Lakshadweep: “All quiet on India’s secret islands” The Independent (London, England)

Lakshadweep: All quiet on India’s secret islands
22 June, 2012

Part of the same marine mountain range as the Maldives, the little-known Lakshadweep archipelago offers idyllic scenery – minus the crowds [First published on Feb 1, 2012 - "All Quiet on India's Secret Islands" by Caird, Jo - The Independent, London, England]

Arriving at a tropical island can never be considered a hardship. But after a 16-hour ferry journey blighted by seasickness, pulling ashore at Kadmat seemed all the sweeter. In fact, as I sat in the shade of a palm gazebo – a calm, bright blue sea just metres away – I’d never in my life been so pleased to be handed a coconut with a straw in it.

Kadmat is the centremost island in the Lakshadweep archipelago, a low-lying chain of islands, atolls and reefs off the coast of Kerala. Belonging to India, the Lakshadweep islands are part of the same vast marine mountain range as the Maldives. But unlike on their southerly neighbours, which are being developed almost to saturation point, the natural side of Lakshadweep remains intact.

The islands are protected by a local administration keen to promote tourism with a low environmental impact. The infrastructure is almost entirely government-run, with a focus on ship-based tourism to relieve pressure on the islands’ limited resources. Visitor numbers on the islands are kept deliberately low. Kadmat is the only island open to non-Indian visitors, with Kadmat Island Beach Resort (again, government-run) the only available accommodation.

Getting there isn’t easy, either. Your options are the overnight ferry from Kerala’s main city, Cochin – which requires a ship-to-shore transfer in a diesel-chugging converted fishing boat – or flying to the Lakshadweeps’ only airport on Agatti Island (also from Cochin) before completing your journey with a two-and-half-hour high-speed boat ride. Either way, it’s hardly convenient. This, presumably, is how the Maldives used to be.

The archipelago’s name comes from the Sanskrit word for the number 100,000 – “lakh”. Poetic licence wins out over numerical accuracy, as in reality there are just 36 islands in Lakshadweep. Only 10 of them are inhabited. Most of teardrop-shaped Kadmat’s 5,000 inhabitants are employed by the fishing or coconut trade. Outside the resort, there are no restaurants, bars or other amenities for tourists, although you can visit the coir and desiccated-coconut factories in Kadmat Village, the island’s only settlement. The administrative centre of the archipelago is Kavaratti Island, where the capital, also called Kavaratti, is located. Kadmat does not concern itself with the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

I’d been lured here by the promise of extraordinary diving and snorkelling – as well as the intrigue of going to a place no one had heard of. Instead, I found myself captivated by the quiet dignity of life on the island. No one attempted to sell me tourist tat, asked me for money or tried to rip me off – a state of affairs that compared favourably to the Indian mainland. Travelling along the island’s only road, either in the resort’s tiny shuttle bus, by rickety bicycle or on foot, I caught sight of children walking in immaculate school uniforms, head-scarfed women sweeping patterns into the dust of their unpaved front yards and young men playing football on a comically uneven beach football pitch.

Kadmat is only 550 metres wide at its broadest point – and far narrower at the end where the resort is located – so I could see the sea sparkling between the palm trees at all times, only needing to turn my head to catch a glimpse of the coast.

To say that Kadmat is peaceful would be a considerable understatement. The Kadmat Island Beach Resort has a maximum capacity of 50 guests, but on my visit it was about two-thirds full. Finding a private patch of flawless, white sandy beach is no more of a challenge than running into a noisy traffic jam on the Indian mainland. A handful of auto-rickshaws, a few motorbikes, legions of bicycles and one tiny bus make up the sum total of transport on Kadmat, so even outside the resort I luxuriated in the quiet.

Accommodation is comfortable: simple air-conditioned huts with porches and – in some – hammocks. Guests only congregate for optional activities – including kayaking, snorkelling and excursions in a glass-bottomed boat – and at meal times. These are all served buffet-style in a room reminiscent of a village hall at the centre of the resort. Anticipating the rich, coconut-based curries of Kerala and the succulent fresh fish of Goa, I was disappointed by the rather bland offerings of mixed vegetable or chicken curry and daal (very little produce is grown on Kadmat). With alcohol prohibited on this Muslim island and no nightlife other than after-dinner chitchat with my fellow guests and occasional starlit walks, bed time arrived early on Kadmat. The main benefit of this was that I could get up early to explore the surrounding Laccadive Sea. Lakshadweep is the only destination in India’s western waters populated with coral. Goa may have beautiful beaches, but if it’s unspoilt marine wildlife you’re after, Kadmat reigns supreme.

Diving is organised by Lacadives, a private company at the resort, managed by a charming Danish couple called Marieke and Torben. Day and night dives afforded breathtakingly close encounters with reef sharks, eagle rays, green turtles, box fish, lionfish and dozens of other sea creatures. Snorkelling trips in the shallow lagoon opened up a sun-dappled world of hard coral and piscine visitors, with turtles making the odd appearance. Back up at the water’s surface, I caught sight of fishermen standing in the shallows, gradually closing up huge circles of netting before hauling in their catch.

One evening before dinner I visited a local fishermen’s hut, where tuna was being smoked over smouldering coconut husks. My host explained that during the monsoon, when fishing outside the lagoon is dangerous and boats from the mainland arrive infrequently, smoked tuna is the islanders’ main source of protein. The next day, a tour in a rickshaw took me down the road running the 8km length of the island to the only village, with its jetty, small shops and modest homes. On the way, I stopped at the incongruously large and brightly painted Juma Mosque, one of 70 mosques serving the island’s Sunni Muslim community. Close by, a beautiful 100-year-old banyan tree lurched precariously towards the sea, its roots feeling their way down into the sand.

Sitting at the southern tip of Kadmat on the last evening of my stay, the chaos of the mainland was far from my mind. The five other guests at the resort were nowhere to be seen. Apart from a hen and her chicks clucking to each other further down the beach, I was alone with the sunset, the sea stretching away in all directions from the narrow peninsula. There may not really be 100,000 islands in the Lakshadweep and foreign tourists may only be allowed to visit one of them, but Kadmat is good enough for me.

“All Quiet on India’s Secret Islands” by Caird, Jo – The Independent, London, England.

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New GM at SPORTS; Tourism trade breathes a sigh of relief!

05 June, 2012 Kochi

The tourism industry has breathed a collective sigh of relief after Mr. D Karthikeyan has taken over charge of his new assignment as the new General Manager of SPORTS.

The dishonest actions and greed for money amongst some of the corrupt officials of SPORTS, have literally brought defame and shame to the independent tour operators and promoters of Lakshadweep as a prime tourist destination in the archipelago, not to mention the untold miseries and hardships to hapless tourists arriving here from different locations of the country and abroad.

Allegations of bribery or corruption were regular against the management of SPORTS (especially about the outgoing General Manager, a central Government employee who, in fact, belongs to Lakshadweep Island). During his tenure of service, no travel agent was spared from misery. There was no guaranty of booking of ship packages or resorts managed by SPORTS. Ship packages and resort bookings were cancelled without due notice, with utter disrespect and with no cause assigned to it whatsoever.

Apart from the routine ship cancellations, there were many other manipulations associated exclusively under the GM’s influence and direct control. In order to get the monetary benefits, dishonest personnel at SPORTS often channel groups or special occasion bookings through their privately owned travel agencies to share the travel agent commission (TAC) and other incentives amongst them. And in order to accommodate such guests at the ships or resorts, SPORTS Office at Kochi is involved in fabricating fraudulent documents and conspiracy to convert such bookings (already confirmed by them to independent travel agents. A practice commonly followed by them is to cancel the booking to the travel agent and convert it to their own. Continue reading

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Lakshadweep resorts & flight cancellations.

Apart from the commonly demanded Ship Packages to visit the exotic Lakshadweep Islands, an alternate mode of travel is by flight from Cochin International Airport to Agatti Airport and from there to Kadmat or Kavaratti Islands. King Fisher and Air India flights are serving between Cochin and Agatti Island.

Recently, the tourists who had booked for the Kadmat / Kavaratti packages were put in a great fix as they knew about the cancellation of their flights only on arrival at the Cochin Air Port. They contacted the office of SPORTS, who operates both the island resorts and informed about the non-availability of flight from Cochin to Agatti and about their resultant inability to reach the resort to occupy the room they had reserved. The tourists, therefore, requested the officials at SPORTS to refund the reservation fee they had made. But the SPORTS officials declined their request and no refund was made to them.

The tourists could not reach the destination only because the flights from Cochin to Agatti were cancelled without prior notice, which was an incident beyond their control. Therefore the action on the part of SPORTS which is a governmental body functioning for the welfare of the public, the tourists in particular, was not at all legal or justified. The unlucky tourists had to return home suffering huge financial loss and mental dismay.

It will be judicious to discuss the issue at appropriate forum and a modest solution be arrived at to settle the cases of recently affected groups. Guidelines may also be issued to handle similar issues in future.

By Travel Agent, Kochi.

Let’s Share our thoughts

India’s most idyllic state, Kerala {better known as God’s Own Country} is today one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia. Secluded beaches, palm fringed backwaters, most clad hill stations, lush tropical forests, waterfalls, exotic…More
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Climate change to cost $2 trillion annually in damage to oceans: Experts

Greenhouse gases are likely to result in annual costs of nearly $2 trillion in damage to the oceans by 2100, according to a new Swedish study, by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI ). Warmer seas will lead to greater acidification and oxygen loss, hitting fisheries and coral reefs, it warns. Rising sea levels and storms will boost the risk of flood damage, especially around the coastlines of  Africa and Asia, it adds the cost of damage from global warming. Continue reading

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Reliable information that proves cheating!

The information about the cheating by SPORTS is startling. There have been consistent complaints about the corruption and incompetence of the SPORTS, the society functioning under the Lakshadweep Administrator for promoting Lakshadweep Tourism. But the ‘SPORTS’ purposefully ignore complaints and fail to answer any queries for redressal of grievances. Continue reading

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Lakshadweep Tourism

This is exploitation of the ethnic population

The forum on Lakshadweep is informative and extensively covered with facts to substantiate the first hand experiences of the tourists and tour operators dealing with the Lakshadweep admin.a.k.a SPORTS. Continue reading

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Any complaint against Lakshadweep Tourism? Let the fact speaks for itself!

Instances were many in the recent past where the enthusiastic tourists to the Lakshadweep Islands were put to untold miseries and strain during the course of their trip to this exotic islands of the Lakshadwep. Continue reading

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Right To Information Act – Help Desk

It is a known fact that the islanders of Lakshadweep are facing multiple problems in their life due to geographical reasons on one side, which is multiplied many fold by the negative actions and attitude of the officials who are entrusted with the important responsibility of supporting the islanders and bring them up on par with those well educated, well cultured and well settle people of the main land. The local people have no basic knowledge of complaining before the appropriate offices or gathering information on any matter, that have adversely affected them. Continue reading

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KELSA Legal Services

The LD Legal Services Authority, Legal Services in Lakshadweep.

The Kerala State Legal Services Authority (KELSA) is constituted to give Legal Services to the people besides conducting Lok Adalatsand to give effect to the policies and direction of NALSA. Continue reading

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Stop Destroying Lakshadweep Tourism!

Stop Destroying Lakshadweep Tourism!

This is with regard to the potential and flourishing Lakshadweep Tourism. It is unfair to keep on complaining. When situations are compelling, a layman has no other way. There is nothing unusual and no one would normally feel affected in the Government bodies holding meetings to transact official matters at the time and venue of their choice. The problem encountered in Lakshadweep is the ‘eviction of tourists from their occupied accommodation to alternate but uncomfortable areas to suit the convenience of the authorities to their meetings’. Continue reading

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Why these obstacles in the most sought after Lakshadweep Tourism?

The number of tourists visiting the Lakshadweep through the ship packages of SPORTS, the body authorized to and responsible for conducting such tour packages, is always on the increase. But the SPORTS is not able to provide adequate travel facilities to the tourists. The last minute cancellation of ships, denial of berths etc., are causing untold miseries to the tourists who reach the office of SPORTS at Kochi with great enthusiasm to begin their exotic tour to enjoy the scenic beauties of Lakshadweep islands. Continue reading

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Paradise Hut, Kavaratti Island, A Promising Boon To Lakshadweep Tourism

“PARADISE HUT”, KAVARATTI ISLAND
A PROMISING BOON TO LAKSHADWEEP TOURISM.

“PARADISE HUT RESORT” is a totally reconstructed holiday complex, ideally situated in a prime spot in Kavaratti Island. The tourist complex is a three storied block including the ground floor, and each floor consists of two cottages. There is now a total of six cottages altogether in this new resort building constructed by the Lakshadweep administration.

The resort was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Lakshadweep Administrator Mr. Amar Nath on 22nd December, 2011. The Paradise Hut is ideally located in a prime spot with all modern facilities and high standard food at affordable rates crowned with a touching hospitality is definitely a promising option especially for the domestic tourists to Lakshadweep, who are very often confronted with non-availability of accommodation. Continue reading

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Yachting Safety

Yachting as a Sport and a source of recreation can be very exciting. However there are various safety precautions a Yachter must undertake and be prepared for. YachtsIndia.com has here, some of the basic safety precautions listed which would be useful to a Yachter make his / her Yachting experience an enjoying and a memorable one. Continue reading

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Kerala The God’s Own Country

Kerala is one of the beautiful states in India, sandwiched between the Western Ghats on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the West. A tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches, this thin strip of coastal territory slopes down from the mountain ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation. Continue reading

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Yachts & Yachting History

Sailing as a sport and recreation owes its creation to Piracy. The traders and sea farers were in deep trouble when they couldn’t recover their lost assets from the sea thieves. Thus began building ‘jaghtschips’, or ‘ hunting ships’, the word ‘jaght’ in Dutch means ‘to hunt’. Continue reading

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Tourists held hostage in Kalpeni Island, Lakshadweep

Kochi: Around 130 domestic tourists, including over 30 children came from various parts of the mainland were stranded at Kalpeni island in Lakshwadeep after locals prevented them from boarding boats to their ship. The captors were using the tourists to highlight grievances against the local administration, who operate the tour programme. Continue reading

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Boating and Sailing

Boats or small ships have been use since time immemorial. Perhaps the urge to sail across the rivers, seas and oceans urged Man to develop better and huge boats carry livestock, granary and his folk to new places. Continue reading

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Watersports: Sport Diving

Springboard Diving and Platform Diving.

Basic dive has four distinct phases: the starting position, the take-off, the in-flight maneuvers, and the entry into the water. Continue reading

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Watersports: Swimming

Swimming is an integral part of almost all water-based activities. It is also a competitive sport itself.

People can swim in any body of water large enough to permit free movement. These areas include ponds, lakes, rivers, the ocean, and pools. Most people enjoy swimming in water that is between 18° and 29°C (64° and 84°F).

The act of moving through the water by using the arms, legs, and body in motions called strokes. Beginners first put their heads in the water and blow bubbles by exhaling. Gradually, students progress to floating, treading water, and ultimately, learning the techniques of the major strokes. The most common strokes are the crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and sidestroke.

Safety Measures

Continue reading

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Lakshadweep Development Corporation Ltd. (LDCL)

Union Territory of Lakshadweep, a group of small islands in the Arabian Sea, 16 hours journey by sea fromCochinwith vast tourism potential and foreign exchange earner, is under the administrative control of the Administrator, UTL.  Lakshadweep Administration is the Governmental organ for carrying out the day-to-day administration of the islands of theLakshadweep, including socio-political activities, education, health and welfare of the islanders.  Continue reading

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