When I travel, I like to take the road less travelled and to start the year 2019, the less-visited islands of Lakshadweep were my pick. Since not many people go here, there wasn’t much information available online while planning this trip. So I decided to pen down some useful information that will help others in planning a trip to Lakshadweep. I do hope you find it helpful.
Things to consider:
Set your expectations regarding a few important things before you decide to go to Lakshadweep:
The Union Territory follows prohibition and alcohol is not permitted on all but 1 islands – Bangaram
The food available in Lakshadweep is basic home style South Indian food. Both veg and non-veg options are available
Inter-island transfers require you to change boats and vessels, sometimes even mid sea which may not be the most comfortable way to travel
If you can adjust to this, there is no reason why Lakshadweep should not be on your travel bucket list.
Choosing the package:
There are 2 ways to cover Lakshadweep, through the Cruise packages or customize an itinerary as per the islands of your choice. If you want to take the Cruise packages arranged by SPORTS from Cochin, the itinerary and islands are fixed. The only advantage of these packages is the cost and that you can reach the far off islands such as Kalpeni and Minicoy which you cannot reach otherwise.
I chose not to take the cruise package as I did not want to be on the beach with 100 other people at the same time.
All the islands are just as beautiful and water sports are great at all of the islands and the water sports prices vary only slightly.
Agatti Island has the only airport in Lakshadweep and if you are not taking the cruise packages this is the only way to get here. Do note that only Air India operates once a day to Agatti and one has to factor in flight delays when flying this carrier. The vessel / speed boats always wait for the flight so there is no fear of missing your connection to the next island due to flight delays. Important point to note is that ferries / vessels are not available between islands on all days. The days will need to be checked with the travel agent before you plan your itinerary. The speedboats / vessels do not follow any fixed time and the resort staff will confirm the timings to you one day prior. You can expect long waiting periods..sometimes even mid sea, sea-sick people please beware. It is advisable to factor this in so that you can ensure you are spending enough time to explore the island.
How to Book:
The only way to go to Lakshadweep is to arrange for it through one of the authorized agents by SPORTS which is their society to promote tourism. There are no private bookings, it is mandatory to book through these guys. You will get a list of the authorized agents on the SPORTS website (https://www.lakshadweeptourism.com). Everyone, even Indians, require a permit to go to Lakshadweep will be arranged by the travel agent when you book. You cannot alter the itinerary once you are there even if you want to stay at an island longer.
Agatti is an inhabited island and does have stay options for tourists. I did not stay here though.
Bangaram and Thinnakara islands are about 45mins to an hour from Agatti and can be easily reached through speedboats. You are very likely to sight dolphins on your way to these islands. Bangaram and Thinnakara are across from each other. Both these islands are uninhabited and open only for tourists.
Bangaram is the fanciest and also the most expensive island in Lakshadweep in terms of the accommodation and facilities available. The beach cottages are all air conditioned and have hot water through the day. Buffet is served for all meals at all the islands, however, Bangaram has a better spread. There is no a-la-carte option or room service. The water at both these islands is very high in sulphur and will remind you of the H2SO4 experiments from school. The drinking water is desalinated and tastes fine. Important point to note – this is the only island where alcohol is available, albeit a bit expensive.
Thinnakara only has tent styled accommodation. There is no air conditioning in these rooms but you will get coolers. No hot water in the bathrooms either. However, because of the limited tents and facilities, this is the most pristine of all islands. The islands Parali 1 and Parali 2 are walking distance from Thinnakara during low tide and it is an experience not to be missed.
If you have only 4-5 days on hand I would recommend sticking to these 2 islands as the travel to other islands will take up a lot of your time.
Kadmat is about 3.5 hours from Agatti and if you are at Bangaram or Thinnakara you will first be taken to Agatti to board the vessel for Kadmat, so factor in an additional hour to Agatti plus the wait time. Kadmat is an inhabited island so you get to see the island life here. The SPORTS resort though, is on one tip of the island and you won’t see locals on this beach. The resort, while clean, requires better upkeep and better food. The water here has the sulphur smell too. Kadmat has a full-fledged dive school and if you are keen on doing the PADI dive course, this island would be a good option.
Kavaratti is the capital of Lakshadweep and you will feel like you have entered a small coastal town similar to mainland India. It’s about 2.5 hours from Agatti and you need to take a vessel to reach there. Alternatively you could take a chopper from Agatti which takes only 15mins. I had selected this island to see the capital city and the museum and administrative buildings. However, the museum was closed for renovation and the other highlight which was the Ujra mosque is not open for women. The lighthouse however offers a fabulous view of the island. The resort is by the beach but within the town itself. You will see a lot of locals on the beach here. The rooms are in a muti-storeyed building and air conditioned. While they are comfortable, you won’t get the same feel of tranquility and beauty as the other islands. Surprisingly the tap water at this island has no sulphur smell.
Because of the travel time and delays involved I would recommend that you choose the number of islands on the basis on the number of days you plan to spend here. Less is definitely more