Literally, a ‘thousand islands’ in Sanskrit & Malayalam, Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands located off the coast of Kerala. Androth, Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Ameni and Agathi are believed to be the first few islands to be inhabited. According to local legends, Lakshadweep was first occupied by the people who were on an expedition in search of Cheraman Perumal, a Chera King, who one day slipped out of his capital (present day Kodungallor) and left for Mecca. Today, Lakshadweep is the mecca for adventure lovers and tourists seeking an unusual getaway.
What to see/do:
• Bangaram: A tiny teardrop shaped island, which lies very close to Agatti and Kavaratti. It is the only uninhabited island resort in Lakshadweep and is known for the phosphorescent plankton that wash ashore on the coral sands during the night imparting a bluish glow to the beach. (Also read: Year-end Travel: Have ₹1 lakh? Go to Qatar )
• Agatti: Agatti has one of the most beautiful lagoons & is the only one with an airstrip in Lakshadweep.
• Kadmat: Kadmat is 8 km long and only 550 metres wide at its broadest point. It has a beautiful shallow lagoon on the west which is ideal for water sports.
• Minicoy: It is isolated from the main group of islands and lies about 200 kms south of the northern group. Has one of the largest lagoons and a cluster of 11 villages, which are called “Ava’h” each presided over by an elected village elder called Bodukak.
• Kalpeni: Kalpeni along with two small islets of Tilakkam and Pitti and the uninhabited island of Cheriyam in the north form a single atoll. A peculiar feature of Kalpeni is a huge storm bank of coral debris along its eastern and southeastern shorelines.
• Kavaratti: It is the administrative headquarter and the most developed island. Fifty-two mosques are spread out over the island, the most beautiful being the Ujra mosque.
• Ship wrecks: Minicoy is the only island in Lakshadweep having three large ship wrecks believed to be that of S.S Hoechst and other ships, within 8 metre-depth on the island reef. These wrecks are virtual underwater museums and fish species found here are larger than average normal size found elsewhere perhaps due to consumption of ferrous of the wrecks.
• Water Sports: Most tourist packages offer kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, sail boats, wind surfers, snorkels sets glass-bottomed boats and other facilities. Deep-sea fishing enthusiasts can indulge in big game fishing. Local boats with experienced crew can be hired.
• Diving: Kadmat is one of the most beautiful diving locations in India and is home to the first Laccadives Dive Centre and School. The Laccadives Kadmat Dive School offers beginner to advanced courses throughout the season (October 1 to May 1). Minicoy Dive Centre and Dolphin Dive Centre (Kavaratti) are also a very good dive options.
What to eat:
• Kilanji: An extremely thin crepe-like dish made of rice and eggs, best had with a sweet and watery dish made of coconut milk, banana and jaggery.
• Mus Kavaab: A spicy tuna curry made of chilli powder, coriander powder, cardamom with sauteed onions, curry leaves and tomato.
• Octopus fry: Fried octopus
• Maas Podichathu: Made of dried tuna, cut into small pieces and mixed with coconut, turmeric powder, onions and garlic. Served with rice.
• Batla Appam: Steamed sweet delicacy, made of eggs, flour, sugar and cardamom, is prepared during festivals and other special occasions.
• Lakshadweep Samudram: A 5-day cruise to visit the islands of Kavaratti, Kalpeni and Minicoy by M.V Kavaratti ship that has 150 Diamond-class accommodation. The island tour is organised during the day with lunch and refreshments ashore. Nights are spent on board the ship. Cost: Diamond Class: ₹37,500 per adult + 5% GST. Gold Class: ₹28,500 per adult + 5% GST. Book on: samudram.utl.gov.in
• Swaying Palm Package: 6-7 day tour to Minicoy.Tourists are accommodated in exclusive A/c cottages and other individual cottages built on the beachfront.
• Marine Wealth Awareness Programme: A 4-7 day package to Kadmat to experience the richness and beauty of marine life. One can spend 2-5 days on the island. Swimming, snorkelling and kayaking are included in water sports. A full-fledged water sports institute is functional at Kadmat.
• Taratashi Package: Taratashi offers a package to visit Kavaratti, the administrative capital of Lakshadweep and a 4-5 day stay on the island. Swimming, snorkelling, scuba dive lagoon cruise in glass bottomed boat and other water sports are on offer.
• Scuba Dive Package: The Dolphin Dive centre, Kavaratti offers PADI Scuba Diving Experience Programme and PADI Scuba Diving Course. All diving equipment is provided; swimming skills and a doctor’s certificate declaring the candidate fit for diving are mandatory. The minimum age to undergo the diving course is 14 years.
(Check package details on lakshadweep.gov.in)
• Cottages in Gangaram: Double room: ₹18,000 per person (excluding GST)
• Tents in Thinnakara: Thinnakara island is situated just opposite Bangaram island and shares the vast lagoon and coralline banks. Double room: ₹10,000 per person (excluding GST)
• Kamat Island Resort: Boat connectivity to the island is only available on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Double room: ₹11,000 per person (excluding GST)
• Kavaratti Island Resort: Suite room: ₹11,000 per person (excluding GST)
By Air: Lakshadweep can be reached by flight & ships from Kochi. For tourism purpose, Kochi is the gateway to Lakshadweep. Agatti and Bangaram islands can be reached by flight (90 minutes) from Kochi. Only Agatti island has an airstrip. From Agatti, boats are available to Kavaratti and Kadmat during fair season (October to May). Helicopter transfer is available from Agatti to Bangaram Island Resort during monsoon and to Kavaratti throughout the year.
By Ship: Six passenger ships – MV Kavaratti, MV Arabian Sea, MV Lakshadweep Sea, MV Amindivi and MV Minicoy – operate between Kochi and Lakshadweep. The passage takes 14 to 18 hours depending on the destination island. All ships have different classes of accommodation. A doctor is available on call on board. MV Amindivi and MV Minicoy also offer comfortable A/C seating ideal for a night’s journey.