With air conditioner of the ship back to normal, it was one of the most pleasant nights we had in the whole trip. But unfortunately the trip was about end before noon. We were fast approaching Indian mainland. I wanted to take the last sunrise from the ship’s deck. But was disappointed as the sun was hidden behind the thick clouds. As we were strolling on the deck, captain’s cabin was nearby and the chief engineer of the ship called us to the control room to show us the ships main controls. It was a engineering marvel.
I quote here from the ships brochure
This all-weather passenger ship, MV Kavaratti, built for the Lakshadweep administration by Hindustan Shipyard, Visakhapatnam, made its maiden voyage to the islands in the first week of August, 2008. The Rs.173-crore ship, the largest passenger vessel ever built in India, is 120 Meter long and has a speed of 17 Knots. The ship can carry 700 passengers and 200 tons of cargo. The ship has world-class facilities like a 152-seater cafeteria, 100-seater dining hall, Recreation room, gymnasium and a very large airspace to enhance passenger convenience on-board. The ship is fully Air conditioned by centralized air-conditioning system and has been built to world class standards. The ships have cafeteria, snack bars, doctor on call, entertainments and upper-deck promenade. Ship facilities include three independent galleys, halls, recreation place with a swimming pool and a helipad. The ship has 100 Deluxe Berths (2 Berths in each room) and has 70 First Class Berths (4 Berths in each room).
We reached Kochi around 9:30AM but had to wait for permission to enter into Wellington Island. There was very high security (some unconfirmed rumor said that they had found few foreign nationals sneaking into India through Lakshadweep islands via these ships). Customs, Coast guard, Navy all were checking the ship and asking about the identity. This delayed our disembarkation further. So finally around 11:30AM we disembarked from the ship. This checking had prevented porters to enter the ship, so it was left to us to take down heavy luggage on a dicey ladder leading to the ground. We had a hurried lunch and rushed to nearby Ernakulam Railway station station to catch our train which was due at 1:05PM. We reached railway station at 1:00PM. Just when we searched desperately to find the correct platform to board our train, we found out that all the trains are delayed as some goods train had derailed along the route. we waited for our train which arrived at 3:30PM but refused to leave. Finally we left Ernakulam Railway station at around 8:30 PM and reached Mangalore on next day 9:30AM with the delay of over 12 hours.
Many have asked why I gave the name Nir-Laksha Dweepa for this series. What I felt after 5 days on this ship was like this. It was a great trip which had all the facilities but due to negligence of the tour administrators, as well those who thought about the tour itinerary, the whole trip was ruined despite having divine locations, corals, beaches.
Ship was used only as staying cabin & food court. We used to reach ship before sunset. There was lot of free time which could have been used for some interaction with other members of our package tour. We had a swimming pool which was dry as a bone. We had recreation room which used to transmit IPL matches all through the day. There was no space there to do anything other than watching that idiot box. All through 5 days we hardly saw, interacted or spoke with tour operator. He promptly visited us on the last day to get feedback forms so that he can dispatch them to his seniors and get a appreciation from them. Apathy shown in a typical shoddy working manner which was evident all over.
I have no complains about the island. They are as pristine as can be for any of the best tourist spot, but the Snorkeling was one of the highlight of the trip, it revealed a new fantastic underwater world which surpasses all the CGI wizardry shown in Avtar movie by over 100 times. Don’t waste money going to Maldives, Lakshadweep has much more sea life for a fraction of cost.
You can book Samudram package which is the one we took. Check this link on Lakshadweep Tourismfor further details. It starts from Kochi and ending at Kochi in a 5 day 4 night package. Cost of the whole trip was around INR 20,000 and for children INR 10,000.You can book these packages with any travel agent. If you are going in large group then it will be of much fun as you can evolve your own way of enjoying the trip. Do note the cabins are arranged in the ship so that odd number cabins are one side of the ship and even numbers are on the other. So even if you get continuous number of cabins you may be separated due to this arrangement in the ship.
This is what they promised in their travel brochure (all the bold entries below are their publicity material) and this is what I felt about the trip:
- On board ship accommodation – well you can’t jump into the sea and sleep can you? Notice how they conveniently forgotten mention of air conditioning of the ship. We thought it was our bad luck that the AC got damaged in our trip. Later found out from ship’s crew that it was a constant phenomenon since a month or so. They did not expect to have it corrected fully till monsoon break.
- All meals while onboard including snacks – food was good and adequate. It was more like a canteen food than cruise food. As a ardent foodie I missed local dishes which were nowhere in the menu
- Adventures & Entertainment Ashore – There was far more scope for adventure. We reach island at around 8:30 AM and waste our time till 10:30 or so waiting for boats to come or tides to raise. The whole trip needs to be modified to suit these condition which are very much predictable. They call those folk(fake) dances as entertainment I felt it was a torture to our senses.
- Welcome drinks, Lunch and Snacks ashore – the welcome drink is a crazy tradition from some wild party era. Push that coconut drink after a nice kayaking or snorkeling session, then that drink will be a really welcomed by all the tourists. Lunch was a highlight in many places and was quite good as it had much needed variety.
- All transfers to and fro the ship by mechanized boats – This was scary part as the port hole in the Ship and boat needs to aligned and maintained well to make the smooth transfer to and fro to mechanized boat, I always felt unsure climbing into that wobbly boat. And nobody had life jackets!!
- Furnished cabins containing a generous amount of space with throughout carpet. – As they said in Animal farm “All are equal but some are more equal than others” Even though we all booked and paid same, some of us got inferior quality cabins at the 4th deck as compared to the better ones at the 5th deck. These cabins were more spacious (almost double that of ours) and allowed the fresh air though the window which was not possible with ours.
- Rooms are available with two Queen-size beds in the Diamond class. – Beds were big but the space to climb up to the top bed was so cramped that I banged my knee many times to the side rails. Note that this is not a luxury cruise, however, it’s the only cruise package now available in Indian waters.(What a shame)
Now you must be wondering whether it was that awful. Well not at all! We enjoyed the fine islands, beaches. We loved the snorkeling, kayaking and the water bathing even though it was odd to see Indians sea bathing at scorching mid noon sun. Temperature was pleasant 30° Celsius even when rest of India was reeling under heat wave.
Whenever I think of tourism I feel guilty that as tourists we are exploiting the local population. The tourism industry does not benefit locals in directly. But indirectly it helps to finance the huge expenditure of the ships sailing from one to another island which is the only way of transport for them. It also brings all the essentials which are used by the islanders as nothing grows other than coconut. Without tourism I don’t think Indian government would have employed that many ships.
During the trip of Lakshadweep I noticed several worrying aspects about these island. I do not have any solution to these. As I conclude my narration in these five parts I leave you with these points for you to ponder.
- According to the provisional population Data sheet of 2001 Census, Lakshadweep has a population of 60,595 persons. The density of population is 1899 persons per sq.km, which is third highest in the country and cause of concern.
- It was said that the male to female ratio in these islands was in the vicinity of 1:1.2. However, as per the 2001 Census, in the Lakshadweep, the Females per 1000 Males is 948.
- For supply of electricity there are diesel run power plants located in 8 islands. The Islands are totally dependent on the diesel generated power for want of other forms of energy. Some of the options which could be tried out are the Ocean Thermal Energy, Wave Energy and Tidal energy, depending upon their potential in the Lakshadweep sea area
- Solid wastes are dumped on the narrow shore line, behind each house-hold. There is therefore an urgent need of proper solid waste management plan/system in the Islands. It is estimated that about 1.2 million litres of waste per day is generated at Kavaratti alone. Major issue concerning the disposal of solid waste is the absence of systematic sewerage system.
- Most households have constructed soak pits for disposal of latrine waste. Owing to acute pressure on the land, the soak pits have been constructed very close to the open wells. The soil being sandy and porous and the soak pits have been constructed rather unscientifically, fecal matter from the soak pits finds its way into the water in the open wells.
- The non-degradable solid wastes are dumped at one end of each island by the local bodies.
- Population pressure placed an enormous strain on the quantity of fresh water available, leading to saline water intrusion.
- Changing demographic pattern and lifestyle, coupled with resource harvest from the reefs have brought many reefs in the Lakshadweep to various degrees of stress.
- Coastal erosion is a serious problem faced by the islands every year resulting in loss of land. Maximum erosion observed over a period of 35-40 years were in the range 28 to 44 m.
- Degradation of lagoon and coral ecosystems (eutrophication) through developmental activities and land based pollutants.
- Stress on the lagoon and its resources, Unplanned and unmanaged fishing, tuna and bait fishing, reef walking, octopus hunting, shell collection, coral harvesting, tourism and related activities such as diving, snorkeling, operation of glass bottom boats, etc.
- Dependence on one desalination plant recently set up, for supply of safe drinking water.
- Diesel as the sole source of electricity generation.
- Poor Connectivity between islands and main land.
- Except copra and tuna fish sale the islanders have no other livelihood
Here are other 4 parts of this travelogue to Lakshadweep island.
- Nir-Laksha Dweepa Day1-Kochi
- Nir-Laksha Dweepa Day2-Kalpeni
- Nir-Laksha Dweepa Day3-Minicoy
- Nir-Laksha Dweepa Day4-Kavaratti
Check these blog articles on the same trip by my co-traveler and good friend GN Ashoka Vardhana.
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Also check this blog from Rukmini Mala who accompanied us
- our team leader K Prasanna’s pictures at Picassa