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“Amazing and wonderfully unique experience”

Travspire Private Day Tours
Ranked #36 of 58 Tours in Kochi (Cochin)
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Attraction details
Owner description: We organise offbeat day tours and multi day activities in Kerala. Embark on an authentic backwater village experiences, spend a day with a temple elephant, cycle along the beach or in the mountains, kayak in the backwaters, hike in the hills and learn to cook authentic syrian christian cuisine from a home cook.
Bengaluru, India
1 review
“Amazing and wonderfully unique experience”
Reviewed June 27, 2014

This was one of the most unique things I can image doing in the backwaters of Kerala. The guides and equipment were great and the tour well planned. The day starts out with some good exercise as you kayak down one of the main rivers to a great local breakfast spot. Food here was great, and the pet eagle that you can pose with for pictures was a great surprise.

After breakfast, the real magic starts as you leave the main river ways that are all most tourists to the backwaters ever see and navigate into a web of tiny, interconnected water ways that wind through villages. You paddle by houses and people going about their day to day lives, traveling the way the locals do (these houses don't have roads going to them, the only way to get there is by small boat!). It was a very intimate experience as you cruise past women doing their laundry, men building up their monsoon flood walls, and, if you're lucky like we were, even a man shooting a fish with a bow and arrow for his family's dinner.

If you find yourself in the backwaters, I can't think of a more unique experience that gets you closer to and more in touch with the true local lifestyle than this kayak trip.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank Kevin D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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13 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Ferndale, Washington
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Inspiring and magical!”
Reviewed June 18, 2014

When my husband and I go on holiday we like to be outside as much as possible; his focus is birding, mine is walking, swimming, maybe kayaking, but definitely eating and reading in comfortable surroundings. A big thank you to Arjun at Travspire for personlizing a travel plan that made us both happy! May is in the off season-- winter months are cooler and the birding better-- but it was totally worthwhile to experience these wonderful places at a relaxed, un-busy time.
We flew out from Bengaluru to Cochi. A very good driver met us and took us first to Hornbill Camp, which I highly recommend. We spent 2 days birding, kayaking and eating delicious food in a beautiful, beautiful environment. Our "tent" was large, clean and comfortable-- more like a cabin-- with electricity and running water and a good shower ( a necessity in my book!). Special kudos to Abilash, an expert ornithologist, who took my husband on an early morning walk into the Salim Ali Reserve and found species he never thought he would see at that time of year.
Next the driver took us on to the backwaters near Aleppuzha where we enjoyed 2 magical days and nights on a small, eco-friendly houseboat ( Breeze Homes). Really, being in the backwaters is like being transported to an enchanted world-- so quiet, green and beautiful. Excellent food (thank you Gireesh!), comfortable cabin with AC, and a delightful crew (Mattu and ?--a nice guy whose name I didn't catch) who went out of their way to point out birds and take us to interesting places.
The last 2 days and nights of our Kerala adventure, the driver took us to the Hindustan Beach Resort in Varkala. Our room overlooked Papansasum Beach where Hindu people go to perform the last rites after a close relative has died. Honestly, the room was so comfortable, we spent some time just watching out the window at what was happening on the beach. We did tear ourselves away from people watching to swim in the excellent pool, body surf further up the beach and walk.
It was hard to leave each one of these unique and fascinating places-- we wanted to stay longer and plan on coming back! Again, thank you Arjun and Travspire. You really lived up to your name -- this was a truly inspiring travel experience for us.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank Nadia W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Day with an Elephant: Travspire = awesome, elephant industry = not so sure”
Reviewed March 2, 2014

My personal experience with Travspire, Palmland Tours and the Anathavalam farm was excellent. My ultimate feelings about the day are mixed. I'll start from the top:

My guide, Suresh, was absolutely wonderful--engaging, warm, very knowledgable about not only the animals but their place in Keralan history, and honest about what the life of a festival elephant is like. He spoke fluent English and took me to two very cool hole-in-the-wall restaurants to and from the elephant farm that I never would have discovered on my own. All thumbs up for Suresh.

I'll get back to the farm itself. Before that, I think it's important to set the context of elephants in Kerala as a whole:

I don't do Sea World or circuses; I don't do zoos that don't have a conservation mandate. I was nervous about signing up for this tour. I asked Suresh about elephant treatment pretty much as soon as we got in the car. Here is what I gathered:

1) Elephants in Kerala are working animals. They are woven into the fabric of the zillion regional festivals held here. It's not just for the tourists, it's a part of the Keralan way of life. This has been the case for a very long time.

2) Suresh's point of view (as well as mine): Ideally, elephants are better off in the wild; they should be allowed to stay there. Due to the overpowering truth of point #1, that ideal isn't realistic. Not impossible, but not doable in the near term (People have tried: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/elephant-went-fury-and-killing-many-during-kerela-festival2007/1/156056.html). Part of the reason it's so hard is that we're not looking at a Sea World situation. Sea World doesn't have any of the social, religious, or historical significance that gives it the kind of permanence that Keralan festival cultural has. Plus, Sea World is categorically cruel--what I experienced was not.

The question, then, is how do we work with what we have? "What we have" = a world where elephants are in captivity.

3) Suresh works within that world. And he's thinking about stopping working in it. One of the reasons he yet to do so is that he found an elephant farm that treats the animals better than the other farms he's worked with and dropped due to poor conditions.

With that in mind, my review of the Anathavalam facility:

Likes

Tons of open space, run by a nice family, mahouts seemed like decent guys who cared about the animals, everyone's conversation and attention seems to revolve around the elephants, who are in the shade. I helped with the bath portion of the day, which was a nice ritual. The elephant I was with (Padmanabhan) was definitely a happy camper during that time. You can tell by behavioral cues like wrapping his trunk around one of his tusks. During the walk around the neighborhood everyone came out of their houses with fruit to give to Padmanabhan, who I can only describe as a local celebrity. It was a real honor to get to spend time with such an incredible animal. I was pretty smitten.

Ambivalents

When a male elephant is in "musthe," he's very hard (and dangerous) to be around. There are reports of bad owners doing bad things to elephants in order to suppress the musthe state instead of just riding it out (Read more about it in the article I linked to above--very cruel.). There was one elephant in musthe at Anathavalam. They chose the "ride it out" approach, which is better than the stuff referenced in that article, but it also involved heavy restriction of the elephant's movement--chained front and back to concrete pillars. There was a good amount of give in the chains, but he couldn't have turned around 360, for instance. I didn't like seeing this but at the same time, I don't know how else they would handle an elephant in that dangerous of a condition. He would snap out with his trunk at anyone who got too close, which can kill you.

Dislikes

Suresh says that there are two ways to keep an elephant in captivity: Tether them to a post or put them in a paddock. The three animals on the farm were tethered--taken out a lot for walks and baths... but still tethered. Sometimes restrictively if dangerous (see below), sometimes on a long lead, and sometimes with the front two feet attached by about 12 inches of chain in between (I really didn't get why this one was necessary). Building a paddock that an elephant can't get out of sounds difficult, but I would absolutely rather have seen these ones maintained that way than by chain. When not being walked or bathed, they're pretty much just standing there (in the shade, but still).

My final thought? The chance to get up close with these amazing amazing animals is magical. The appreciation I have for them was multiplied 10-fold after this trip. The money I spent on the tour went to people who will probably invest it--at least partiall--back into the elephants' quality of life, which is high compared to other elephants in Kerala. This is the wonderment that makes up half of my mixed feelings. The other half is sadness over the general state and concept of captive elephants in Kerala. I feel I supported a good place in the midst of a sad industry.

Visited February 2014
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1 Thank codyjensen5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bengaluru, India
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Culturally Enriching”
Reviewed December 4, 2013

The day tour is absolutely amazing! Learning about the local culture and history from people living in the are is something that once cannot mix. Kayaking in the backwaters perfectly gives an opportunity for one to learn about the daily lives of those living in the surrounding areas.

Visited November 2013
Helpful?
Thank VrndaD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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