If seeing those picture perfect holidays your favourite characters spend on television or movies make you plan one for yourself too and if finally, you find yourself looking for a nice destination, Lakshadweep islands in India are certainly worth a thought.
The islands are the smallest union territory of India. The name Lakshadweep in the native language of Malayalam means ‘the land of a hundred thousand islands’, however the actual number of islands is much less with only three dozen islands covering an area of 32 square kilometers.
As compared to its more glamorous sibling, the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay Of Bengal, these islands are a tiny piece of land floating on water, in fact the country’s smallest territory with a couple of reefs, 5 submerged banks and about a dozen atolls.
A trip to Lakshadweep proves that these are, for sure one of the most spectacular tropical islands. Even with a tiny land area of 32 sq. km these are surrounded by 4200 sq. km of lagoons. Given the fragile state of ecosystem and the limited capacity of land resources the administration tries to maintain a healthy balance between tourism activities and environmental protection due to which they promote water activities more than land based ones.
Some things are common between all the 36 islands it is the sun baked beaches, amazing reefs and pristine waters, yet they are planned in a way for each to provide varied experiences. Some of the inhabited islands are Agatti, Amini, Kvaratti, Kadmat, Kalpeni etc. These islands are the only coral atolls in all of India and are basically in the same geographical chain as the Maldives.
The islands have almost no crime and more than 90% of the population is employed in coconut cultivation and fishing. The administration is working incessantly on a full-fledged plan to develop the islands as not only a national but an international hub for water activities.
No so environmental activities like water scooters have been deliberately kept out lest they harm the ecosystem. Kadmat islands have a full functional reputed water sports institute offering facilities like kayaking, yachting, canoeing, snorkeling, wind surfing, water skiing and at last topping the list by scuba diving. Kavaratti and Kadmat are some of the hottest scuba diving spots.
The administration runs few attractive tourist packages like –
- The coral reef- it is a 5 day tour starting from the mainland city of Kochi, then heading to the trio of islands by the name of Minicoy, Kavaratti and Kalpeni in the same order. Accommodation is available on-board for 36 first class passengers and 100 tourist class passengers. Compensation is available for a group of 15 or more students.
- The Marine Wealth Awareness Programme- this is another 6 day long tour taking one to the Water Sports Institute and Kadmath Beach Resort. It provides an equal opportunity for both leisure seekers and adventurers.
Many other packages are customized according to scuba diving, beach stay, cottage stay etc.
Lakshadweep has moderate tropical climate with heavy to average rainfall and maximum temperatures ranging from 27-32 degree Celsius year-round. Dec- May is the peak season as it is both cool and dry.
More than 600 hundred species of fishes, around 80 different corals,80 distinct seaweeds, 52 species of crabs, 2 different lobster species, 50 different gastropods and more than a hundred species of birds make the islands extremely rich in flora and fauna for a region of this size.
The main language of the 64000 people of Lakshadweep is Malayalam with Arabic or other regional influences.
Like any other core rural or town territory Lakshadweep has its own fair share of unique festivals and celebrations of the religious kind, Moulood and Raheeb are an example. ‘During these festivals prayers are answered in groups and feasts with religious orientation thrown.
The visitors need special permit to visit the islands and these are easily made available by tour operators at nominal charges. Foreigners are required to have a pre booked lodging place before they can apply for a permit and only then are they granted one. Visitors from abroad are restricted to the islands of Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat also including Kavaratti (for transit only), the rest of the islands are out-of-bounds for them.
Nearly everybody passes Kochi on their way to Lakshadweep as either ship or flights are boat available form this city only. There’s single flight left between Kochi and Agatti with the flight from Goa being terminated. Occasional cruises are available directly from Mumbai.
Getting around too has very limited options with only a chopper ride ($150) or boats which are a lot cheaper. While on the islands one can be on foot or the other best possible option is to rent a bi-cycle.
Kavaratti the administrative capital is also the most developed island in which one of the beautiful sites is the Urja mosque. The world famous lagoon of Kalpeni are popular for their rich coral and marine life.
Tours are divided into basic leisure and lagoon tours; with this other places which one might visit are lighthouses, museums and local architectural landmarks.
Backpackers are bound to be disappointed as economical budget stay hotels are almost extinct and stay is often clubbed with tour packages. The cheapest ones start from an all-inclusive tour of 4days and 4 nights at 10000 rupees per person.
Local cuisine is similar to mainland coastal areas accompanied by only a few local dishes. Coconut water is the most popular drink with alcoholic beverages prohibited in all except Bangaram islands.
Full luxury resorts are also available though not many in number.
Lakshadweep is still a majorly developing tourist destination in India, the islands are calm , relaxing and you may not see a lot of people around but then this is also the fact which sets them apart from all the other tourist destinations of their kind.