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Luxury Yacht Charter Destination - The Lakshadweep Islands

Sep 3, 2008
It's difficult to find areas not overly developed for tourists these days. As soon as one is discovered, the world finds out about it and before long, it has lost its charm.

Fortunately, there are still a few places that are untouched by mass tourism, where you have a chance to experience local life to the fullest. The Lakshadweep islands, off the Malabar Coast in Kerala, India, is one of those places. The local government has made it their mission to keep it that way too, by promoting tourism only on islands that can sustain it, and keeping it all as eco-conscious as possible: high-rise buildings are banned, only bio toilets are allowed, rain water is collected to conserve fresh water, electricity is supplied by solar power, and they even go so far as to encourage tourists (and locals) to burn coconut husks instead of using pesticides to fight off mosquitoes and other pests (Bravo! I say. If only governments everywhere could follow suit).

The islands, atolls and reefs of Lakshadweep are actually the mountaintops of a submarine volcanic range, the Chagos-Laccadive Plateau (which also includes the Maldives and Chagos). The name suggests that there are many islands in the group (the Malayalam word Lakshadweep translates to "a hundred thousand islands") but in reality, there are only 36. Ten are inhabited, but, in keeping with the effort to limit tourism, foreign visitors are only allowed on 3 of those: Bangaram, Agatti and Kadmat, and you will need a permit from the Indian Government to be able to visit.

There are a couple of yacht charter companies on the mainland, and you have the option of flying over to Agatti Island (a 1.5 hour flight) from Cochin and meeting up with your boat and crew there, or starting out from Cochin and sailing across, which takes around 3 days. Bareboat charters are hard to find here, but skippered and crewed are readily available.

Lakshadweep has a monsoon tropical climate, and the best (driest) time to visit is December to March. The air temperature remains in the 80s and 90s, and the water in the upper 70s to low 80s year round. All the other ingredients that make up a paradise getaway are here too - white sandy beaches shaded by coconut palms, aquamarine lagoons, sparkling coral reefs and an abundance of colorful marine life. Food and drink, however, is not a major reason to visit - the islands are not exactly known for their cuisine, and being 95% Muslim, alcohol is not permitted (except for on Bangaram, and the Bangaram Island Resort consequently boasts a well stocked bar). The main reason people come to visit is the ocean and all activities related thereto: scuba diving (the islands are recognized as one of the best diving spots in the world), snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, swimming and sunbathing.

The westernmost island in the group, Agatti, is home to the only airport and one of the two resorts (Agatti Island Beach Resort) in Lakshadweep. It has one of the most beautiful lagoons in the area, a museum of Lakshadweep's history, and a mosque built in the 16th century.

Bangaram is uninhabited, except for the staff and guests at the aforementioned Bangaram Island Resort. Spend an afternoon here snoozing on a sandy beach to the soothing sound of the ocean, or, if you want more action, get in it. The diving here is fantastic and you can expect to see sharks, rays, moray eels, turtles and a myriad of colorful coral reef fish - angels, clowns, butterflies, surgeons. If you're new to diving and want to give it a try, the diving center at the resort offers courses.

Diving is also a popular pastime on Kadmat, the only island in the group with has lagoons on both sides. There is a Water Sports Institute and Dive School here which, in addition to diving, offers windsurfing and parasailing and also rents out kayaks, pedal boats and glass bottomed boats. Kadmat, which only allows 48 tourists at a time, is becoming increasingly popular with honeymooners looking for privacy in paradise.
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