When my colleague invited me for Onam to her vacation home in Trivandrum, I saw an opportunity to explore the most-talked-about backwaters of Kerala. And that is when I discovered the Munroe Islands. This is not your regular island surrounded by sand and sea and watched over by a sparkling sun. Rather, this is a cluster of eight small islands formed by the Ashtamudi Lake and Kallada River, each separated from the other by narrow canals and lakes.
After the Onam festivities, I booked a chauffeur-driven Kollam car rental, and headed to Kollam which is just some 25 Kms from Munroe Island. Soon, the lush green paddy fields gave way to thick coconut groves, camouflaging the islands.
A snapshot of island life
As my cab passed through the villages, I saw the morning disclosing the idyllic life of the inhabitants. The fishermen heading towards their docked boats, children rushing for school, while the elders sat outside their homes reading, chatting, or simply watching the day unfold in their high-backed rocking chairs.
I had booked my stay at a local homestay for the real feel of the place, and of course, fresh, home-cooked meals. My hosts were an elderly couple who had lived all across the country and eventually retired in this little village for a more peaceful life.
The next day, they offered to take me on a ride on their own boat through the backwaters. These locally made boats are a lot like wooden canoes and have to be rowed manually. There are also the motor boats for tourists, but what’s the fun in speeding, when you are out to relax and absorb the little elements of nature. The flora and fauna of Munroe Island is quite rich. The sound of the chirping of birds while being on the boat made the experience even better!
The quiet cruise
The clear backwaters with a complex network of canals once served as the main thoroughfare around these islands, when the first fishing colonies settled here. Now, of course, you have concrete roads connecting these islands.
As we cruised along the backwaters, the waterways narrowed into smaller canals, with thickets of coconut palms. At a few places, we even had to duck to avoid the dropping branches or a low bridge that connected two islands. There were little colonies on either side, where people were either making fishing nets or coir ropes, while some were tapping toddies from palms. A few kingfishers were diving in and out of the water, with their catches for the day.
My host also pointed out a couple of spice plantations of cinnamon and pepper, along the river. But my attention quickly drifted towards a high branch where a white-bellied eagle had just perched itself, looking for prey.
As our boat cut through the waters, meandering through thick plantations and fishing villages, I felt the true spirit of Kerala. The musty smell of the coconut trees, mixed with the pungent aromas of spice plantations, and the placid water, collectively added to a unique experience.
We even stopped to fish for our lunch. While my host and his friends were proved to be quite adept, I remained a spectator with my camera rolling and occasionally cheering them on when they got a good catch.
There’s an entirely different kind of excitement when you source your own food, bring them home, and prepare a meal with the freshest ingredients and lots of warmth. For an uber-urbanite like me, a visit to this quaint little island and experiencing its simplicity gave me a new perspective on life, which I am sure I will hold onto forever. The islands have excellent road connectivity and it is advisable to rent a car in Trivandrum from a highly-rated car rental service like Savaari.
If you plan to visit Munroe Island anytime soon, here are a few commonly asked traveler questions:
1. How do I get to Munroe Island?
The nearest airports to Munroe are Kochi and Trivandrum. You can then book a Kerela car rental to Kollam. The closest railway station is in Kollam. After reaching Kollam, you can take a ferry from Perumon ferry point and it will take you to Munroe Islands which is about 25 km away. You can also reach Munroe Island from these nearby cities –
- From Kannur – You can board a bus or a train from Kannur to Kollam. The distance between the two is about 400 km. Then take a ferry ride to your place of stay. You can also go on a beautiful road trip by booking a Kannur car rental ride.
- From Kottayam – Kottayam is just 84 km away from Munroe Island. You can board a bus or a train. However, a 3-hour drive through the lush green terrains of South India is highly recommended. All you need to do is simply book a Kottayam car rental ride.
2. How do I get from Munroe Island to Varkala?
Varkala is about 117 km away from Munroe Island. You can take a train from Kollam which will take about 3 hours. If you wish to travel by road, you can either board a bus or hire a taxi from Kollam.
3. Where to stay in Munroe Island?
There are several options of homestays available in Munroe Island. Accomodations are available on the shore of the canals. You can also stay at a house boat on Asthamudi Lake. Some popular resorts are – Munroe Island Lake resort, Royal Mundro Palace Homestay, Lake N River Resort among others.
Quick Facts about Munroe Island
|Location||Kollam district, Kerala.|
|Area||143.9 million sq ft|
|Best time to Visit||The best time is between November-February.|
|Weather||In the hot summer days of May temperature rises to 32°C. While, winters have a pleasant weather with temperature around 29°C|
|Famous For||Hosting boat races during the festival of Onam.|