Where: Kollam District, Kerala
How to reach:
By Train – Munroe Island has a railway station just 3kms away.
By Flight – Fly down to Trivandrum Airport, thereafter take a cab for the 84kms distance.
Best time to visit: November to February
When we think of a vacation, I think there are many ideas that one can have. Sometimes we want a power packed holiday but a lot of times all we’re really looking for is an escape from the business of our regular lives. Somewhere pretty but just as quaint and quiet. Luckily for us India presents just as many options. So, presenting to you a hidden treat in Kerala’s backwaters, Munroe Island.
Munroe is a cluster of 8 islands, located at the confluence of the Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River. Its beauty lies in the unique way that each of the islands are separated from each other by lakes and canals. I’m thinking long lazy boat rides, some soft music and just gazing away happily. Sigh.
Colonel John Munroe is credited for having integrated the backwaters in this region. In the mid-1800s Munroe was the Dewan of Travancore. When the Malankara Missionary Church reached out to him for helping out with land for them to set up a religious study centre, the dewan granted this island area. It was then called Mundrothuruthu. But as a mark of appreciation and respect for the dewan, the locals then named it after him. Today, these canals have dedicated cruises and tours for them. In fact, the visitors come here to be delighted by the narrow waterways and their pleasant sight, so, rightfully the island cluster came to be named after the man who made them possible.
The island actually came to be formed as a result of the collection of the “ekkal” soil from the Kallada River. The deposit of the soil has even made the island ideal for agriculture, so, it was dependent on these agricultural activities just as much. However, the flooding from the Ashtamudi Lake during the monsoon brought with it a flow of salty water. With this came an onslaught of destruction of crops unfortunately. Thus, a number of farmers moved away. If you do plan to visit steer clear of the monsoon season. Months between November to February are ideal from this aspect as well, in addition to the much-needed pleasantness at that time. It is feared that the islands will be submerged by the year 2050 though.
Until a few years back reaching the island was only possible by a boat. Now, the Idiyakkadavu bridge has made it possible for visitors to reach by car also. But hey, don’t worry there are plenty of boat options for you to explore this web of waterway canals through the much-desired joy ride. In fact, if that is something that truly interests you, then you’ll be happy to know that there are even houseboat options! Somehow floating atop waters for two whole days, looking out to catch the view and even having your last meal as you simply take in your surroundings, can be so completely satisfying.
Meanwhile, if after exploring the islets you seek to stay in a hotel, then don’t worry there are a number of resorts around for you to kickback and laze on your holiday. Staying true to the Kerala name, most of these resorts are surrounded by drooping trees and specs of greenery all around.
Canoeing is a popular option to explore this place. Who knows, if you’re lucky enough or rather convincing enough, then you could even convince your canoe’s boatman to let you ride it yourself for a bit?! What’s life without trying even the smallest of adventures? ?
A church, a forest and even a shore dedicated for those who want to partake in meditation, Munroe does have a lot more to offer. And when we’re talking about a place how could we possibly miss on its tales? The Vedanchadi Mala is not only the highest point in this cluster but also the lake from where the hunter jumped. Rumour has it, that a mendicant came to the village and the hunter’s wife fell in love with him and eloped. Ridden with anguish, the hunter couldn’t bear this and sadly took his life by jumping from this point.
Coming onto the happier times that this place gets to see! The Kallada boat race is the picture of Kerala tourism. The 28th Onam or the 28th day after Thiruvonam is considered by some to be even more important than the main day itself. This is the day when the much awaited and elaborate Kallada boat race occurs. From Ashtamudi to Kallada the sounds of songs being sung, of cheers and of sheer excitement in the air can be heard echoing throughout. The coordination and the prowess of the boatmen is quite an extraordinary skill in itself to witness. It is also a much adored and equally important part of the state’s culture.
Additionally, I did mention a church earlier, right? Well, it had been built back in 1868 at which time a majority of the population here was Christian. While that isn’t the case now, the church festival is actually celebrated by the resident Hindu families as well now. Isn’t that how it should be? Festivals being a mark of celebration and togetherness.
So, when will it be? Your visit! For a quaint and quiet trip or to witness the elaborate festival? Either ways, the simple beauty of Munroe Island will leave you smiling and give you the short escape that you probably seek.
Click here to know more about a place called Adavi, another offbeat destination in Kerala!