We started our Lakshadweep trip after the trip from Agra.
Reached Kochi airport at noon, from there we proceeded to Willingdon island(that’s where the ship starts from).
Willingdon island is 40 kms from the airport and a simple, no frills indica cab would charge you about 700 bucks to reach the island.
At willingdon island, we had booked accommodation at a place called Maruthi tourist home, which was a decent place to stay, not too expensive either.. the main plus point was that it was just 1 km away from the SPORTS office(SPORTS is the organization which controls the tourism at the Lakshadweep islands).
The introduction done, time for the movie to roll .
We were booked on the ship MV Kavaratti which runs from Kochi to Lakshadweep islands on designated days.
We collected the boarding passes from the SPORTS office.
From there, they arrange transport to the jetty for boarding.
Now, this place resembled a war torn country area where people were lining up for free food.
One of the foreigners with us quipped that this resembled a refugee camp.
Picture this, a small walled area of about 200 sft and about a 100 odd people waiting to rush in through a small door.
Everyone had luggage, but we were stunned when we saw the islanders. They generally travel from Kochi, which is their only source of shopping.
Everything from vegetables to blankets to cartons full of provisions to LCD tvs were lined up as luggage.
Me and my wife shuddered at the thought of all this luggage being scanned and then each person going through the small door one by one.
There is no separate line for tourists. You need to jostle your way through.
Just then, the small door opened and one by one, all the luggage belonging to the islanders was put in.
But, we were amazed that in about 10 mins, all of it was checked in and we were at the counter with our luggage.
It felt great, the staff was efficient, if only they had managed the crowd outside the counter too.
Then we got our luggage scanned and we were quickly taken to the jetty.
There stood the impressive MV Kavaratti.
Majestic from the outside, we expected it to be the same from inside as well.
The luggage was efficiently tagged with room numbers and whisked away by porters.
We boarded the ship and by the time we found our cabin, we saw that our luggage was already at the door.
Impressed! We had nothing to complain about the ship and its staff!!
The ship then waited for I don’t know what… by the time it started moving, it was 2 pm.
The first class cabin allotted to us was quite nice, it had bunker beds, a table, a fan, cupboards, an attached bath and was air conditioned.
Don’t expect it to be of the class of the star cruises, but then its not bad either. I would say, it does justice to the amount charged.
Now, there are constant announcements on the ship which are audible in each of the cabins.
The first announcement was for lunch, the horror was about to begin.
It was now that we realized that on the ship, were 2 groups from 2 states which were about 20-30 people in size each.
The groups were also aged between 50-70.
They were also ignorant of basic rules like following queues etc and this is where ship crew failed badly, there was absolutely no attempt from their side to rein in the mob.
We were aghast at the aunties pushing and prodding their way through like they would at the local sabzi mandis.
At times, there were a lot of intrusions in the queues, they would reserve places for their brethren. They were loud.
People from state X thought that they were the only people on the ship and made loud noises… they made fun of the state Y people in their language.
The state Y people reciprocated their feelings.
Caught in the cross hairs were a few couples like ours and a sensible uncle aunty from Gujarat.
Somehow we managed to withstand them just stopping short of retaliating, because our traditions teach us to respect elders. How I wished, elders followed basic rules of civic sense.
I was a little upset with the way the trip started, thinking that this would mar the whole trip ahead because we would be spending time with these people.
Then me and my wife thought, why should we even care?
Believe that you are on your own and things would not seem so bad after all!
And yes, this worked!! Ah, we were so happy. When we went out for dinner, we cared a damn.. when an aunty tried to break the queue, we kept her a name(just for our consumption) .. and had a hearty laugh.
One important info about the food.
The food at best can be termed bland for the Indian taste buds. Food is decent, but you would be much better off carrying some pickles along with you.
Day 2 : Minicoy
The ship reached Minicoy early in the morning, we all disembarked and were taken in smaller boats to the island.
All the worries about the crowd and other things got sidelined when the island started approaching, it was amazing!
White sand beaches were visible from a distance.
The lighthouse made a perfect setting too!
All too excited, we were welcomed on the island with tender coconuts.
We spent the first few hours on the beach, clicking pics, sea bathing and swimming in the ocean.
Then in the afternoon we went scuba diving, which was 750 bucks per head for a 20 mins dive.
It was great fun! The corals and fishes amazed us. But according to the instructor, the visibility in the sea wasn’t that great on that day because of the strong currents. However, I found it quite good because I had only seen the sea water elasewhere in India
After the scuba diving trip, we had lunch, it wasn’t that great, but since we were very tired, the hunger took precedence over taste.
We then toured the lighthouse. To reach the top you would need to climb about 200 stairs.
Most people backed out. My wife said we should do it, and when we reached the top, we were glad we did it.
Those were the best views of Minicoy island. The island had already amazed us, but the all round view of the white sand beaches along with the cast coconut trees are too good a sight to be put in words.
The lunch and evening tea were served on the island.
Once back on the ship, the journey resumed, we were to reach Kalpeni island by the next day.
Day 3 : Kalpeni island.
This is the most low profile island on the trip. To be frank, there is not much to do on this island.
When we reached there in the morning, it was beautiful, but nothing compared to Minicoy.
Minicoy had set the expectations so high that we were a tad disappointed.
Then came the snorkeling bit, that was when some pride was salvaged and this island too looked interesting.
There is a huge lagoon near the shore rich in marine life and coral reefs.
They give you the gear which can be used for snorkeling.
We did it for almost 4 hours, there was a huge variety of corals and fishes.
Initially I was overawed by he size of the things in water, and I swan cautiously, but as the first hour passed, all the cautiousness turned into curiosity and I was swimming away with ease on the surface exploring the coral reefs and the marine life.
But there is a caveat here, this should only be done by people who can swim. If you cant swim, its better to walk and put your head in the water as soon as you encounter a coral reef.
This walk too would become difficult in time of the high tide.
So its better if this thing is attempted only in supervision of someone. The problem here is that there are instructors, but the number of people are too huge to control. They start moving in all directions.
I have been swimming for many years(in the pool of course), but I was overawed by the sight of ocean grass and corals spanning over large tracts of the ocean floor.. initially all that looked scary and I stopped every now and then and stood on my feet… imagine what would an elderly person do at this sight.. coupled with the fear of the marine life… although everything there is harmless.
One very sad accident happened at this place, when we finished our snorkeling after exploring different areas in the lagoon, one of the instructors spotted a floating life jacket drifting down. It was an elderly lady in our group who had strayed too far away from everyone’s sight.
She was rushed to the hospital and was put on ventilator, but couldn’t survive it. Her lungs were full of saline water.
Nobody knows what exactly happened, but the most probable reason is that while watching something, she must have bent too far and water must have entered from the top section of the snorkeling pipe. Then there could have been a panic attack which prevented her from raising an alarm. Really sad.
That is why I would stress again, that all these sports are very interesting, but they come with their own bit of risk especially for the old people.
I myself have seen the lagoon, nowhere was the water over 3 feet. But when there is panic, the depth doesn’t matter. The life jacket also did not help.
If you know to swim, then you are at ease. If you don’t know how to swim, then make sure you walk on the white sand and only put your head in water when needed. Make sure you are around the instructor at all times, so that he can spot you in times of distress.
Everyone was oblivious to this accident till evening, we then went to the beach on the tip of the island. It was totally untouched and beautiful.
One of the few interesting places in Kalpeni.
The ship then sailed to the last destination, Kavaratti, for the last day of the trip.
Day 4 : Kavaratti, capital of Lakshadweep islands.
This was by far the best managed part of the trip, everything from the welcome drinks to the boat rides to the lunch and further program was very well managed.
The beach was again amazing with white sand. We clicked a lot of pics here again.
They take you for a glass bottom boat ride also into the sea for a coral reef tour.
The water is absolutely crystal clear.
You can clearly see the aquatic life and the corals from the bottom of your boat. I shot a few videos of it.
The trip lasts for about 45 mins.
Once back, we lazed on the beach again.
Then I went kayaking, this was really cool.
The sea breeze was on the opposite side to my kayak, I thought I would fall into the sea
But with practice I managed to stay afloat!
I spotted 3 turtles swimming from my kayak too… had a small race with them, but they outpaced me
After an hour of kayaking, I came out tired, then the lunch was served.
The lunch was good here.
There are paid options for snorkeling here. I did not go snorkeling here because I had done it in Kalpeni, but the corals and marine life seemed better here, so if you wanna do it, take a shot. They charge reasonably. 200 bucks.
Then there are other options like para sailing, water skiing and scuba diving.
You name it, you have it at Kavaratti.
But if you ask me, Minicoy was the most beautiful island.
There was bon homie all around. The last day, people were all friends by now.
On some stupid reason, one member from the state Y picked up a fight with one member from state X.
Immediately, people played the song “Tum rootho nay un hasina” from an old hindi movie…. Some people danced and the mood was light again
The ship then sailed back to Kochi on the fifth day.
Lakshadweep is one paradise of a place.
Totally untapped, untouched. Very serene.
The water always so clear at all islands…
This is nature’s beauty at its cleanest best. By the end of the trip you would be left gasping and asking for more.
If you are going with your wife or girlfriend and you are below 35 years of age and want to be alone or want to be yourself, I would strongly suggest you not to book the Samudram package because of the company you would find. Although if you can ignore the people around you and have fun, just like we did, then there is no place like Lakshadweep islands.
There are other packages like swaying palms etc which offer you accommodation on the islands. That would save you from group travel.
Either ways, the thing that cannot be ignored is Lakshadweep.
The most amazing beaches and as good as the best in the world … coupled with a totally non commercialized setting where you would find only nature and the islanders who love the nature.
Miss it at your own peril.
You would have missed a paradise on the Indian map.
PS : The SPORTS staff in the ship and the islands is one of the most amazing staff I have seen with total regard for efficiency in service. They are always courteous inspite of the annoying tourists.
They will never ask you or even hint for tips. Very well mannered too.