Kumarakom in Kottayam district is the most popular backwater destination in Kerala. The place is 15 km west of the district. Kumarakom is a group of tiny islands on the Vembanad Lake. This is a part of Kuttanad. This beautiful green area has wide stretches of mangrove forest with many species of birds. [caption id="attachment_577" align="alignnone" width="270"] Kumarakom Backwaters[/caption] Kumarakom offers its visitors leisure activities such as boating and fishing in its backwaters. The Kumarakom Tourist Village Complex of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation has independent cottages set among coconut and banana plantations. Holidays spent on houseboats and traditional Kettuvalloms, are surely an unforgettable experience. [caption id="attachment_580" align="alignnone" width="300"] Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary[/caption] The Kumarakom bird sanctuary spread over an area of 14 acres. This is a favourite place of migratory birds. This place is known as Baker's Estate as it was developed by an Englishman named Baker. The best way to watch the birds here is a boat ride round the islands. Kerala Tourism Development Corporation is planning to introduce guided bird watching trails at Kumarakom and also to open an interpretation centre. Birds watching cum trekking camps are organized by the WWF-India since 2008 at Kumarakom and Tattekkad Bird Sanctuaries in connection with World Wetlands Day. This includes activities such as bird watching trips, discussion and interactive sessions. [caption id="attachment_581" align="alignnone" width="300"] Kumarakom Backwaters[/caption] The other neighbouring tourist spots are Kaipuzha Muttu, Pathiramanal, Narakathara, Thollayiram Kayal and Poothanpandi Kayal. These spots are also good locations for spotting birds. Kerala Tourism got the top United Nations Award for its global leadership in creating innovative initiatives for sustainable tourism. This is for the first time that India has ever won this recognition. The state has also won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance, the highest honour given to government bodies for shaping global tourism policies through innovative initiatives. Kerala Tourism got this award for its Kumarakom Tourism project. The project has linked successfully the local community & government departments with the hospitality industry, creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area thereby promoting eco-friendly tourism. The Kerala Tourism's 'Responsible Tourism' initiative was introduced in Kumarakom involving the Gram Panchayat, Kudumbashree, District Tourism Promotion Council and local hospitality industry besides the government departments of agriculture and health, to achieve sustainable tourism by creating job opportunities and practicing eco-tourism objectives. This Project had earlier won the National Award for Best Rural Tourism Project and the PATA Grand Award for Environment. Kumarakom is a popular ecotourism destination in Kerala portraying responsible and sustainable tourism in an exceptional manner.