The Green Haven
Kumarakam, a lagoon like village on the eastern banks of the Vembanad lake in central south Kerala is a traveler’s paradise. This picturesque land in Kuttanad is well connected by road to Kochi and Kottayam. Its green paddy fields, meandering canals and waterways, vast stretches of water lilies, long and fading rows of coconut groves and the blue glittering waters of the backwaters form a perfect refreshing retreat for human tourists as well as migrant birds. Tourists and migrant birds from all over the world flock to this rustic haven in search of fresh air, water and a taste of Kuttanad.
The Eco Crisis
I was in Kumarakam on 16 and 17 January 2010 to participate in the annual Vembanad Waterfowl Count organized by Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department and Kottayam Nature Society. This year I was assigned the Thanneermukkam bund to survey. The bund or rather barrage is a cause of a huge environmental catastrophe in Kuttanad for the last few decades. It was designed exclusively for the doubling of paddy yield, but unfortunately it had blocked the natural flow of water into the sea and
contaminated the whole region. Now the government has made a decision to open it for a whole year, so that the toxins accumulated could be purged. Let us hope for the best.
Waterfowl Count 2010
Since I was given the barrage area to survey there was little birds apart from a few whiskered terns,egrets, cormorants and Brahmany kites. We could see a pair of white-browed wagtails at the western end of the barrage. The count done in ten locations confirmed a marginal drop in the number of birds in the winter migration season. The survey also brings to notice the extend of pollution that is increasing day by day as a result of irresponsible tourism. The destruction of natural habitat and contamination of water bodies are detrimentally affecting the migrant waterfowl.
Westend Lakeside Home Stay
But the day before the survey I was lucky to spend my evening at the lake side in a beautiful home stay retreat called Westend Lakeside Home Stay. It is a small but well designed getaway in the traditional wooden architectural style of Kerala at the edge of the backwater from where you have a great view of the Vembanad. Here you can enjoy the sunset from your balcony or the courtyard soothing yourself in the cool gentle breeze that caresses you all the time.
As this place is so calm and close to the lake you can also watch the birds that come to the shore and the lake. Plenty of marsh and spotted sandpipers were near the shore. I saw plenty of whistling ducks coming to feed in the lake in the evening. A flight of cotton teals was also seen in between. Egrets and pond herons were plenty. A
huge purple heron was seen at the edge of the water. A few black kites and an Osprey were also seen at a distance in the horizon. The breezy and quiet sunset here is a trans experience that will linger in our mind for so long.
Once it was dark I could here the whistling of ducks coming in large flocks to the lake. The dark silhouette of night herons in flight was also interesting. I spend a lot of time at the lake shore just in front of the cottage experiencing the wonderful sounds, sights, smells and touch of mother nature in all her glory and subtlety. It was a really refreshing evening for me. After it was dark the calls and responses of jungle owlets and barn owls were coming form the adjacent palm groves. Paul my host informed that pond herons and little cormorants regularly nest and breed in a small heronry on the tree that is near to the cottage every year.
Sunrise Cruise in the Lake
This Lake Side Home Stay is near the MRF training centre slightly to the west of Pallychira between Kumarakam Jetty and Kavanatinkara Tourist Complex. They also provide simple Kumarakam delicacies including Karimeen and prawn. They could also arrange a country boat cruise in the lake at sunrise or sunset. If you are interested to watch birds, sunrise cruise is ideal; if you want to enjoy nature and simply unwind in the breeze set sail at sunset. Paul can be reached at: +91 9447569895 or +91 9249411167.