For an average Keralite, Lakshadweep is a distant land across the sea. It is familiar to people here through films like Prithviraj's 'Anarkali.' The film had captured the stunning natural beauty of the islands, which is attracting many visitors from the state.
Lakshadweep refers to 'one lakh islands.' But in reality, there are only 36. Kerala and the islands have many things in common. The language of Lakshadweep closely resembles Malayalam, but is different. Still, the islands located in the Arabian Sea are considered a part of Kerala.
Monsoon is not the ideal time to visit the islands, which have rustic villages as shown in 'Anarkali.' There are no new generation shops in Lakshadweep, which is accessible by sea and air from Kochi. The only airport in Lakshadweep is at Agatti Island. Travelling between the islands is possible only by ship. There are 6 flights a week from Kochi. The duration of the flight is about one and a half hours. Ships ply between Lakshadweep and Kochi, Beypore, and Mangaluru. The trip takes 16 to 18 hours.
A major requirement for a visit to Lakshadweep is a permit, which is mandatory even for Keralites. It can be obtained directly from the office of the Lakshadweep administration in Ernakulam. Travellers wishing to enjoy a hassle-free holiday can choose the tour packages arranged by the Lakshadweep government. Otherwise, they may have to search for a sponsor on the Lakshadweep islands. Two types of permits are issued – a 15-day visiting permit and six-month work permit.
How to plan an affordable trip
Prior bookings should be done before starting the trip to Lakshadweep as there are restrictions on the number of travellers. Go for the tour package arranged by the Lakshadweep government. The fare is around Rs 25,000 per person covering conveyance and stay.
Private tour agencies also offer trips to Lakshadweep; however, their rates are different. The amount for visiting various islands is between Rs 15,000 and 30,000. Tourists opting for the government or private tour packages benefit as the sponsors are arranged by the tour organisers themselves, reducing expenses.
All essential items are available in Lakshadweep – brought from Kerala. There are numerous islands, but only 11 are inhabited. Out of these 11, tourism activities take place in barely five or six, including the famous Agatti and Kavaratti. 'Anarkali' had not portrayed Lakshadweep as an easily accessible place, but still a number of travellers were tempted to visit the place, attracted by the visuals.
Lakshadweep administration does not encourage private or individual tourism, as part of the conservation efforts related to the coral reefs – the main attraction of the islands.
Visiting Lakshadweep is virtually a trip to the lap of the sea. The waters are crystal clear, offering a good view of the floor, where the stunning corals display their finery. Excellent facilities for scuba diving are also available. With the water totally unpolluted, a dive into the deep is a very rewarding experience. Sights of frolicking dolphins and flying fish are other attractions. A boat trip is essential to enjoy these views.
All the inhabited islands can be reached by boat. A ban on alcohol is in place at Lakshadweep and the local people are very friendly and hospitable. This makes the visit truly enjoyable.
Travellers can stay at eco-friendly cottages in the islands. Home stays and cottages are also available at Kavaratti and Minicoy. Rooms are offered by the Lakshadweep administration too. All the accommodation facilities have another advantage – they are close to the sea.
Apart from scuba diving, travellers can take part in adventure activities like skiing and deep sea fishing. With such varied options and amazing sights of the sea, travellers should ensure that they visit Lakshadweep at least once in their life time.