Lakshadweep has a little of everything for the whole family. White beaches, history, nature and sea life.
Blink and you may miss it — the little diamond on the southwest frontier of the Indian Peninsula. Scattered over 30,000 square miles in the Arabian Sea, Lakshadweep was earlier known as Laccadives. A part of the Maldives chain, Lakshadweep means — A Hundred Thousand Islands — and is an archipelago consisting of 36 islands, 12 atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks. The tiniest union territory of India it boasts of white shores, crystal blue skies and a vibrancy of hues and colours underwater.
A little history
It was Vasco da Gama who first visited the island, but the English were the first to explore. Finally it was the Portuguese who established a fort on the islands in 1498, but the inhabitants rose up against them and sent them away. The Amindivi group of islands (Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat and Bitra) came under the rule of Tipu Sultan who eventually passed it on to British after the third Anglo-Mysore War. In 1956 these islands formed a new union territory. Today only 10 of these islands are inhabited. They are Kavaratti, Agatti, Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat, Bitra, Andrott, Kalpeni and Minicoy.
Being predominantly a Muslim territory mosques are a common sight. The island of Kavaratti alone boasts of 52, with the Ujra mosque being the most beautiful and the Mohideen mosque being the most ancient. Carved using driftwood, the intricate carvings along the interiors are exquisite and bear a legend. According to legend, inspiration was drawn from the leaf of a plant and when the carver thought of recreating it in his house, a piece of wood hit his eyes and he lost his sight. Do not miss the well within the confines of the mosque which is till date believed to contain water with curative powers.
Kavaratti: Capital of Lakshadweep, it’s the most developed island. Nestled between Agatti and Andrott, the island is six km long and onekm broad.
What to do: Choose from sailing, kayaking, paddle boating and water skiing or just sit in a glass bottom boat and enjoy the marine life beneath.
Minicoy: One look and you are bound to be reminded of the crescent shaped moon. Ten km in length, it boasts of the largest lagoons.
What to do: Watch tuna fishing, or take a walk along the Radio Zone Ravine Observatory and Tidal observatory. One must not miss the two-and-a-half decade old lighthouse.
Kalpeni: Located south of Kavaratti, one of the best coral reef stretches are found here. Three uninhabited satellite islets also dot the island. In fact if you spend time at the Koomel bay you can see the islands of Pitti and Thilakkam.
What to do: Water sports equipment like kayaks, and sail boats are readily available on hire.
Agatti: Regarded as the gateway to the island one can reach here first if you are taking the flight, also making it the most accessible. Almost six km in length, coral growths run along the corners. Being the warmest, it is also the place to be if you want to enjoy fishing.
What to do: Sit by the bay and fish away.
Kadmat: North of Agatti and Kavaratti, it’s nearly eight kms long. Two lagoons on either side, makes it one of the most frequented islands in the archipelago.
With a clear visibility of 20 to 50 metres it has a long sandy beach, ideal for sunbathing and beach games.
What to do: A water sports institute and a Scuba diving centre, visitors are permitted to hire sailing boats, kayaks, pedal boats, skiing boats and glass-bottomed boats.
Bangaram: A haven of coral reefs, blue lagoons, coconut grooves and silvery beaches it is almost eight km north of Agatti. The most beautiful island it resembles a tear drop and has the only international resort.
What to do: Besides scuba diving, fishing and watching turtles are the common activities. Other activities also include rafting, snorkelling, deep-sea diving and deep-sea fishing.
Sun set cruise
Getting there: You can take a flight or ship from Kochi, Kerala. Lakshadweep is one and a half hour away from Kochi by air and 18 to 20 hours (overnight) by ship.
Best Season: October to May is ideal and popular with tourists.