The Union Territory of Lakshadweep is situated between 200km and 450km west of Kerala's coast.
Ask any globe-trotting island-hopper if the world still holds any undiscovered gems and Lakshadweep will be among the first names to crop up. One of India's best-kept secrets, the 36 atolls and coral reefs making up the remote Union Territory of Lakshadweep are an extension of the better-known Maldives island group.
Only three Lakshadweep islands - Agatti, Kadmat, and Bangaram - are open to foreign tourists, and the Indian government employs a strictly enforced entry-permit system. All the islands are owned by the indigenous people, and land is unavailable for purchase by non native's even a man marrying a local woman may not buy land here.
Coral reef in Lakshadweep
People of Lakshadweep
Ten islands in the archipelago are populated, almost exclusively by Malayalam- speaking Sunni - Muslims who make their living from fishing and harvesting coconuts. Only Minicoy Island, which is closest to the nearby Maldives, shares aspects of its neighbor's culture, including a Maldivian dialect known as Mahl.
Being Muslim, the islands are officially dry, and alcohol is only available on Bangaram, which is technically uninhabited by locals: avoid carrying any liquor with you. You are strongly advised to bring insect repellent since the mosquitoes become alarmingly active once the sun descends.
Planning a Trip
Foreigners can only visit the islands with pre booked accommodations and an entry permit. visitors intending to stay at the Bangaram Island Resort (the best of the two options available to foreign travelers) can have all permit arrangements made through the CGH Earth central reservations (Casino Building, Willingdon Island, Cochin Tel: 0484 3011711.
Bangaram island resort
Foreigners must supply their name and address, as well as nationality, place and date of birth, passport number, place and date of issue, and expiration date, and also give their Indian visa number and expiration date. Permits usually take 2 full working days to be processed: they cost a nominal fee. The CGH Group will also book your flight to and from Kochi (or Bangalore) for you.
To make your own permit arrangements (a laborious process: best avoided), contact the Society for Nature, Tourism and Sports (SPORTS) run by Lakshadweep Tourism (Tel: 0484 2668387) in Kochi or contact their Delhi office (Tel: 011 23386807).
For details about Lakshadweep, contact the Assistant Manager, SPORTS, Lakshadweep Administrative Office, Willingdon Island, Kochi (Tel: 0484 2668387: 10am- 1pm and 2-Spm; closed Sun and second Sat of the month).
Unless you fancy a time-munching trip from Kochi by ship (14-20 hr.), you'll have to get to Bangaram by air: Kingfisher flies daily from Cochin (and Bengaluru) to the tiny airfield on Agatti (Agathi) Island; the private airline usually offers a better deal than state-owned Indian Airlines, but do check for deals.
You can also leave all the travel arrangements in the hands of CGH Earth when you book your accommodation. At Agatti you'll be met by a resort representative who'll usher you to a waiting boat anchored near the shore not far from the airport for a memorable 90-minute journey to nearby Bangaram Island. Alternatively, you could shell out for a transfer via helicopter, which is the only way of transferring if you visit during the monsoon season (mid-May through mid-Sept).
Diving the Reefs
Experienced divers rank the reefs of Lakshadweep among the best diving destinations in Asia, particularly the coral islands of Bangaram, Tinakara, Pirelli 1, and Pirelli 2.
Bangaram Island Resort hosts Lacadives, a small dive center that was the first CMAS (an international underwater-sports federation) dive organization in India, with its headquarters on the island of Kadmat.
Bangaram is known in particular for unique dives to spots such as Manta Point, where manta rays are a seasonal attraction: the Grand Canyon around the isle itself offers magical underwater viewing, as does Perumal Par, a submerged bank with world class diving.
Scuba diving in Lakshdweep
Lacadives offers diving courses, rents out equipment, and conducts up to three dives a day, as well as night diving. If you're not a qualified diver, you can rent a mask and go on one of the resort's snorkeling trips to a nearby wreck where an assortment of marine fauna will have you begging for more; alternatively, bring a doctor's certificate indicating that you're fit to dive and you can have your first scuba experience here.
For details, contact
The Lacadives Diving Centre
Note that there is no diving during the monsoons (mid-May through Sept).
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