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The Jewel of India’s Malabar Coast

Thursday, 16 January – Sunday, 2 February 2003

Lyle Lawson
  • Spend three full days (and nights), on board a kettuvallam (a traditional rice barge converted into a houseboat) exploring the fascinating Kerala backwaters
  • Enjoy private performances (including make-up and costuming sessions) of four colorful Keralese dances: Yakshagana, Kootiattam, Mohinyattam and Kathakali
  • Tour a Kalarippayat martial arts school and photograph a private exhibition of their exciting sport
  • Visit the home of the temple elephants at Punnathur Kota Palace
  • Watch (and photograph) Kanhirode weavers and Beedi rollers
  • Venture into the western ghats to photograph spectacular mountain scenery
  • Maximum of 10 tour members
  • Wander through the narrow lanes of ancient Kochi
  • Visit cardamom, cinnamon and tea plantations, photographing workers in the fields
  • Photography instruction by a professional photographer who has traveled throughout (and photographed) India for over 25 years
  • English-speaking local guide throughout the tour
  • Comfortable transport for you and your camera gear
  • Great value for money! All-inclusive: meals, tips, entrance fees, etc

Described by National Geographic’s Traveler magazine as one of the 50 must places to visit, Kerala is known for its ribbons of superb beaches, sparkling coastal waters, lush vegetation, and perhaps, Cochin (now called Kochi) where the Dutch and Portuguese were among India’s earliest settlers. In the past few years, discerning travelers have begun to take notice that Kerala’s natural beauty is more than coastline-wide, and includes Kerala’s northern reaches and its hill stations set amid spectacular mountain scenery and rolling tea fields. But Kerala isn’t just about physical beauty, it's a state where the arts form an important part of its psyche. There are classical dances, both religious and secular; martial arts whose movements are more a ballet than war-like; and weaving patterns that are hundreds of years old. These are only a few examples of the Keralese arts and crafts available to our senses (and cameras). Join us on this tour of an enchanting land and discover even more of Kerala’s charms!

16 January (Thur): WELCOME TO INDIA!
Arrive in Mumbai late this evening (or early on Friday); be transferred to the Orchid Hotel.

17 January (Thur):

A mid-day flight takes us to Mangalore. The journey from there to our hotel is about 60 miles, but there’s lots to see along the way: Bekal Fort, built in the mid-1600s, was occupied by the British East India company after their defeat of Sultan Tipu; Bekal and Kappil Beaches both offer post-card picture views. (Nalanda Resort, 2 nights)

18 January (Sat):
This morning is a lazy one with a short cruise through the Valiyaparamba (Land of Nine Islands). This tranquil lagoon offers many photographic opportunities: mussel farming, small fishing villages, egrets and other water birds. In the late afternoon, we focus on a performance of Yakshagana, where ancient Keralese myths are interpreted by elaborately costumed participants who dance to the accompaniment of classical songs and music.

19 January (Sun):

We continue our southward journey via kettuvallams, meandering our way through the northern Kerala backwaters. There are no stops, just the pictures that pass before our lenses. In the late afternoon we will dock near the Parasinikadavu Temple where we will witness the temple ritual known as Teyyam. During it, a priest is attired in an elaborate mask and costume; surrounding him are other priests, some helping to dress the Teyyam dancer or his assistant, others chanting. A dozen or so drummers set the pace: sometimes their beat is slow, sometimes so frenetic that their arms are a blur. Fully costumed, the Teyyam priest performs an elaborate ritual dance that pays homage to the temple deity and begs protection from against all evil; afterward worshippers gather about his person to give additional thanks. (Houseboat, 1 night)

20 January (Mon):
Disembarking from our houseboats after breakfast, our destination is Kannur and the chance to witness (and photograph) the teaching of Kalarippayat, a form of martial art that some believe is the forerunner of all martial arts. (Ayesha Manzil, 2 nights)

21 January (Tues):

Stop and smell the air. How many different scents can you count? Too many to separate, for seventy-five percent of all spices exported from India come from Kerala, and the northern Kerala air is redolent with a medley of aromas! We visit the home of one of those smells, cinnamon, a plantation where it is grown and processed into saleable items, two cooperatives, the Kanhirode Weavers who use the 90” looms that make Kerala weaving so unique, and the Beedi workers, makers of hand-rolled cigarettes. For sunset pictures our destination is Thalasseri’s Muzhappilangau Beach, a three-mile stretch of golden sand and swaying palms! (Kannur, 2 nights)

22 January (Wed):
Watch these lumbering pachyderms spray water over themselves, munch on a huge bunch of tree leaves, or sway happily as they nap in the afternoon sun. The old Zamorin Palace is home to the headquarters of Kerala’s temple elephants, and what a sight it is: between 50 and 60 elephants are housed here with their mahouts (keepers), each an individual and each fun to photograph! (Guruvayur, 1 night)

23 January (Thur):
Vibrant costumes in a profusion of scarlet, neon citrus, royal purple – and many more shades. An anklet of silver bells; expressive hands, telling a story or describing a bird; flashing smiles; a tilt of the head and perfectly arranged flowers circling a head. These are the some images your camera should retain after enjoying our private dance program. Before that event, however, we tour the academy of art where can spend up to six years learning to make the intricate movements of the classical Keralese dances that we view in the evening. (Riverside Palace Heritage Hotel, 1 night)

24 & 25 January (Fri/Sat):

A vibrant blend of old and new, Kochi, the largest and oldest port in Kerala. Its historic sites are many: the Chinese fishing nets that line the shoreline; the 16th-century Portuguese fort; tranquil St. Francis Church; the Mattancherry Synagogue, its sanctuary filled with 16th-century Delft tiles. However, it is in Kochi’s narrow streets and lanes that the real sense of the city lies; they offer a cornucopia of images to delight any photographer. As the highlight to our stay here, we enjoy a private performance of Kathakali dance. (Taj Malabar, 2 nights)

26 & 27 January (Sun/Mon):

With a 100-mile drive and a climb of 4,600 feet, we leave a coastline kissed by balmy breezes and enter the crisper climate of the Western Ghats. Munnar, set among some of south India’s most dramatic mountain scenery, is the center of Kerala’s tea industry. The combination of manicured tea fields (many filled with women at work picking leaves), small villages centered around a tea processing plant, and the ever-present mountains offer a multitude of photo possibilities. (Windermere Cardamom Estate, 2 nights)

28 January (Tues):

Leaving the carefully sculpted tea-planted hills of Munnar, a wonderful day of landscape photography should ensue we travel along roads that often do not support tarmac or concrete, through villages where tourists are seldom seen, into dense forests of rubber trees. In late afternoon, we’ll cruise Lake Periyar (via private boat), which is at the heart of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. And, if we’re lucky, we’ll see wild boar, bison, antelopes and other animals drinking at the water’s edge (Taj Garden Retreat, 1 night)

29 & 30 January (Wed/Thur):

Stepping on to a kettuvallam then gliding off into serene waters will take any photographer to an entirely different world. We have two full days to enjoy the pleasures (and pictures) of life along Kerala’s vast network of lagoons, rivers and canals while living aboard our floating homes. Our journey is a leisurely one. We intersperse stretches of cruising the tranquil waterways with stops to watch (and photograph) the production of coir rope made from coconut husks, boat building, toddy (home-brewed coconut liquor) making, worshippers at the Nagaraja (Serpent King) Temple (no live serpents inside or out!), and other facets of life beside a waterway. (Houseboats, 2 nights)

31 January (Fri):
Leaving the kettuvallams shortly after breakfast, we drive to Kerala’s famous Kovalam Beach where the afternoon and tomorrow morning are for your own enjoyment.

1 February (Sat):

A late afternoon flight returns us to Mumbai. We are transferred to the Orchid Hotel where we have the use of day rooms until our late evening departure for the international airport.


Limited to 10 tour members
  • Land costs, per person, from/return to Mumbai $4,276.00
  • Single supplement $1,080.00
  • Economy class internal airfare: Mumbai/Mangalore/Trivandrum/Mumbai: included in land costs.
  • International APEX ticket to India: $1,200.00
    (Subject to change, terms and conditions).
  • Prices are based on a cash/check payment.
  • For Visa, Mastercard, or American Express, please add a service charge of 4% to the land costs.
  • The price is based upon six (6) paying tour members. If there are fewer, the price may have to be raised proportionally.
  • The Indian domestic airfare is based on current prices and may rise before the tour departs.
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