I wanted to visit the Indian state of Kerala, also referred to as 'God's Own Country', for a fourth time...but, on this tour, experience areas of the wildly diverse region that nudges the mountains of the Western Ghats, a place I'd not before seen.
One thing I’ve learned from previous trips is that preparation is a vital ingredient when planning travel to tropical regions if one is to squeeze every last drop of pleasure from the country selected.
Kerala doesn't experience extreme variations of weather, except in the monsoon season (June-Sept) when it rains constantly, but the prices charged by hotels and resorts do reflect long-established beliefs that there are indeed three clearly defined periods, with Nov-Jan bring most popular and pricey. Armed with this published data, I decided to 'overlap' seasonal periods to seek lower prices and thus maximize both comfort and flexibility while minimizing my daily outlay. The strategy worked perfectly and I can most certainly recommend potential visitors to Kerala to follow my example and secure a fabulous deal.
My planning followed this scenario:
First, I set the dates....the third week of February through to the middle of March. Twenty-one days in total spanning the end of high season and the beginning of low.
Second, I researched hotels and resorts, which fell into my budget category (3 Star+) and selected two from each area I wished to tour...Cochin – Munnar – Thekkady – Alleppey and Varkala.
Next, because the distances between the chosen areas were considerable and that Kerala is not renowned for wide, smooth surfaced roads with little traffic, I opted to engage the services of an Indian Tour Operator who would be willing to undertake the tasks of 'meet & greet', all road transfers, negotiate even better rates with my selected hotels and provide an English speaking driver of an air-conditioned car for the entire length of my stay.
There are many hundreds of Tour Operators in India and selecting one at random is certainly not recommended. I could have grabbed a brochure from a travel agent's shop and picked from the beautifully illustrated pages of hotels, all of which are sited in fabulous locations and praised highly for service and accommodation, but I doubt I would have enjoyed the best available experience. Opting for the Package Deal invariably means no flexibility, a 'cattle-herding' mentality, strict and so often inconvenient timetables, no choice of airline (or flight times) and little or no opportunity to 'wander' or merely 'savor'. Of course, there are still a substantial number of tourists who take the simplest of options.
To avoid this catastrophe of disappointing guiding, it is necessary to dedicate time and effort researching the many operators and their reviews. Homework completed, I chose one named Red Dot Tours, noted for their Sri Lankan expertise now operating in India.
My research paid off. From my first enquiry through to the hours prior to boarding my return flight to the UK, Red Dot Tours’ organization could not be faulted. Its communication was clear; its staff were professional and its care and attention to detail were quite unprecedented in my experience. That the Indian manager, Rajiv, kept in constant contact was an added feeling of security and was much appreciated.