The land of a hundred thousand dreams.
Lakshadweep is a group of islands situated almost 400 kilometres off the western coast of India. Although the name literally translates to ‘a hundred thousand islands,’ in reality Lakshadweep consists of 36 islands including 10 inhabited islands, 12 atolls, 3 coral reefs and 5 submerged banks in the Laccadive Sea. Lakshadweep is officially described as a uni-district Union Territory directly under the control of the central government administrator while legally it falls under the jurisdiction of the Kerala High Court. The Union territory was formed in 1956 and was officially named Lakshadweep in 1973. Historically it had been known by the name Laccadive islands.
With a warm tropical climate year-round, Lakshadweep is the perfect getaway for someone looking to take a break from the busy life of mainland citizens. Lakshadweep is an apt combination of civilisation and isolation that would cleanse the mind after a few days spent there. Though early history of these serene islands remains unsubstantiated, the islands are predominantly Muslim and celebrate fervently most Islamic festivals with pomp. These islands have a history of trade with the Arabs and the Portuguese, was a British Colony for a brief period, was ruled by the Arakkal family and then was under the jurisdiction of Tipu Sultan before being a Union Territory of India. With a population of about 64,000 inhabitants, these islands are known for their unity and is one of the least crime infested lands in India. Kolkali and Parichakali are the main art forms in these islands while marriages are adorned with beautiful Oppana performances.
The islands are rich in plant life and mostly consist of plants found in the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka. Banana, drumsticks, jackfruits, wild almonds, and coconuts are abundantly found on these islands. Coconut is the only fruit of economic importance here. Beautiful shrubs like Kanni and Cheerani, as they are locally known, are scattered around the island in an uneven manner. Marine life is quite un-quantifiable in words and makes this island a diver’s dream. Cattle and poultry are quite abundantly found while oceanic birds are found on uninhabited islands like PITTI, which is also a bird sanctuary. Shelled creatures like crabs and molluscs are found extensively throughout the islands while coral reefs are abundant with fish like parrot fish, butterfly fish and surgeonfish.
Activities to Do
- Scuba Diving
The Lakshadweep archipelago is one of the most scenic locations for scuba diving in the country. With mesmerizing tropical fish populations, bright coral reefs, turtles, sharks and stingrays, scuba diving is one of the most fun activities on these islands.
A prior medical fitness certificate would go a long way in getting you into a diving program while a permit is mandatorily required, even for Indian citizens. Dive centres are often accompanied by resorts that even offer CMAS and PADI certified courses for interested divers.
The cost per dive starts at Rs.2000 and difficulty levels can range from easy to challenging depending on the current and water. The water visibility, on average is 45 metres while dive depths range from 15 to 40 metres. Several packages are available focusing on scuba diving activities.
Sports activities such as kayaking, canoeing, yacht sailing, motor boat riding and jet skiing among others are abundantly found on the archipelago. Resorts and tour organizers offer various packages involving watersport activities in Lakshadweep. Make sure you follow all the safety instructions, go through reputed agencies only and acquire the necessary medical and other permits before you jump into the activities.
Markets in Lakshadweep are very basic and down to earth in comparison to mainland India. Predominantly a fishing community, most products available here are fishing products including canned fish, fish oils and fish biscuits.
As the main economic fruit of the archipelago and the most abundant plant, coconut products including coconut powder and oils are found in plentiful around the island. Craft items include handicrafts form shells, corals, stones and coconut shells and would be a great souvenir to take back home. Aminidivi island is famous for its coir products and handicrafts.
Several cruise packages are available for Lakshadweep tourism like the Lakshadweep Samudram package offered by MV Kavaratti. It is a five-day cruise package covering the islands of Kavaratti, Kalpeni and Minicoy. Sleep arrangements are made onboard while days are spent onshore exploring the various islands covered. Adventures and water activities are also arranged during the cruises.
Top things do in Lakshadweep
How to reach
Lakshadweep islands are accessible by sea and air only while Kochi, Kerala is the primary gateway to these islands for all tourism requirements. To go to the islands, everyone has to acquire a permit from the island administration, which is easily accessible through tour packages or from Kochi. Foreigners can access only three islands - Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat with a 12-hour transit in Kavaratti while Indian citizens can access most islands. For more information, visit the official Lakshadweep website http://lakshadweeptourism.com.
Seven passenger ships ply to the Lakshadweep islands regularly including the MV Arabian Sea, MV Minicoy, MV Lakshadweep, MV Aminidivi, MV Bharat Seema, MV Dweep Setu and MV Kavaratti. The journey takes about 14-18 hours on average and is well maintained with cafeterias, food outlets and entertainment shows. Air-conditioned and non-air conditioned cabins are available and a doctor is always available onboard for passenger emergencies. High-speed boats are also available during periods of good weather and calm seas. Round trip costs for ships are about Rs.10,000, Rs.7,500 and Rs. 5000 for First class, Second class and Bunk class, respectively. The cost includes the food and boat transfer costs as well while the duration takes about 14 to 18 hours, depending on the choice of landing island.
How to Reach by Flight
Flights are available to Agatti island from Kochi, operated by Indian Airlines, where the only airstrip on the Islands is located. It is a one hour flight from Kochi to Agatti or vice versa. A one-way trip to Lakshadweep costs Rs.5500, depending on the season.
Flights to Kochi, which is a major city in Kerala, are available from all around the world. Flights from Goa were available but they were suspended sometime before.
How to Reach by Train
Lakshadweep is inaccessible by rail.
How to Reach by Bus
Lakshadweep is inaccessible by public transport means.
How to Reach by Road
Lakshadweep is inaccessible by road.
How to travel within
For inter-island travel, boats and ferries do the most work while helicopter services are also available subject to availability. During the monsoon, helicopters are depended upon for most travel needs.
On the island, travel options are limited at best. Roads are very scarcely developed and is just enough to meet the basic needs of the inhabitants. Vehicles are available for hire but are very scarce. The most common means of transport here two-wheelers, bicycles and good old walking.
Food and Culture
Being closest to the Indian state of Kerala and a predominantly Malayalam speaking community, food is a lot similar to the Kerala cuisine. With fishing being the main activity of the island dwellers, fish is a staple food among the community on the archipelago. Tuna is the most common delicacy here with a wide variety of preparations including baked, fried and grilled dishes.
As the most abundant produce here being coconut, food items are prepared a lot using coconut milk, coconut purees and coconut oil. Coconut water, being naturally aerated, is the staple drink on the island and is found in abundance all over the place. Restaurants serving other cuisines such as Chinese, Thai, and Indian dishes are available on the islands to cater to the needs of tourists.
The culture here is primarily Muslim. Islamic festivals such as Ramadan is fervently celebrated here while art forms such as ‘Kolkali’, ‘Parichakali’ and ‘Oppana’ are favourite pastimes of the island dwellers. Largely a peaceful society, Lakshadweep has one of the least recorded histories of crimes in the Indian republic. In fact, only three murders have been reported on the islands and most crimes are non-violent acts such as some thieving and mischiefs. Technologically, they are far away from the mainland, as expected, due to their isolation from the rest of the world.
Legal Points to Know
Entry to the island is restricted and tourists require a prior administration permit to enter the Islands. Permits can be obtained through tour agencies or packages. Kochi, Kerala is the primary coordination point for all Lakshadweep related matters.
Foreign tourists need to be holding a tourist visa to acquire a permit to enter the island and even then they are limited to three islands - Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat with a 12-hour transit allowance in Kavaratti. Packages might cost more for foreign tourists than Indian tourists.
For watersport enthusiasts, prior certification is required to show medical or physical fitness required for the activities available there.
Picking corals is a crime and punishment may be doled out to offenders.
Drinking is prohibited on all islands other than Bangaram and therefore is the only place where alcohol is served as well.
- Agatti Island - Arrival from Kochin.
- Bangaram Island - Resorts, camping, diving, etc.
- Kavaratti Island - Marine Museum
- Kalpeni Island - Watersports, snorkelling, motor boats, etc.
- Minicoy Islands - Lighthouse, resorts, watersports, shopping, etc.
- Kadmat island - Diving, boat rides, etc.
- Aminidivi Island - Shopping, handicrafts, etc.
- Andretti Island - Archaeological sites, boat rides, etc.