Welcome to the world of SPORTS!

17.01.2017:

It is around 08.30 hrs when we reached the Bangaram Island. As I told earlier, the Island is too beautiful. It’s almost as if I am into a different world altogether. It is an uninhabited island and it contains more marine life than the other islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago. We got down from our boat and made our way towards the island. There are a few resorts, a restaurant, dive center with the gear and equipment on display and some sun-bath chairs. It’s a white sand beach with a turquoise blue lagoon surrounding it and coconut groves occupying the middle part of the island.

Jaleel along with a person who works at the resorts took us to a room where we were intended to stay. He showed us two rooms out of which we chose the better one. To be frank, they are well-maintained and the washroom is too clean and has a running water tap. While we were enjoying the ambiance of the room and the surroundings, the person told us that it has not power supply and we were utterly surprised. It was at this time I learnt about the monopoly that was being enjoyed by an agency called SPORTS. I heard this word quite many a times from Imran and Avinash, but I thought that this is a word simply being used as the agency takes care of all water-sports and activities in the islands.

In Lakshadweep, two major private organizations are in-charge of managing and handling all the water sports activities. They are known as Lakshadweep institute of Water Sports and SPORTS (Society for promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports). These two bodies hold regular camps for the tourists all through the year. SPORTS enjoys a monopoly on the entire tourist trade in the islands of Bangaram and Thinnakara. If one doesn’t have friends in Lakshadweep, the only option is to book their trips to the islands solely through SPORTS and the permit formalities of bonafide tourists will be taken care by them.

The person told us that earlier those rooms which we have seen were also used, but as it has been decided later that the power would be supplied only to the resorts owned by SPORTS, these became non-functional. For that moment, we were not bothered about the power supply or about how we are going to spend the night in the island, but we were bothered about our lunch and dinner. As for our breakfast today, aunty, uncle and I had some snacks which aunty has brought along with her and Jaleel and Imran had some boiled eggs and coconuts during our boat journey.

Jaleel left to see if he can find someone whom he knew, while Imran and I left to meet the manager of the SPORTS resorts on the island. We approached him and told that we were to spend a night in the island and we need some food and we were ready to pay. He considered our request and spoke with his restaurant people who agreed to provide us the lunch and dinner and we were happy 🙂 . They made a point that the lunch would cost Rs. 300 per person and dinner Rs. 400 per person. We happily agreed! After all it’s better to spend some money on food rather than starving 🙂

All settled, we left our bags in the room and moved towards the dive center. Bangaram is famous for it’s water-sports. Besides swimming, there is a lot to explore here. Bangaram is the exact stop for experiencing snorkeling and deep sea fishing. Experts who help people from all age groups with these activities realize the potential of the sport. Apart from the usual sport activities like snorkeling, canoeing, deep sea fishing, tourists can also indulge in varied other activities like scuba diving, deep sea diving, wind glassed bottom boat sailing, surfing and so on in this island.

Welcome to the world of SPORTS!!

Go.. Grab the Entry Permits first!

Visiting Lakshadweep is not as easy as visiting the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. When I first discussed my plan of visiting Lakshadweep with my friend Avinash, he told me that I need to get some permits in order to visit those islands. All visitors, both Indian and foreign nationals, must have a visa-like entry permit to travel to the Lakshadweep islands. Usually there are two ways in order to get these permits, we can either approach the Lakshadweep Tourism Department and book a package so that they would take care of everything or do everything by your own provided you know any islander!

I chose the later for two reasons: Firstly, a package is a costly affair and secondly, I know few islanders 😉 . The first important thing in this process is to get a No Objection Certificate or a Police Clearance Certificate from the Commissioner/Superintendent of Police of the place where you are staying stating that I don’t have any criminal cases against me as per their records. I got mine after verification of my address and all. Then the next step is to fill the application form for obtaining a permit. For further details and forms one can visit this website http://lakshadweephomestay.com/

While my friend Avinash gave me the declaration that should be given by an islander, I submitted my application along with the NOC and other identity proofs at the Lakshadweep Administration Office, Indira Gandhi Rd, Willingdon Island, Kochi, Kerala 682003. Trust me, it is truly a frustrating process, as we need to apply for this at least 45 days before the date of your journey and wait till the last moment, as there is no guarantee that they would be issuing the permits. For your info, this is only for the people who would be applying directly like me, but not for those who will be booking a package 🙂

Tourism is restricted in order to preserve and protect Lakshadweep’s fragile bio-ecological environment and prevent overcrowding. With the tourism board taking charge of water sports, underwater adventures in Lakshadweep are now restricted to the four main islands – Kadamat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti and Minicoy. Tourism is monitored by the local administration in close concert with the Lakshadweep Island Development Authority with the sole objective of protecting the interests of the islands. Scarcity of potable water and accommodation is a major constraint. The administration is wary that indiscriminate tourism promotion would lead to depletion of potable water for the islanders.

At last I got my entry permit on 13.01.2017 while my tickets for Agatti are booked for 16.01.2017. Ritu Aunt and Jit Uncle are going to accompany me, but the sad part is Avinash is going for some training and he won’t be accompanying us there in the islands. He gave the responsibility of us to a friend of his – Imran, who is also going to become a very good friend of mine 🙂

Elephanta Caves – History’s Hideout

12.11.2016:

11.00 hrs – We reached the “Gateway of India” from where we have to take a boat to the Elephanta Island, situated in the Kolaba district off the coast of Mumbai. The Gateway is more crowded than the other day. The tickets for the ferries are being sold by the ticket agents and a to and fro trip is of Rs. 180. It was only at the time of buying the tickets did we realize that we were running out of the few 100 rupees notes we are left with and made a point that we should withdraw money from some ATM after return from the Elephanta.

11.30 hrs – Caves can be dark, mysterious and, at times, frightening, but surely adventurous and a window to the eras gone by. These natural passages are also where history meets myth and legend. Elephanta caves are one of the most heard after the Ajanta and the Ellora caves in Maharashtra. And finally we were into the ferry which carries us to the island. Though we opted to sit in the deck, we dropped our plan as it was too hot that day and remember you have to pay an extra ten rupees if you want to sit there :-p . The journey was a bit boring though we get a chance to watch some giant vessels carrying out various tasks on the Arabian Sea. It took us almost 75 mins to reach the island. We bought the tickets for a toy train ride to the caves 🙂

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12.40 hrs – We started walking towards the caves. There are lots of shops along the pathway selling soft drinks, snacks and food. The staircase leading to the caves is also full of vendors selling various kinds of crystals and souvenirs. Be careful if you are carrying some food or drinks as there are lots of monkeys here and they don’t mind in snatching the things that were there in your hands. The climb was tiring and we decided to have our lunch before we start going around the caves. There are many restaurants here run by private vendors and also a restaurant that is being run by the Maharashtra Tourism Dept. The dining hall is spacious and food is good here 🙂

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14.00 hrs – Bought the tickets and reached the Cave 1, also known as the Great Cave known for it’s great architecture. Dating back to as early as first century BC and artistically built over a few centuries, its caves have an extraordinary appeal and aura. Nestled in the formidable Sahayadri Mountain Range, these caves have been home to monks of different religions. Most of the caves are viharas (hall) and chaityas (pillared religious caves) and showcase fine art heritage of India. A visit that will induce a sense of discovery, of the self and of the divine.

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Elephanta island, located 11 km from Mumbai, have beautiful carvings, sculptures and a temple of Lord Shiva. The main cave has a 7 mt high bust of ‘Sadhasiva’ that represents three aspects of Shiva, the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. It also has other forms of Shiva like the Ardhnarishwar – The ultimate union of Shiva, the Lord of the universe, with his consort, Parvati. Parvati (Shakti or Uma) is the embodiment of grace and beauty, self-sacrifice and love. Also there is the “Trimurti” idol which is said to be so unique that we can find such ones only at these islands and another one in Nepal. There are 7 caves in total, but there is not so much to see in the other caves than Cave 1. These received the status of a World Heritage Site in 1987.

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16.00 hrs – We made a move towards the Canon Hill, which is like a 20 mins hike from the entrance. There is an old canon placed on top of this hill and it is said that this had been used to protect the sea from the pirates. And one can get a good view of the sea and the mountains surrounding these islands from here. Nothing more to see! 17.00 hrs – We were back in the ferry to be carried back to the Gateway of India. The return journey was more refreshing as we watched the sun set and also some sea birds strolling behind our moving ferry 🙂

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P.S – For more info on the Elephanta Caves, please visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/244