Lakshadweep, the Hidden Marvel Beckons
Formerly Laccadive, renamed Lakshadweep (hundred thousand Islands) in 1973, is one of the most spectacular tropical Island systems. The archipelago consists of 36 coral islands in the Arabian Sea, about 185 miles (300 km) off the Kerala coast. It consists of 12 atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks.
The atolls poised on submarine banks, harbour these islands with a total area of 32 square km (12 square miles). The islands form the smallest of the Union Territories of India and the country’s only coral islands.
Though the land area is extremely small, if considered its lagoon area of about 4,200 sq km, 20,000 sq km of territorial waters and about 7,00,000 sq km of economic zone, Lakshadweep is one of the largest territories of our nation.
This charming isolated destination has only 10 of its islands are inhabited. They are Minicoy, Andrott, Kavaratti, Kadmat, Agatti, Amini, Kalpeni, Kiltan, Chetlat and Bitra. Bitra is the smallest of all having only a population of 225 (1991) persons.
Early history of Lakhswadeep is unwritten. Local traditions attribute the first settlement on these Islands to the period of Cheraman Perumal, the last king of Kerala. It is believed that the first settlers were Hindus/ Buddhists. Even now unmistakable Hindu social stratification exists in these Islands. Buddhist archaeological remains are also found in Kavaratti and Andrott Islands.
Cultural and social Influence from the mainland state of Kerala had a deep impact on the inhabitants of the Islanders. Greek, Roman and Arab sailors used to visit the Islands for collecting boatloads of cowries and tortoise-shell for commerce.
Missionary activity in the 7th century AD and continued contact with Arab traders eventually led to the conversion of all the islanders to Islam. A Muslim saint, Hazrat Ubaidullah who succeeded to convert the inhabitants to Islam, was buried on Andrott. His grave is
revered to this day as a sacred site.
Later in the 12th century, when a Kolathiri princess married a Muslim convert, the islands became a part of the only Islamic dominion in the Kerala region.
During the 14th century Marco Polo, the famous Italian Explorer, seemed to have visited these Island. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese arrived on the Islands and colonized them.
Later Bibis (female rulers) and their husbands ruled the islands, until control of the islands passed to Tipu Sultan in 1783. When Tipu was killed by the British at the battle of Srirangapatnam in 1799, the islands came under British control. Sovereignity was transferred to India upon Indian independence in 1947, and the islands were constituted a union territory in 1956.
Known as the Coral Paradise, geologically the Lakshadweep Islands are believed to be extensions of the Aravalli system of Rocks, as sub-marine mountains on whose tops coral growth has taken place during the late tertiary period to form inhabitable reefs, atolls, sand banks and sandy Islands of exquisite beauty and mystique.
The Islands are covered with Coconut palms which is the main cash crop here. Coir and rope making industries are still to be developed. The Coasts of the Lakshadweep Islands are abundant in Sea life.
The sea is rich in coral and fishes like Tuna, Barracuda, Sailfish, Yellow fin, Travelly, Powder Blue Surgeonfish, Porcupine fishes, Pufferfish, Moray eels, Octopus and Wahoo.
Sedentry and Slow moving creatures found on the Coral reefs are Sea Cucumbers,Molluscs and Hermit Crabs.Playful Dolphins, Turtles, Rays and Flying Fishes are occasionally seen.
Though the ecologically is fragile, tourism has been developed to international levels around a few Islands like Bangaram, Minicoy and attracts thousands of visitors all around the world.
Sights & Attraction
The spell bound expanse of emerald isles, Lakshadweep, studded in the blue water of the Arabian Sea unfolds another world in itself.
The panorama encompasses magnificent lagoons, sylvan sea shores, miles of sun drenched sand and the enchantment of swaying palms, spectacular marine flora and fauna, All these harmonise to form a colourful kaleidoscope typical of an archipelago paradise.
Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat islands are open to both domestic and foreign tourists. Four of the inhabited islands (Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Minicoy and Kadmat) are open mostly to Indian tourists.
Sailing in glass-bottomed boats which give enchanting views of the coral below. The wealth of coral formation attracts a variety of tropical fish-angel, clown, butterfly, surgeon, sweet-lip, snappers and groupers. There are also manta and stingrays, harmless sharks and green and hawkbill turtles.
Water sports facilities like swimming, Rafting, snorkeling, windsurfing, parasailing, water skiing, catamaran sailing, deep sea fishing and scuba diving are available in the islands.
Agatti: Located 459 kms. from Cochin. It is 6 kms. long and 1000 meters wide at the broadest point.
The Gateway of Lakshadweep, Agatti Island is one of the most striking features in Lakshadweep.
Agatti and its satellite islands of Bangaram, Thinnakkara & Parali, presents a breathtaking spectacle of sparkling coral reefs, turquoise blue lagoons, silvery beaches and lush green coconut palms that sway to the rhythm of the sea.
Agatti is the only island with an airport. The sea around the island offers excellent scope for water sports and fishing. Coral growths and multi coloured coral fishes are abound in its lagoons.
There are facilities for Kayaking, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Excursions on Glass-bottomed Boats, Sail boats and Fishing trips, Site Seeing and day cruise to near by uninhabited islands Bangaram, Thinnakara, Paraly and Kalpitty.
Click on image to learn about details of Dive Courses
Bangaram: Located 459 kms. from Cochin.
An uninhabited island, Bangaram is one of the islands open to foreign tourists. It has been ranked among the best getaways of the world. The teardrop-shaped island has superb beaches and beautiful lagoons.
It offers utmost privacy unpolluted comfort with crystal clear water. Sparkling coral reef and blue lagoon perform magic on the soul searching traveler. There are numerous adventures like scuba diving, snorkelling and deep sea fishing.
Agatti is the gateway to Bangaram and is linked to Cochin for onward flights to metros.
Kadmat: Located 407 kms. from Cochin. Land area of Kadmat is 8 Km long and 550 m wide at the broadest point.
In addition to the beautiful shallow lagoon on the west that forms an ideal spot for water sports, there is a narrow lagoon on the east. The best attractions are the long sandy beaches and the sand banks on the southern tip for sunbath.
Kadamat has been identified for staying tourists with its tourists huts aesthetically situated in the coconut palm groves in the beaches facing the lagoon. The place is ideal for a real holiday that brings you away from the maddening crowd, hustle and bustle of city life.
Under Kadmat Package (Kadmat), one can spend 3-4 days enjoying sea breeze and moonlit beach. Water sports crafts like kayaks, pedal boats, sailing yachts skiing boats and glass bottomed boats are available on hire. The Scuba Diving Center in the island has become an attraction for water sport enthusiasts.
Minicoy: Located 398 kms. from Cochin.
Minicoy is the southern most island in Lakshadweep. It is about 10.6 kms. long, the second largest island, the first being Andrott. Crescent shaped, it has one of the largest lagoons. Viringili is the small islet seen to the south of Minicoy.
The Island is set apart from the northern group of Islands by its culture. The island is also interesting because of its unique Maldivian character.
The islanders are famous the world over as experienced sea-men. Mahl is the spoken language here. The light house constructed by the British in 1885, the Tuna Canning factory, Pedal boating, Kayaking and Sailing activities are some of the landmarks and attractions found in Minicoy.
Kavaratti: Located 404 kms. from Cochin.
The Headquarters of the Administration, Kavaratti is beautiful calm lagoon and forms an ideal spot for water sports, swimming and basking on warm sandy beaches. The Ajara and Jamnath mosques (of the 52 on the island) have the best woodcarving and the former has a particularly good ceiling carved out of driftwood.
Marine life exhibits can be seen at the new marine aquarium and specimens at the museum. Water Sports facilities available at the Dolphin Drive Center, is one of the attractions; a favorite spot for water sport enthusiasts.
Kayaks, Sailing yachts and glass-bottomed boats are available on hire. One can visit Kavaratti in Coral Reef and Taratashi Packages.
Kalpeni: Located 287 kms. from Cochin.
Is known for its scenic beauty with the small islets called Tilakkam & Pitti and an uninhabited island on the north called Cheriyam. A huge shallow lagoon encloses all of them. A peculiar feature of Kalpeni atoll is the huge storm bank of coral debris along the eastern & southeastern shoreline.
It is a progressive island. It was in this island that girls first went to school, when women’s education was considered a taboo. Here, one can swim, reef-walk or water sports on kayaks, sail boat and pedal boat.
A visit to the Baniyan Factory and the Light House situated in the island is included as a part of Coral Reef and Coconut Grove Packages.
Andrott: Located 293 kms. from Cochin.
Andrott is the nearest island to the mainliand and has an east-west orientation unlike other islands lying in the north-south direction.
The tomb of Hazrat Ubaidullah and the Buddhist archaeological remains at Andrott Island, the longest Island in the lakshwadeep.
Location: The Islands lie between 8° and 12° 13` North Latitude and 71° & 74° East Longitude
Population(1991): 51,707 (93% Muslim belonging to the Shafi school of the Sunni sect.) The people of the islands are very similar to the people of Kerala.
Language: Malayalam is by far the most commonly spoken language, however Mahl, is spoken in Minicoy.
Economy: Coir (coconut fiber), copra, and fish are notable economic products. The canning factory at Minicoy possesses Tuna fish. Tourism is an emerging industry. Cheriyam, Suheli, Valiyakara and Tinakara have been identified for international tourism. A Society for Promotion Of Recreational Tourism (SPORTS) was established for the development of tourism.
Climate: Lakshadweep has a tropical climate. From 27 to 32 degree Celsius during September to March. From 30 to 33 degree Celsius in April and May. The monsoon period is from 15 may to 15 September. Some effect of the northeast monsoon is felt in October-November in the form of light transitory showers which cool the place.
Distance: 220-440 Kms. from the South West coast of India
How to get there
BY AIR: This place is well connected by Air from Cochin (International Airport), Kerala. Indian Airlines operates its daily flight to Agatti except Sundays. From Agatti, passengers are transported to Bangaram by fast boat and brought back to Agatti in time for their departure. A helicopter service links Agatti to other islands.
BY SHIP: Passenger vessels ply between Cochin and Lakshadweep. Rates vary according to the type of accommodation as well as the package chosen. Catamaran speed vessels operate as per monthly schedule between major islands in the northern group.
Two new Ships, with passenger capacities of 150 are operational. During monsoons, ship – based tourism is closed but a helicopter service is available.
WHEN TO VISIT: Though the Islands are open round the year, from October to April is the ideal time to visit. The rush of tourists is mainly concentrated from November to March, and August. Many hut type resorts have come up in the Islands offering world-class facilities. (All visitors to the Lakshadweep Islands will require an entry permit)
A WORD OF CAUTION: Do not break plants or coral or collecting a piece as “souvenirs.” Remember that even the lightest touch with hands or equipment can damage sensitive coral polyps.
Resist the temptation to feed fish, seabirds and marine mammals; it changes their natural behavior and diet.
Dumping trash at sea is illegal; plastic bags and other debris can injure or kill marine animals. Sets a good example of environmental responsibility and bring your trash back to shore and recycle it.
Cruises and Ships to Lakshadweep
The ships available for Lakshadweep cruise from Cochin are:
MV Tipu Sultan
MV Bharat Seema
The Lakshadweep cruise journey extends to a maximum of 14 to 20 hours from Cochin. The Lakshadweep cruises provide air-conditioned deluxe class rooms with two berth cabins, air-conditioned first class rooms with four berth cabins and tourist class rooms with air-conditioned seating arrangements.
These ships also have cafeteria, snack bars, lounge, video shows, etc, for refreshment. They also have a doctor in case of any medicinal requirement.
The Coral Reef cruise liner with a 5 days tour package takes you to the islands of Kavaratti, Kalpeni and Minicoy by MV Tippu Sultan ship. MV Tippu Sultan has a total number of 36 first class rooms and 100 tourist class rooms.
Star cruises like the Super Star Libra is a three nights package program from Mumbai to Lakshadweep. The price varies with the kind of rooms one wants to go for. There are deluxe rooms, first class rooms and tourist rooms. Cuisine includes both Indian and Continental dishes. Tea and coffee is available all the time. Get yourself drenched in the swimming pool having Jacuzzi facility. Rooms for playing casino and discos are also there.
Indian Ocean cruise provides luxurious facilities to the tourists whose journey begins from Goa in MS Ocean Odyssey ship and has the capacity to carry 250 passengers. It consists of a 14-night package tour.
Important Travel Information for Foreigners
You will need to obtain an entry permit from Cochin or Delhi to get in many of the Lakshadweep islands. In order to obtain the permit one has to furnish several particulars like the passport details, the proof of nationality et al. Only Indian Nationals are allowed entry to many of the islands in Lakshadweep.
Most of the equipments required for the water sports are available at the various islands of Lakshadweep themselves.
Tourists are prohibited from carrying alcoholic beverages into the islands of Lakshadweep.
It is illegal to pick up corals from any of the Lakshadweep islands. So in case you wish to collect any coral for souvenir then get ready for the heavy fines that you will need to pay as punishment for the act.
Similarly the tourists are not supposed to litter around and spoil the beautiful waters.
The tourists are expected to help the local administration and the inhabitants of the various islands of Lakshadweep in preservation of the fragile ecology of the coral islands.
Thus the tourists must keep in mind the golden rule to be followed in Lakshadweep “Don’t leave behind anything and don’t carry away anything”.
Several trains ply between Chennai and Cochin, please refer Southern Railways website.
Several flights are available from Chennai and Cochin.
Posted on December 8, 2011, in Adventure, Attractions, Stay, Transportation, Travel and tagged catamaran sailing, deep sea fishing and scuba diving, lakshadweep, lakshadweep islands, parasailing, Rafting, snorkeling, swimming, tourist island, water skiing, windsurfing. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.