Malabar was once a British Principality. Today it has no geographical bound but its identity binds the people who inhabit the region together and as a state of mind - “laid-back, slow, to live and let live”. The region is home to stunning cultural and natural diversity. We begin at the River Nila with legend trails, craft trails and heritage sites and then move to spice tours and tea plantations in Wayanad. While most of Kerala is well-travelled, Malabar still has secrets. The everyday and exotic merge seamlessly here and is a world away from shrink-wrapped plastic package tours. The Malabar leg comes minus hype and spin, and instead is a way of life that asks little of the traveller except an open mind.
Route: Cochin – Alleppey - Karimbavalavu - River Nila - Nilambur - Wayanad - Kannur - Calicut
Activities: Spice tours, tea and coffee plantation visits, rainforest visit, visit to an alternative lifestyle school, heritage tour, rainforest trek, camping, river trail, country boat cruise, legend and music trail, folk art forms
Duration: 14 Days
Learn a skill from locals. © Alvin Vimal
Cochin: Land at Cochin and check into a boutique hotel in the heritage quarter of the city. Check out Fort Cochin jew town, synagogue, spice markets, the Dutch palace, St Francis Church and Chinese fishing nets.
Cochin – Alleppy: Drive down to relax in the idyllic backwaters at Alleppey. Go onboard a houseboat for an overnight cruise. The houseboats cruise through the backwaters of Kuttanad - the rice bowl of Kerala. The banks of the waters will be lined with lush paddy fields, fishing nets, coconut grooves, and local villages. Soak in a sunset and sunrise on the water while enjoying a relaxed dining experience.
Alleppey – Karimbavalavu: You disembark from the houseboat for a short transfer to secluded island on the backwaters. There are six cottages over looking the backwaters with most stunning views. Known for its bird life, the island is a great stopover for relaxation. Cycling, village visits, and small trips in canoes are included.
’Boat trip that provides alternative source of income for local people.’
Karimbavalavu - River Nila: Drive up to the historic and scenic River Nila (4 hours). Get your hands dirty learning pottery with local artisans, and watch them weave magic on clay. Be blown away by creating intricate designs such as tea pots and door locks at the bell metal workshop, which is a craft confined to a few families in the region. It is also your chance to order for a souvenir to take back home. The day ends with time spent with young folk artists who showcase the folk heritage of River Nila.
River Nila: Spend the first half of the day in interactive sessions with the masters of classical arts at Kalamandalam. In the afternoon you check into a 400-year-old heritage house, Kooderi Mana, that is representative of a sustainable life style. Stay with the family and experience a traditional rural Kerala ambience. In the midst of an organic farm, this heritage house is part of the responsible tourism initiative that is making positive changes to the destination.
River Nila: Spend time with a family of musicians in the village of Mulayankavu. The musical trail is a journey to show case the percussion culture of River Nila. A lecture demonstration on various kinds of musical instruments is concluded by an amazing performance by the group. After a traditional lunch, we take you on a leisurely cruise down the Nila on a thoni (traditional boat). The cruise passes through stunning landscape comprising small canals, rivers and backwaters of a relatively unknown area called Tirur. This trip goes through several small islands where various communities of toddy (coconot palm liquor) tappers, coir rope workers and fishing communities live.
River Nila – Nilambur: Drive up to Nilambur (one hour)to check into Maranat Mana, a heritage property reflecting the age old traditions of a Kerala Brahmin family. Focusing on sustainable living, this places strikes an excellent balance between traditional life style and modern living. The two-acre sacred grove inside the farm is a representation of bio-diversity that is still sustained.
Nilambur: Spend the day in the village or the majestic home stay. Activities at no extra cost includes visits to farms and traditional bathing ghats.
Nilambur – Wayanad: Drive up to Wayand (3 hours). Home to several spices, Wayanad now has a viable and vibrant spice cultivation program. From cardamom to cinnamon, pepper to ginger and even vanilla, you can see for yourself the abundance of spice all along the hills of Wayanad. The idea of spice tour was conceived as an alternative source of income for small scale farmers and planters in Wayanad. Spice tours are also arranged in such a way that it gives a taste of living a plannter's life to the travellers.
Wayanad: Enjoy the adrenaline rush of a morning wildlife safari in Muthanga wildlife sanctuary, a biodiversity hotspot. The 24-kilometre safari is a chance to spot the Asian elephants, bears, wild gaurs (bison), spotted and sambar deers or even a leopard. Post-lunch we visit, Uravu, where you can interact with the artisans and designers who create beautiful products out of different varieties of bamboo which are grown locally. The visit also includes interactions with the promoters and a visit to the bamboo nursery.
Brunton Boat Yard. ’Sustaining tradition. Heritage conservation through responsible tourism.’ © CGH Earth
Wayanad – Kannur: You head for the coast at Kannur (three hours). Kannur is home to the most idyllic beaches in the Malabar region. Far from crowds, there is an opportunity to go in a boat to near by towns if you wish. Many traditional folk art forms can be witnessed in villages surrounding Kannur.
Kannur: Relax on the beach near Kannur. One can also visit St Angelo Fort, Arakkal museum and the Cannanore Lighthouse. We can also take you to temples nearby for Theyyam performances.
Kannur: Relax on the beach near Kannur.
Kannur - Calicut Aiport: Transfer to Calicut Airport.
How your travel makes a difference to the local community & environment
- Spice tours were started to support small farmers and spice planters in and around Wayanad to find an alternative, supplementary source of income. The tour provides a glimpse into the issues surrounding the struggles of spice farmers against fluctuating prices and globalisation.
- The visit to the rainforest garden involves interaction with the community who initiated the rainforest regeneration and the latter half of the visit benefits the community living in the alternative school campus.
- Trek guides are from the local communities and the programs are operated by them. These are people who live on the fringes of the wildlife areas. All parts of our trek routes and campsites follow zero waste management. During and after every trek, we collect and dispose plastic waste that might have been left behind by other tourists and local people.
- The visit to the potter community is an appreciation of the efforts to rehabilitate the potters. Our visits expand the knowledge about the program and provide them financial support.
- The day with the musicians helps them promote their art forms to all corners of the world. The visit provides with them an additional source of income which is valuable given the seasonal nature of festivals in Kerala. These people are also lower caste members of the communities who otherwise, wouldn’t get an opportunity to perform in an esteemed musical gathering.
Tiger By The River
Kerala is home to among the most stunning bio-diversity on the planet
Be prepared to be amazed by stunning cultural diversity in a small state
Far from prying-eyes, it comprises of the five districts - Kasargod, Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram.