Children can have fun checking out the picnic and recreational spots that dot Kochi and its suburbs to while away the holidays.

Cruise along

The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (ph: 2353234; 2382199) arranges regular boat cruise of the Kochi backwaters, Fort Kochi and Mattancherry for groups of people. The rate can be up to Rs. 900 per cruise. The agency also has bus/taxi tours from the city to Ithipuzha, near Vaikom, where a two-and-a-half-hour ride in a country boat is arranged. The total fare is Rs. 400 per head.

It also has a day-long tour to Ithipuzha (with guide) costing Rs 700, where the guests are taken on a tour of the scenic inland waterways in a mechanised boat, followed by vegetarian lunch in a village setting and a country-boat cruise.

The Marine Drive walkway, Children's Park (ph: 2361050), which has a renewable-energy park, and the adjacent Subhash Park offer a good break to children and their parents. Private operators offer hour-long boat rides at as low as Rs 40 per head.

The Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (ph: 2368646, 2206840, 2203614) takes people on cruises (with guide) from morning, in Sagara Rani (the sole seaworthy vessel in Kochi) and its sister vessels, the sunset cruise being the most in demand. There are special rates for groups of people. Food is also arranged.

The State Water Transport Department's boats ferry people from the Ernakulam Boat Jetty (ph: 2360215) to Fort Kochi, Mattanchery, Wellingdon Island and Vypeen, for as low as Rs. 2.50 per head (Fort Kochi rate). A shorter ride can be taken from the High Court jetty to the Bolghatty Island and back. The Ernakulam-Varapuzha ferry operates from the same jetty, at a very nominal rate.

Sights and scenes

Fort Kochi, the oldest European settlement in India is the hottest tourist locale in the district. The attractions include over-500-year-old churches like the St. Francis Church (where Vasco Da Gama was buried) and the Santa Cruz Basilica, the famed Chinese fishing nets, and streets adorned by buildings with Portuguese, Dutch and English influences. Nearby is Mattancherry, which has an ancient Jewish Synagogue and Dutch Palace.

Both the locales are networked by private and KSRTC (ph: 2372033) Volvo buses (through bypass) from the city.

The Hill Palace Museum (ph: 2781113; 2776374) at Tripuntihura was once the seat of the Kochi Maharaja. A walk around its compound is worth it. There is also a deer park here. A visit to the Kerala History Museum (ph: 2541768, 2558296) at Edapally would be very informative.

You couls also make a trip to the Veegaland amusement park which is around 26 kms from the city. The Thattekad bird sanctuary and tourism amenities at nearby Bhootathankettu reservoir are located a few kilometers from Kothamangalam, and can be reached through both Aluva and Muvattupuzha. Mangalavanam located behind the High Court is worth a visit.

The Cherai and Munambam beaches are other attractions. They can be reached through both Vypeen and Paravur. Children and youth interested in water/adventure sports can contact Wg Cdr (retd) Unnikrishnan Palat at 94470 23756 and 2375609.

The Athirapilly waterfalls in Thrissur and tourist locales like Kumarakom and Alappuzha (both have houseboats) are all an hour's drive from Kochi. Thekkady and Munnar would take a little longer.

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