clams, prawns, karimeen, crabs, and other variety of fish!
In the evening, you can watch the sun set as you sip on hot coffee served with melt-in-mouth fish cutlets.
Years ago, a huge prawn farm, owned by a group of people hailing from Pala in Kottyam, functioned at the 117 acres of land on the banks of the lake. It was taken over by the Matsyafed and named 'Palaikari' which means 'land of the people from Pala.' Along with Palaikari, the Matsyafed also has fish farms at Njarackal and Malippuram in Ernakulam.
Fish like pearlspot, milkfish, northern red snapper, bluefin trevally and prawns are farmed at Palaikari. Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT), too, are grown at this farm. This encourages tourists to enjoy a fishing group activity here.
Farm manager Nisha will tell you how the Palakkari fish farm was turned into a tourism centre with just pedal boating and angling facilities initially.
However, efforts to explore the impeccable beauty of Vembanad were kicked off as tourists began to pour in. As a result, the fish farm got transformed into a tourist destination which draws hundreds of tourists today.
Just next to the breezy gazebo, there is a museum set up inside a houseboat that exhibits utensils and periphernalia, used by the natives of Kerala and old-school equipments of Kerala fishermen.
It gives a visual insight into the history, traditions and culture of this place.
'Bhoomika' is one of the two major single-day tour packages that the Palaikari fish farm offers. The package begins with a satiating breakfast at 9 in the morning. It covers the houseboat museum and other sites in the farm. By 10.30 am, the tourists will board a vehicle to Njarackal where they can spend time in a tree house or a bamboo hut. Adventure activities like coracle riding and water cycling are arranged here. You can treat your taste buds to an elaborated lunch which includes many delicious fish dishes.
All the adventure activities are conducted with the expert supervision of trained life guards.
The group is then taken to Malippuram by 4 pm. The thrilling speed boat ride is most in demand activity here. The tourists can even swim and have a great time bathing in the shallow parts of the lake. After having some fun in waters, you will be given a tour of the beautiful mangrove forests, in cooperation with the forest department. It doesn't end at that because in the evening you can enjoy the sunset by the scintillating shores of Chappa Beach. The visitors are then brought back to Palakkari where they are served a traditional dinner of boiled tapioca and fish curry. The Bhoomika package charges Rs 2000 per head for a day and accommodates up-to 15 people at a time.
Another package that covers all three Matsyafed farms is 'Pravahini' which begins with breakfast at 9.30 am. Undert this package, the visitors are taken for a speed boat ride to Vypin island in Ernakulam. Two life guards accompanies the tourists in this ride. Eight people can take part in this exclusive package which unfolds the beauty of Vembanad.
You can walk around Vypin, while another guide gets ready with a vehicle to take you to Njarackal. After a fun-filled afternoon and a sumptuous lunch there, you will be taken to Malipuram in Pathanamthitta in the evening to experience the mesmerizing farm there. The trip ends, back in Palakkari, with tea, juice and snacks. The Pravahini package charges Rs 1500 per head for adults and Rs 750 per head for children.
Palaikari is undergoing a significant facelift to draw more number of tourists. The Chinese nets are the latest additions which are a usual site in Fort Kochi but rarely seen in this part of Kerala now.
There is also a new package being planned which would take a group on speed boat to Fort Kochi.