There’s a lot more to discover at the Poovar Island than just forgotten histories and unexplored flora and fauna
For years now, Kerala’s backwaters have played host to scores of newlyweds, honeymooners and partners from across the globe, all who have come to God’s Own Country in search of some much-needed R&R. It may be the gentle gurgle of the waters, the melodic cooing of the cuckoo birds and the rhythmic rustling of the wind in the coconut trees that work in tandem to create a setting that is nature’s natural aphrodisiac. So as I walked to my room from the reception of Estuary Sarovar Portico at Poovar Island (instead of hopping on to a buggy shuttle), the first and most obvious question I asked myself — while weaving through couples enjoying a romantic stroll — is, ‘Why am I here by my lonesome self?’
Where waters meet the sky
After checking into my cosy room on the first floor of the recently renovated Estuary View block — that offers a spectacular view of Poovar Island’s estuary and overlooks the various shades of blue from the sky, the pool, the backwaters and the Arabian Sea — I headed down to explore the grounds of this 16.5-acre property a little more. Nearly a 45-minute drive from the Thiruvananthapuram airport, the tourist village of Poovar is located on the southern-most fringe of the district and is close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. Flanked by the Neyyar river, this four-star resort is the only one in the vicinity that possesses a direct 90-degree view of where the calm river meets the clamorous sea. “Apart from the luxury services that we offer, we want to present our guests with the finest experiences and sights of this region,” explains Ayyappan Kutty, the General Manager, who joined me on my walkabout.
Divided into three kinds of villas, two view rooms and a cottage, the resort has 109 rooms in total. While the Garden View room is nestled by a canopy of trees and gardens that bear the natural flora and fauna of the state, the Garden Cottage has a private patio and a lawn. The most spacious is the Deluxe Pool Villa designed with a wooden finish to replicate the natural environment of Poovar, while the Estuary View rooms come with a sprawling balcony that offers a panorama of the entire landscape.
Along for the ride
Stopping by at the resort’s restaurant, Ripples, for a bite, I had my fill of Kerala’s culinary specialities of red rice, mooru, red meen curry, kappa, thoran — a little more than recommended, especially if you are headed out on the waters soon — and watch the jetties whizz by creating tiny waves on the otherwise still waters.
Soon enough, it was my turn to enjoy the salty sea breeze in my hair as part of an hour-long boat ride around the canals and mangroves. As the boat docked, Aagin, the ferryman, asks me a question that I have evaded all day: ‘Thanne aano?’ — a phrase that simply translates to ‘Just you?’ However, this can mean myriad different things if interpreted taking into consideration his loaded grin. “Solo trips are the trend,” I say, attempting to sound convincing.
My boat trip began from the boardwalk near Ripples and travelled through a network of rivulets and canals — routes that boatmen like Aagin are familiar with. Doubling up as my tour guide, the 29-year-old narrates the legends of the region. According to one story, port Ophir — where King Solomon’s trading ships landed — is said to be Poovar. While another describes this as the place where Maharaja Marthanda Varma was given protection from his enemies. “It was the picturesque sight of red kovala flowers floating in the Neyyar River that led the Maharaja to describe this expanse as Poovar which means ‘river of flowers.’’
Amidst these tales of forgotten and historically probable legends, #nofilter pictures for my ’gram and giggle-worthy glimpses of couples on similar boats attempting to mimic Rose and Jack from Titanic, I found myself caught up in the moment — Aagin’s question was the last thing on my mind.
The next morning, I headed to the Ayurvedic spa session that came highly recommended to prepare me for my long day about town. Helmed by a young Dr Tasneem, who is also a trained hypnotherapist, a massage session here with treated herbal oils is not just relaxing, but provides you with the respite you need for the sweltering summer heat.
While the resort does provide guided tours of the Napier Museum (a 19th-century building that has its own natural air-conditioning system), Kuthira Malika (a palace built by Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma) and Shree Chitra Art Gallery, I tried using the state’s Live Guide App that worked even better than a human counterpart.
Stop to breathe
Now, if you are looking for an activity-packed evening at the resort, pottery, yoga and meditation sessions and indoor games are all on the cards. I, on the other hand, chose to spend my last night at a private gazebo overlooking the backwaters. Even as the sun slipped under the horizon and the candles on my table grew a little brighter, I realised it is through the symphonic sound of the crashing waves and the metered tempo of flapping wings as they retreat to their nestled homes that nature tells you that you’re never alone. All you have to do is listen.
Rooms start at Rs 5,800 upwards.
The writer was at Estuary Sarovar Portico by invitation.