Kayak Your Way through Kerala’s Abundant Water Reservoirs
A fun-activity-based water sport that aims to raise awareness on a century-old settlement in Kerala while bringing the focus on the huge water resources of Kerala is the perfect way to experience the best of God’s Own Country. A spotlight on a recent event from Jellyfish Watersports in association with Muziris Heritage Project that has just the right mix of culture, adventure, and a social cause tied to it.
Kerala is known for its abundant natural resources, especially its water tributaries. The state has 44 rivers, 27 backwaters (mostly in the form of lakes and ocean inlets), and seven lagoons.
Of the 44 rivers, 33 are less than 100 km long with a total length of 1577 km while the remaining 11 rivers are above 100 km in length and their total length is 1643 km.
So, if this is a reality, Kerala should have thriving water-based tourism. The present government has announced a humungous plan to convert the rivers for the national Waterway project which is said to mark a new chapter in Kerala’s transportation and tourism sector, but independent entities that concentrate on the State’s activity-based tourism is the need of the hour.
While the country is synonymous with houseboats and Ayurveda, water sports as activity-based tourism has not given much impetus. Then came along Jellyfish Watersports in Calicut with an interesting story behind its inception.
Kayaking, a fun-activity popular even in water-deficient desert countries like UAE and Qatar, did not have a base in Kerala. That is until the founders of Jellyfish Watersports, who lived in Dubai, brought an inflatable kayak during a vacation trip in 2010 and started paddling in the Chaliyar River area near their home. Though the initial experience was fascinating for them, they were discouraged and saddened by the large amounts of floating garbage in the river and by the general lack of respect for the natural resource. They came back from that holiday dejected but not disheartened as the entrepreneurial family set-in motion a plan to start water sports and outdoor adventure-based facility in their riverfront property in Calicut that would inherently try to change mindsets and garner more awareness of the perils of water pollution. In the last 9 years, it has expanded from just a small kayaking facility in Calicut to activity-based sports around a number of Kerala’s water resources with ideas to develop an eco-friendly and recycled home resort along the catchment. Sustainability in resources plays an important role for the owners who are trying to redesign houses from the huts being sold at distressed prices due to the now rampant flooding of the coasts.
“From early historic times, the Malabar Coast (north Kerala) had witnessed intense maritime activities and was renowned for its orientation to the waters and watercraft which attracted Chinese and Arab traders and later Europeans to our shores for trade and commerce. Though in modern times, watercrafts and water-related activities are very minimal in the Malabar region, where most people get cold feet when it comes to water-related leisure or sporting activities backed by modern-day environmental challenges such as river pollution and illegal sand mining activities in our waters,” says Kaushiq Kodithodi, founder of Jellyfish Watersports, taking us back to the times when water sports was part of the state’s glorious past.
This need for adventure set-in motion many water-based activities, and now Jellyfish Watersports is known for its innovative and underlying social causes that paves way for each expedition.
Jellyfish Watersports collaborates with local entities and communities, engaging local expertise, bringing in the creative community.
While the activities are the spotlight for Jellyfish, we find its social cause much more interesting. The “Catch Of The Day” is a river clean-up initiative held regularly in which volunteers participate in collecting non-biodegradable garbage and sort them for recycling. This event is then used to promote general awareness through partnerships with NGOs. Jellyfish Watersports has helped in creating an installation, The Marine Cemetery, located at Beypore beach in Calicut dedicated to nine endangered marine and riverine species. This installation that was opened in 2019 is made up of 2,000 plastic bottles that were collected from one of their endeavours.
The recent Muziris Paddle event is another social adventure that attracted kayakers, stand-up paddlers, and sailors from India as well as abroad who converged in Kottappuram to paddle along the National Waterway 3, Periyar River, and backwaters along the Kottappuram-Kochi Waterway, of the historic Muziris. “This is an initiative to explore and experience the ancient Muziris. While travelling from Kottapuram to Kochi, participants visited various key Muziris Heritage Project sites evoking interest in this forgotten history of the land. Apart from it, we also collect and remove plastic wastes found floating on water bodies during the sail.”
The fourth edition of the Muziris Paddle was jointly organised by Jellyfish Watersports with Muziris Heritage Project and Kerala Tourism.
Kurien, a well-known practicing architect in Cochin who has been an active water sporting enthusiast and a recurring participant in the Muziris Paddle Event opinions that while Kerala boasts of huge water bodies, backwaters and canals, which have been an integral part of the state’s social, political, and cultural tapestry, teeming with life in yesteryears have now taken a back seat and was slowly getting neglected and even abused in some cases.
He says, “The Muzris Paddle and Chaliyar Paddle have been a small yet significant and sustained effort in bringing the focus back on our waters. The sizeable paddling team that participated in the event helped bring a lot of attention to the sport and also kindled the minds of many to try and experience the waters.”
If an adventure that serves a social cause in the scenic waters of Kerala is your idea of a perfect holiday, this one is just the right activity to indulge in as we get back to celebrating and respecting the resources of the land.