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Old 13th December 2011, 00:05   #1
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Default Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals

STATUTORY WARNING : EXTREMELY LONG AND DETAILED TRAVELOGUE & PHOTOLOGUE AHEAD

First up, this is actually an old private travelogue that I had not uploaded on team-bhp, so most of the following article is a copy-paste job. I actually went in Jan this year and it is already December. Although 11 months overdue, I decided to go ahead and post this travelogue here for the benefit of others wanting more information on visiting this paradise archipelago. When I was planning this trip, I struggled to find information on the tour packages, pictures and place information, etc.
Owing to the lack of information on Lakshadweep here on team-bhp and on the web, hopefully it would be useful to upload my travelogue here, if any of you are planning to visit this place and want some information. If you haven't visited this place yet, I urge you to do so whenever you can!

With that short disclaimer, my extra-long travelogue begins -


Ever heard of Lakshadweep islands? Its a place which is never really in the news, isn't it? No one speaks about this lesser known place in India. The island natives hardly ever interact with the outside world, and tourism there is very, very restricted so Lakshadweep's popularity can hardly grow. Come to think of it, the last time I had ever had anything to do with Lakshadweep was during my schooling days, when we would draw India's map in the Geography class. I vaguely remember grabbing hold of our pencils and hammering a cluster of dots next to Kerala somewhere in the Arabian sea as 'Lakshadweep'.

It was around a year ago that I was scouting around for possible exotic destinations which weren't too heavy on the pocket (which ruled out foreign trips) when I found pictures of this wonderland on google's image search engine. To me, this place looked just like Maldives or Mauritius. Reading up a little more uncovered a few facts. Lakshadweep has one of the last few surviving coral reefs in the world, apart from the Great barrier reef at Australia, the Bahamas and a few others (I could be wrong). Tourism as such is hence quite restricted here to preserve the coral species and other marine creatures endemic to these islands. High influx of tourists brings with it the curse of destruction, of this fragile environment through pollution and exploitation of natural resources.

Only Indian tourists are allowed in Lakshadweep (except for Bangaram island which is the only island open to foreign tourists). Even for us, visitor permits have to be approved and arranged well in advance through SPORTS, the government body in charge of all kinds of tourism related activities in Lakshadweep. Also, one more reason for this place being unspoilt is that there is a ban over the sale and consumption of alcohol all over these islands (except for Bangaram). I would say this is a huge boon since it prevents the mad revellers' crowd from getting here and converting it into another Goa or Andaman.

Coming back to my trip plans, my friends and I had planned to go in late 2009 - early 2010, the plan didn't materialize and we had to cancel out our bookings since a few of us couldn't make it to the trip. This time there were just 3 friends including myself who had agreed to go to Lakshadweep. Most others from my gang were caught up with either personal or work commitments and hence couldn't spend 1 week away from their commitments. Nevertheless, we decided to proceed anyway with 3 people as the final count. We planned for Jan 15th - Jan 21st 2011 as the trip schedule choice from the available batches on the SPORTS website. SPORTS is the government authority which manages all the tour packages to Lakshadweep. Apart from Bangaram island, private resorts do not operate anywhere else in Lakshadweep.

For more information on Lakshadweep, tourism in Lakshadweep, planning a visit to these islands and to clear any further doubts, please refer to the official SPORTS website -

Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports - Lakshadweep Tourism

SPORTS operates tour packages to Lakshadweep between October and May. The months between June and September are off bounds due to heavy rains on the islands during monsoons, rendering watersports impossible. They (SPORTS) usually put up 4/5/6 day ship schedules for the different islands/packages during October-May and we are supposed to choose whichever schedule is convenient for us. The dates are not completely flexible in that sense.


The Excitement :-

We had planned the entire trip right from September 2010. We opted for the 6 day 'Marine Wealth Awareness Programme' tour package to Kadmat island from Jan 15th to Jan 20th (as per the ship programme schedule chart put up on the SPORTS website). The plan was to leave on Jan 15th by ship, reach Kadmat island on 16th (overnight journey by ship takes around 18 hours), spend 16th, 17th, 18th on the island engaged in watersports such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and scuba diving. Of course there was always the option of basking on the sun kissed white-sand beaches doing nothing all day. We were to depart from Kadmat on 19th and return to Cochin on 20th by another ship.


The Disappointment... and the Consolation :-

All bookings were done, payments were made, flights were booked, receipts were collected and we were all set for our mega trip. However, during the first week of January the crew union of a few ships which ferry passengers to and from the islands, stopped all services in lieu of a strike they organized against the Lakshadweep Development Corporation. One of the ships involved in the crew strike incidentally was the one which was supposed to ferry us back to Cochin on 20th Jan. This ship was 'M V Minicoy'.

The SPORTS official in charge of booking called me up and told me all the MWAP programme customers were affected by this strike and he could refund my money immediately. Not to be put off easily, we decided to try and make this trip happen somehow. After a dozen phone calls to this SPORTS official and requests to transfer our bookings to another package whose ship was not affected by the strike, he finally budged and transferred our names to another package called "Lakshadweep Samudram".

According to "Lakshadweep Samudram" package's itinerary, we would leave on 15th Jan, reach Kadmat island on 16th morning. We would spend the day on the island engaged in watersports and sightseeing, and would return to the ship at night. Overnight the ship would travel to another island, Kavaratti. Again, we would be spending the entire day on the island doing whatever we wanted to. At night we would be transferred back to the ship and overnight the ship would travel back to Cochin and reach on 18th Jan. Although a different kind of package from what we wanted earlier, this would avoid the disappointment of having the trip getting cancelled altogether. Finally we decided we would go on with this new compromise formula although it was a day lesser than the initial plan.


The last minute preparations :-

I spent some time googling for possible sightseeing locations around Cochin and narrowed down the search at 'Alleppey' alias 'Venice of India' with its famous backwaters. I stored the phone numbers of 1-2 resorts there since we had plans of spending that extra day (19th) at Alleppey. I specifically chose Prince Hotel, Alleppey and 'Palmgrove lake resort'. I also looked up and stored the number of 'ATS Willingdon', a no-nonsense hotel close to the ship harbour in Willingdon island, Cochin since we needed some place close-by in case there was some confusion or delay in the ship departure on 15th, which actually happened later.

We had our morning flight at 5.30 am on 15th so that meant I had to wind up all my packing activities by 14th night. Since there would be watersports, there were additional things I needed to carry, such as extra sets of clothes and swimming gear. Fitting 7 or 8 sets of clothes, cosmetics and essentials into 1 suitcase and 1 kit bag was always going to be a bit tiresome. Needing to accommodate my camera's tripod in between the clothes (in the suitcase) didn't make things any easier. Finally everything was done by evening.

After getting my SLR camera+notebook bag ready with charged batteries, lenses, lens filters, freeing up memory on the cards, putting in spare memory cards and finally shoving in the charger, I managed to fit the laptop into it. Last but not the least, an envelope containing my passport (for permit to Lakshadweep), all our flight e-tickets, booking receipts of SPORTS and my travel agent was shoved into a small compartment and everything was set. I'd made a checklist of things just to make sure I wouldn't forget anything back home and regret later. After doing a revision of the checklist and making sure all the things were packed into their respective places, I barely managed to get any sleep or rest on 14th night, owing to the excitement and thrill of a week-long trip, and my first ship journey at that.

Last edited by KarthikK : 18th December 2011 at 10:47.
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Old 15th December 2011, 20:18   #2
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a week with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

Day 1 - Flight from Bangalore to Cochin, a small change in the schedule, sightseeing in Cochin

Our flight's departure time was at 5.30am on 15th. I had set the alarm for 2 am (heartfelt thanks to BIAL for relocating the airport 50km away from the city!). After a hot cup of tea and a weird 'midnight bath' I was ready by 2.30 am. The taxi I had booked had already made its way to my house and was waiting outside. I heaved in my heavy suitcase and my kitbag into the boot, managed to carry the dead heavy camera backpack to the car and went on to pick up my other 2 friends. We managed to complete the pick-ups by 3.30 am and were finally on the way to the airport now. The driver covered ground quite quickly and in half an hour, we were already at the airport. We finished the check-in, were in the waiting lounge by 4.30 am and there were at least 45 minutes remaining for the Kingfisher staff to announce the boarding for our flight.

We were allowed to board the ATR-72 flight at 5 am. The flight departed on time and the pretty Kingfisher air-hostesses were top notch in terms of service, as usual. In an hour we reached Cochin, took a prepaid taxi to Willingdon island, Cochin which is actually the ship harbour area. Our destination was the Lakshadweep tourism office (SPORTS) on Willingdon island.

We reached the office by 8.45am, unloaded all the luggage and enquired at the office as to when we could get the boarding tickets and depart for the harbour. To our horror, we discovered that the Lakshadweep Samudram package was postponed by a day and would now depart on 16th January instead of 15th January. This was because of the ship strike - the island natives who had been stranded in Cochin because of non-availability of return transport were demanding that all ships carry only the island natives (and no tourists) since theirs was a more critical situation. I sympathized with them on this. We found that other fellow tourists who had booked the same package started arriving at the Lakshadweep office from different parts of India - a couple from Bangalore, a family from Rajasthan, a group of cousins from West Bengal and the like. Most of them were perplexed since they had all booked return tickets by train or flight for 19th (assuming the original programme which was supposed to bring us back to Cochin by 18th). Now the additional 1 day delay caused a furore because it meant most of them would have to reschedule their flights/trains since return time on 19th was unsure. Fortunately we 3 had our return flights on 21st morning so we could afford this delay.

With this new change in schedule cropping up, we called up ATS Willingdon (a hotel very close to the ship harbour) and enquired for a room for 1 day since we had to return to the harbour the very next day to board our ship. We checked in to the hotel by 9.30 am, had breakfast- just Appam with vegetable stew since nothing else listed on the breakfast menu was available! We then asked the hotel receptionist to arrange a taxi at 1.30 pm for some popular sightseeing destinations in cochin for that day (to pass time), returned to our rooms and took a nap for a few hours, to compensate for the lack of sleep owing to the odd flight departure time.

A shiny, silver cab was waiting for us at 1.30 pm as promised, albeit with a malfunctioning A/C that we were charged for. I could fortunately converse with the friendly driver in Tamil this time and that made things easier. Going by his suggestions, we stopped at a restaurant named 'Hotel Abad' en route to old Kochi, the older part of this harbour city, to visit some historical pre-independence monuments and a beach. After a moderately heavy lunch, we went to Matancherry Dutch palace. This was not exactly a palace, at least it didn't look like one. It was just a museum certified by the ASI (Archeological Survey of India) and had a few historical artifacts and surprisingly life-like paintings of the kings in Kochi who ruled during the late medieval ages and British era. After this museum, we passed through the old Jewish colony in Kochi. Quite a few Jewish shopping centres and Kerala-style handicraft shops adorned the road. This place was thronging with foreign tourists in the hot afternoon. We spent around an hour here and then went to another area of old Cochin, known as Fort Kochi.


Police museum, West Kochi
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Jewish shopping alley in Matancherry, West Kochi
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Antiques on sale!
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In fort Kochi, we visited a 400 year old church, called the Santa Cruz Basilica church, and another church very close by - this time it was the oldest church in India built by the Dutch in 1503 - St. Francis church, which apparently houses the remains of the legendary traveller Vasco Da Gama. After visiting these, we went to Fort Kochi beach, spent an hour strolling here and walked along the beach to the place where Chinese fishing nets are used (this is a popular tourist spot in Cochin). After a few snaps here, we went back to our taxi by sunset time. The driver had told us to find him here after walking along the entire length of the beach. We were dropped back to the hotel by around 6.45 pm. We were too tired to do anything else after reaching the hotel. We just ordered for room service and chatted the time away till our dinner arrived and crashed.


Santa Cruz Basilica church, Fort Kochi - one of the oldest churches in India
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St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi - the oldest church in India built in 1503 by the Dutch
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A 500 year old inscription stone at St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi
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Fishing boats and Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi beach
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Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi beach
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Spending time till sunset, near the Chinese fishing nets
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Last edited by KarthikK : 18th December 2011 at 08:57.
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Old 15th December 2011, 22:13   #3
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a tryst with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

Day 2 - Exploring the ship, Setting sail for Lakshadweep, bidding Adieu to the Indian mainland for a while!


I woke up at 6 am and went for a stroll around our hotel on Willingdon island, watching the fishermen depart in their small boats and get to serious work by dawn. My other 2 comrades were still asleep when I returned to the room by 7.30 am. Since the SPORTS official had told me to report at 10.30 am at their office to collect the ship tickets and boarding passes, we still had lots of time to get ready. We ordered for room service and had breakfast in our room while we freshened up and got all our luggage packed in the meanwhile to save time.


After checking out of the hotel, I went in search of an autorickshaw to transport us and our luggage to the SPORTS office for the ticket/boarding formalities. After some difficulty, we managed to find one guy on this secluded stretch out of the city, who didn't understand what we were saying andwas thinking we were bargaining.The funny guy then got out of the rickshaw, took a stone and scribbled the amount on a patch of mud to tell us how much he wanted to drop us there!! Willingdon island is part of the old Cochin city and is now largely unused, except for the ship harbour.

After arriving at the SPORTS office, one friend waited with the luggage downstairs while I went upstairs to the office on the 2nd floor and collected our ship tickets and boarding passes. We were given 1 kit bag each, containing a cap and a T-shirt bearing 'Lakshadweep Tourism' logos, stickers proclaiming 'Bon Voyage' meant to be pasted on all our baggage, and a brochure explaining the itinerary and details of other packages SPORTS offers. They are quite professional for what we had initially expected from a government organization. The front desk guys were also working with a smile on their faces, answering any query which customers were putting forward. SPORTS took care of all the formalities professionally. After we collected our kits by around 11 am, we were directed to an Indicab taxi waiting for us downstairs which took us to the ship boarding centre for a security check, around 1 km away from the SPORTS office on the same road.


Arriving at the Lakshadweep passenger reporting centre
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The security check procedure was similar to what one could find at our domestic airports. After the baggage screening, the bags were sent to the ship harbour by another cargo vehicle, while we tourists were sent in batches by mini-buses to our ship waiting at the port.


Suitcase full of security checks and stickers
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After alighting at the port and collecting our respective baggage, we stood for a while and gazed at the massive structure that we were about to enter. The ship, 'MV Kavaratti' was around 500-600 feet long, and supposedly weighed around 3800 tonnes. We heaved in our luggage, entered the ship and began searching for our cabins. The ship was so huge inside that we got lost. After directions from a crew member passing by, we found our rooms on the topmost floor right next to the deck, and settled in. MV Kavaratti's diamond class cabins accomodate 2 people in bunkers in each cabin. Since we were 3, I was allocated another cabin. Fortunately there was no other stranger in my room and I ended up having the delightful little cabin all to myself.


A view of the gigantic M V Kavaratti, our cruise liner ship to Lakshadweep
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A view of the front of the ship
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The labyrinth/maze style passages inside the ship which had us going around in circles!
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All cabins and passages were fitted with announcement speakers for the crew to inform guests about meals being served, disembarkation to islands, informing passengers of lost and found items, etc. At around 1 pm, we were chatting in our room when the announcement was made about lunch being served. We found our way to the first class cafeteria and waited for the lunch buffet counter to be opened. Lunch menu was not elaborate, but it was quite a healthy and balanced diet. Lunches and dinners on the ship, as we would soon find out, usually comprised of soup, pulkas, rice, 2 or 3 veg gravies, 1 dal variety, and curds. Dessert would be something simple yet tasty such as porridge, custard or ice cream with fruit salad. There were few items, but everything was unlimited.

After lunch, we were informed to stay in our cabins until the MMD (not sure what that stands for) surveyor team had completed technical inspection of the ship and approved the departure. Once they departed, the crew announced the green signal to roam around on the decks. We then set about exploring deck after deck, in the front of the ship, the rear of the ship, the lower passages, the life boats and the engine room.


Stairway to the top of the rear deck
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View of the side of the ship from the front deck
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A swimming pool on the deck (sadly, it was empty due to a crew strike that happened a few days earlier)
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Another view of the harbour from the ship
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The staircase from the harbour to the ship
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Entrance to the ship port from Cochin city
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Life jackets stored onboard the ship
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A Helipad on the rear deck
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Other ships parked at the Willingdon island harbour, Cochin
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After a few snaps in the late afternoon, we went downstairs for tea by 4 pm. There was surprisingly still no sign of the ship leaving Cochin. On enquiring with the SPORTS guide on board the ship, he said there was a minor technical glitch which they were sorting out and the ship should be on its way out of the port by 5 pm.

There was a briefing session for all tourists of our package in a Recreation room in the 4th floor. We were shown safety videos, instructed on safety measures in case of a calamity (akin to the procedures explained on board flights such as life-jacket operation, etc) and shown a video about Lakshadweep tourism and what we could expect in the next few days. The SPORTS official told us about the plan to visit Kadmat on Monday and Kavaratti on Tuesday (2 main islands in Lakshadweep). The recreation room had a TV cable connection for entertainment but we were least bothered in watching TV, of all the things you could do on a ship!


At around half past 5, the passenger staircase to the harbour was disconnected, and the magnetic fasteners on the ship sides were unlocked from the harbour. A service vessel arrived at the side of our vessel. It had a heavy duty cable which they tied to one of the points on our ship. This ship then towed our ship sideways out of the harbour "parking lot". Our ship couldn't manage to turn and come out of it on its own, since there were other ships standing in front of it in the parallel parking lot. Slowly once the ship got into the proper exit position in the harbour, it started accelerating and all the passengers were on the deck, most of them first timers on the sea (very much like us). Almost all were taking snaps on the deck with their family members. There were around 60 or 70 of fellow passengers on our same package. 90% of these passengers were families, apart from a few couples. We were the only bachelor-group on the ship I guess, owing to the fact that consumption of alcohol is banned on lakshadweep


Service vessel arriving to tow our ship
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Service vessel towing us out of the harbour sideways, sunset envelopes Cochin city in the meanwhile
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MV Tipu Sultan, apparently a famous ship which has served the mainland-lakshadweep transit routes for decades
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Passing by other ships as we make our exit out of Cochin harbour
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Passing time on the seats at the rear deck of the ship
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Bidding adieu to the mainland as the ship heads out into the Arabian Sea towards Lakshadweep
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Sunset on the Arabian Sea
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The diesel powered ship was soon at its cruise speed of around 17 knots, which is equal to around 30kmph. We were on the decks till the sunset completed and darkness enveloped us on all sides. After dinner at 8 pm, we came back to the deck and spent some time there. As the ship entered deeper and deeper into the Arabian sea, I could feel the air getting denser and heavier due to the humidity. Finally after 11pm, we could sense our minds drifting towards dreamland after the hot and exciting day. We went back to our cabins, made preparations for the next day's island visit and retired to our bunker beds. There was a constant swaying motion from side to side, as though on a rocking chair. This is different from what you may have experienced in sleeper berths on trains or buses. I don't suffer from motion sickness and apart from the weirdness, I wasn't affected much. However, if you have a tendency to feel nauseous during car/bus drives in hilly areas, there is a good chance that you will feel the sea sickness affecting you here on the ship. A lot of passengers in our package were complaining about having nausea after a few hours of being on the ship. You would be better off taking an anti-motion sickness medication such as Avomine, to ward off the effects. Sleeping on the swaying ship was a little weird and it took some time for me to go to sleep that night.


Timepass on the deck post dinner
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Old 16th December 2011, 00:03   #4
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a week with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

Day 3 - Kadmat island beckons, first experience at Scuba Diving amidst coral reefs, lazing around on the spectacular beaches of Kadmat

It was our first sunrise on a ship and we were eager to find out what it would look like with the Arabian sea enveloping us on all sides. we woke up pretty early and rushed up to the rear deck. We were moving away from the coast and going westwards, so the sunrise could be seen clearly from the rear of the ship. It was nice to see a long trail left behind our ship extending into the horizon. After a few snaps here we went down for tea. Breakfast was served with fruits at around 7.45 am and we gobbled that down as well.


Sunrise on the rear deck as we move away from the East. The trail left behind by our ship is clearly visible
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Diamond class cabins in the ship
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Since the ship had departed late from Cochin, we were supposed to reach Kadmat island at 9.30 am instead of 8 am. After breakfast, we went to the rear deck and took some pictures. We also ended up climbing the ladders to reach the topmost part of the ship where the radar and the engine exhausts were located. The presence of the exhaust made things too uncomfortable up there and we soon descended. After a while it started to get hot and stuffy as the sun was now fully up in the sky by around 8.30 am. We decided to return to the safe and cool confines of our AC cabin and prepare our backpacks with what we wanted to carry to the island.


The ship in the middle of nowhere
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Passing time on the front deck
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View from the captain's cabin - front of the ship
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Climbing aboard one of the many decks on M V Kavaratti
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Fuel supplies!
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Way to the front deck and recliners for sunbathing
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Taking ladders to climb to the absolute top of the ship
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At around 9 am, we caught our first glimpse of the island. We went to the front deck and were surprised to see how beautiful the island looked as we approached it. It was a long strip of dark green, surrounded by an outer layer of sand. The island was surrounded by a turquoise green colored lagoon with coral reefs marking dark blotches in the lagoon.


The view from the cabin window - waiting to reach the island
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Is it the island? Is it the island? Ahoy! Yes it is!
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And finally, the first view of Kadmat Island from the ship
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0287.jpg



The light colored water that you see in most lagoons around the islands are caused due to coral reefs building up for years together and forming an underwater wall which blocks access of the ocean's water waves into the beach directly. As such the waters in lagoons are very calm and very little waves are felt. The depths in these lagoons are hardly 15-20 metres, and that is the maximum I am speaking about. These shallow waters are full of corals and other aquatic plants. Vivid kinds of colorful marine creatures thrive amongst these corals making it an underwater wonderland worth exploring through means such as scuba diving and snorkelling.


The underwater coral wall separation which encloses the island lagoon - the turquoise waters of the lagoon are virtually cut off from the main ocean - the color difference can be clearly seen in this picture
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We watched the island as we approached it. The ship finally stopped around 4-5 km from the coastline and dropped anchor there. Since the depth is shallow in the lagoons, the ship's bottom would scrape the ocean bed. All passenger transfers were done through motorboats plying between the ship and the island jetty. After an announcement came through on the radio, we were instructed to take our hand baggage with the extra set of clothes, camera, etc. and go down to the disembarkation door at the 'basement' of the ship. Our other belongings would remain in our cabins and the cabins would be locked until we returned to the ship in the evening. The motorboats are tethered to the exit door in the ship through which we disembark. There were crew members helping passengers to jump into the lower, swaying motorboat. Once the capacity was filled up, the motorboat left towards the island. The motorboat steering driver was quite skilled and took a diagonal direction towards the island. Directly going in a straight line would mean coming in line with the waves and that would cause the boat to sway a lot. By taking a detour neither along nor against the waves, there would be minimum disturbance for the boat.


Once we reached jetty, we stared around trying to take in the magnificent view all around. There were small buses arranged to take us from the jetty to the island resort and watersports location, which was on another end of the island. Kadmat island is around 8 km long and 400 metres wide. We had quite some time till our bus came so we managed to get some good shots of the surrounding scenery and the turquoise beaches previously only seen on computer desktop wallpapers.


The view from the boat Jetty at Kadmat island
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Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0294.jpg



Kadmat island boat Jetty
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Is this place real? Go check it out!
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Checking out the sights and sounds at Kadmat. Surprisingly, there were quite a few mopeds and autorickshaws for this small, 8 km long, 500 metre wide island.
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0300.jpg


The bus ride which followed was very thrilling- thrilling because the bus was so badly maintained, it resembled a tractor in sound and vibration levels. Secondly, there was a narrow concrete road which ran along the circumference of the island - 'outer ring road' really . the roads passed by many small houses half buried in white sand, most of them with 2-3 coconut trees outside and bicycles for transportation. After about 10 minutes of this ride, we arrived at the Kadmat Island resort on the other side of the island, where tourists could engage in watersports on a beautiful beach just outside the resort. Food would later be served right here. The elliptical shaped island is just 8 km long, and is 500 metres wide at its widest point.


At the resort, we thought there would be a huge demand for scuba diving at Lacadives, the private Scuba diving operator on Kadmat, and hence decided to make a beeline to get our bookings in before all slots were sold out to other fellow tourists. We decided to skip snorkelling and swimming and do that post lunch or even the next day at Kavaratti. Scuba diving was part of the reason for coming to Lakshadweep itself. It was only natural that it got first priority among our activities!


Exploring the area around Kadmat beach resort
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Postcard picture beaches
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Registering for our Scuba diving session at the Lacadives centre, Kadmat
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Fortunately for us, no one had yet made a booking and we were the first ones in. We were greeted by a tall, well built danish guy (whose name I forgot) who introduced himself to us as the instructor in charge of Lacadives that time. He was a PhD student in marine biology and was actually doing some research on the effect of global warming on the coral colonies in the Indian ocean. To do that, he had a scuba diving license and was also authorised to teach newbies this art. He had around 4000 tropical dives under his belt to boast of. This chap was very humble, friendly and jovial. It was a real pleasure interacting with him. He asked us about our interests, where we came from, and what brought us to Kadmat. Soon after half an hour of chatting, he put us onto the beginner dive session of around an hour and a half. We signed on all the disclaimers and made all the "I am healthy and fit to undertake this" declarations and jotted down a zilion "No"s on all the "Do you suffer from XXXX health condition?" questions on the registration form. After filling up everything, getting it reviewed by him and making the payments, we were ready to dive into the water. He gave us wetsuits to get into and showed us the directions to the changing rooms. After an initial goofup of wearing the wetsuits on the wrong side, we finally fixed things and got ready for the briefing and the dive.


He led us to the jetty and briefed us about the equipment used, how to use the controls, hand signals to make during the dive to communicate under water since sounds are useless down there, things to avoid touching (some corals and creatures are poisonous) unless approved.
The equipment is fairly simple. You wear a skin tight wetsuit first. Then there is an armour or rather a sleeveless jacket which you have to wear over the wetsuit. There are 2 cylinders mounted on this jacket. They are heavy, mind you! One cylinder is called the 'Buoyancy Control Device' or BCD in short. There is a knob attached to this cylinder. Adjusting that either inflates your jacket or deflates it so that controls your depth in the water. Inflate it to come up to the surface or deflate it to go down. The other cylinder is for the air required for breathing. The mask we are supposed to wear blocks and seals the nose and the eyes airtight. We are then asked to breathe through the mouth using the tube attached to the air cylinder. The apparatus is so designed, that when we inhale, the air is drawn from the cylinder, but when we exhale, the air comes out as bubbles and doesn't enter the cylinder or contaminate it. Small pebble-like weights are added to pouches in the jacket, around the waist area, if downward 'sinking' needs to be forced.


Finally after all of this 'gyaan' we were ready to get into the water. Since there were 3 of us, he assigned 1 mentor to each of us and we set out on the dive. I was assigned the same danish guy. After getting into the water, he made us practice the breathing technique using the apparatus a couple of times. Once we made ourselves familiar with the process, he showed us to equalize pressure in our ears (by holding our nose closed and blowing hard) to prevent pressure buildup on the eardrum, which happens when we go deeper and deeper into the ocean. The pressure difference between the middle ear and the outside world increases causes a clogging and in fact, could lead to the eardrum rupturing if not equalized. The equalizing is done after every few metres of depth difference when we were descending. Once we had reached the 10-15 metre depth, we were moving around the place swimming underwater without changing the depth much. Again when we ascended and finally completed the dive, the equalization was repeated.


Getting familiar with the Scuba diving equipment after a Gyaan session by the instructor. The one in the centre is me, and the blonde guy was my instructor
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-img_2612.jpg


The one and a half hour dive was the most fascinating thing I have ever done in my life. We first passed through loads and loads of sandy areas with nothing much apart from a few underwater weeds growing there. Soon he took us closer to coral reefs and as we approached those areas, marine life started to appear as though in a dream. Slowly we started to see some fish swimming by us. Soon, we were witnessing awesome sights of scores of Blue tang(s), different colors of Butterfly fish and surgeonfish, sting rays, flame angelfish swimming around us and cheerful clown fish playing amidst the phosphorescent corals.

My mentor poked a sea cucumber and it immediately disappeared (poof!) and compressed to a size of a tennis ball. I did the same next to another one and the same mysterious thing happened! Talk about magical mysteries and they are right here. I watched that my mentor kept a safe distance from many corals and signalled to me to avoid touching them (poisonous stuff!). A shoal of hundreds of barracudas passed by us as we watched motionlessly. Scores of tiny fish and big fish alike nibbled at food in between the coral reefs, going about their daily foraging work.


The colors of these fish were striking and mind-boggling to say the least. We were thoroughly awestruck by the beauty of this underwater fantasy land. The water was so clear I felt as though I was in a gigantic aquarium in some dream, swimming along with these mystical creatures of the ocean. Finally, (and sadly) our one and a half hours were up and our mentors had a good look at the dwindling air levels in the breathing cylinders, and motioned to us that the 90 minute underwater tour was over. Shortly after, we surfaced. To my surprise, we were at the jetty when we came back up! I had lost total sense of direction while underwater. He had taken a lot of twists and turns during the dive!


After a couple of photos with him and with the equipment to showoff to our folks back in India, we bid goodbye to him, returned the wetsuits and proceeded to the island resort by around 1.30 pm where the others were already having lunch by then. All the other tourists had finished their swimming sessions on the other side of the island (opposite to where we did the scuba diving). After a sumptuous lunch, there was a rest period of around an hour.


The single lane 'outer ring road' of Kadmat, it runs along the circumference of this tiny elliptical island
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0396.jpg

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Old 16th December 2011, 00:40   #5
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a week with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

SPORTS had organized a local folk dance during this 'rest' period, in front of the island resort where we guests were. After this, most people took afternoon naps on their chairs, I grabbed my camera and rushed to take some snaps of the awesome wallpaper material beach (it was thankfully now empty) which we hadn't yet explored.


Local folk dance at Kadmat
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Pristine beaches at Kadmat island. I doubt there is a cleaner beach in the world than this
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Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0354_5_6_tonemapped.jpg




Close-up of a green coral which was washed ashore
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More images of this beach
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Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0374_5_6_tonemapped.jpg



Beachside cottages at Kadmat
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Hundreds of corals strewn across the coastline
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More images of this out-of-the-world paradise island
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Vivid sand patterns formed by the lagoon's retreating waters during low tide
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One of my friends interrupted my photography session and asked me to go back to the beach resort. It looked like the guide was giving some kind of instructions to the guests by the time we walked back to him. The break was over, and the mini-buses departed to take us to a Desiccated coconut factory and the SPORTS guide showed us how the processing is done. Close to this place was a rope factory which manufactures and exports ropes made from coconut coir. These two visits together took around an hour and we were back at the resort by 4 pm for tea and snacks.


A couple of local school kids are fascinated by my DSLR and stop to take a look at what I'm clicking
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Entering the desiccated coconut factory at Kadmat
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An island native at work inside the desiccated coconut factory
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Natives busy at work inside the coconut coir rope factory
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After frolicking on the beach for a while, 4.30 pm was departure time and the buses took us back to the initial motorboat jetty where we first arrived in the morning. That was on another end of the island. Soon our boats started arriving and picking up people in batches to drop us off at the ship before 5 pm. The seas get quite rough during sunset time by around 6 pm due to high tide, and it is no wonder SPORTS usually sets the departure time from the island much ahead of the risky period.


Some more pictures before departing - This was the small jetty from where we launched our Scuba diving expedition
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Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0444_5_6_tonemapped.jpg




Kadmat island east coast
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Passing these Buoys while on our boat ride back to the ship
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Bidding adieu to Kadmat island. High tide started causing a few violent waves by evening, experienced on our boat ride. The rough waters are captured in this picture
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0451.jpg



After the headcount was checked at the ship and making sure no tourist was left behind, the ship set sail for Kavaratti. We were quite tired from the scuba dive and were still feeling dirty with the lagoon's salt water bath (during the dive) making us feel a little sticky and uncomfortable. All of us ended up taking multiple showers in our cabins to wash the excess salt off, after which we headed out to the decks. Once dinner was ready at around 8 pm, we arrived much ahead of everyone else, gobbled it up and went back to our cabins. Around an hour was spent transferring, reviewing and admiring the fantastic scenes we had managed to capture at this spectacular island. After this, we hit the sack since we couldn't control our sleep anymore. An eventful and unforgettable Day 3 had come to a close.

Last edited by KarthikK : 18th December 2011 at 09:22.
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Old 16th December 2011, 01:09   #6
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a week with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

Day 4 - the capital of Lakshadweep, more turquoise waters, Swimming, Kayaking and Reef Snorkelling


It was our 3rd day on the ship and by now, I had got used to the swaying motion but still couldn't manage to sleep beyond 5 am on any of these days. I woke up and freshened up quickly but when I entered my friends' cabin, only loud snoring noises greeted me. A view from my Cabin window revealed a huge cluster of shimmering lights. I guessed this had to be Kavaratti island. Since Kadmat and Kavaratti are hardly around 150 km apart, the ship had already reached Kavaratti in record time. We were just circling it at a low speed, perhaps the ship captain had a fixed point where he dropped anchor, or so I thought. After a while of gazing at this view, I had tea and went up to the front deck alone. Since it was winter, sunrise was a bit late. The rising sun was presenting a few marvellous scenes as it crept up from behind an array of dark grey clouds. The contrast of the orange against the grey was enough to bring up half the passengers to the deck with their cameras, clicking away like there was no tomorrow. My two sleepy-eyed friends made their way up the stairs and came to the deck too! I brought up my tripod and managed to get some snapshots of the spectacular sunrise.


Circling Kavaratti island at dawn
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Picturesque sunrise on the Arabian sea, as seen from the front deck. ISO should have been tuned better to prevent graining, my bad!
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After the sun rose completely and there was nothing else to do up on the deck, (we had finished exploring the lengths and breadths of all the decks on this ship on the previous day) we decided to head to the cafeteria even before the food could arrive! As usual, breakfast was announced at 7.30 am, and disembarkation was announced at 8 am. We even remembered to apply Sunscreen lotion this time around, which we forgot on the previous day and got sun-burnt properly! The islands are very pleasant but the sun can do some good amount of damage by tanning people beyond recognition here. Remember to carry loads of sunscreen if you tour these islands.


This time around, a bigger transfer motorboat (than the one at Kadmat) was there to ferry us to Kavaratti island. Almost 50-60 guests were accomodated in this single motorboat. The transit time was also quite a lot this time. The motorboat nearly went around the entire island taking around 15-20 minutes to reach the beach which we were supposed to stay on, for our watersports and meals. The waters here were more turquoise in color than at Kadmat. The waters also had a distinct, bright phosphorescent radiance here, leaving us dumbstruck and at a loss for words. The beach at Kavaratti was probably the most beautiful and picturesque place I have ever witnessed in my life.


Motorboat transit to Kavaratti island
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Passing by the construction site of a new Jetty
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Leaving the ship behind and heading towards the island
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Approaching Kavaratti island
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A shortcut beach entry for smaller boats
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Unbelievable shade of Blue waters in the early morning as we approach Kavaratti island. This shade of blue was incredible. Supposedly happens due to the phosphorescent corals.
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Alighting at Kavaratti's Boat Jetty
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By around 9 am, all the guests had reached in 2-3 shuttles and we were all served tender coconut water as welcome drinks. There was a notice board where the day's schedule was put up. Also, an announcement area with a speakerphone was arranged in the midst of a few coconut trees. From here the SPORTS official would keep announcing the schedules of events.



The board says it all!
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Saddam Beach! That's the name of this beach
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How the day was supposed to unfold
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First sights at Kavaratti
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Pristine beaches at Kavaratti, these waters had a distinct turquoise touch to them, more than the waters at Kadmat
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1 particular entry on the "Today's schedule" notice interested us - Snorkelling session on the coral reef. We immediately registered for this and collected our coupons. They told us they would call out the coupon numbers in batches, to be taken by boat to the coral reef for snorkelling later on in the day. We nodded our heads and moved to the common guest area. To our disgust, all the island beach umbrellas were occupied by the time we finished the registration and came back to the beach. Meanwhile, we were running out of cash in the wallets, so we took the help of the SPORTS guide and decided to hunt down an ATM in Kavaratti close to our beach. To our disappointment, the ATM didn't have cash notes that day, or probably wasn't yet filled up. So we took a stroll around the small island town to pass time.


The one and only traffic signal in Lakshadweep, is at Kavaratti
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We made our way back to the beach at around 10 am. Soon there was an announcement about a Glass-bottomed boat ride in the ocean for all guests. We were again given batch numbers on coupons and asked to await our turn. 2 glass-bottomed boats took turns to take 10 people in each trip, each lasting around an hour.

Over to the first activity of the day after the announcement. We 3 were booked for the second slot/boat. Around 10 guests were taken into the boat from a rubber platform floating near the beach. All were given life jackets to be worn, and then we took off from the beach. The boatmen kept going around the coral reefs around 1-2 km from the island, at a very slow pace. Although the water in the ocean was crystal clear, the glass bottom panel of the boat wasn't really clean! As a result, quite a few fish could be spotted but they weren't clearly visible. The boatmen tried tossing a few bread crumbs to lure some fish to the boat, but the fish were lightning quick and no one could even get a proper glance at them on the surface. After about an hour of this boat ride, we were back at the beach.


Glass bottomed boat ride to view the underwater life. Dirty glass though!
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Tossing bread crumbs into the lagoon for the fish
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It was still around 11 am and we still had lots of time left. Life jackets were tossed by the hundreds, on the beach for guests to use. Although we knew swimming, SPORTS had instructed all guests to compulsorily wear life jackets when entering the water. We changed into our swimwear, fastened our life jackets and rushed into the turquoise water like madmen. After around an hour of swimming, we tried our hand at Kayaking, fighting amongst ourselves for the very few number of Kayaks which were available here. Kayaking was really no good here (in fact, quite boring) since the waters were very calm in the lagoon. It is probably best enjoyed on rapids / white water rafting routes on rivers. More than an hour was spent frolicking on this beach. All this while, our belongings were on chairs on the beach, a little away from where the other guests were sitting. The place was supposedly pretty safe but anyway we had to keep an eye on my camera bag and my friend's handycam to avoid any thefts!


Kayaks on the beach
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More sights from Kavaratti's beaches - the cliche`d 'coconut tree on beach' snap
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Sundried fish anyone? This was a large drying yard for the smaller catch
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0654.jpg

Last edited by KarthikK : 18th December 2011 at 09:29.
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Old 16th December 2011, 23:03   #7
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a week with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

At around 12 noon, the first batch of guests who had registered for Snorkelling, were called. We were taken in a boat around 2-3 kms off the coast and into the middle of a massive coral reef colony. There was a rubber platform which was being towed by the boat. All snorkellers were asked to go onto that rubber platform. Here an instructor briefed us about how to use the snorkelling mask to breathe, and made us wear our life jackets. I had carried my old Nikon Coolpix camera on the boat with me since it was useless one now and I tend to use it for all rough-and-tough situations where I cannot risk using a DSLR. After giving the camera to the instructor, we were then allowed to jump into the ocean and do what we pleased, for the next 1 hour. There were about 10 of us in that batch, if i remember correctly. Since this mask was pretty similar to the scuba diving mask, we 3 had no trouble whatsoever, in getting used to the breathing technique. The only difference was this mask had a tube jutting out over the water surface and drew air from the atmosphere while we were swimming on the surface, while in scuba diving, that breathing tube from the mouth is connected to a cylinder. Since the breathing part is also taken care of, all you have to do is to put your head down facing the ocean bed and observe all the marine life and activities which are going on at the ocean bed. It is really fascinating to experience and almost like scuba diving, but the difference is you cannot go close to the creatures and experience them at touching distance like in scuba diving. While snorkelling in Lakshadweep, the life jacket prevents you from going down so you are always at the water surface. Wearing this is compulsory here, so it is a bit annoying if you are a good swimmer who would like to go closer to the reefs! You have to stay up on the surface and observe, that's it. The authorities are dead strict about preserving safety of the tourists and want nothing untoward happening. I respect their commitment to preserving safety, so no complaints.

Picture disclaimer - Pardon me. The Snorkelling pictures in this post were all taken with an old 5MP nikon P&S camera and are of a lower quality


The rubber platform which was towed along with the boat and used to 'launch' snorkellers into water
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-img_2744.jpg



Departing for the reef snorkelling session
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2 out of the 3 of us (including me) knew swimming. We kept snorkelling all over the place getting awesome views of a large variety of colorful corals, colorful fish and many weirdly shaped creatures as well. After an hour of snorkelling in this coral reef, we finally went back to the rubber platform and climbed back up into the boat. None of the other snorkellers had brought their cameras and hence, wanted a picture with their spouse or family member(s) to be taken, which they would collect later when we were back on the ship. After these boring, forced photography sessions, it was time to climb our boat and head back to the beach.


This is how brightly colored the water is at Kavaratti's coral reefs
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Snorkelling instructor demonstrates how to use the equipment
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Crystal clear water at Kavaratti's coral reefs allow for visibility upto 15-20 metres. The water is as clear as any well maintained aquarium!
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Some snaps during the snorkelling session. Life jackets are compulsory here in Lakshadweep, irrespective of whether you know swimming or not. The authorities were very strict about adhering to this.
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dscn5762.jpg



Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dscn5763.jpg



Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dscn5766.jpg



On reaching the beach, the first thing we did was obviously finding changing rooms. There were changing rooms, and weird ones at that. They were completely kachcha, made of coconut palms and without bolts! Even the doors were made of these coconut leaves. Talk about being rustic! After some circus here, we proceeded to the lunch room. Veg meals were served separately in an indoor room, while the non veg coastal stuff was being served in the open right on the beach. Apart from 1 other family, everyone else in the tourist group was non-vegetarian so we veggies were the only 7 people in the entire room. Lunch comprised of pulkas, salad, rajma, rice, alu gobi, papads, curd rice and pickle. It was a basic menu yet it tasted very nice. Hungry after all the watersports, we pigged out on all the items until our stomachs could take no more. There was a half hour rest time after lunch.


At about 2.30 pm, we were all taken in buses to a Marine aquarium and museum around 2 km from our beach. There were a few varieties of fish and corals in aquariums, and boards explaining their significance. For all practical purposes it resembled a public aquarium. Attached to this was a museum containing many dead marine species preserved in glass containers with salt solution (not sure what that is called, maybe Brine?). There was also a tank where a small shark was kept. There was only a ladder to climb up to the opening and everyone wanted to have a look at it. We waited in the queue for around 10 minutes and had a chance to look at it finally, only to see a tiny 2 feet long shark! All that waiting to see this was useless! We saw bigger reef sharks in person during the previous day's scuba diving session.


After this visit, we were dropped off at the beach again. We had a lot of time before our motorboat transfer time, so we took a walk into the town of Kavaratti and hunted for a shop which sold souvenirs of Lakshadweep to take back home. After this small shopping stint, we walked to the ATM again to try our luck. This time thankfully the cash was filled up into the machine, and we were able to draw some cash for future expenses. We walked back to the beach and rejoined the other guests. By around 4 pm, tea was being served with a local Lakshadweep snack - a sweet wrapped in a coconut leaf. There was some kind of folk dance happening here, being performed by small kids from the island. After this, there was a break for another half an hour announcement that our motorboats would arrive in a few minutes to take us back to the ship. At around 5 pm, we boarded the motorboat and arrived at the ship again.


A departing view at Kavaratti
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Reaching the anchored ship
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After another day of water sports and the humid climate, we were tired and sweaty again. All of us took a shower, went up to the front deck and watched the ship sail on the seas with the full moon presenting a very pretty sight. As soon as dinner was announced, we rushed down to the cafeteria and had a heavy dinner. Post dinner, we transferred our respective cameras' photos and videos onto the laptops. In addition, the fellow snorkellers who had requested photos with their families earlier in the afternoon, came to our cabin to take their photos. After all of them left, it was around 9.30 pm.


The 3 of us then proceeded to pack up all our luggage which was strewn all over our cabins, over the 4 days that we had spent aboard the ship. Once everything was done and cleared up, my friend and I installed Flight simulator on his laptop and we played for another 2 hours, with me teaching him how to fly virtual Boeings and Airbuses.

Last edited by KarthikK : 18th December 2011 at 09:48.
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Old 16th December 2011, 23:52   #8
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a week with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

Day 5 - Back to the Indian mainland, off to the famous backwaters in Alleppey, Kerala.


We woke up a bit late on the fifth day. It was already 6.30 am. We freshened up and went to the deck, where most of the tourists were now perched. We soon found out the reason - tons of fishing vessels of varying shapes and sizes were visible across the entire stretch of horizon overlooking the Arabian sea. We were clearly very close to Cochin now. There was another spectacular sunrise again with the multiple ship silhouettes visible in the morning twilight. After spending what might have been our last half hour on a ship deck (at least for the near future), we went back to our cabins and got ready for the departure. From our cabin window, we could see the harbour clearly by now. The ship slowed down and there was an announcement that breakfast would be served by 7.30 am. After having our breakfast, an attendant came to each cabin to inform us to keep our baggage outside our cabins and proceed to the recreation/announcement room on the 4th floor. All the tourists gathered there and waited till the ship came to a complete halt and was attached to the harbour boarding platform. This took around an hour and we utilized this time to plan our day's programme.



Sunrise -a view from the deck as we approach Cochin harbour
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We had 2 days remaining till our return flights to Bangalore. Since I had brought along the phone numbers of 2 hotels in Alleppey, we decided to book our rooms and take a taxi from the ship harbour to Alleppey (Alleppey is around 50 km from Cochin). I first called up the backwater resort and found that it was full with bookings. One of my friends was browsing the internet, googling for various backwater resorts and their phone numbers, but it looked like none of them were available. Strange, that being a wednesday! We finally zeroed in on the other option - Prince hotel, Alleppey. This was closer to the town but it wasn't a backwater resort. We decided we would take a rickshaw to the backwaters and take a boat ride for a few hours, that was a compromise formula since we could not get any rooms in any backwater-facing resorts.


Over to our ship situation - by around 9 am , the ship had come to a complete halt and the staircase platform was soon attached to the ship. All the passengers were allowed to get down the narrow stairs one by one to prevent confusion. The luggage was brought down by crew members and porters, some luggage by tying ropes from the top and lowering them to the platform, some carried by the porters along a different staircase. We had to identify our respective baggage and collect them. After all our bags/suitcases were collected, we proceeded to the ship harbour exit by 9.15 am, where taxi drivers waiting for customers started to hound us. Finally, we negotiated with one of the drivers for a reasonable price to take us to Alleppey, and once the agreement was finalized, we were on our way to the famous 'Venice of India'!


The car journey took us around 1 and a half hours. Both my friends were asleep by the first 10 minutes, and I started to ask the driver some questions about Alleppey. The over-enthusiastic driver soon started chattering non-stop in broken tamil and broken english, sometimes with malayalam words. He raved about malayalam films, actors and actresses, eagerly pointing to roadside billboards of movie promos and explaining the actors and their lives After about an hour of this non-stop, one-way chatter, we were in Prince hotel, Alleppey. The driver knew Prince hotel quite well. It was a famous and old landmark here according to him.

We checked in to the hotel and passed some time watching TV. By noon, we were getting bored so we decided to take a stroll around the hotel. A visit to the handicrafts shop outside Prince hotel saw my friend picking up a few Kerala style wall hangings. After around 20-30 minutes of walking it started to get quite hot (in Kerala, you can imagine how hot it usually is!) and we started to see if there was any eatery around to have lunch. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we gave up, went back to Prince hotel and into the Vembanad restaurant on the ground floor. Since it was still around 12.30pm, there were just the 3 of us in the restaurant. We ordered our lunch and munched leisurely on the kulchas and dal makhani, discussing the eventful past 4 days over the meal.


After lunch and a subsequent hour of rest in the room, we left by around 2 pm after taking instructions from the hotel receptionists about Backwater visits and boat rides. We got into an autorickshaw and asked for 'Finishing point', the place where boat rides are available on Alleppey's backwaters. The place was around 3-4 km from the hotel.

As we started to approach the place, we soon started to see canals with boats, running parallel to our road. Finally we arrived at finishing point, which seemed to be a huge parking lot for boats. You could call it a marine version of a bus terminal! Various sizes of boats and houseboats were here for hire. An agent soon spotted us and started to stalk our every move. It wasn't long before he approached us with a huge grin and started offering packages for boat rides. He thought we wanted a houseboat package for 2-3 days. The same language problem haunted us again- he could speak broken english and broken hindi, could not understand tamil. It took me 15 minutes to make him understand that we had no intention of staying on houseboats (why would 3 bachelors want a houseboat package anyway!! ), but were just looking for a 3 hour boat ride on the backwaters till dusk. After bargaining and negotiating comically with hand gestures depicting the numbers, we managed to arrive at an agreement for the price for 3 people on a small motorboat. After the prepaid amount was given, the agent entrusted a boatman to take us all around the backwaters and return to the parking lot by 6 pm.


The boat parking lot at 'Finishing point', Alleppey
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We started from the boat parking lot and went on the serene backwaters for a while, after which the boatman wanted to take a break for lunch. He stopped by at a small eatery and headed inside with us having nothing to do till he came back. There was a house next to the eatery where there were 2 pet EAGLES! We were terrified in the beginning, but the owner convinced us they were harmless. We finally mustered the courage and even clicked photos with the bird on our hands. After the boatman came back, we went along the picturesque, green backwaters, passing a few backwater resorts, encountering a million motorboats and houseboats along the way.


Our small, tacky boat that we managed to hire for a 3 hour backwater ride
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Entering the serene and picturesque backwaters
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Passing a few lakeside resorts along the backwaters
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Refreshments along the backwaters
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This was a pet eagle at the house!
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Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0736.jpg



More sights of the backwaters
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Most of these houseboats were loaded with foreign tourists
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Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0776.jpg



After a couple of route changes, the boatman took the boat on canals along lush green paddy fields and coconut tree canopies. After an hour or so, he turned around and took us along another route towards Alleppey city, as per our request to avoid repetitive routes. We passed on narrow canals where there were houses along each side of the canal and the inmates had no 2 wheelers or 4 wheelers, just boats of different sizes. There were no bus stops, only 'Boat stops' if you can call it that. Large motorboats occasionally stopping at these stops would pickup the inmates of this venetian village and head towards the city. With multiple canals instead of roads, and boats instead of vehicles, this town is almost totally on the water. No wonder then that this place is deservedly called the 'Venice of India'. Visit it once to experience the feel of life on the backwaters.


A pair of coconut trees with paddy fields in the background
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Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0799.jpg



Funny signboard outside a house - they mean no parking for boats!!
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0807.jpg



Calm waters
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A traditional Race boat, used for the famous boat races during Onam festival in Kerala
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Symmetric reflections
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There are no bus stops in Alleppey, just 'boat-stops' in this Venetian wonderland!
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0833.jpg



Departing shots of the mesmerizing backwaters
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-dsc_0797.jpg



After we finished our 3 hour ride on the backwaters by 5.30 pm, we bid goodbye to the boatman and alighted at the shopping centre next to 'Finishing point', the place where boat rides end. We took a stroll on this crowded road and ended up purchasing some local Kerala style handicrafts to take back home. Although it was winter, it was quite warm and stuffy even at 6 pm. After scouting around for a juice parlour, we finally found one. It was quite crowded but we had no option given our desperation to quench our thirst. After downing 2 glasses of juices and ice creams, we took another auto rickshaw and went back to the hotel.

After reaching the hotel, we spent the rest of the evening transferring and photos from our respective cameras to the laptops, then exchanging and viewing each others' photos and videos. Our rather over-sized room service order for dinner had also arrived in the meantime and we munched on the items, with 3 of us ending up eating a dinner order which was fit for 5 people! We were trying to watch TV but the signal quality wasn't too impressive at that hotel. After around 10.30 pm, we decided to call it a day. .

Last edited by KarthikK : 18th December 2011 at 09:52.
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Old 17th December 2011, 00:08   #9
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - a week with the sun, sand, corals and backwaters

Day 6 - Return to Cochin city, laze around in MG Road, Cochin, last but not the least - Banana Chips shopping!


I woke up early in the morning and went for a short stroll around the hotel. My other 2 friends were still asleep when I returned. Slowly they woke up and we proceeded to pack all our luggage again. All 3 of us got ready, went downstairs by 9.30 am to the reception and informed them that we were going to check out by 10 am. We also requested them to arrange a taxi for us to MG Road Cochin. We wanted a lodge close by to the airport and inside the city so we googled up and booked a room at Woodlands hotel, MG Road. While we were waiting for the taxi to arrive, we had breakfast at the ground floor restaurant and settled the bills. Shortly after, the taxi was waiting for us. We departed Alleppey by around 10.30 and reached Cochin at around 12 noon.

We checked in to the hotel room at Hotel Woodlands (unfortunately we got a room only on the 5th floor), kept all our belongings, freshened up and decided to take a stroll along MG Road and have lunch at some other hotel on the way (we were bored of room service by now!). We found a hotel called 'Udupi Anantha Bhavan' about 100 metres away from our hotel. The food was not satisfactory and we ended up leaving halfway through the meal. The only good thing on the thali was the papad!

Post lunch, we did some window shopping at the shopping area on MG Road. We observed that around 75% of all shops were jewellery showrooms in Cochin! It is a fantastic place for Jewellery shoppers! After getting bored of window shopping, using google maps we then tracked down a well known destination in Cochin for all tourists - the no.1 place to buy Banana chips - 'Malabar Chips', around 2-3 furlongs away from MG Road. After quite a bit of bargaining with the shopkeeper (who was in fact a kannadiga!) we made some wholesale purchases to take back home. The overjoyed shopkeeper smiled at his bounty sale and readily packed our 10 kg-odd purchases in cartons that we could check in at the airport baggage counter. Taking turns heaving our heavy banana chips carton, we walked back to hotel by around 3 pm. On the way we were overjoyed at spotting a Pizza hut outlet, finally some familiar place that we could eat at! We vowed to come back there for dinner since we were already bored of eating Kerala cuisine food over the past 6 days.

It was astoundingly hot for a winter afternoon and we were glad to be back in our air conditioned room. After a short afternoon nap, we freshened up and left the hotel room again by 5 pm for a long stroll around the area. This time, we moved in the opposite direction to our afternoon stroll. After some window shopping at a book fair and some time in an adjoining athletic stadium watching kids play cricket, soccer and the like, we finally made our way back to MG Road. We stopped for half an hour at Cafe Coffee day, MG road and had some cold coffee and fruity mocktails to quench our thirst.



Stopping for a break at Cafe Coffee day, MG Road, Cochin
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It soon became dark and we took a nice long walk along the entire length of MG road until 7.30 pm. We decided to go to Pizza hut in the opposite direction and turned back. We sat for around 2 hours and had a nice, heavy meal at Pizza hut, washing it down with some chilled lemonade, quite apt for the sultry weather. By 9 pm, we walked back to the hotel and requested the receptionist to book a taxi to Cochin airport by 5.30 am. The receptionist also took our request to give a wakeup call by 5 am, just in case we overslept or missed our alarms. Our flight departure was at 7.45 am, reporting time was 6.45 am and the airport was around 30 km away. With just an hour to reach the airport, we were not taking any chances in a foreign land, were we?

We tried to settle the bill beforehand at the reception counter, since we were not sure anyone would be there in the early morning to prepare our bills. The receptionist however insisted that we settle it only when we vacated the place. We went back to the hotel room and packed up all our luggage one last time, before tucking in to bed. Day 6 came to an end.


Day 7 - Back to Home-Sweet-Home!

We woke up at around 4.30 am, got ready to leave and wheeled in our luggage to the ground floor reception. The receptionist prepared the bill for checkout, and shortly the taxi also arrived at the place. 2 of us loaded all the luggage and while my other friend settled the hotel bill. By 5.30 am, we departed Woodlands hotel, MG road, Cochin. The journey was quite short, owing to the fact that our cab driver was an aspiring Formula 1 driver, weaving in and out of lanes and traffic at breakneck speeds. With all of us clinging onto the grab bars above our seats throughout the rollercoaster journey, we finally reached the airport well ahead of the boarding time- we managed to reach at 6 am, thanks to our race class driver!


A long wait ensued at the Cochin domestic airport terminal. Finally boarding was announced at 7.15 am and we were taken to the same ATR Kingfisher aircraft that we used on our journey from Bangalore to Cochin. The flight departed on time and reached 10 minutes earlier here at the Bangalore airport by around 8.30 am. The temperature when we landed, according to the pilot who made the announcement on the flight, was 16 degrees here. We were somewhat relieved to return to the chilly weather in Bangalore, after 6 days of sweating it out In Lakshadweep's and Kerala's coastal climate.


Boarding at Cochin's airport terminal
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-01212011120.jpg


A close-up shot of the ATR-72 500 Turbo-prop aircraft starting up at Cochin's terminal - PIC SOURCE
Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals-kingfisher-atr72-500.jpg


Flying over the western ghats
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Circling Bangalore city, awaiting permission to land
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After collecting our baggage and coming out, we were quite famished and headed straight to the Subway store at the exit. After munching down enormous sized subway sandwiches, by around 9.30 am, we wheeled in our luggage to the BMTC Volvo airport service area, to take a Volvo to the city. Dozens of taxi drivers hounded us all along the way negotiating for prices. Most of the taxi drivers who come to the airport to drop customers, wait there and try to get customers for the return journey. Since they anyway have to go back to the city in an empty car, they could as well ferry someone in it and pocket that money for themselves.

After striking a deal with one such cab driver, we made our way to the city in around 2 hours, after taking deviations to avoid the infamous peak hour traffic at Mekhri circle underpass and Malleshwaram. Soon I dropped both of my friends at their houses and made my way back home. It was 12 noon when I reached home, paid the driver and walked in with all my luggage


A Fabulous 7 day trip had come to an end. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to dive amidst the mystical marine life in the pristine waters of Lakshadweep, to laze around on the white sand beaches and soak in the sun, to travel on serene backwaters with dozens of idyllic houseboats, coconut trees and paddy fields in Alleppey's backwaters, and certainly a priceless experience with my first journey on a ship cruise in the ocean. This fantastic trip will undoubtedly remain etched in my memories forever.

My personal opinion about Lakshadweep as a tourist destination - Lakshadweep is no lesser than Maldives or Mauritius in any way. Please don't miss an opportunity to go here and experience India's very own Maldives - at less than half the cost of those over-hyped tour packages, especially for those looking for watersports. Maldives is just marketed better and more facilities are provided for tourists, however, geographically both Lakshadweep and Maldives are quite similar. In fact, Lakshadweep is totally unspoilt and is not crowded and plagued by tourism, unlike other holiday destinations. That makes it a much better place in my opinion. Visit it once to witness and experience the true beauty of lagoons, coral reefs and marine life!

I totally appreciate the government's efforts to promote responsible tourism in Lakshadweep through SPORTS. They deserve a Kudos for managing all the Lakshadweep tour packages from end to end.

Looking forward to go to Lakshadweep Islands once again in the future!


Thanks for taking the time to read this long travelogue.

If anyone wants any information on visiting Lakshadweep or on the watersports there, please do feel free to drop me a PM, I'll be glad to help

Last edited by Rehaan : 6th April 2015 at 12:39. Reason: Old thread, but adding source for pic #3. Please don't watermark other peoples pics!
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Old 18th December 2011, 10:54   #10
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals

Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 18th December 2011, 12:35   #11
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals

Absolutely gorgeous set of pics! Just glanced through the entire thread and I am sure the narration is going to be equally entertaining. There goes my rest of the Sunday.

Thanks for sharing KarthikK.
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Old 18th December 2011, 12:38   #12
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals

Super awesome.
I pray to god that the beauty remains unspoilt.
This is a must place visit for me now.
Thanks a lot for sharing this.
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Old 18th December 2011, 16:49   #13
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals

Fantastic log, Karthik!

What a beautiful place - stunning, Lakshwadeep is! Added to my list of must see places in the country
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Old 18th December 2011, 22:35   #14
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals

Fantastic travelogue. Rated 5 stars. One question - do you need to know swimming for snorkeling?
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Old 19th December 2011, 07:50   #15
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Default Re: Lakshadweep: Paradise Islands - A tryst with the sun, sand, lagoons and corals

Picture perfect. Those are the only two words that come to me!
Very nice indeed and a full coverage of Lakshadweep.
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