Kumarakom is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a noted bird sanctuary where many species of migratory birds visit. The Vembanad Lake, the largest backwater in Kerala, is habitat for many marine and freshwater fish species and it teems with Karimeen (Pearl spot), shrimp (chemmeen in the local language) and prawns. The bird sanctuary extends over 14 acres (57,000 m²), and came into existence following preservation efforts from the government. It is a major tourist attraction. The Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls is another natural attraction in Tauranga area. These waterfalls are located 18 kilometers from Kumarakom Lake Resort and has surfing water flowing down the mountains.
Agriculture, fishing and tourism are the major economic activities. Kumarakom's perfectly balanced tropical climate is very conductive to cultivation. The place has expanses of mangrove forests, paddy fields and coconut groves. Fruits like Banana, Mango, Jackfruit, Ambazhanga, Puli, Chaambenga, Peraycka, Aathaycka and Pineapple grow here. Also, cocoa and coffee, chena(yam) and chembu(colocasia, grow well and were cultivated under the coconut trees. This rich agricultural environment is mainly irrigated using interspersed waterways and canals of the Meenachil river. The smaller canals are often lined by hibiscus plants which lean partly over the canals to form a green canopy, from which hang the lovely hibiscus flowers.
In the olden days, when the bund separating the backwaters from the sea was not yet built, the water in the canals moved in and out with the sea tide and it was salty. After the Thanneermukkam bund was constructed, the connection to the open sea was not free anymore, and so the tidal movement of the water in the canals stopped. It stagnated and then plenty of water hyacinths started growing densely in the canals,forming lovely green carpets with pale lilac flowers carpets.
Since parts of Kumarakom lie at or even below sea level, these parts, as well as the road connecting the place it to Kottayam, used to get flooded with the water from the monsoon rains, which was brought to Kumarakom by rivers arising from the western ghats. Sometimes the floods used to happen suddenly overnight, and then the boats where the only way to commute. Nowadays the roads are much better.
Boats and Kumarakom Boat Race
Kumarakom has a wide variety of houseboats. They are used only for tourists these days. A separate boat known as Kettuvallam is used by the people to go fishing or to transport goods. Apart from these, there are elegant special boats like Kochu-odi Vallam, Odi-Vallam, Iruttukutthi Vallam, Churulan Vallam and Chundan Vallam(Snake Boat), which take part in the boat races around Onam time. The Kumarakom boat-race is conducted in the big canal in the centre near the market. There is a private sailing club in Kumarakom, located on the shore of the Vembanad lake.
Kumarakom is one of the most beautiful villages in the world. Foreign visitors used to think that it is like a paradise.
Modes of access
One can access Kumarakom by many means:
* By air: via Cochin International Airport and the Trivandrum International Airport
* By rail: via Kottayam
* By boat: From Muhamma (near Alappuzha) to Kumarakom Jetty.
* By road:(16 kilometres) Buses and taxis are easily available at all times of the day from Kottayam.
It is a unique experience that will beckon the visitors time and time again as there are several activities for visitors.
The Bird Sanctuary can be visited by canoes, which can be arranged with local fishermen at the entrance to the sanctuary. A two-hour rowing canoe trip is quite cheap, and is best undertaken in the evening or early morning to avoid the afternoon sun.
House boats or speed boats can cover longer distances but cost more to hire.
Taj Garden Retreat the first modern tourist resort in Kumarakom is established in the Victorian two storied bungalow built by Alfred George Baker in the year 1881, on huge pieces of Teak wood rafters packed in mud as a base. This house on the lake at Kumarakom was the house of four generations of the Baker family, for over hundred years. The bird Sanctuary and the two storied Bungalow built by Mr.A G Baker on the muddy land are places of interest for tourists from all over the world. The bungalow still remains grand but silent reminder of an age and people whose hard work cannot be erased by time