Monday, July 25, 2005
If you maintain a list of things to do before you conk off, add visiting Laksha dweep somewhere at the top. After the disappointment at Karwar where I couldn't go snorkelling due to the weather, I was looking for an opportunity to give it a shot again. In Lakshadweep I got more than what I wished for.
There are two options. If sea sickness is not a problem, you can get there by ship from Cochin or Calicut. The journey by ship takes about 22 hours. There are four ships that make the trip to Lakshadweep. One of them has cabins. On the others, you will have to sit through the entire journey. Cabin costs about 1500 rupees, seating is cheaper.
The other option is the Indian Airlines flight from Cochin. It costs 5500 rupees one way per passenger. Don't expect apex fares early bookings. The plane is a 12 seater Dornier. You have to book well in advance since this is the only flight as of now. Air Deccan is planning to operate flights from Cochin to Agatti soon. Expect the fares to be half of what IA charges. The flight duration is about 1.5 hours.
If you have sea sickness, by all means take the flight in both directions. If you want travel by ship to be a part of the holiday experience, do take the flight in one direction so you don't miss the beautiful aerial view of the islands.
Bangaram Islands Resort is apparently the best place to stay in Lakshadweep. The beach is excellent. You can see all shades of blue and green in the lagoons around this island. The tariff is steep. It takes half an hour by boat to reach Bangaram from the airport on Agatti island.
I chose the Agatti Island resort for my honeymoon mainly for the affordability and good reviews from my friend Mayank. This resort is right next to the airport on Agatti island. A 3 nights, 4 days package in April cost me 18,000 rupees for the two of us. This included all meals, a fishing trip, glass bottom boating and a trip to Bangaram island. Add about 2000 rupees for the guided diving and snorkelling off Bangaram island. Unlike Bangaram island, Agatti island has a population of about 7000. The resort's beach is private.
Lakshadweep tourism organizes diving trips to the islands. You will have to stay on board a ship on these trips. The ship will dock near some of the islands during the trip. There is a resort on Kadamat island too. You'll have to enquire about these options since I've only been to Agatti and Bangaram.
The season is from October to April. After April, it gets windy and the sea gets rough. The resorts stay open during the off season too and the tariff is usually half of the season tariff. The best time to be there is in December or January when the temperatures are within limits. By April it does get vey warm there (about 32 degrees).
Things To Do
At Agatti island, you can go for a swim in the sea. The waters off the island are crystal clear due to the coral reefs which break the waves. Even if you can't swim you can pick up a life vest and float about. Kayaking in the calm waters is another option. The resort has bicycles on hire if you are interested in a visit to the inhabited parts of Agatti. You don't have to worry about losing your way there, there is only one road on the island. The resort arranges for a fishing trip in the lagoon and a glass bottom boat trip. The glass bottom boat has glass windows at the bottom. You can catch a glimpse of the colourful aquatic life below when the boat goes over the coral reefs.
The main attraction though is snorkelling and diving. The good part is that you needn't know swimming for these activities. For snorkelling, you can put on a life jacket and float around wearing a glass mask. A tube from the mask stays above water to let you breath. If you can swim, you can can go on your own to the corals that are a few metres away from the beach and enjoy the underwater view. If you can't swim, you can get someone to guide you there. Guided snorkelling will cost you about 500 rupees. This is not part of the package. For the more adventurous, there are introductory guided diving lessons off Bangaram island (need not be a swimmer for this). The corals there are teeming with aquatic life. The multi-coloured tropical fish there seem to be straight from Finding Nemo. You can also dive off a ship wreck near Bangaram islands. If you have sea sickness take some pills along since the boat ride can get rough at places.
Plan well in advance if you are interested in making this trip. Getting the flight tickets to Agatti isn't easy and the resorts have some paperwork to do for the permits to visit the islands. You might get a discount on the regular tariff if you use a reference. I used Mayank's reference to knock off 10% from the tariffs. Feel free to use my reference :)