Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Lakshadweep Islands, Where Paradise Beckons!

Its pure sands, lush greenery and  bright sunlight make the island of Minicoy one of Lakshadweep’s most sought-after tourism hotspots. Located on the southernmost tip of the Lakshadweep, the atoll contains two islands. The main island is located on the eastern and southeastern side of the lagoon, along the reef fringe. It is about 10 km long and about 1 km wide in its southern half; the northern half is a narrow sandspit, often less than 100 m wide.

Minicoy is almost completely covered with coconut trees. From the light blue shallow waters enclosing the island to the rich cultural heritage that has been preserved for centuries, this is a perfect destination for city-slickers looking to take a break.

An important attraction here is the pristine beauty of the beaches. “It is amazing how one is able to walk in the water for kilometres at a stretch,” says a Swedish tourist. “The waters of the Arabian Sea provide a kaleidoscope of rich flora and fauna. The beauty is breathtaking.”

Tuna is one of the atoll’s key offerings, and the omnipresent food of the locals. “Whether it is a vegetable dish or even a flour snack, the essence of tuna always prevails,” says a local woman. “It is also a source of our livelihood.” The men catch tuna from the sea and bring it to the island. The women dry the fish and sell it in the market. They have also mastered the skill of preparing varieties of food with tuna, including Sweet charkara, coconut products such as Thenga Charkara, Bofathfoli (a mix of rice and Karikku), Fola (Flour and Coconut), Bonda and Keenath (a mixture of rice powder, Charkkara and coconut milk). These are popular with locals as well as tourists.

The cultural traits of Minicoy differ from those of any other island in Lakshadweep. In fact, the local customs and lifestyle are more like those seen in the Maldives than in the rest of Lakshadweep. Women play a very important role here on the island that was originally known as ‘Mahiladu’ or the ‘women’s island’. You’ll find a matrilineal society here, with men living in either their mother’s or wife’s house. “The population is predominantly female,” says Shailendran, a Navodaya Vidyalaya teacher at Minicoy, who hails from Palakkad, and has researched the island’s history. “The husbands and sons are out at sea most of the time. So all the important decisions, including money transactions and the children’s upbringing, are undertaken by the women.”

Famous for holding one of the largest varieties of corals in the country, this tiny atoll has much to offer during a snorkelling dive. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to swim, or are water phobic; you could traverse for miles holding the hand of a local tourist guide who will pinpoint the fancies that lie under the sea. Blue, green, yellow, red and white corals make up most of the underwater life at Minicoy. And if you are enthusiastic about heritage and culture, then you would not want to miss the 150-feet tall lighthouse, constructed in 1882, during the British rule. It’s not often that you find history and geography co-existing, and at their best.
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