When the last boy in your friend’s group gets married, it has to be celebrated big. Right?. Honestly, I was tired of the usual Bangkok and Phuket parties. Especially after hearing Sahana’s Thailand chronicles beyond Bangkok and Pattaya. I knew I wanted to go somewhere else with my boys- unique but affordable place. We love partying but wanted to be away from the thick crowd. We love the sun and sea vibe but didn’t want to end up in a place where we see the sea between the gaps of umbrellas – So, a friend picked up the perfect place, Lakshadweep.
“No matter who you are, you can dissolve your problem in the ocean”.They say.
I have been to many tropical beach towns and islands., basking in the sun and rejoicing in every moment of sand and sea vibe. I felt this is true at Lakshadweep. – The real hidden gem of India -Lakshadweep with its turquoise water, can dissolve the problems, but I don’t want to do so. Because –
The place is so pure that I don’t even want to pollute it with my thoughts!
Here is your complete guide to India’s most beautiful union territory – Lakshadweep.
- What and Where is Lakshadweep.
- Why visit Lakshadweep.
- Reaching Lakshadweep.
- Things to know before you go.
- How affordable is Lakshadweep?
- Best Things to do in Lakshadweep.
What and Where is Lakshadweep.
4200sqkm Lagoon land is located 500km away from Kochi to the Southwest of India. Laksha means Millions, Dweep means island. But there are no million islands here,! Only 36 islands spread on the landmass of 32sqm, out of which ten are inhibited. That means less than 1% of Lakshadweep province is landmass, and the rest is –
“Turquoise water lined with snow-white sand hiding a great marine life and Kaleidoscopic corals to infinity.”
It is politically /historically connected to India but far from the developments happening in India’s mainland. There is a story that people in this Islands came to know of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination 14 days after it happened,” – A sociology professor at Calicut university said.
Except for coconut, they grow nothing. There are no power plants on the island to produce electricity. Starting from tissue paper to vegetables, electronic items, and diesel to generate electricity, everything gets shipped to the island from India’s mainland almost every day.
Tiny land huge- History!
This is a must-read for every Indian because when I called Airtel customer care asking why there is no data network in Lakshadweep, the lady on the other side replied “Lakshadweep doesn’t belong to India” – How pathetic.
Travelling between islands, we spent lots of time on boats with boatmen. Mukhbil is a crazily amazing diver who can dive deeper without a diving cylinder. He jumps into the water barechested, goes to the bottom and does simple actions with his fingers that make a herd of the fish move. He goes assisting PhD researchers every year on the island. So here are some facts I heard from him and my after trip reading.
Who are the first humans to set foot on Lakshadweep?
There is no perfect legit one answer-There are many stories.
Locals believe that King Perumal from the Chera dynasty converted to Islam and left for Mecca in 600+ AD from his Malabar empire. So, a set of Hindu sailors came searching for him later when he didn’t return. The ship got wrecked in a fierce storm near Lakshadweep, and they landed in Bangaram island. Once the weather was fine, they went back to Malabar, observing other islands in Lakshadweep on their way back home. A few months later, a group of sailors and soldiers from the Malabar arrived again to settle in Amini island forever.
Arrival of a Muslim saint –
They say a Muslim saint had a dream where Prophet came in his dream asking him to spread Islam across the world. The saint left Jeddah and ended up in Lakshadweep. Initially, the Hindu inhabitants were reluctant to listen to his speeches and sent him away. A girl from the island fell in love with the saint, and they both tried to leave the island. This offended the headman, and they wanted to get the saint killed. At this moment saint called the god for help, islanders turned blind.
When the saint and his wife left the island, all citizens got their vision back. He left to another island performing such miracles and spreading Islam all across. After several incidents, Lakshadweep people believed in him and accepted Islam as their religion. His grave today is a sacred place at Andrott island. So you see Islamic culture mixed with Hindu traditions in Lakshadweep.
The Portuguese & British invasion
The Portuguese came to Kochin to colonise in the 1490s, and residents chased them away. Having Goa in their hands, they made Lakshadweep the seafarers’ centre and looted finely spun coconut coir. Luckily islanders cleverly chased them away after a while.
Life went on, Malabar royal houses ruling Lakshadweep changed, and the Arakakl family took care of Lakshadweep. They say that the rulers were oppressive, which made local islanders approach Tipu Sultan in Mangalore(my hometown) of Karnataka. Tipu was the ruler of Sri Rangapatna in Karnataka because he was a good friend of the Arakkal family at that time.
After Tipu talked to the queen of Arakkal, some parts of Lakshadweep was handed over to him! So Tipu, who is known as the Mysore tiger, ruled Lakshadweep. After he died in the 1790s in a battle with the British, five islands under him fell to the hands of the British. So you may find some Kannada speaking citizens in Lakshadweep, they say, but we never met one.
The facts/stories are yet to get rivetting
A king from the Arakkal family came to the island with a British officer to check on his citizens. Seeing many difficulties in that isolated land, the king borrowed money from British officers to provide basic facilities for the islanders. 4 years later, unable to repay the loan, he sold the island to the British forever until 1947.
One last exciting historical fact:
After 1947, when independent India was figuring out things as an individual country, geographically isolated Lakshadweep was eyed by Pakistan. Though the physical distance between Pakistan and India is more, Sardar Patel (Home minister then) understood the situation and took immediate action. Mudaliyar brothers from Malabar left to Lakshadweep on Sardar Patel’s command with battalion available and hardly any weapons to hoist our flag on the island. After hoisting the flag, they saw a ship with a Pakistan flag sailing towards Lakshadweep to take over Lakshadweep! This is literally like a hairline finish!
Why visit Lakshadweep.
The beaches, marine life with lots of fish and Coral!
If you walk 10m away from the white sandy shore with your snorkelling gears into the glittering turquoise water, you see the prismatic coral underwater along with Nemo swimming (There are 856 species of fish – All I know is Nemo – Clownfish). The islands are so small that, whenever you drive here on the road surrounded by Coconut groves, you hardly lose sight of the sea. With regulated tourist influx, the marine life and land are preserved ecologically well.
With a 66000 population as of 2022, it feels like there are more coconut trees than humans. The islands are so less populated that you start recognising the local residents after staying on an island for four days, and they do the same with a broad smile. If you want to spend a splendid time by the cleanest beaches in India at a pocket-friendly place, you must travel to the less-visited Lakshadweep.
How to reach Lakshadweep.
Whether you take a cruise or a flight, Kochi in Kerala is your starting point. Only a few Indian cities have direct flights to Agatti in Lakshadweep. So you must plan to land in Kochi first. Kochi is a fantastic town with great food, streets filled with colonial architecture along with traditional Malabar buildings. Spend two-three days in Kochi. From there, you can either fly or take a ship/cruise based on your budget and time constraints.
Honestly, you don’t need anything to commute on the island. The islands are so small that you can walk between two endpoints easily! This jeep belongs to our resort owner and we just went on a short drive.
Once you are there on the island, boats are your means of transport. There is a chopper service to go island hopping, but expensive.
Know before you go
Lakshadweep is not flocked by tourists because you need special permission to get into the island- even if you are an Indian.
Indian tourists can email their documents ( Hotel booking, An official ID like passport or Adhar card as proof of citizenship/DOB/ address) to: email@example.com. For foreigners, the entry permit is given only when they are on an Indian tourist Visa.
This approach for getting permission is cheaper but slower., I read online confessions of people whining about authority’s slow response for more than a month. We approached through Kodi Holidays, and we got our permit within 15 days.
Lakshadweep Tourism is taking baby steps
Going for a package isn’t ideal, but it is the only way in Lakshadweep. Because of its geographical isolation and openness, Lakshadweep is a highly protected area. So most time, tourists aren’t allowed to stay beyond 7 days and you have to be accompanied by local agents.
Anywhere between 5 to 7 days is good to explore Lakshadweep.
Each agent can craft your itinerary based on your number of days budget. Or you can pick one of their itineraries suitable for you. But every itinerary is similar to Scuba diving, fishing, snorkelling across various islands. And maybe visiting one or two religious monuments, including Pickup/drop at Agatti airport and boat rides between islands.
Many Malayalam movies get filmed here. So the man riding the bike has acted in many Malayalam movies – The pillion rider is our groom.
Where all can you go in Lakshadweep?
Out of 36 islands, 17 are habited, and you are allowed to travel to only 10- Our boatman Muqbil specified. As a Union territory (British called it Laccadives), it is governed by an administrator appointed by India’s President. You don’t find a military presence here. In the middle of the Arabian sea, India’s small union territory receives high security from the Indian military, which is based on islands restricted to regular citizens.
I don’t want to call Lakshadweep underdeveloped- With such giant geographical isolation from mainland India, what you get in Lakshadweep is more than what you can think of. Except for coconuts, they grow nothing. But they have plenty of Seafood. Fishing in certain areas are banned, but it is the main occupation of people. India mainland sends diesel here to generate electricity. So don’t expect a typical beach resort town vibe here.
Some may call it basics – but the huts on the white sand with all the necessary thing is more than what you need when you have such stunning water a few steps away from you.
Is there internet in Lakshadweep?
You hardly get internet there – Except BSNL, none of the cellular network data works here. So using a digital wallet for paying is out of option.
Foreign travellers – Don’t carry any foreign currency. Carry only Indian Rupees.
No “Non-Lakshadweep” resident is allowed to buy property in Lakshadweep. So you don’t find those standard resort groups here. A prestigious Indian hotel group began the construction of a resort, and it is stopped now for various issues.
It was winter, so the weather was pleasant. But after the dive, it felt too cold.
Don’t try to save money on bottled water. With hardly any sweet water source, Lakshadweep’s recycled seawater isn’t good for drinking for tourists who aren’t used to it.
I was expecting seafood delicacy in Lakshadweep but was quite disappointed. Somehow, the resort guys thought we wanted only chicken for three days and they cooked Chicken dishes for all three days. On the last day, we convinced them to make us Lakshadweep seafood which tasted average. Vegetarian food is mostly influenced by Malabar, and hence veg food here is better than Non-Veg food.
There is a hospital in the capital Karavatti and a few more infirmaries that provide basic necessities.
Non Existing Nighlife
Alcohol is banned on the island, but each tourist can carry one bottle while arriving. There are absolutely no party scenes here. Agatti sleeps by 8 pm and makes every wave sound audible. Most resorts let you make a campfire and lends their music system to the party unless you create chaos to disturb the neighbours.
Most islands sleep by 8 PM. It was hard to get even bottled water after 8. Anything you want to buy, do it before 8 PM.
Lakshadweep marine life resides in an eco-sensitive area. So be a responsible tourist by not stepping on coral reefs underwater while diving. Mukbil explained that sometimes tourists get overexcited and try to touch/pluck corals. Corals are living organisms like you and me – Let us not kill them and ruin the ecosystem.
Tanning and Sunburns are an indication of a good beach vacation. Agreed. But our sunburn was so strong that we all shed our skin like snakes later! My skin was so burnt with my sleeves shirts and swimming shorts that it hurt. So carry 40-50 SPF Sunscreen and apply every one hour.
You may even spot handsome male mermaids chilling on the boat if you are lucky
How much does Lakshadweep trip cost?
As a group of six, Lakshadweep turned out to be one of the cheapest destinations. It cost us 2500Rs/person/day- Excluding international/domestic flights. Including – Entry Permit, standard beach villa room, three meals, boat drives between the island, one scuba dive, unlimited snorkelling at various spots, kayaking.
To go to different islands, using boats is the only way. These public boats won’t leave until full, or you have to pay for the whole boat that can carry six-eight passengers. So the cost may hike if you are in a smaller group. I am sure one dive is not enough for any marine life enthusiast. It cost 4500Rs/person for every extra dive.
Sunset in Lakshadweep is priceless and it costs you nothing
Best Things to do in Lakshadweep.
Be awake while landing in Agatti.
I have landed at 30+ airports across various cities in the world. Most flight journeys are boring except Ladakh, where I was captivated by the bird’s eye view of the Himalayas. But I haven’t seen anything like the Agatti runway! The longest length of Agatti when I measured on google maps shows 7km. Imagine a 120m wide black runway that looks floating, lined with green bushes and white sand wholly surrounded by bright turquoise water.
So the first sight of island heaven is from your flight. Those with aerophobia may find the landing scary, but it is one of the most beautiful sights of my life. But capturing the frame is as tricky as getting a Lakshadweep travel permit. We even knocked on the cockpit door asking if pilots can click the floating runway photo- Because it is almost impossible to click the frame from the passenger seat.
Go Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
It is an absolute crime if you don’t go scuba diving in Lakshadweep. If you compare the marine life quantity to the Red Sea, Lakshadweep is a baby. But it is still a lot for occasional scuba divers. As it was my first ever scuba dive in my life, I thought I couldn’t do it. But the instructor ensured my safety.
The boatmen take you to particular spots where marine life is great for scuba diving. But to observe corals snorkelling, a 50m walk from your room on the white sand is enough to get transposed to a psychedelic underwater world. Make sure you wear light shoes that don’t absorb water because many sunken shipwrecks have metal plates stuck to the waterbed underneath.
The underwater world is totally disconnected from our world. That transition in the noise from birds chirping to hearing water flowing is unexplainable. The colours of corals and fish swimming around the sunken ship make you forget your world. My diving instructor Muqbil used to dive deeper, snap his fingers gently and a huge school of fish used to come up to the surface.
Have a hammock dream.
If you are a non-regular sailor like my friends and me, you will be tired and wants to lay down. But Lakshadweep beachscape is so captivating that you hardly feel like entering your room. The soft sand is great too, but the local residents usually come out in the evening to spend their time at the beach. So if you want a bit of isolated snoozing time, watching every palm leaf swaying above or the turquoise water turning gold in the far is your heavenly “Me Time.”
Go Island hopping and fishing.
Sometimes, you fall in love with an island so much that you tend not to move your butts from there. When the underwater coral world is just a 20m walk from the room, and you get decent food whenever hungry, why would you move out? But the charm of experience lies in two things – Scuba diving and riding the boats.
You get to talk to local boatmen/fishers there. They teach you how to go fishing using the sharp hook. You may even see a group of men standing with the net widespread, waiting for the fish to get trapped at shallow lagoons. While diving, we never saw a turtle, but the fishers had caught a turtle in the net, which they released immediately.
As a Mangalorean, I never say no to Seafood. So what our boatmen cooked then and after that catching, some medium-sized ish was the most delicious food of Lakshadweep. The moment they get the fish to the resort, I find them cooking in a style that isn’t of their own but made to suit tourists. So if you go island hopping, you witness fishing, you can try fishing and eat the best-authentic Lakshadweep food.
Lose yourself at sunset.
What is so great about Lakshadweep sunset- One more beach, as usual, the sun goes down magically, creating a splash of colours anywhere else. The magic here is you don’t have to go hunting to look for a perfect sunset watching spot. You don’t have to grab that perfect seat in a place to rejoice in the sunset.
Be it by the beachside where kids are flying the kites or by boat on your way back to Kavaratti, as long as you face West, sunset in Lakshadweep is magical. The sun looks bigger than usual, turning the turquoise water to grey and copper. So you don’t have to plan to watch the sunset while in Lakshadweep.
People-watch in any island
Every time, Sahana and I talk about being away from the crowd, solitude and things. The crowd makes a place charming when it is in the right amount. An overdose of it creates chaos. With less population on the island, residents come out to meet each other in the evening. Small ice-candy carts on cycles reach the shore. This time is the most musical time of Lakshadweep-
The sounds of kids laughingly running with kites, fishers pulling the boats and nets, men walking on the sand adjusting their coloured Lungis and talking, women in Hijab sharing laughter, meows of cats- All are mixed with the sound of mild waves hitting the shore and palm leaves rustling. Everything stops by 7 pm, and the island is super silent by 8 pm!
Get off the water and walk on the land.
This union territory is all about sea/sand and water, But walking /jeep ride/cycling on the land shows you a glimpse of local life. Not every island has a school of the infirmary. Restaurants and cafes are restricted to certain islands. There are mosques without minarets, with clay-tiled roofs and arches like Malabar style. One thing common everywhere is – coconut trees, white sand and blue water that never goes out of your sight and smiling friendly people.
Use the fanciest toilet in the world on a boat.
As an architect, my wife Sahana is obsessed with toilet design. She often says good architecture depends on how the toilet of that particular building works. After travelling together, I also began to observe toilets. Plus, as a person with lots of bowel movements by birth, I seek toilets everywhere. But there is nothing like what I used in the Lakshadweep boat.
It is shocking to anyone that a boat of that size could accommodate a toilet. The height is so low that you have to enter bent. Fortunately, the boats have septic tanks (I hope they empty them in a designated area without harming the charming Nature). When you do your job inside, your friend can sit on the roof of the toilet! As you open the toilet door, you see turquoise water to infinity. Trust me; this is a bizarre, fun and most unique pooping experience I have ever had in my life.
Afterthoughts on Lakshadweep
Apart from the fact that we all loved it and had the best bachelor party for the last stag in our friends’ group- I want to tell you more.
I was watching the series “Crown” recently for the second time. The queen’s mother (actress Victoria Hamilton) says that she is going to stay at a particular place in Scotland. The queen acclaims that it is “an end of the world” spot and asks the mother if she is sure of going. When the queen mother lands in that place where the sea meets mountains, she replies to her host greets, “Finally you made it ” She replies
“If it were easy, everyone would have come.”
That sentence reminded me of Lakshadweep solely. In the name of travelling and tourism, we humans invade every place. I realised why a few true travellers talk about off beaten destinations to spread the travel crowd everywhere instead of overloading a place. Everyone deserves to travel for whatsoever reason.
But making it easy is to boost the economy is the most dangerous step in losing mother earth. Thankfully, getting to Lakshadweep is not as easy as getting to Maldives or Bangkok. So mass tourism hasn’t advanced to Lakshadweep yet. If the strict rules continue, Lakshadweep remains as it is.
We always say, “Save the earth” Nature is so powerful that she takes care of herself when we abuse her just by shaking a little or creating huge waves to get rid of the creatures who are the reason for the abuse.
The only fish I could recognise without the instructor specifying is Nemo
What are your thoughts on Lakshadweep? Let us know in the comment section below.