So! My lad and I traveled to India last April for my 40th and Jack’s 8th birthday pressies. What better way to treat yourself than than taking a SUP traveling with you?! First things first, traveling with your SUP is really easy! It’s amazing fun and you get to see the world from a completely different perspective. So hopefully this blog will take some of the concerns out of traveling with your paddleboard so you can explore for yourself.
Traveling with an inflatable SUP board
Like most people I searched for the cheapest deal possible to get to India and then after that I upped the price a bit to fly with a recognised airline. I flew with Etihad and, lucky me, they had just changed their luggage allowance and terms and conditions to accept 33 kilos of luggage per person and over sized baggage to include Surf boards. I must admit I didn’t need either, a SUP bag is under luggage allowance size and it only weighs about 16 kilos so a couple of pairs of boardies and bikinis and a towel wrapped round the paddle and we were sort of done. I did expect to buy lots of goodies out there so I was chuffed to know I could bring some bits home without hitting any excess baggage charges.
I suppose if you’re the sort of person that wants to travel with the kitchen sink, one of your bags being taken up with your favourite toy might be a bit of a blow, but for us a bag full of bikinis and quick dry sun tops and SUP clothes and another bag with a board in was perfect.
Getting to the airport was as easy as any other time. We traveled by coach to the airport, the Anomy SUP bag has wheels so it was easy to transport. Getting to the airport terminal from the coach was again easy, I didn’t even notice I had a SUP. I checked in the 2 bags and that was that… I didn’t see the 2 bags until Kochi – India. We, on the other hand had a leg stretch in Abu Dabi before carrying on to Kochi.
Quite a few movies and a bit of sleep later we arrived in Kochi at 8am in the morning. A bit bleary eyed, we went through the most amazing security I’ve ever had in my life… swear to god – no queue and a comfy chair whilst finger prints were been taken! I’d been pretty worried about this as everyone had mentioned the hour long queues and complete mayhem, but we didn’t get any of it. We were whisked through and got our bags back without damage. I had been a little worried about bags going missing and/or getting broken in transit, but there was nothing more than a few scuffs from been dragged. And so we were off! I’d had the complete accidental foresight to book our trip with the same hotel resort chain, as we were traveling for 3 weeks to different areas of Kerala and Jack is only 8, I didn’t want to push my sanity too much to what I would call proper traveling/backpacking 🙂 This move had the accidental amazing result in that the resort group had added in a personal driver for the 3 week stay. I hadn’t really twigged this as the emails had been a little bit vague, but for £1500 for 2 people staying in 3 star hotels with swimming pools, including breakfast, the driver was at the airport waiting for us… WHOOP!
So! One thing I would say to anyone going to India – Its probably obvious to the not so daft as me 🙂 – don’t google map destinations and expect the travel time to be accurate. So I’d love to tell you what happened after we got into the car (with no seat belts and a driver that drove a bit too fast on single track roads) but i can’t because we slept pretty much the 3 hours it took to get to the hotel (not the 30 mins google said it was going to take 🙂
3 hours later and at lunchtime we were at our 1st destination; Whispering Palms, part of the Abad Resort.
A stunning quiet hotel right on the Kerela lake. Jack was straight in pool and I went on the search for a cold beer.
So here came the 1st snag when traveling in Kerala, and thank the lord I did what I’ve never done before… bought some wine on the way to the hotel! Kerala is a communist state of India and they have banned any hotel other than 5 star (that is also a certain distance from the road) from serving alcohol AND you have to go to a certain type of government building to buy it! Over the 3 weeks, I found I wasn’t the only tourist to not know this. I had become a wealth of quick info as to where the nearest 5 star hotel was to chill with a beer and where the government appointed alcohol shops were, passing this advice on to the many English and German tourists I met! My driver got a few tips for the drive too! 🙂 So a few hours later, WiFi fixed 🙂 and a glass of wine in my hand outside my room terrace, I was feeling fairly chuffed we had made it this far.
Paddleboarding on Lake Kerala
Lake Kerala is also known by a few different names as its so huge; Vembanad lake, Kochi lake Ashtamudi Lake.
Fully refreshed and ready to get out on the water, I was about to start 3 weeks of ‘that’s inflatable?’ questions. Staff and guests politely laughed and scratched their heads as they didn’t quite understand how I’d traveled with this huge SUP board! Getting the board onto the water was a little tricky as the banks from the hotel were designed for boat trips; they were high!
About half an hour later when Jack and I had done a bit of gymnastic effort to get the board in the water (to more laughing and head scratching) we were both on the water and ready for our 1st SUP trip in Kerala.
I don’t know why but I was a bit nervous, being on our own I think with no boyfriend to call. So I paddled upwind for a couple of miles just keeping to the main lake wall and then paddled back again. I’d noticed the wind really got up in the afternoon and I didn’t want to get us stuck.. there are lots of fishermen but funny enough no coastguard! 🙂 The trip was still great though even at this careful level. I found all the 5 star hotels on the lake front, so that afternoon we went to explore by hired bike inland now I knew (ish) where i was going. The Hotel staff at the resort were lovely but they weren’t that helpful with advising of places to eat and drink outside the hotel, so it was great to get my bearings by exploring by cycle and SUP. The next day we went further afield, the day before I’d found the start of a water way into the canals and after a boat hire to get my bearings on the area, we went exploring by SUP. I love paddling rivers and canals at the best of times but this experience in India was extremely special. Fruit laden trees arching over the canal outside small homes, local fisherman going about their day, people washing and cooking in and next to the canal at a Kerala pace of life.
So for the next few days our idyllic holiday consisted of morning paddles, afternoon bike rides, evenings playing pass the pig in 5 star hotels and much to Jack’s non-satisfaction…spicy food 🙂
Paddle boarding from a Houseboat on Lake Kerala.
Chilling out one night in another 5 star hotel I’d found for us to hang out and play Yahtzee in, I noticed a houseboat that was being rented out to guests. I asked how much it was to hire for a day, and including an on-boat chef, freshly prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner it was £150. It was a massive house boat with living area, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms all to ourselves. So we said yes please, we would like that very much, and hired the boat the next day.
I think the house boat was one of our favourite experiences of the trip, I thought Jack might of been a bit bored but somehow doing very little and traveling up and around the lake for the whole day was pretty amazing and very chilled. We obviously took the paddleboard and the captain’s English was good enough for him to work out what we were up to and he took us to some new waterways to explore. SUP in the water and one look back, thinking don’t leave us here PLEASE!! We gave him some vague instructions we would be back in a hour or 2 and so we went off again to explore villages by water.
NEXT STOP MUNNAR
6 hours of stomach churning roads later we were in our next hotel in Abad, Copper Castle for a few days right at the top of the Munnar hills, famous for tea plantations, nature treks and cool refreshing air. We were hoping to go paddleboarding in the reservoirs in Munnar hills but like the UK, the reservoirs are state owned and even though you’re allowed on them on government owned boat trips, you’re not allowed to take your own vessel. So paddleboarding was OUT for 6 days and tea plantations, jack fruit, monkeys, speed boat trips, wild elephants, Jeep off road tours, waterfalls and the most random amusement park and an even more random music show I’ve ever been too was IN.
Back to the beach
6 hours drive back to the beach, still churning stomachs and downhill this time, we were getting used to the car somehow squeezing in between jaw dropping cliff drops on one side and massive lorries and coaches on the other. Finally we were at Turtle Beach Resort; a lush resort with its own organic vegetable gardens and livestock milling around. We stayed here for 10 days, made some very cool friends which we still stay in touch with, taught a tone of people to paddle board in the mornings before the waves got up and Jack was finally getting used to curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner, although he was starting to dream of pizza & burgers too! 🙂
I’m not much of a SUP surfer and prefer touring but this beach was amazing for both. The weather was like clock work everyday; flat calm with no wind every morning so we went off touring in the mornings and as the day went on the wind came up and the waves got bigger and bigger. By 2pm the sun’s heat was blown away, all the kids were in the surf getting tussled around and I was catching a few waves (and getting smashed in a couple too).
Some helpful tips for traveling to Kerala, India with a SUP
- Don’t forget your leash. I feel you always need a leash even when you’re paddling with friends, but especially abroad with no easy way of getting help. Your leash allows you to keep attached to your board.
- Travel with a 3-piece paddle that fits in your SUP bag. Wrap the blade in a towel or something soft and choose a nylon blade rather than carbon. If your going for a long time away from civilisation, travel with an extra fin, fin nut and screw and paddle.
- Get insurance that covers your SUP kit for loss or damage.
- India was the hottest country I’ve been too, in some ways hotter than the Middle East as there is no inside ‘fun’. There were no shopping centres or restaurants with air-con, so take hats and sun tops with SPF 50+ as you’re always sweating (nice eh!) so sun lotion just doesn’t seem to stay on, especially the kids as they’re never out of the water.
- Getting alcohol (not strictly a paddleboard issue but still! 🙂 If you definitely want a tipple in your hotel, either pre-request a solution prior to travel from your resort or double check your 5* hotel serves alcohol. Whilst I was there the hotels in the area were being having licences revoked for small reasons like being too close to the road, so a licence isn’t guaranteed. I also found people who had paid a lot more than me had not had any notification of alcohol rules by the travel agents so its definitely worth double checking.
- Covering up – Kerala is extremely religious and I found the hotels that were not 5* seem to be more for local tourists from India. I found it was appreciated to put longer clothes on in the Pool in the evening when families, particular the dads were out playing with the kids.
- Waterproof phone case – Always handy for taking pics etc but when out on the water on your own its a bit of added security, but be careful to keep your phone in the shade so your phone doesn’t overheat.
- Keeping in contact – A good data package which allows use abroad is handy, especially when you know you’re going to be out on the water on your own. Allowing find my friends to work along side whatsapp and current location is a good idea to stop your mum panicking. I also took lots of battery packs which were very useful as the electric was turned off with the card inside the rooms when you’re not in.
- There were 3 strikes in Kerala whilst I was there which effected travel badly as the local people were not allowed to be seen at work or be on the road for any reason. I wasn’t effected too badly as the hotels were part of the same resort so called ahead to change my stay so we weren’t caught up in the strike, but quite a few tourists I spoke to had been really quite caught out with having to pay extra for drivers and rooms as the hotels didn’t think to inform them. If your concerned my accidental pre-planning of traveling with a full time driver within the resort package did the job and saved quite a bit of money.