Tucked away in Kerala is Kakkathuruthu (Island of crows) in Vembanad Lake, 18 km from Kochi. There is a deep silence except for the soft sounds of the boatman’s paddle. The sun has set. All around are small islands.
Visitors Marco and Valerie Ferrand from France lean back in a boat. The scene is serene. “Last week we visited the Meenakshi temple in Madurai for the Pongal celebrations,” says Valerie.
“It was noisy but fun. The drum beats, large crowds and the smiles. This is the perfect environment for my husband and I to recover from all that.”
The boat returns to Kakkathuruthu after an hour’s ride. Kakkathuruthu is similar to many islands in the area. There are numerous coconut trees, wildly growing grass and plants, and small houses. Around 350 families comprising 1,000 people live on this 4-km long and 1-km wide island. “They are primarily fishermen, farmers and labourers,” says resort owner Maneesha Panicker.
There is a government ferry at one end. At the other end, a man runs a boat privately and charges `5 one way. “To go to school, hospital, see a film or get provisions, they have to go to the mainland by boat,” says Maneesha.
The people don’t mind. Classical singer Sindhu Thirumeni, 38, says, “We like it here. There’s no pollution, no crowds, no noise. It is such a healthy place to live in.” They also eat healthy food from an organic farm nearby.
Kakkathuruthu hit the international spotlight when it was featured in National Geographic’s Around The World in 24 Hours, a photographic tour of travel destinations across the world in which an exotic place is featured every hour. Along with Kakkathuruthu were listed Norway’s Northern Lights, Hawaii, Paris, San Francisco, Abu Dhabi, Melbourne, New York and Budapest.
National Geographic editor George W Stone wrote: “Sunset in Kerala is greeted by a series of rituals. Here, on Kakkathuruthu, a tiny island in Kerala’s tangled backwaters, children leap into shallow pools. Women in saris head home in skiffs.
Fishermen light lamps and cast nets into the lagoon. Bats swoop across the horizon snapping up moths. Shadows lengthen, the sky shifts from pale blue to sapphire, and the emerald-fringed ‘island of crows’—the Malayalam name for this sandy spot along the Malabar coast—embraces night.”
“Our island has become famous,” smiles Sindhu. “We feel good about it.”