A backwater trip with River Escapes is absolutely wonderful and this was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to India. All the positives have been covered in the many reviews from other travelers. I also point out that I would highly recommend River Escapes as the way to see the Kerala Backwaters. My criticisms relate to the whole experience and to River Escapes in particular.
The Kerala Backwaters are beautiful. Our boat was spotlessly clean and our cabins and the main area were comfortable. Our crew was attentive and the food was wonderful. After a hectic tour of North and South India, this was a stunning and relaxing way to end our trip.
The criticism is that the whole tour is like an amusement park ride. Almost everyone seems to arrive at the dock around the same time and the boats of many companies are outfitted and they all leave the docking area en masse, so you can barely get a photo without at least 3 other boats in the frame. Boats are literally moving 2 or 3 abreast down the canal and they don't separate.
The tour includes a basic dinner but you are soon presented with a choice of "chicken curry" or we can stop and pick up some giant prawns and fresh fish. All boats then arrive together at the hut of the prawn salesman. The quantities are limited and if you do not want it, there are many other buyers. The prices are absolutely exorbitant and non-negotiable.
Whether true or not, the impression is that the boat crew are getting kickbacks from the prawn guy. I think this is to the detriment of the entire Kerala Backwaters tourism industry and a massive negative to the whole experience.
In the morning we started moving very early and were beaning it back towards the dock. Breakfast was served on the move as every boat on the river headed towards the dock. We were docked before 9am and ushered off the boat.
All in all an amazing trip, an incredible experience and very beautiful. But be prepared for a big scam along the way. It is not the relaxed and isolated trip that I imagined. We did not travel more than an hour from the dock and the tour is broken up into a series of really short rides.
My suggestion to the Kerala Backwaters in general would be to have some competition in the market and to the boat operators like River Escapes, protect your customers by pre-negotiating a price for your customers or better yet compete with the prawn guy by selling directly to your customers.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Xandari Riverscapes Life on the backwaters has a different set of rules. First, since there are no roads we depend on canals, rivers and lakes for our travel routes. Most families have a boat of their own. Children often learn to swim at least as early as they learn to walk-you are likely to see kids splashing in the local equivalent of a playground. Their school buses float, as do the postal vessels delivering to homes here. Even the supermarket floats!River Escapes provides an experience of the backwaters of Kerala in a vessel whose history harkens back to the ancient rice trade of this region while also providing modern comforts. These vessels are designed to balance authenticity and innovation. They are engineered to balance comfort and environmental responsibility - we pioneered the technology now considered the gold standard of emissions reduction. Most importantly they are staffed by members of the local community who are proud to showcase their corner of God's Own Country to visitors.A unique set of waterways in our state's central region allows us to showcase three districts that represent the "rice bowl" of Kerala - all by boat. We started operating our houseboats in 2006 and are now the respected leader on the backwaters in terms of environmental responsibility, commitment to the communities where we bring visitors and in terms of guest satisfaction. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Xandari Riverscapes Kerala/Alappuzha, India