When I was searching places for my Kerala itinerary, all I could see was Kochi, Munnar, Alleppey, Thekkady, Trivandrum everywhere. But alas! I was looking for a location away from all the tourist frenzy, where I could see rustic Kerala, sit back and relax. We found the answer in Munroe Island.
This 13.4 sq km island is nestled at the confluence of the Asthamudi lake and Kallada river. The island is a cluster of eight small islets making the enchanting labyrinth of canals with lush greenery.
History of Munroe Island
Munroe Island is named after a British resident Col John Munroe who also served as the Deewan of the kingdom of Travancore from the year 1810 – 1819. He was responsible for many land reforms and hence very famous personality.
He received a request for land by a senior priest to set up a seminary and place to settle the Christians, which he fulfilled. Hence they named the place in his honor.
Things to do in Munroe Island
1. Canal cruise
Cruise through the mysterious canals revealing the life and beauty of the island. Most of the locals own a canoe and love to take tourists on a 2-3 hour cruise. The canals are lined up with coconut trees all along. Don’t miss to grab a fresh coconut picked right in front of your eyes by a local.
While cruising through you will notice water bodies covered with blue nets. We were inquisitive and enquired our canoe owner.
He told that those are fish farms and prawn farms and are covered by nets to protect them from birds feeding on them. We even got off and fed the fishes.
It was interesting to see that some channels were so small just letting the canoe go though. At places, there were platforms constructed over the channels to cross over or tree branches bending so low that we had to bend our heads to save ourselves.
But the canoe owner had the skills to maneuver it so well. I guess it’s their daily routine and that’s their mode of transport.
The canoe makes its way from the residential area into the large mangroves and finally entering the vast Ashtamudi lake.
With the background music of birds chirping, the water gushing through the paddle, we see the sun making its way back into the horizon painting the sky with hues of orange and purple. The peaceful surroundings and breathtaking views are soothing to the soul.
The best time to enjoy is the morning and evenings. We were lucky to have enjoyed the magical sunset with sun peeping behind the trees.
We had booked the 2-hour canoe ride through our resort and it cost us INR 900 for the family (2 adults and 2 kids).
Other Cruise Recommendations:
* Another famous cruise amongst the tourists is by Munroe Island Backwaters Canoe tour run by Vijeesh.
* There are canal cruises run by DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council) Kollam as well.
2. Walking Through the Island
Walking or cycling through the alleys on the island. Our resort had bicycles that we could take to meander our way through the tiny island. While roaming around we reached a place that seemed to be popular for watching the sunset and renting canoes or boats for a cruise.
Else it’s a small island to walk around and explore. It’s fascinating to watch the houses with backyards full of banana, coconut and of course the passion fruit.
We were amazed to see vines laden with some fruit, spread vigorously around. When enquired, we were told ‘fashion fruit’ which was actually passion fruit. Looks like most of the locals love this fashionable fruit.
Note: The bicycles don’t have any child seats attached, but a flat pannier rack at the back. The men’s bike has a rod in the front. If you have small kids who are not comfortable we would not recommend this.
3. Coir Making
There are some people on the island that earn their livelihood through coir making. You might see in some home people weaving the coir.
4. Kallada Boat Race
Boat races are an integral part of the culture of Kerala. The most common sights are the typical snake boats with up to 100 rowers in each boat racing their way. The faster they row, the faster the water splashes, the higher the spirits and cheering get.
The Kallada boat race happens 28 days after the harvest festival of Onam, around August – September on the river Kallada. Munroe Island is the perfect location to witness this regatta.
How to Get to Munroe Island
Munroe Island also called Munroturuttu can be reached by train, road or ferry.
There is a small railway station in the town (code – MQO) that is connected from Kollam. The nearest major station is Kollam which is 25 km away. Rickshaws (Tuktuks) are available from the Munroe railway station.
Trivandrum International Airport is the nearest airport around 70 km away. Cabs and taxis are available to reach the island. You can even rent a self-driven car.
The train Guruvayur – Thiruvananthapuram Intercity Express runs between the two stations.
There are ferries that ply from Perumon Ferry Terminal in Kollam to Munroe Island by Kollam KSWTD.
Where to Eat
This is a small island and no fancy touch to it. So, the best is to enjoy meals at the homestay or hotel you stay in. This indeed would be the best opportunity to relish home cooked local meal.
And don’t forget to have the fresh coconut water and fresh coconut. You can even try plucking your own as we did.
Where to Stay
This is one place that we have visited where almost every house is a homestay. This seems to be the best way to explore like a local.
The most popular is Munroe Island Backwaters Homestay run by Vijeesh. We were told that Vijeesh’s father was the first to begin the homestay culture on the island 10-15 years back. Seeing it flourish, the others followed soon.
Apart from homestays, there are some decent properties you can choose from:
1.Lake n River Resort
This is at a great corner location surrounded by water. Sitting at the banks, feeling the cool breeze with enchanting views of mangroves and palms is all you dream of. There are swings, badminton, cricket stuff in the backyard for the kids and yourself entertained.
4. Munroe Eco camps: For a perfect close to nature experience, there are camps/tents. They claim to be no frill camps but where you can breathe the fresh air and delve in the tranquility. Read the amazing review.
Our Stay: We stayed on the island for 1 night and found it relaxing. It was a great way to connect with mother nature. Although 1 day is enough to explore but can stay longer to unwind and immerse in the local life.
Note: The hotels/resorts on the island have basic facilities, but don’t expect them to be fancy.
Day Trip from Kollam
If staying in the rustic environment is not your cup of tea then, you can stay in Kollam and indulge in the day cruise to Munroe Island.
Some great luxury options to stay in Kollam are:
Best Time to Visit
Munroe Island is accessible all year round, but November – February would be the ideal time with pleasant weather.
We visited in March end and it was very hot and humid. So better to keep yourself hydrated all the time.
Pro Tip: Avoid visiting during monsoons as there are chances of flooding.
Have you been to Munroe Island? What did you like? Do you have any other recommendations? Please do share your experience.
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