“So”,quipped my friend Arka, “what’s the plan for this Puja”. As busy doctors,we find only the few Durga Puja holidays for a gateway from this mundane life.
Relishing on my plate of sorse Bata Hilsa(Hilsa fish curry), I jokingly suggested,”Mauritius”. But Mauritius was far too costly for us( we are poor govt doctors), so we settled for,after much deliberation for Lakshadeep instead.
After a flurry of mails and phone calls to SPORTS( the official organization that organizes everything in Lakshadeep), we finalized our itinerary.
Our plan was to fly to Kochi via Chennai, and then from Kochi to Agatti. From Agatti,we would go to Kadmat for 3nights and then Bangaram for 1night,before catching the flight back to Agatti.( You cannot stay at Agatti and Bangaram is the most costly island to stay!)
After a near flight miss at Chennai( due to our foolishness of going for a sightseeing in Chennai and being caught up in the rain), we reached Kochi. The Air India flight from Kochi to Agatti was uneventful.
Tips1- Do take a window seat,the islands and the small Agatti runaway looks wonderful from the skies.
Tips2- Do preserve your boarding pass,you will have to show it at the exit of Agatti airport to gain access to the island.(I learnt it the hard way,had to go back to the plane and ransacked the plane tipsy torvy,only to find that it was all along in my camera bag:) )
Tips 3- Never ever trust the SPORTS and the weather.
The Sports manager informed us that due to rough seas,it was not possible to go to Kadmat or any other island,apart from Bangaram ( which was a hour journey).
After much heated arguments,we finally realized that in Rome do as the Romans do!So we were packed in a minivan, brought to the jetty and offloaded in a Fishing boat ⛵ ( a sturdy one,but not the High Speed Caterman,as promised).
The land of the sea and sands
After a rough choppy ride(in which most of us became sea sick),we could see the swaying coconut trees on a white pristine beach surrounded by a greenish florescent blue lagoon.
Tips4- Do take antiemetic medications before the boat ride.The best therapy for sea sickness is drinking sea water( it’s not a joke!)
The Bangaram islands (the thached roof that you see is the dining hall)
Bangaram-the paradise on EarthLong live SPORTS. The idea that we were marooned on this uninhabited small island( it is completely uninhabited,only the SPORTS persons stay in the tourist season and abandon it in the fierce monsoons) made us super excited. It’s hardly a kilometer in lengthy,and 500m in breadth….you will be provided with a map of the island by SPORTS,for your own Robinson Cruso moment. We were only 10-15 people on the island,and it felt like being “cast away”.
There are lots of activities provided by SPORTS ( scuba diving,PADI certified 5day scuba diving course, snokrelling, deep sea snokrelling,Turtle watch,Island hopping to Tinnakarna, ship wreck snokrelling, deep sea snokrelling)
Tips5- Do them all…..they are dam cheap compared to international standards. And the SPORTS people are the most encouraging and professional.
Tips 6-You do not need to know swimming to do water sports activities.
Tips7- The world below the water is far more beautiful than the world above
Tips8- Have a walk around the island,there are some secluded romantic spots,and a wonderful beach in the west side to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
After an eventful day, we had a sumptuous lunch( full of sea fish and other sea foods), had a chat with a Australian- French couple( who had come for Yatching ).
Tips 9- Although you will be” advised” in Agatti that you should not wear “skimpy” clothes in Lakshadeep ( it being a Muslim majority region); I saw some foreigners wearing bikini in Bangaram.
Tips 10- Take kids at your own judgement. We had a couple from Bangalore with a 5yr kid who was more adventurous than the rest of us in the whole trip. Whereas, a 6yr kid along with his parents had to be evacuated after staying only for one day at Bangaram,as the kid refused to eat anything.
KADMAT- the coral garden
After being marooned for 2days in the Bangaram islands,we were informed that the boat to Kadmat ( again a fishing boat) was ready to leave the next day.
After a 8 hour journey in the vast ocean through some choppy waters and warm sunshine, we finally reached Kadmat. It is much larger,inhabited island,with the resort area at one end of the island,with two private beaches at both ends,an old jetty to relax and a small forest to get lost.
The real beauty of Kadmat is the coral forests that you can admire by deep sea snokrelling. You can also go for deep sea Tuna fishing in one of the fishing boats( the real Macho thing to do) or Lagoon fishing ( a childish thing,but still exiting….and you can eat your catch at dinner)! Spend the evening by cycling in the village,walk in the pristine sand beach, and be romantic with your loved ones,hand in hand watching the sunset.
In the evening,a local tribal dance and candle night beach party was organised.
Tips 11- Lakshadeep literally means a 1lakh islands,but actually only a few is open for tourists( Bangaram,Kadmat,Tinnakarna,kavaratti,minicoy, anini…..but my advise will be to stick to the ones near to Agatti,ie.Bangaram and Kadmat. Do not miss these two at any cost)
The return journey
We woke up at 3 am and made our way to the jetty for our return trip to Agatti (again on a shipping boat!). The General Manager of Kadmat tourism personally came to see us off( inspite of the fact that he had lost his sister the day before……).
With the evening star and the milky way above our heads,and the dark turbulent waters rocking our small boat in this vast ocean, I realised how insignificant man is with all his superior intelligence and cunningness in comparison to this beautiful fearsome Nature. It was the most memorable journey of my life.
What I liked-
1.The beauty ,both above and below the sea.
2. The hospitality of the Lakshadeep people and SPORTS,truely remarkable.
3.The food and stay
What I did not like
1. The transport in shipping boats.
- Season- September end to February
- Monsoon package also available
- Samudram ship based package– less costly,but unpredictable,and more touristy. Also Bangaram not included.
- All tour plans to be approved by SPORTS beforehand