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Laccadive Islands :
Location Map Laccadive Islands . The tiniest Union Territory of India, Lakshadweep is an archipelago consisting of 12 atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks. It is a uni-district Union Territory with an area of 32 Sq.Kms and is comprised of ten inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands attached islets, four newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs. The inhabited islands are Kavaratti, Agatti, Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat, Bitra, Andrott, Kalpeni and Minicoy. Bitra is the smallest of all having only a population of 225 persons (Census 1991). The uninhabited island Bangaram has been enumerated during 1991 census operation and has a population of 61 persons.

Considering its lagoon area of about 4,200 Sq.kms, 20,000 Sq.kms of territorial waters and about 4 lakh Sq.kms. of economic zone, Lakshadweep is a large territory.

Geology
There are no conclusive theories about the formation of these coral atolls. The most accepted theory is given by the English Evolutionist Sir Charles Darwin. He concluded in 1842 that the subsidence of a volcanic island resulted in the formation of a fringing reef and the continual subsidence allowed this to grow upwards. When the volcanic island became completely submerged the atoll was formed encircling the lagoon where, with the action of the wind, waves, reef to currents and temperature, the coral islands were formed.

Sand bags were first formed in an atoll. They became naturally the nesting grounds for sea birds. They continued to be their exclusive preserve till as a result of the fertilization of the soil by their droppings ( Guano deposits), ground vegetation became possible and man then took over, thus leaving the birds to seek another sanctuary. Fundamentally this concept is still valid, although many consider submerging volcanic islands is by the melting of Pleistocene ice sheets. The fringing reefs are quickly built, repaired and strengthened by a micro organism called polypous. They are the architects and engineers of these atolls. The corals are the hard calcareous skeleton of these polypous.

Flora & Fauna
Tuamotu Butterfly Fish. The flora of the islands include Banana, Vazha,(Musaparadisiaca), Colocassia, Chambu (Colocassia antiquarum) Drumstic moringakkai (Moringa Oleifera) , Bread Fruit, Chakka (Artocarpus incisa) wild almond (Terminalia Catappa) which are grown extensively. Some of the shrub jungles plant like Kanni (Scaevolakeeningil), Punna, (Calaphylluminophyllum), Chavok(Casurina equisetifolia), Cheerani (Thespesia Populnea) are unevenly grown throughout the island.

Coconut, Thenga (Cacos nucifera) is the only crop of economic importance in Lakshadweep. These are found in different varieties such as Laccadive micro, Laccadive ordinary, green dwarf etc. Two different varieties of sea grass are seen adjacent to the beaches. They are known as Thalassia hemprichin and Cymodocea isoetifolia. They prevent sea erosion and movement of the beach sediments.

The marine life of the sea is quite elaborate and difficult to condense. The commonly seen vertebrates are cattle and poultry. Oceanic birds generally found in Lakshadweep are Tharathasi (Sterna fuscata) and Karifetu (Anous solidus). They are generally found in one of the uninhabited islands known as PITTI. This island has been declared as a bird sanctuary.

Molluscan forms are also important from the economic point of the islands. The money cowrie (cypraea monita) are also found in abundance in the shallow lagoons and reefs of the islands. Other cypraeds found here are cypraca talpa and cyprea maculiferra. Among crabs, the hermit crab is the most common. Colorful coral fish such as parrot fish (Callyedon sordidus), Butterfly fish (Chaetodon auriga), Surgeon fish (Acanthurus lineotus) are also found in plenty.

The following animal, bird, and tree are declared as state symbols of Lakshadweep.

» Animal - Butterfly fish (Chaetodon auriga) locally known as "Fakkikadia".
» Bird - Sooty tern (Anus solidus piletus) locally known as "Karifettu".
» Tree - Bread-fruit (Artocarpus Incise) locally known as "Chakka"

Fact Sheet on Bangaram Island
Laccadive Islands a glance. » Location: 8 and 12 North Latitude and 71 and 74 East Longitude. It is 220 to 440 km off the Malabar Coast in Kerala, India.
» Land Area: 2.30 Sq.Kms.
» Climate: Tropical. 27 C - 32 C. Lakshadweep enjoys a pleasant tropical climate with summer temperatures ranging from 22 C to 33 C and winter temperatures from 20 C to 32 C. Southwest monsoons from June to September bring plenty of rainfall to the islands. Months from October to may are pleasant with slight rise in temperature during March and April. Light cotton tropical clothes are ideal throughout the year. A rain coat will come in handy during the monsoons. Cool sea breeze and abundant shade provided by the canopy of coconut palms make the climate pleasant even during peak summer.
» Population: The population is only 60595 as per 2001 census, of which 95% are Muslims. Ethnically they are similar to the people of Kerala. They speak a dialect of Malayalam except in Minicoy where "Mahl" a form of Divehi is spoken.
» Languages: Malayalam & Mahl.

How to Reach :

By Air : Cochin International Airport links Lakshadweep with the mainland. Onward flights from Cochin are available to most of the airports in India and to selected foreign destinations. Agatti is the only airport in Lakshadweep. Helicopter transfer is available from Agatti to Kavaratti and Kadmat during fair season October to May. The flight from Cochin to Agatti takes approximately one hour thirty minutes.

Cochin International Airport. By Sea : Four all weather ships M.V. Bharatseema ,M.V Tipusultan, M.V Aminidivi and M.V Minicoy operate between Kochi and the islands. Indian Airlines also operate flight from Kochi to Agatti Island every day except Sunday.

Boarding & Lodging: While on a day tour package cruise, you will get back to the ship at the end of the day. Staying tourists are accommodated in Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Minicoy Agatti and Kadmat. The tourist huts in each island occupy ideal locations on the beach itself. Each hut has one or two twin-bedded bedrooms with attached baths.

Food : Spiced coconut-rich Vegetarian & Non vegetarian food. Curried, fried and barbecued fish.

Tourist Season: The best time to visit Lakshadweep is from October to mid May. From mid May to September it is rainy. Though all the resorts in Lakshadweep are open throughout the year, reaching there by ship is difficult during monsoon. Islands like Agatti and Bangaram are pleasant even during the monsoon and can be reached by flight form Kochi. Reaching resort like Kadmat, Minicoy and Kavaratti is difficult as they are not connected by flight or helicopter. During monsoons, transport from Agatti to Bangaram is only by helicopter. Nevertheless the rainy season presents a breathtaking experience when the vegetation looks greener than ever and the veil of rain adds a different hue to the beauty of lagoons and the blue seas beyond. Although flights operate throughout the year for the tourists, ships operate for local passengers only and are not available for tourist transport during monsoon.

Things to do: These are basically leisure tours and Sea/Lagoon based tours. There are plenty of opportunities for Scuba diving, Yachting, Pedal boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Swimming, Snorkeling and sunbathing. One may also visit local houses, Marine museum, Lighthouse and a few local industries.

Things to do: Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all islands except Bangaram. Picking up Corals is a punishable crime.