Bye Bye Bangaram

18.01.2017:

We woke up before sunrise and refreshed ourselves and headed towards the eastern side of the island to get a glimpse of the sunrise. The beach is full of activity. People are cleaning the left-overs on the dining tables, clearing off the vessels, arranging tables etc; the fisher-folk and the divers are getting their equipment and boats ready to take the tourists for deep sea diving, fishing and angling; the locals were pulling out the fishes stuck to their nets in the lagoons and the tourists are lazing on the chairs waiting for the sun to rise from the horizon!

Bangaram is every photographer’s wet dream and yet, I find myself taking far fewer pictures than I usually do while travelling. Every where we can find a standard-issue desktop wallpaper 🙂 The island is a paradise, a tropical heaven on earth. It’s a piece of the planet that’s as manicured as it is naturally stunning. It draws divers, leisure swimmers, and beach bums. It does its best to soothe one’s soul with blushing sunsets, shallow ocean sightings and by sheathing us in luxury.

Though the process of getting permits is frustrating and the cost of the packages is high, it’s seems so justifying when we visit these islands. From a conservation point of view, the pressure of tourism isn’t yet visible on the reef. In other island destinations like Havelock, one see broken coral and the impact of pollution, but not so much in Lakshadweep. And that’s because tourism is so heavily regulated and in that sense, the regulation is a blessing. Perhaps this is one of the reasons, why these islands are still so stunningly beautiful!

While watching the sunrise, we sent Jaleel to give a word to our boat’s captain that we would be leaving in another 30 minutes. We headed back to our room and packed our luggage, prepared ourselves some instant noodles for our breakfast and left for the boat. Our next destination is another small island near to Bangaram. The word ‘Bangaram’ in Telugu language literally means ‘Gold’. And this ‘Bangaram Island’ is truly bangaram for me as it left me with some of the golden memories which I can cherish throughout my life 🙂

Bye Bye Bangaram.. 🙂 🙂

Time for some more adventure…

17.01.2016:

After the diving session, we spent some more time swimming in the lagoon and lazing around. Time to move. While we were coming to this island, we saw a piece of land at the end of the lagoon and made a point that we should go to that piece of land. So, lets go there now 😉 . We started walking through the coconut groves and made our way towards the Helipad. We didn’t have a solid breakfast and it started taking it’s toll on us! We are too tired and exhausted when Jaleel came like an angel with some fresh coconuts. We finished off some coconuts and moved towards the lagoon!

I think the sight of the lagoon and that small patch of land itself has made uncle a bit nervous 😀 . Again he denied coming with us even after Imran telling him that it won’t be that deep and not at all risky! Leaving uncle behind, we, Imran, Jaleel, Aunty and I got into the lagoon. The water was lukewarm, not so deep, turquoise blue in color and mild in currents – a good thing. It was almost as if we were walking on a road chit-chatting with each other. While Imran was explaining about the islanders and their lifestyle, aunty listening to him keenly while Jaleel was having a lazy swim every now and then and I was so curious to see what’s there on that land!

The distance from the island to this patch of land is around 800 metres. After a stressful walk through the waters for about 600 meters, we got the first real sight of it. There might be around 500 seagulls taking rest and chirping among them. That was a postcard pic with the deep blue sea behind them, the white silvery sand patch of land, the turquoise blue lagoon infront and the white seagulls 🙂 . While we were nearing the land, they sensed the alien presence of ours and started flying away and that gave me a reason to regret for not having a camera with me to capture those moments! 😦

The scene found it’s place in the memories of my heart and mind. The vivid colors of all the elements around me and the various reflections of the water on the plumage of those tiny sea-gulls when they started flying off from the land is an enticing scene! Thanks to Bangaram for such wonderful eye feasts 🙂 The moment we touched the land, Jaleel and Imran went in search of the eggs of those seagulls, while aunty went for some coral remains and shells and I asusual walking along the stretch. After their futile attempts, Imran came up with an idea of a running race and started running followed by aunty and me. After having enough fun, I laid down there with my entire body into the water and just the head out into the sun!

I was not worried about getting tanned anymore. I was there to enjoy each and absorb each and every moment into my mind. After all, this is not a common place which we can visit whenever we like 🙂 . After a while, we started walking back to the island, but this time time currents were not mild and it took a lot of effort to overcome them and walk or swim at times. Once out of the waters, we ventured again into the lagoon for snorkeling with the snorkeling gear brought by Jaleel from Agatti. There was a small rock with a passage and I was able to find a fish in that narrow passage. And I went around to find some more, but I could find nothing! 😦

But so far it was good!

Let’s catch some fish!

17.01.2017:

Lakshadweep in Malayalam means ‘a hundred thousand islands’, though there are no 1000 islands literally. It is the smallest Union Territory of India and the archipelago covers an area of 32 sq.km which is surrounded by 4200 sq.km of Arabian Sea. It has 12 atolls, five submerged banks and 36 islands of which  Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan, Bangaram and Minicoy are inhabited. Lakshadweep shot into the lime-light in the late 1980s after Rajiv Gandhi’s brief encounter with a whale in Bangaram. I don’t how far this is true frankly 😐

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The turquoise blue started disappearing and a dark blue color started engulfing the waters. Agatti island is vanishing in some distance and soon we were in middle of the deep Arabian Sea! Lakshadweep islands are a paradise of marine life with lots of foreign tourists dropping in for various water sports and adventure activities. And ofcourse, the Laccadive islands was just one of the several possibilities, if one scouts the right destination to start a new fishing operation. In fact, a group of 10 Germans boarded the same flight as I was with their fishing gear and it was their second visit to the islands it seems. So, one can understand how famous is fishing here!

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As I am a budget traveler and cannot afford a proper fishing expedition, I wanted to go along with the local way of fishing 🙂 . Fishing is the main occupation of the islanders with tuna being the main fish. And it’s a true adventure too. The fishing season starts in November and runs until mid-April. I told Jaleel to ask the boat owner to help us in our fishing adventure and he readily agreed with a smile on his face. He called up his two sons and asked us to make the necessary arrangements. After a thorough search from the large wooden box placed in our boat, the two guys emerged with two small card-boards which looked like small sized chopping boards.

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Each of these card-boards are wrapped with a nylon string of some 40 meters length with one end tied to the cardboard and the other end is tied to a fishing hook. The two youngsters gave me and aunt a cardboard each and explained us how to throw the fishing hook behind the boat and hold the string through our fingers. One has to be to cautious while holding this string as this can easily cut through the skin due to the momentum! Jaleel came and wrapped a hand-kerchief around my fingers to protect them from any injuries and I sat on the edge of our boat waiting eagerly for a fish to bite my fishing hook 🙂

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Time for some theory. Jaleel started explaining the various methods of fishing practiced by the islanders and some of these are unique to the islands. As I told earlier, tuna is the main fish occupying some 80% of the total landings out of which 60% will be exported and 40% will be consumed locally. The local fishermen practice a unique way of fishing. They catch small fishes (baitfish) near the island keep them alive in a container before proceeding out to the sea. Once they spot the tuna, the small fishes are released into the water and simultaneously water is sprayed with a small pump. This spray of water, apparently, fools the tuna into believing that there are a lot more small fishes.

The fishermen stand shoulder to shoulder on the rear deck bobbing long poles with barbless hooks into the spray, enticing the tuna to bite. As a tuna comes onto the line a skillful fisherman will use the momentum to lift the fish out of the water, arcing it overhead to land on the deck behind him while he flicks his line back out into the water, all in one smooth movement. Gradually the hold fills with tuna, and the bait well thins out. This is called the “Pole and Line” fishing, a unique fishing method for the exploitation of tuna and is only found in Lakshadweep in the Indian continent. He further added that the fishing conditions and results may naturally vary during the season.

But today no unique fishing techniques are being deployed :-p . In the meanwhile, Imran came to us saying that if I get a fish he would be cooking it for his lunch 🙂 . It was almost 30 minutes since I dropped my fishing hook, but no fish was caught so far. My curiosity started to disappear and I handed over the string to Imran. Imran too was bored within few minutes and he handed back the string to me. After 5 minutes, I suddenly felt a jerk in my hand. Hurrah! My string was being pulled away from me and I called Jaleel with excitement. Soon, Jaleel and the other two youngsters came to me to check whether there is something.

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To my surprise, they confirmed that the hook has struck something, but they were not sure whether that’s a rock or a fish. But soon, when they started pulling off the string, one of them confirmed that it is a fish and our boat was stopped. It was a fish and it took quite some effort to pull it, but to our utter disappointment when he was about to pull it off completely on board, the string got struck into the rear of our boat and got cut 😦 and the fish was lost along with the hook 😦 . I felt sorry for them as they lost their fishing hook and made a point that I would buy them a new one when we will be back on the island!

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Though the fishing part was a little disappointment, we were happy as we spotted some flying fishes and sea gulls following our boat for sometime. Soon, we spotted two islands and one of them is surrounded by a large lagoon and the captain announced that it’s our destination. We entered the lagoon and the water was crystal clear and one can see the undersea rocks and the sea bed so clearly. Never ever I thought that there would be such a beautiful place on this earth. The beauty of the island and the lagoon is beyond description!