There is about 1000 km of lakes, rivers and canals criss-crossing Kerala providing irrigation, transportation and communication. These stretches of water, a few kilometers inland from the Arabian Sea, are the backwaters. The “kettuvallam” (rice barge) was designed to carry rice, coconuts and spices.
India’s 1,600-km-long Western Ghats, a mountain chain that has forests older than those in the Himalayas, is World Heritage as one of the world’s eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity.
Kochi also known as Cochin has been an important spice trading center since the 14th century. The Portuguese founded the first European settlement in India here in 1500. They were followed by the Dutch and then the British.