The lilting lake song
Kumarakom is the perfect destination for bird watching, to satiateyour taste buds or to simply rewind.
An unseen bird yodelled a long, lilting serenade. That was fitting, for it seemed to resonate perfectly with the winding track meandering softly along the banks of the backwater canal. In the early morning quiet, the only sounds were the intermittent bird songs and whispering branches. Occasionally, the cool morning breeze blowing in from the expansive Vembanad Lake whistled softly through the green canopy overhead. A woodpecker darted across the track and disappeared into the foliage in search of food. And a black cormorant perched on an overhanging branch fluttered its feathers noisily. Much like a following note in a melody, a flock of small, indistinguishable birds formed a sweeping arc as it flew over the canal and in to the placid Vembanad that lay yonder over the banks.
The preponderance of birds is easily explained for I was footloose inside the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. At the crack of dawn the birds prepare to leave their perches on the tall trees bordering the mangrove forest. As daylight penetrates the forest canopy, the birds begin flying over to the lake. Spread over 14 acres along the banks of the Vembanad, the scenic bird sanctuary attracts early morning trekkers almost the year round. It also lies just 5 km from the Lake Song Resort where I’d checked in the day before.
Lush foliage is dominant all overKumarakom and it was evident that theresort had woven this lushness into apredominant motif. While the manicuredlawns, tropical foliage and ubiquitous coconutpalms soothe the senses, the lateriticwalls and terracotta floor tiles provide aperfect foil. The walls, left unplasteredexternally much like traditional housesin the Malabar region, also merge wellwith the gabled tile roofing. The peacefulretreat is sprawled over nine acres on thebanks of the Vembanad amidst the picturesquebackwaters.
Scattered across the grounds andstrategically located along water bodiesare cottages, villas, a cavernous receptionand a restaurant reminiscent of traditionalKeralan mansions. A canoe punted alonga canal leading from the Vembanad Lakeand reaching right into the reception area,is a novel way of welcoming guests arrivingby houseboat – although this is notalways used. Accomodation is comfortableand not ostentatious with contemporaryinteriors.The restaurant block, surrounded bymanicured lawns, sits on the edge of thelake and has an inviting veranda whereone can tuck into typical Keralan fare.The multi-cuisine restaurant that also hasan air-conditioned indoor seating optionis done up mostly in gleaming wood. Thecomplimentary buffet breakfast includes amix of continental cuisine and traditionaldishes like puttu, appam and stew. Laterduring the day, the chef rustles up spicyseafood apart from fiery Keralan curries.The expansive pool lies just across andhas lounging chairs set under the shade ofcoconut palms.
There’s much to do here besides relaxingand savouring food. A visit to the birdsanctuary and its lush environs is a mustdo. Apart from egrets, night herons, golden-backedwoodpeckers or the paradisefly-catchers, there is the native kingfisher.Then there is Pathiramanal that translatesto “midnight sands” – an enchantingisland on the lake accessible by boat. Thisuninhabited refuge is also home to rarevarieties of migratory birds that are bestviewed while on a cruise on the Vembanadat dawn.
But if you are a late riser, the resort arrangessunset cruises that let you see thebirds returning home across a fiery sunset.Other outdoor activities include watergames, boat rides, fishing and canoe ridesin the canals. But if you don’t dig outdooractivities too much, you might fancy themulti-gym, ayurvedic massage parloursor indoor sport courts. Or, you might liketo indulge in the fine art of doing nothing– an art increasingly becoming difficult toacquire in today’s hectic pace of life.