KERALA

For a panoramic view of Kovalam

It was an opportunity that the local people and the hundreds of tourists arriving at the famed beach resort of Kovalam were waiting for over one-and-a-half decade.

They were longing to get a panoramic view of the crescent-shaped beaches, palm-fringed coastline and the lush greenery from atop the Vizhinjam Lighthouse.

The throwing open of the lighthouse for two hours to the public from Thursday saw a steady flow of foreign tourists and locals from 3 p.m. itself to the premises. The visitors, ignoring age and difficulties, were seen climbing the 142 spiral steps and 12 steps of the green ladder to reach the top of the 35-metre high lighthouse.

Landmark

Many could not believe their eyes on reaching the top of the "red and white" landmark on the beach resort. The visitors got a view till the Poovar coast and the Beempally on the city side from atop the lighthouse. Although photography is banned, many were seen using handy cameras and mobile phones to capture the breathtaking view.

"It's the most beautiful sight of Kovalam and the view is fantastic. You are free to enjoy the scenic beauty without any disturbance. Only the breeze is the hindrance," says Helga, who had come for Ayurveda rejuvenation therapy from Germany.

Helga, who is to fly back on Friday, said she loved to spend more time at least till sunset. The five-member staff manning the lighthouse, which comes under the Department of Light House and Light Ships under the Union Ministry of Shipping, had a difficult time answering the queries of visitors.

Guiding the ships

Many wanted to know how the ships were guided, whether it was possible to climb further atop and the life of the incandescent bulbs.

Commissioned on May 1972, the lighthouse at Vizhinjam has five bands - three red and two white - to enable the captains of the ships passing through to identify the location during daytime. After sunset, the lights are switched on to guide the ships.

The lighthouse at Vizhinjam is one among the 25, which comes under the Madras district.

Along with Vizhijam, the lighthouses at Anchethengu, Thanagasseri, Kovilthottam (Chavara) and Alappuzha have been thrown open for public. Visitors will be allowed only 15 minutes and will not be allowed to carry bags and cameras.

Tickets

When the tickets, priced at Rs.5 for adults and Rs.3 for children below 12 years, were closed at 5 p.m., as many as 250 persons had visited the lighthouse.

The only persons who came and did not climb the lighthouse were a couple who refused to remove slippers. Almost all visitors who climbed the lighthouse returned saying they will be back again.

S. Anil Radhakrishnan