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Paradise Islands

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You will find paradise at the edge of nowhere. The archipelago of islands, off the southwest coast of Kerala, is also referred to as Lakshadweep. These coral outcrops in the Arabian Sea, are what dreams are made of: powdered white beaches lined with swaying coconut palms and emerald-blue lagoons.

The first thing that strikes visitors as they stroll down its pristine beaches is that they were strewed with millions of shells, each one home to fascinating little creatures with eyes on antennas. One tends to teased them but eventually returns them to the sea. Instinctively one recognizes that these were living beaches still largely untouched by man and tourists and that one has stumbled on them but briefly.

Way too briefly if you should opt to go on the island-hopping cruise that sets sail from Cochin. Indeed, this cruise could probably be described as the Third World’s version of a Caribbean cruise where tourist spent nights on the ship and days on the islands of Kavaratti, Kalpeni and Minicoy. Of course, the ship’s facilities are thread bare when compared to the luxury liners that sail the seven seas and one has to make one’s own entertainment which tourists do in good measure under the gaze of a million twinkling stars. But when it came to the Lakshadweep: they were as beautiful as any island you will find the world over.

Kavaratti is the capital of this cluster of 36 coral islands of which only 10 are inhabited. The ship stays anchored out at sea and tourists are ferried by small boats to the island. Much of the time spent here is on the beach, splashing around in warm inviting waters and/or peering into their depths through a glass-bottomed boat and marveling at the exotic fish that swim amongst colorful coral gardens. Come sunset and tourists head back to the ship.

They awake the following morning with Kalpeni framed in the portholes of the ship. Three satellite islands are marooned in its immense lagoon and one can spend endless hours here splashing around in turquoise blue waters, punting in pedal boats and/or lazing around on bone white coral beaches. Minicoy, the last stop, is also known as the woman’s island for the men here fit nicely into a metrical society, taking their wife’s family name when they marry, moving into her home and looking after the household chores. Like the rest of the Lakshadweep, Minicoy is a stress-free environment. After another day of frolic on virgin beaches and in crystal clear waters tourists are ferried back to the ship one last time. That night the ship heads back to Cochin and reality. The island-hopping cruise is brief but it does give one a flavor of paradise.

File Facts

Kochi, Kerala is the gateway to Lakshadweep. One can either fly (the airport is on the island of Agatti) or sail on a ship to Lakshadweep.

Technically all visitors, Indians included, needs a permit to enter Lakshadweep. However, the permit comes as part of the package on any of the tours organized by the Society for Promotion of Recreational Tourism and Sports (SPORTS), a body that controls and regulates tourism in Lakshadweep.

In addition to the five nights, three-island cruise SPORTS also offers a number of other packages including options to spend nights on select islands. Laca Dives conducts all-inclusive, scuba diving courses in association with SPORTS on the island of Kadmat.