- Benjamin John
Lakshadweep Islands : untouched spaces on our planet
I was lucky enough to have this Lakshadweep trip in November of 2018, which came out of the bloom like a gift from above. I remember Lakshadweep almost like a closed destination for a long while with a few government guests houses and a few homestays working in certain islands. It was a short trip, to understand the present status of the tourism developments that have been happening in the recent past. I was traveling with Green Earth Trails, along with my colleague Babichan Abraham.
here is a video of the complete trip we did, read down till the end to have a clear grip of our experience in the Lakshadweep Islands. Always plan your trip to the Lakshadweep Islands along with an Authorized Lakshadweep Tour Operator.
We headed to the Islands from Kochi by flight. Apparently, Lakshadweep is mostly connected to Kochi for both tourism and administrative matters. They have offices in Wellington Island in Kochi and have ships plying to these Islands from Kochi. There is an Air India flight from Kochi to Agatti Island every day, and that will fly every day if you have the favorable weather. Agatti is the only Island that has an aerodrome. However, it is not the administrative capital of the Islands. Agatti is a long strip of Island within a reef with an airstrip, and you have a few accommodation facilities available here and there.
Where is Lakshadweep Lakshadweep is a series of Islands located 450 kilometers off South West Indian coast. The Islands have a long history, and many rulers have established their reign here. There are different versions of its history. However, the Arakkal family of Kannur ruled this place for a while. I have seen pieces of history about this in the Arakkal museum you have in Kannur. Lakshadweep means, thousands of Islands in Malayalam as well as many other Indian Languages. These Islands are not close by, they are scattered all over the ocean, and there are many inhabited islands, small and big. Agatti has the aerodrome, and Kavaratti (60 kilometers away) is the union territory administrative headquarters. Other Islands that encourage tourism are Kadamat, Kavaratti, Bangaram, and Thinnakara. Out of these, we visited just Bangaram mand Thinnnakara. Kavaratti is around 3.5 hours of sail by ship, and that is available only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So reaching these Islands have their own share of restrictions, but trust me they are beautiful enough to take that pain.
The prominent islands are Kavaratti (Capital), Agatti, Minicoy, Kalpeni, Androth, Chetlat, and Amini. The total population of Lakshadweep including all of the Islands is 64500, and Islam is probably the only religion there, which is believed to be brought by Arabs, Buddhism had already existed there before that.
How to Reach Lakshadweep Islands Geographically Lakshadweep looks very close to Kannur and Kozhikode, two districts in North Kerala. However, the Islanders mostly depend on Kochi for their administrative as well as medical and other requirements in the mainland.
There are direct flights that shuttle every day from Kochi to Agatti in the morning. It is just one flight operated by Air India, and it takes around 1 hour 20 minutes of flight- An ATR flight that can accommodate approximately 50 to 60 passengers at one go, I am not sure why, but the trip does not take the full capacity of 78 passengers at a go. Probably we will have to ask Captian Joe! There are Ships scheduled from Kochi, Beypore, and Mangalore (all of them are ports on the South West coast of India), and Kochi has the highest number of Ships going to Lakshadweep, rest of them are just one ship a week.
What we did on these Islands Here goes the story, we boarded the morning flight to Agatti, by the way, make sure that you do not carry alcohol to Lakshadweep, alcohol is prohibited in Lakshadweep. Mind this carrying something that is not permitted in the islands becomes illegal. We boarded the 15 minutes delayed flights and reached the Agatti Island by around 10:45 AM after a 1 hours 20 minutes of flight. Just before landing, you could see waves hitting the reef, and the color of the water turns turquoise blue, and we hit the tiny airstrip. You walk past the fire station to the arrival building where you need to produce your permit to land and screen the luggage to see if you have brought some unwanted items like a bottle wine or so. You walk out the Airport, get into a car and drive through the narrow countryside road. Small homes, people moving around in cycles, once in a while you see a motorcycle or a car, mosques, beaches, boat jetty, fisher folks and a lot more. We were heading to Bangaram Atol, so we had to get a boat from the pier, the boat was waiting for us at the dock.
In case if you are looking to plan your holidays to Bangaram, Lakshadweep Islands, we can help you the way you have it in mind ~ Green Earth Trails Team
What was our plan We planned to stay in Bangaram for two nights, and the whole idea is to inspect the island for us to incorporate in our itineraries. We had to have a thorough look into everything concerning logistics, the criteria, the activities, the rooms, the food, and the list goes on. For this to happen we had to visit the Islands, as part of the Green Earth Trails quality assurance, we travel a lot to many places to ensure that things do maintain a minimum level of quality that our guests are looking for. As per our plan, we were to visit only the islands of Bangaram and Thinakkara. Both are just 15 minutes of cruise apart.
Bangaram has a story It was during when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of India during the mid of the 1980s. Rajiv Gandhi, during one of his visits to the Lakshadweep, saw the Island of Bangaram while he was on his chopper circuits. He had this vision of incorporating tourism as a source of revenue for the islands, and as a result of that he had organized a trip for a bunch of hoteliers to these Islands, and one among them was the Casino Hotel, today known as CGH Earth. When asked to the hoteliers about how effectively these islands could be used for tourism. Everybody required at least three months to get a plan in place, that was when CGH earth informed them that they could commission a resort in just 3 months. They planned to use local materials and start inviting guests. Because Bangaram herself was beautiful, she did not require any further makeover to accommodate tourists.
The CGH Earth had run the property for until 2010, during when there were some legal battles fought between CGH Earth and the Lakshadweep administration. The Island was closed for some six years after which the court ordered SPORTS (Society for the promotion of nature tourism and sports) to start running the tourism operations on their own. Finally, Bangaram was open to tourist from October of 2016, they had to go some severe renovations, but the core structure remains the same as that of what was there earlier.
Our Trip Story
Now coming back to the trip story, since it is reopened place, we had to see and ensure that everything is back in order, that just knowing that from the new photographs. At the pier, we got into the boat and cruised to Bangaram Atol through the sea, it was a rough sea then, there was some low pressure developed in the Bay of Bengal named Gaja, and some repercussions of it were generally felt over the sea. We entered the reef and finally reached the paradise of Bangaram. Just as you see in the photographs, a beautiful, serene island with a lot of coconut groves, with shallow waters and white sandy beaches. A classic example of a beautiful tropical paradise. We set our foot on the island through the floating jetty. The sun was bright, and the sea was blue with some clouds here and there. We were welcomed with some refreshing coconut drink with some mashed tender coconut, what an exhilarating moment it was!
The moment you land on the island, you are given an elaborate briefing as to what is what, dos & donts and a brief about the island, the places in them and the best time to do whatever you want. Bangaram is recognized as a tourist island and does not generally apply the rules of the islands. For example, Alcohol is prohibited in Lakshadweep islands, but there is a bar in Bangaram. But, yes it is just some exceptions here and there, and the law of the land is that of the Union of India.
We moved to the cottages, air-conditioned ones, a nice good mattress, basic furnishings including television, tea & coffee kettle, Purified drinkable water in glass bottles and an attached bathroom with a wardrobe near it. That the pros and the con are just a single villain, the water has a high concentration of sulfur; apparently, sulfur water has an odor similar to that of rotten egg, but some say it is good for health, not a complete con in that sense.
The beach is open wide for you, bed beds, thatched beach umbrellas, hammocks, and a bunch of activities including dives and snorkelling are available at the island. The accommodation comes along with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you know swimming dive into the beach and see the corals underwater. You will enjoy the moment as if you are in some beautiful, untouched part of our planet earth.
Some exciting activities here would include, the snorkeling trip to the Ship Wreck, and the Turtle watch which is within the reef. They both have great reviews. If you are as a group, there are a bunch of watersports activities you can get involved up to a week. The PADI certified dive centers take you to open water dive programs and Discover scuba diving programs. You could even learn scuba diving if you have a bigger budget.
The food at the restaurant is multi-cuisine, they serve chicken and fish for every meal. Preparations mostly include rice and Indian bread like Chapathi. The dinners are the beach with some bar be cue and music. The ambiance is very much of a leisurely holiday. The bar serves beer, wine, and hard liquors and has a reading area with a small library stacked there.
The Island runs of generator power, so use your resources effectively do not waste anything, this is island life, the more you preserve, the more you save. There is a police aid post, Power and utility department, a helipad for helicopters to land and a sprawling freshwater lake in the middle of the Island.
We did scuba dives, snorkelling very close to the beach. Took a boat from Bangaram to Thinnakara to see the cottages, we were so amazed the see the beach at Thinnakara, pristine and untouched. There are tents right on the beach. These tents have a cooler inside, a bathroom, and a bed. They are pretty large, just like a cottage made of canvas. Thinnakara depends mostly on Bangaram for watersports and other activities. However, there is a restaurant at Thinnakara.
Two days just went away like that, and we had to leave for home! The repercussions of Gaja was evident after the first day the sky was filled with dark clouds, and we did get rainfall on one of the mornings along with some thunder.. boom! And there was a red alert declared in the islands; technically boats are not allowed to get into the waters if someone did, rest was their responsibility. Oops!
Some boat had to come from Agatti for us to return to the Agatti to catch our flight back to Kochi. We were ready since morning, but no boat arrived, after looking at multiple sources the resort got to get a chopper but could get only three adults onboard, because the helicopter was coming from Kavaratti and it had other people in it. Finally, at 2 pm we got on board the chopper and reached Agatti and stayed at a govt. Guesthouse. We did miss our flight on the day it was scheduled and got our ticket rescheduled for the next day.
On the 4th day in Lakshadweep, we boarded our flight back to Kochi. Meanwhile, our permit had expired, but since it was something not within our control, we got through it. I had been to the Andaman Islands in 2015, but I should say Lakshadweep is less developed for good reasons, it is more beautiful than the Andaman Islands, at the same time it does not mean that Andamans is not attractive. The kind of exclusivity and atols that Lakshadweep is far better than the Andaman Islands. Also, there is a drastic difference between a highly commercialized destination and a less commercialized destination.
Who will enjoy Lakshadweep A core traveler who appreciates nature and beaches will appreciate Andamans. Someone who judges a destination by the kind of creature comfort and luxury and convenience might not have a great time in Lakshadweep. I should say, Lakshadweep is a paradise, less touched with human interventions, one among the very few untouched spaces on our planet.
Which all Islands to visit In my opinion, Bangarama and Thinakkara are equally good. Bangaram is better regarding facilities, and Thinnakara has beautiful by herself. Both are within the same reef and is just 15 minutes by boat.
Kadamat and Kavaratti are far away islands compared to Bangaram. To reach Kavaratti or Kadamat, one will have to get into a vessel that is operational only on alternate days, and the cruise is almost 3 hours. That is too long from a tourist point of view. Another option is Helicopters, but that is more expensive. For Youngsters who would love to venture, both Kadamat and Kavaratti would satisfy them concerning price and convenience. Kavaratti has a naval base as well. If you have money, go fo Bangaram, little lesser, opt for Thinakkara. If you are really on a budget and have a lot of time, opt for Kadamat or Kavaratti, both does not make a difference.
Depending on a Lakshadweep Tour Operator There are various authorized tour operators to Lakshadweep. We consider ourselves as Tour Operator who has in-depth knowledge about the destination. We are even aware of the specific room numbers of the best rooms, which is an advantage for guests who opt to travel with us. However, we handle only Bangaram and Thinakkara. If you are looking to go to Lakshadweep with us, you can be in touch with us at email@example.com or or see the Lakshadweep tour Packages listed on our website.