Lakshadweep is a tropical archipelago of 36 atolls and coral reefs in the Laccadive Sea, off the coast of Kerala, India. Not all of the islands are inhabited, and only a few are open to visitors (permits required). The helicopter skimmed across the lagoon, the turquoise waters only partially hiding the formations of coral rock. In seconds, the island of Agatti with its ribbon Diving in Lakshadweep Islands-like runway was a speck behind us. Below, the colours were changing rapidly, for beyond the coral reef the pale blue had changed to a deep blue where the currents of the sea threw up white-capped waves. Kavaratti, one of the more developed islands, is home to dozens of mosques, including the ornately decorated Ujra Mosque, as well as Kavaratti Aquarium, showcasing regional fish, shark and coral species. Then suddenly, the sea below seems to start frothing and I draw the pilot’s attention to it, who pushes back his headset and yells, “Tuna!”
The Lakshadweep islands are the only real coral islands in the country. They almost seem to float out of nowhere some 400 kilometres from the coast of Kerala and of the 36 islands, only ten are inhabited. Most of them are long and irregular with a lagoon enclosed by a coral reef usually on the western side. Believed to have been formed as a result of coral activity, each lagoon abounds with some spectacular growth of corals, which in turn supports a diverse array of marine life. The tiny, narrow islands with their coconut palms, white coral beaches and lovely, shallow and clear waters, combine to make it a tropical dream, which few parts of the world can match.
The tranquillity and the beauty of the islands leave their permanent impression and to go back to the coral beaches becomes a dream. Days, months after I sit in a darkened auditorium and listen to the leader of the Trishna Expedition as he describes their travels around the world in a sailing boat. Pictures flash on the screen and we drift with the speaker…through Africa, Europe and the Windies. Visions of grass-skirted dancers and the Australian Barrier Reef. Then, from somewhere in the dark, the inevitable question… which was the most beautiful place? To each, its own, says the speaker, but if he had to choose, he would settle for those tiny islands in the sun…the Lakshadweep Islands.