The Lakshadweep islands are the only real coral islands in the country. They almost seem to float out of nowhere some 400 kilometers from the coast of Kerala and of the 36 islands, only ten are inhabited. Most of them are long and irregular with a lagoon enclosed by a coral reef usually on the western side.
Believed to have been formed as a result of coral activity, each lagoon abounds with some spectacular growth of corals, which in turn supports a diverse array of marine life. The tiny, narrow islands with their coconut palms, white coral beaches and lovely, shallow and clear waters, combine to make it a tropical dream, which few parts of the world can match.
Entry permit, Lakshadweep
All visitors to the Islands of Bangaram Resort will need a permit. These are issued at Cochin. It would therefore be necessary to send three passport size photographs with full passport details to the management of Bangaram Resort to obtain the permit in advance in the case of foreign nationals.
In the case of Indians only name and address required. Permits are ordinarily issued with a validity of 15 days. If required this may be extended from the resort itself. While advance arrangement for the permit would be desirable, this permit can also be arranged on arrival at Cochin.
Kavaratti Islands The administrative capital, Kavaratti is the most developed of the islands with the highest percentage of non-islanders as residents. Fifty two mosques are spread out over the island, the most beautiful being the Ujra mosque. A well, within its precincts, is believed to contain water of curative powers. The Ujra mosque has an ornately carved ceiling, said to have been carved from a piece of driftwood. Kavaratti also has an aquarium with several colourful species of fish. There is a glass bottom boat for viewing marine life and an array of remarkable coral formations that pro- vides a background to the lagoons and the islands: within them. Some Water Sports like kayaking canoeing and snorkeling are available for tourists.
Kalpeni Islands Kalpeni has three uninhabited satellite islands, all surrounded by an immense lagoon of spectacular beauty. Sunlight on the water causes it to sparkle and flash like a million aquamarines. Koomel, the gently curving bay where the tourist facilities are located, directly over- looks Pitti and Thilakkm, two of the islands. Here you can swim, reef walk, snorkel or use water sports equipment like kayaks, and sail boats. Now the tourist facilities have been augmented and tourists can stay on the island in privately managed huts, depending on the package. This lagoon is specially rich in coral life.
Kadmath Islands A particularly fine lagoon, of even depth and an endless shoreline, perfect for swimming, makes Kadmath a haven of solitude. The tourist huts are situated some distance away from habitation, with only the splash of the waves to break the silence. During the day, when the heat of the overhead sun becomes too strong, the feathery network of coconut palms provides a canopy throughout the island, through which light dimly filters, green and cool. It is the only island with lagoons on both eastern and western sides.
A Water Sports Institute providing water sports facilities has been set up in Kadmath. Accommodation consists of AC and non AC tourist huts aesthetically situated in the coconut palm groves on the beaches. The island is becoming increasingly popular for honeymooners. As a testimony to its Water Sports potential, a Scuba Diving Centre has been set up there. With the Water Sports Institute, Scuba Diving Centre and the proposed augmentation of accommodation, the island is sure to become the focal point of tourist activities in Lakshadweep.
Minicoy Islands Furthest from Kavaratti island, 200 km away to the south and also nearest to the Maldives, Minicoy has a lighthouse built by the British in 1885. Visitors are allowed up, right to the very top. Words cannot do justice to the incredible size of the lagoon, one of the largest in Lakshadweep, the green of coconut trees, and the mirror-like surface of an inland lake as it nestles in one corner of the island. Minicoy has a culture very different from any other island - dress, language, food, all differ. Minicoy has a cluster of 10 villages, which are called Athiris, each presided over by a Moopan. A walk through the winding lanes of the villages is an indication of the culture here.
Minicoy is renowned for its dance tradition: the lava dance is performed on festive occasions. There is a tuna canning factory - signifying its importance in tuna fishing and boat building activity. Privately managed cottages have been built on the isolated beaches and are available for tourists.
Agatti Islands Agatti has one of the most beautiful lagoons in Lakshadweep. This is where the airport is built. A virtual gateway to Lakshadweep, a 20 bed tourist complex has been set up here. The island will shortly be opened for tourists.
Bangaram Islands There is something indescribably romantic about the very notion of an uninhabited island and Bangaram justifies that feeling. Tear-drop shaped, it is encircled by a continuous halo of creamy sand. Like all the other islands of Lakshadweep, luxuriant plantations of coconut provide coolness even during the hottest part of the day. There are three uninhabited islands in the same atoll consisting of Tinnakara, Parali-l, Parali-ll, perfect for a day's outing. All the islands share the same lagoon, an enormous bowl of turquoise blue.
At twilight, the setting sun, a ball of crimson in a flaming sky, casts its reflection on the water, and with the ever present coconut palms as a black silhouette, Bangaram is at the height of its allure. That is the hour when every visitor promises himself another visit someday.
If one were to cut the poetry, eulogising the beauty of the island of Bangaram, then one would still be left with the essential fact that it is a breathtakingly beautiful island quite out of this world. Surrounded by one of the largest and safest lagoons with its calm, unimaginable blue- green waters, lie the white coral sands and the half-a-square kilometer rise of Bangaram. And yet the lagoon is born out of a long coral reef that rings around three other islands as well, each easily accessible by out boarding, sailing, rowing and for the athletic, by kayaking or wind-surfing from Bangaram. But that is not all.
How to reach Lakshadweep ?
By Air - NEPC has started operating flights from Cochin to Agatti island for Bangarani. 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 - Vessels ply between Cochin and Lakshadweep. They have air-conditioned cabins for first class tourists and an air-conditioned Lounge hall with push back seats for tourist class accommodation. Rates vary according to the type of accommodation as well as the package chosen. Domestic package prices are inclusive of ship fare, meals on the ship and islands, ferrying charges between ship and island (the ship anchors 30-45 minutes away from each island), transport charges in the islands, sightseeing charges, lagoon cruising and accommodation on the islands.
Every journey of the ship-between Cochin and an island as well as between one island and another takes anything from 3 to 20 hours. Indian meals are served on board. Some cabins are fitted with a wash basin and have common bathrooms. First class AC cabins have attached toilets. Bed-linen and towels are provided. From October to April, Catamaran speed vessels operate as per monthly schedule between major islands in the northern group.
Board and Lodging, Lakshadweep
The tourist huts in each island are situated on the beach in ideal locations, Each hut has one or two twin-bedded bedrooms, overhead fans, and attached baths, Meals are served out on the beach, An extra bed can be provided in each room. (The tourist huts along with the entire island receives its electric supply from diesel generating sets.)
Tips ForTravellers, Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep islands are India's only coral islands formed from coral rock, and beautiful formations can be seen all over the lagoons. Tempting as it is to pick one piece up as a souvenir, it is strictly Illegal, being punishable with heavy fines. This is because in doing so you are seriously endangering the environment. Local cuisine resembles food from Kerala for the spices it uses, and for the extensive use of coconut.
Breakfast could consist or idlis or pooriesubji and lunch and dinner of rice with a dry vegetable, sambhar and fish, chicken or mutton in a gravy. Tuna fish, curried, fried or barbecued is generally available from October to March, Vegetarian meals are available