Sounds of twittering birds; swish-swish of the feathery coconut fronds; a low mooing of a cow, and an occasional swoop of the kingfisher into the silvery water of the canal. This is Munroe Island, one of the loveliest backwater destinations in Kerala. It is not a very touristy place and the locals invite you amidst with them with genuine Keralite human warmth and hospitality. Commercialism does not take precedence here and a few years ago, Munroe Island was not connected by any roads. Waterways were the only mode of transportation and it was difficult to access, cut-off, remote paradise. Even today, though there are the main road and a few secondary roads, with some cars, buses, and motorcycles around, some of that timelessness still remains.
A slice of real Kerala backwater life
A group of eight small islands, Munroe Island is located in the Kollam district of Kerala. It sits at the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and Kallada River. Named after the erstwhile Diwan of Travancore, Colonel Munroe, this quaint backwater destination is a slice of paradise. Needless to say, it is not an easily accessible place and you need proper planning to reach there with ease. It also goes without saying that Munrothuruthu as the locals call Munroe Island is a slow traveling destination and is best enjoyed with time on your hands. This is a place to unwind, relax, and enjoy a blissfully tranquil stress-free time. Life here is unaffected by the hustle and bustle of the busy Kerala tourist spots. There is a fine network of canals that link the entire island, but they are so narrow that they offer scenes of a typical Kerala backwater village from a very close distance. Dugout canoes maneuvered with bamboo sticks are the most popular modes of transportation and as you glide along the slim canals on one, you experience the rustic daily life as it happens every single day with or without the presence of tourists.
Munroe Island is best for slow traveling
The coconut palms form green tunnels over the canals and on the banks, women can be seen fishing, doing laundry, or cooking. Small household piers often have netted duck pens and goats skip on the grassy banks. There must be hundreds of birds on Munroe Island: egrets, kingfishers, parakeets, and Brahminy kites. Their calls mingle with the shrill chatter of the children at the village andanavadi (government playschool) as their mothers cook, shop, tend to domestic animals, or make ropes from coconut fiber. The island is also very green and lush with spice plantations, rubber palm groves, and coconut farms. The local livelihoods depend mostly on agriculture with an occasional homestay popping up amidst the greenery. Night falls early here and silence creeps up along its heels. Stars pop out in hundreds and fireflies light up from the bushes. There is nothing to do on the island after dark and except to visit the local toddy shops, unwind on a hammock with a book or catch up on your sleep debt.
Munroe Island Travel Guide
If you are in Kerala and on the lookout for a quiet rendezvous, then Munroe Island has to be your first stop. From coir making, prawn cultivation, and toddy tapping, you can see a real slice of typical Kerala life here. Explore the island on your bike, canoe the backwaters, and enjoy simple rustic food made from farm-fresh ingredients and freshly caught seafood. The peacefulness of the island grows on you, and you leave only to be wanting to be back for more.
How to Reach
- From Kollam – The nearest city is Kollam from where you can either take a taxi or a train. The journey takes less than 20 minutes. From Kollam, there are 4 trains in the morning (07:45, 08:35, 08:50, and 11:10) and 3 trains in the evening (17:10, 18:43, and 19:05). Alternatively, one can hire a rickshaw from Kollam to Munroturuttu (Munroe Island) for 500 INR. From Munroturuttu to Kollam there are trains at 07:55, 09:09, 11:58, 15:15, 18:16, and 18:47.
- From Allepey – The distance between Munroe Island and Allepey is approximately 87 kilometers. There are two daily trains from Munroe island to Allepey and the journey takes less than 2 hours. There is one train in the morning at 09:09 and one in the evening at 18:55. From Allepey to Munrotoruttu there are daily trains at 13:40 and 17:05.
- From Kochi – There is a direct train from Kochi to Munroe Island. It leaves from Ernakulam station and the distance of about 140 kilometers takes around 4 hours.
Trivandrum International Airport is the nearest airport around 70 km away. Self-driven cars, cabs, and taxis are available to reach the island.
There are ferries that ply from Perumon Ferry Terminal in Kollam to Munroe Island by Kollam KSWTD.
This is a very small island and the best way to explore it is either by bike or a canoe. Autorickshaws (tuk-tuks) are available at the train station.
The Best Time to Visit
- November – February when the weather is dry and cool.
- Avoid April – May (the summer months) as it can get excessively hot and humid.
- June – mid-October are the monsoon months.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Munroe Island Backwaters Homestay and loved it. Run by local youth, Vijeesh, this homestay is clean, comfortable, and affordable. The food which is made by Vijeesh’s mother is delicious and his father runs canoe tours. Alternatively, you can choose from Lake n River Resort, Munroe Island Lake Resort, Munroe Paradise, and Munroe Eco camps.
Things to do
- Munroe Island Canoe Tour – Book one at your homestay or choose one of the canal cruises run by DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council) Kollam.
- Bicycle Tour – Explore the rustic life and the spice plantations of the island on a bike. Note that the bikes don’t have child seats but a flat pannier rack at the back. Men’s bikes have a rod in the front. It is not recommended for families with small children.
- Sunrise or Sunset on the Ashtamudi Lake – One of the most beautiful sights on clear days.
- Kallada Boat Race – The Kallada boat race happens 28 days after the harvest festival of Onam, around August – September on the river Kallada. Munroe Island is the best place to experience this regatta.
The future of Munroe Island – a destination under threat
The future of Munroe Island in Kerala is very uncertain. Experts still disagree whether it’s the effects of the tsunami in 2004 or the Thenmala dam nearby, but the island is sinking. Local families have already started leaving the island and abandoned houses can be seen in increasing numbers. The 2018 heavy monsoon rain that caused flooding throughout Kerala affected Munroe Island as well. The Munroe Thuruthu grama panchayat has prepared a draft master plan to mitigate the environmental challenges and protect the wetland ecosystem while promoting development. Despite this effort, many scientists and environmentalists predict that Munroe Island will be the first island in Kerala to sink completely underwater. This is expected to happen by 2050.
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