Island – the word evokes memories of childhood classics such as Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island. These were some of my favourite books and there have been times I have wondered what it would be like to be actually marooned on an island, cut off from the rest of the world. Well, I live on an island, but there is no feeling of being cut off from the world – in fact, it is more crowded and noisier than many other cities, and there doesn’t seem to be the remotest chance of my being marooned on some uninhabited island. So much for fantasies……
However, this vacation brought the fantasy as near to fact as it is possible in these days of faster and more efficient methods of communication, when we visited Poovar.
Poovar is a small island about 30 Kms from Trivandrum, where the backwaters merge with the Arabian Sea. The river Neyyar also empties into the sea here, and thus, at Poovar Beach near the island, one can see the remarkable sight of river, sea, beach, backwaters, as well as lakes (formed at intervals due to the flow of water), all converging at the estuary. The only way to approach the island is via boats. There are 3 resorts on the island – The Poovar Island resort, Isola de Coco and The Estuary Island resort. Click on the resort name to visit their websites for more details.
The Poovar Island Resort - what you can see are the floating cottages
The Estuary Island Resort
Isola De Coco
All these resorts have their own jetty from where boats are available to the resort. For those who have reserved rooms at the resort, this boat ride is free, but if you simply wish to visit the resort and return, the boats are available for a fixed charge. The resorts are about 2 Kms away from Poovar, and the motor boat ride takes about 20 minutes.
The Poovar Island Resort Jetty
On the way from Poovar to the resort jetty, there are also other jetties from where one can take a boat ride down the backwaters to the estuary and the beach, without having to stay at any of these resorts. During the peak season (November to March), smaller establishments open up along the backwaters with a few rooms each.
A smaller resort, closed in May
Time seems to have stood still here, for it is still a tiny fishing village with just a couple of resorts, who have at least tried to maintain the status quo without impinging too much on nature. However, as everywhere, things are beginning to change, with new resorts coming up in the area, and even smaller players trying out their luck with small establishments. I am happy that I have been able to see this wonderful place at least now, and hope the changes will be for the better, and not for the worse.
The Poovar Island Resort is a Club Mahindra affiliate, which is how we got to stay there. The most attractive part of the resort are the floating cottages, built on lightweight concrete hulls on the water and connected to the island by a bridge. They look just divine, and it would have been heaven to live in one of them. That wish, however was not to be fulfilled, for, among the dozen such rooms, only 4 belong to Club Mahindra, and we weren’t the lucky ones to get those.
One of the Floating Cottages
We had to settle with the land cottages, which are built on the parts of land amidst the crisscrossing streams of the backwaters.
There are bridges connecting these cottages, and plenty of fishes in the water below. We even saw a few frogs and a really big crab! Needless to say, Samhith was thrilled!!!
The connecting bridges..
The resort is divided into two sections – the first portion is the regular resort, behind which is hidden the more exclusive Ayurvedic village. The main Ayurvedic centre is, of course, common for the entire resort, but the village is for those who have especially come down for treatment over a period. This section has everything separate from the main resort including a pool and a special restaurant serving meals appropriate to the treatment. I couldn’t restrain my inquisitiveness, and on enquiry, was told that most of the guests were Germans and Swiss – no wonder their library had mostly German and French books!!!
The Ayurvedic Village
All kinds of amenities are available at the resort for indoor and outdoor games, swimming, reading, etc. and to enjoy it best, one has to go in a group. For loners like me, it is best to find a secluded area and settle down with a book… and there were plenty of such places too…. The place is so huge; one can wander around without meeting too many people.
The close proximity to the water and all the greenery around attracts lots of birds, and we saw quite a few, prominent among which (or rather, to be honest, the ones I could identify) were egrets, cormorants, kingfishers, and bee-eaters.
Here are a few of the birds we saw...
Boats are available to take us to the beach, though the sea is so rough, it is not really safe to get into the water. One can enter the water in the backwater-side of the beach, where it is quite calm. This is also not a very good place to collect shells, as we found to Samhith’s disappointment – the sea was so rough that there were only broken shells, and they too were few and far between – the sea simply washed out everything!!!!!!
The calmer side of the same beach
The best place to go for a beach experience is surely Kovalam. Kovalam beach is about 15 Kms from Poovar. A car from the resort cost about Rs.1000/-, but a cheaper option is to get to the mainland by the boat and then take an auto. The charges for the return journey comes to about Rs.250/-.
Kovalam is certainly one of the most famous beaches in India. Discovered by the British guests of the Travancore Maharaja, it is one of the earliest beaches to become a tourist hotspot from a sleepy fishing village. The whole stretch of Kovalam is divided into 3 crescent shaped beaches separated by rocks. The lighthouse beach is the most popular one, followed by the Eve’s beach, so named for the European ladies who used to sunbathe here. The third is known as the Samudra Beach.
We arrived at the beach when the tide was high, but the sea is quite shallow here, and it was safe to bathe, and Samhith and Shankar thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Again due to the high tide, few shells were available, but the few that we did collect turned out be exactly like those we collected at Goa!!!! After all, come to think of it, it is the same sea and the same stretch of land too, right????
We were approached by boatmen offering to take us in their boats and show us fishes of different colours as well as coral reefs, but I was too scared of entering into the boat when the sea was so rough and the surf was so high, and didn’t take them on. As to Shankar and Samhith, they were having too much fun to get diverted. So I shall never know whether you actually can see coloured fishes and reefs. If any of you have had such experiences, I would love it if you could share it with me...
One of the boats
On an island surrounded by water and sand what can you do? Once you are through with the beaches, the only other activity is the backwater cruise. However, this post has grown too long, and I shall stop here for now.
Coming up: Backwater Cruise – A photo-blog
Meanwhile, here are a few more pics for you......