Difference between revisions of "Lakshadweep"
Revision as of 06:28, 7 September 2009
Lakshadweep, formerly the Laccadives, is a group of islands situated some 400 km off India's west coast in the Arabian sea. They are India's only coral atolls and geologically a part of the same chain as the Maldives.
Lakshadweep is India's smallest union territory. The name literally means "a hundred thousand islands" in Sanskrit (laksha = lakh, hundred thousand. dweep = island) It has ten inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands attached islets, four newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs.
Peak season is December to May, when it's cooler and dry. May to September is the main (southwest) monsoon season, but the October-November northeast monsoon can also be rainy.
The people of the islands are ethnically similar to the people of the Kerala coast of India and are of mixed Indian and Arab descent. They speak a dialect of Malayalam, except in Minicoy where Mahl, a form of Dhivehi (the language of the Maldives) is spoken.
Everybody, Indian or otherwise, requires a special permit to visit Lakshadweep. By far the easiest way to obtain it is to book a package tour through the government's tour operator SPORTS  or arrange a hotel to sort it out for you; in fact, for foreigners, accommodation booked in advance is a precondition for being allowed to visit.
Foreigners are restricted to the islands of Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat, plus transit only (max. 12 hours) in Kavaratti. Indians may visit the other islands as well, but accommodation is very limited (see Sleep).
Nearly everybody going to Lakshadweep has to pass through Kochi, from where you can continue by plane or ship:
The MV Tipu Sultan, MV Bharat Seema, MV Amindivi and MV Minicoy operate between Kochi and various islands in Lakshadweep. The trip takes 14-18 hours one day depending on the destination island. All four are basic 1960s-era ferries but fairly well maintained and tolerable comfortable. The Tipu Sultan is generally held to be the best of the bunch, with three classes of accommodation (A/C cabin, A/C reclining seats and deck) plus a cafeteria, snack bar, and upper deck promenade. Return fares are around Rs.3800 in A/C seats, which is the cheapest class available for packages.
Beware that all published sailing schedules are subject to sudden changes; not only can they be delayed, but it's not unheard of for a boat to arrive and leave a day early!
There are also occasional cruises directly from Mumbai.
Both boat and helicopter transfers are available from Agatti to Bangaram and Kadmat. The helicopter (US$150 return) may be the only option in monsoon season from May to September.
By boats/ferries: These can be used for getting around from one island to the other
Once on an island, there aren't too many options. You can travel by foot or hire a bicycle.
Kadmat: Kadmat Island is one of the most popular tourist’s destinations. There is a huge lagoon one the west side of the island, around 10 km from the Amini.
There are basic leisure tours and Sea/Lagoon based tours. There are plenty of opportunities for Scuba diving, Yachting, Pedal boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Snorkeling and sunbathing. One may also visit local houses, Marine museum, Lighthouse and a few local industries.
Lakshadweep is not a budget destination: in addition to the permit issue, there is no tourist infrastructure (hostels, restaurants, public transport etc) for backpackers. The cheapest SPORTS tours start from around Rs.10000 for four days, but this price is all-inclusive.
There are few if any uniquely Lakshadweep dishes. Local cuisine is similar to Kerala.
Tap water here is through bore wells and a bit hard. Rainwater harvested during the rainy season is the major source of drinking water. Non availability of drinking water accounts for a number of islands being uninhabited.
There are three full-service resorts in Lakshadweep, which are also (in practice) the only places where foreigners can stay. All prices listed below are for double rooms and include all meals.
In addition, basic government resorts open to Indian citizens only are available at Minicoy, Kavaratti and Kalpeni. Some packages offered by SPORTS include accommodation on board the ship, with only day visits to the islands.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all islands except Bangaram. Picking up corals is a punishable crime.
The only way out is back to Kochi.