Kochi - Kerala's own metropolis - is a city that is surrounded by waterways all around. Kochi, Cochin, Ernakulam - as you like to call it - has a beautiful seashore along it. The core city areas do not have a seashore, though - since the city is on the banks of Vembanad lake & the River Periyar. One of the first things tourists visiting the city of Kochi do, is to take a boat cruise around Vembanad Lake and River Periyar - both comes together is what is called the Shipping Channel. There are a lot of boats that take tourists on a cruise through the waterbody. In addition to these private boats, there are some government run SWTD (State Water Transport Department) transport boats, which offer cheap and quick trips across the lake/river.
Since the port is located, more or less, within the city - the ships come fairly into the river/lake, and hence there exists a lot of restriction on the operation of boats. Most of the sunset cruises offered by these boats are nothing more than two hours of slow ride through the river will the sea opening - where the boats drift a bit to let the tourists watch the sun set, and then return back to the tourist boat jetties, located along marine drive in the city. Boating is an important item on every tourist's agenda. These boats cost quite some money - and you get very less for the 90-120 minutes they take you around for.
|Sagararani.. as she prepares to head to the sea!|
If you are visiting Kochi - please do not look at these boats unless you are only looking at spending good money on endlessly moving over waters. Head straight to the "High Court Jetty" - there stands the sleepy office of KSINC - or Kerala Shipping & Inland Navigation Corporation (A Government of Kerala organisation). They operate a great cruise - the Sagararani. They have two identical boats - Sagararani and Sagararani-II. Both were built by the Cochin Shipyard and are officially IRS registered vessels, certified to enter the seas. Sagararani offers evening sunset cruises every day (except during monsoons) - which leaves Kochi at 1730hrs and reaches back at 1930hrs. With tickets priced at Rs. 300 (on weekdays. Its Rs. 350 for weekends and holidays), they offer a memorable two hours ride to the seas to witness the sunset sans obstructions (except clouds, of course), a light snack, services of a knowledgeable guide and lots of entertainment.
|This is Sagararani-II @ KSINC Jetty near High Court, Kochi|
While the Sagararanis are operated by a government organisation, there is one private operator, Classic Cruises, who operates Classic Paradise for sunset cruises. So this could be an alternative if the Sagararani isn't available. Both the boats have their own advantages and disadvantages, to be honest - and I can vouch for that since I've been on both the boats. Both the boats charge around the same rates. The private boat is newer and has better sound systems - with lots and lots of lights. The lower deck has a good disco floor in Classic Paradise. The Sagararani, on the other hand, is more family friendly and has a conference hall styled lower deck - which is good for families to rest in, in airconditioned comfort, after the sun sets.
April 14, 2016:
|This is Classic Paradise - the only private cruise vessel..|
Heights of Festivities! A lazy evening! I rushed from the Airport towards the city - I was at the airport with another spotter friend to spot some aircraft. I dropped my friend near the High court and I rushed towards the jetty, where my entire family was waiting for me! We were taking Sagararani again - after almost 6 years! Being a holiday, tickets were priced at Rs. 350 each - we took 5 tickets and walked into Sagararani - the older among the Sagararanis
. Sagararani can seat lesser passengers than Sagararani-II. They first filled Sagararani and then Sagararani-II. Both were operating on that day. We remained in the AC hall on the lower deck till the vessel started off. We backed out of the jetty exactly at 1730hrs - the other Sagararani (II) also left at the same time.
|Starting off... |
Soon after we began the sightseeing, refreshments rolled out of the pantry. The neatly dished out kit
had a vegetarian samosa, a piece of tea cake and a biscuit, followed by a cup of hot tea. The refreshment tasted fresh and the quantity was sufficient. The crew on board ensured that every body on board received their share - they kept enquiring again and again to confirm this. Bins to collect the refuse was aplenty on board - this ensured that the refuse wasn't dumped into water. Soon after showing the important show-worthy regions around, the vessel slowly headed towards the sea.
|Refreshment on Sagararani..|
The guide ensured that all passengers on board were told about what were seen around - this included the Marine drive, Bolghatty, Fort Kochi, the cruise terminal, etc etc. Since, this wasn't our first journey on Sagararani, me, and my family members, headed to the front. I headed straight to the deck - the serang
in control was a very jovial guy. He was happy to see people talk to him and ask him about his job. It was a young guy at the front, who was aiming at driving a tug one day. We explained in detail about the training process and the examinations they need to clear before they get licenses to drive around these vessels.
|The sun is already setting!|
|Thats Queen Mary -2 heading out of Kochi..|
|An SWTD Ferry vessel.. thats MV Lagoons in the background|
As we neared the sea, the crew re-checked if all the passengers were wearing their life jackets and were seated. The enforcement of safety measures were ensured by the presence of marine police and coast guard officials who were patrolling the area. Once into the open seas, the continuous commentary stopped and got replaced by entertainment. Passengers in the vessel were encouraged to participate.
The highlight of the entire day was the presence of the cruise ship Queen Mary 2. The vessel of mammoth proportions was leaving the port of Kochi after a quick visit - carrying over 2000 passengers! We were maintaining a safe distance with the vessel as we slowly moved towards the sea. Queen Mary 2 was under speed restrictions till they cleared the port limits. The serang
of our vessel was talking about the special instructions all the vessels in the area were given - including the paths they were forbidden to take.
It was a cloudy day and hence we couldn't witness the sunset, as such. As we headed to the sea, another ship joined Queen Mary - this was MV Lagoons heading to the Lakshadweep. It was fun seeing these passenger vessels out in the sea. I also saw a Coast Guard patrol ship also for the first time - it was ICGS Abhinav,
an Aadesh class patrol vessel. It moved quite fast. We moved a little more into the sea - we crossed another passenger vessel in the seas - that was MV Kavaratti, in bound from Lakshadweep. We turned around sometime around 1840hrs - and moved back to Kochi. I realised that the outbound was actually slow and the vessel moved faster on its way back. It got dark by now.
|Returning to Kochi.. thats a Container vessel @ Vallarpadam Container Terminal. The floating lighthouse in Classic Paradise|
All the three evening cruise vessels - ours (Sagararani), Sagararani-II and Classic Paradise moved together on the way back - we were leading the pack, though. As it got dark, the music on all the vessels got louder - the dance floors went berserk. The vessel had performers - a musician, and a few dancers - who put up their show. After a while of seeing the show, we headed to the lower deck and we rested in the cool confines of the conference hall below. We were finally dropped back at the KSINC Jetty near High Court around 1930hrs - ending an amazing trip to the sea. Although the intention was to witness the sun set - that didn't happen because it was too cloudy.
The trip was a handful of lovely memories - a ride through a sea without burning a hole in the pocket is always a great experience. I'd surely recommend this to all people visiting Kochi. I'd leave the choice of the vessel to you - but a sunset cruise to the sea is a must do in Kochi!