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Spotlight on Island of Crows

To be at Kakkathuruthu at sunset is to be at one of the most stunning destinations in Nat Geo’s ‘Around the World In 24 Hours’ list. Called Island of Crows, the honour has catapulted the secluded quiet island just off Kochi on to the world stage. Its quietness has been invaded by merriment and a sense of disbelief.

The four-kilometre island, home to a small village of 350-odd families, along with its 1,000 people, is in celebration mood now that it is in the news. At Kakkathuruthu, in the back of beyond, life is still untouched and sleepy. Here, fishermen cast nets for daily catch, folks use row boats to travel, laundry is hand-washed on the water’s edge, children walk to school and stars appear closer to the land.

But it was in all this that Maneesha Panicker, founder of Kayal Island Retreat, sensed a pristine strength, when she bought the property three years ago and began working towards making it a travel destination. Accessible only by boat, the island offers visitors Nature rather evocatively. Hence, the changes she brought in at the resort were strictly about keeping close to Nature, as close to what existed before, only with pragmatic additions that provide for the needs of a conscientious traveller. To this, she added curated experiences, both social and cultural. Holidayers here can luxuriate in a world of tranquillity, where time stands still.

As the property faces east, mornings are all about a burst of sunlight over green waters and of a frisson of bird sounds. “You are up close with Nature, and can warm up to it at your own pace,” says Maneesha, who worked in New York before she moved back to Kerala.

Visitors to the island can also engage in rustic activities like fishing, toddy tapping, farming and a simple boat ride. A visit to the local temple and to the temple festival, if in season, are other highlights.

So what then is so special about this hitherto forsaken island? It is precisely that — its remoteness. “This is how Kerala would have been, say, 100 years ago,” says Maneesha. She sees in that mundane, everyday village life, a source of joy for the weary urban traveller. The images of women and children walking back from work and school, of children jumping into ponds for a daily bath, and of birds that are a rare sight elsewhere.

And as for the special 6 p.m. sunset, which Nat Geo celebrates so vividly? For Maneesha, who worked for three years to put the resort together with utmost sensitivity to ecological needs, 6 p.m. means closure and a return home.

It means a sense of fulfilment after a good, hard day’s work.

“I really connect with the sunset, as much as George (George W. Stone of Nat Geo), who celebrates 6 p.m. at Kakkathuruthu and who wants the traveller to be here at that hour of the day,” she says.

A detail that every traveller to the sequestered island of Kakkathuruthu or Island of Crows wishes to know is how it got its name. George Thundiparambil, a writer living in Arookutty, a neighbouring island, believes that Kakkathuruthu was uninhabited for a very long time, like many other islands in this cluster of isles. “It must have been a haven for the ordinary crows and would have got its name from that,” he surmises. Even today, the island is a haven for crows, though it is rare to sight a raven. The island is ensconced in the backwaters of the Kaithappuzha kayal, a river much celebrated in the verses of Malayalam poet Vayalar Ramavarma.

Kakkathuruthu is accessible only by boat. Reach the turnpike at Eramalloor on the Kochi-Alappuzha National Highway, which is roughly 75 km from Kochi airport. Travellers can go directly to the Kakkathuruthu jetty or take a private boat at Kodupuram.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 8:25:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Spotlight-on-Island-of-Crows/article16077751.ece

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