A trip to Lakshadweep islands had been on our mind for more than a year. But there was very little information available online for planning and we had learned that a permit was required to visit the Lakshadweep, getting which was a herculean task. Also, the galore of websites which claimed package trips to Lakshadweep finally landed us to the website run by the government organization- Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports, also called as SPORTS, which only put us into more ambiguity. The website was very badly maintained. The SPORTS had a few cruise trips covering a couple of islands of Lakshadweep . The package was such that the Ship would depart from Kochi/Mangalore and approach the islands after a journey of 18 hrs and get anchored about a few kilometers from the islands. The tourists would then be taken to one of the islands in boats for a visit . They could spend time on the island till evening and they would be ferried back to the ship before the sunset. The ship would then sail to the next island during the night and the same itinerary would continue for the rest of the days covering two other islands. Most of the seats available in the cruise trips were booked for the months of December and January which was considered to be the best season. We almost gave up the idea of visiting Lakshadweep for lack of assistance in planning and booking the trip. So we made an impromptu decision to visit the Devbagh Island.
We were enjoying our stay at the Devbagh and as luck would have it, we met Mr. Satyanarayana who was working at the Devbagh resort. It turned out that he was a retired diving instructor from Lakshadweep. He rekindled our desire to visit the Lakshadweep as he shared with us contact details of his friends from Lakshadweep who would help us plan our trip. After coming back from a relaxing stay in the resort at Devbagh, the first thing we did was to contact the guy in Lakshadweep. hard luck struck again when we realized that the contact number he shared was not in use. After a couple of phone calls to Mr. Sathyanarayan, we realized that even he was not able to contact his friend and since it was quite a lot of time since he returned from Lakshadweep, he was not sure if any of his old friends still stayed at Lakshadweep. The setback, however, did not dither our zeal this time. We were determined to visit the Lakshadweep – come what may. The narrations and stories that Sathyanarayan had told about his life at Lakshadweep had made us more determined.
Since we had the whole year at your disposal, we started planning for the trip much earlier. the dates were fixed- we chose the end of October which was the holiday season. We chose dates around the full moon so that we could see nesting turtles during the full moon nights. We also wanted to witness the phytoplankton activity which is usually seen during the nights. To know if we really experienced all this during our stay, you will have to have more patience and wait for more articles to come. This post covers only the planning stage of our trip…. some of you might feel like suing me for prolonging this but trust me. You ‘ll love the future articles I am going to write!!!
Cutting all the background and crap, let me come to the point. After reaching out to the SPORTS department multiple times with many questions and reading a lot of reviews and articles that were available in bits and packets online, I managed to get some decent information which would help in planning our vacation to Lakshadweep.
About the Lakshadweep Islands: Lakshadweep means ‘a hundred thousand islands’ in Sanskrit. However, there are only 36 islands having a total area of 32 SQ km. It is the tiniest Union Territory of India with 12 atolls, 3 reefs, and 5 submerged banks. Ten Islands are inhabited. They are Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan and Minicoy.
Tourist islands in Lakshadweep: Tourists are allowed to visit only a few islands in Lakshadweep namely- Agatti, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Minicoy, Bangaram, and Thinnakara. A permit is required to visit each of the islands. The islands of Agatti, Kadmat, Kavaratti, and Minicoy are inhabited whereas Bangaram and Thinnakara are uninhabited.
Stay and Accommodation for tourists on Islands:
- Resorts with AC and NonAC standard and Deluxe suites are available in islands of Kadmat and Kavaratti. Islands of Bangaram and Thinnakara have non-AC tents only.
- Agatti has a few privately run resorts. SPORTS does not have any options for stay here. Since a permit issued by Sports is required to stay on any island, booking with private resorts always includes some risk. There have been instances where the booking was made with private resorts and the permit was not provided. So, it is wise to choose to stay on islands where SPORTS has set up accommodation.
- Visitors can choose the cruise packages where the overnight stay is provided on the ships and the visitors are ferried to the islands during the daytime.
Cost of accommodation:
Below is the cost of accommodation on island resorts as on October 2015.
- Kadmat island has AC super deluxe rooms at Rs.11000, AC deluxe rooms at Rs.9000, AC standard rooms at Rs.7000 and non-AC rooms at 5000. The mentioned charges are for double occupancy including the 3 meals, tea/coffee and snacks per day.
- Kavaratti resort has air-conditioned suite rooms costing Rs.9000 per day for double occupancy , 3 meals,tea/coffee and snacks.
- Bangaram and Thinnakara islands only have non-AC tents. The stay for one night costs Rs.10,000 for double occupancy including 3 meals, tea/coffee and snacks per day.
- Agatti is the only airport in Lakshadweep. Air India operates a 42 seater ATR-42 plane from Monday to Saturday from Bangalore to Agatti with a stopover at Kochi. The journey takes about 3 hrs from Bangalore to Agatti .
- from Agatti, the other islands are connected by speed boat or helicopter.
- Visitors can choose to travel to Lakshadweep islands by ship. The availability of ship for travel depends on the weather and might cost approximately Rs.3500 from Kochi.
Reaching other islands from Agatti:
- Speedboats have fixed departure trips between Agatti and other islands.
- Speedboat operates from Agatti to Kadmat/Kavaratti and back only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. the visitors should choose the duration of stay based on the schedule of speed boats. A two-way journey from Agatti to Kadmat/Kavaratti costs Rs.8000 per head. The journey time may vary from 3 to 4 hours depending on the sea and weather condition.
- The speed boat is available on a daily basis to Thinnakara and Bangaram islands. The journey takes about 1 hr and costs Rs.5000 for a two-way trip.
- Helicopter transport is available from Agatti to Thinnakara/Bangaram on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The two-way charges for the helicopter from Agatti to Bangaram/Thinnakara will cost Rs.7300.
- All other islands like Minicoy and Kalpeni have to be reached directly by Ship from Kochi. No transportation is available to Minicoy or Kalpeni from Agatti.
Food: Very basic and tasty food is available at all the resorts. A typical meal for lunch /dinner will include roti/chapati + vegetable/pulses curry + rice + dal + one non- veg item (chicken/fish). You will be in great disappointment if you expect a lavish spread of buffet.
Language: Jeseri is the dialect spoken in the Archipelago of Lakshadweep. It has some resemblances with Malayala with a hint of Tamil. Few people in the resorts in Kadmat and Kavaratti know English and Hindi.
Climate and peak season: November to January is the best season to visit Lakshadweep. This season sees a huge tourist influx, mostly foreign tourists. The charges are also increased by 10-20 %.
- Tourists are advised to dress decently. Too much of skin show is not encouraged.
- Alcohol is strictly prohibited.
- Tourists are not allowed to carry corals – dead/alive or any shells back from the islands. Any attempt to carry corals might lead to punishment by law.
Water Activities and Sports: Scuba diving, Snorkelling, swimming and beach trek are the best activities to try at the Lakshadweep islands. Apart from this, one can also try kayaking, canoeing, lagoon fishing, jet ski, speed boat ride, parasailing, banana boat ride etc.
Itinerary: 4 days 3 nights by flight
With all the above information at hand, we arrived at the below itinerary. All booking was made 3 months in advance. All reservation for inter-island transport and stay at different islands was booked through SPORTS.
- Depart at Bangalore Airport by Air India’s ATR-42 flight at 8.15 am
- Stop-over at Kochi at 10.00 am
- Arrive at Agatti by flight at 11.15am
- The SPORTS department arranges for pickup from airport and you will be dropped at the jetty. Tea will be provided at the SPORTS office en route.
- You will be ferried to Kadmat island by speed boat. The boat can accommodate up to 19 passengers. Packed lunch will be provided in the boat.
- The boat journey to Kadmat will take 3 to 4 hours depending on the wind and sea conditions. It might take a bit long if the sea is rough.
- You will reach Kadmat anytime between 4.00pm -5.00pm. A cool tender coconut awaits every visitor. This is a relief after the swaying and tiring journey.
- You will be shown to your cottages. You can enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure. The view of Sunset is very good from the west cost which is towards the jetty. This is the best time to swim in the sea as the sun sets.
- You can choose to walk along the seashore after it gets dark.
- Dinner from 8.00pm at the common dining hall.
- walk along the shore for as long as you want or retire to bed.
- Wake up at 6.00pm and go for a walk in the east cost. Enjoy the sunrise.
- tea will be served at 6.30am at the dining hall.
- Breakfast from 8.80am
- Contact helpdesk at 9.00am and arrange for diving.
- You will be briefed by the diving instructors for about 30mins and some forms need to be signed .
- Off to the dive site by boat. The diving takes around 30mins. One can do one or two dives per day.
- Back to the island for lunch.
- After lunch , proceed to snorkel in a glass bottom boat.
- It takes around 1 hr to reach the snorkeling site. The Snorkeling trip lasts for about 45mins .
- Back to the island by evening.
- You can choose to swim in the island, do canoeing or kayaking. Else, you can take bicycles for rent and ride along the village of Kadmat. There are a coir and coconut powder factory inside the village.
- Dinner is arranged on the beach. After dinner, you can choose to walk along the shore and watch the crabs play on the beach.
- wake up call at 6.00am
- Get ready and depart toBangaram island by 6.30am
- Packed breakfast is provided on the boat.
- The journey takes around 3 hours.
- Arrive at Bangaram island . Those who have made a booking at Thinnakara will be ferried in a separate boat from Bangaram.
- Check into the rooms and take rest.
- Have lunch at around 1.00pm. Go for swimming in the lagoons as the tide gets low.
- You can go for snorkeling in the coral gardens between Thinnakara and Bangaram.
- Have tea in the evening and walk around the island of Thinnakara. It takes around 2 hours to walk along the shore and go around the island of Thinnakara which has a circumference of around 8 km. Click a lot of photos
- Have dinner and play on the beach.
- Retire to sleep in the shacks.
- Wake up before sunrise and go around the island to the east cost.
- Witness the most beautiful sunrise you would have ever seen in life.
- Spend time clicking photos.
- Back to shacks by 7.30am. Freshen Up and have breakfast.
- Depart to Bangaram island by boat at 9.00am.
- Depart to Agatti island by speed boat 10.00am.
- get ferried to the Agatti airport from the Jetty , right in time to catch your Air India flight at 11.45am
- Arrive at Bangalore by 3.00 pm
That was our itinerary during the visit to the coral paradise of Lakshadweep. The swaying palms, shallow lagoons, blue waters, corals, mesmerizing sea life, the gorgeous sunset, and sunrise- all of these have left a long lasting impression on me and I definitely wish to get back to the coral paradise soon. The next time I visit Lakshadweep, I also wish to complete my PADI certification for Scuba.
I would love to let you know a lot more details about our stay in Lakshadweep. Stay tuned to read a detailed testimony about each of the islands we stayed in. Meanwhile, check the awesome pictures we captured during our stay in Lakshadweep. If you are still not sure if you should visit Lakshadweep, read 10 reasons on why you must add Lakshadweep to your bucket list.
Photo courtesy: Somnath pal