Minicoy Island in December 2016 - Trip report!

#1 Dec 8th, 2016, 17:11
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  • 9vinp is offline
#1
Hello IMers, I am just back from Minicoy island (Swaying palm package) and thought I'd try writing down a review. Hope you find it useful.

Kochi
Through the hustle and bustle of Kochi's office-goers' morning traffic we made our way to Willingdon Island. We reached our gateway to the coral paradise - Lakshadweep Wharf - a neat and spacious passenger terminal for ships departing to the islands. Mr. Hussain, a SPORTS officer greeted us and presented us some cool Lakshadweep Tees and caps along with our ship tickets and "Tourist" ID cards - what a perfect start! Security measures were up to the mark. Our baggage was X-ray scanned and we were frisked thoroughly, just like in an airport. And finally (all within 10 minutes) there we were - on the jetty! While I started taking pictures of the beautiful M.V. Arabian Sea that we were supposed to board, we were informed that there was a last minute ship change and we would be boarding her sister, M.V. Lakshadweep Sea instead.


Our bags were tagged and porters carried them to our cabin. I was skeptical of the second class cabin that we had to book as first class was booked out, but as soon as I entered the cabin, I was at ease again. It was clean and neat, air conditioned, and quite spacious actually! The washroom was spotlessly clean, complete with a temp-controlled hand shower. Now, none of these ships are exactly luxury cruise liners. They are standard passenger ships with decent accommodation, offering good value for money.


All announcements meant for locals were made in Malayalam and in English for the tourists. Lunch was served even before the ship started sailing. Food was light and tasty and packaged drinking water was provided free of cost. The cafeteria sold soft drinks, muffins and chips among many other things.
Just before 3PM, it was time to start sailing! The ladder was removed, anchor lifted up, ropes wound back, and in no time we were guided out of the port. The starboard side offered great views of Kochi's coastal line. Fort Kochi, Chinese fishing nets among many other attractions were distinctly visible. The port side had something else in store - a gigantic seven-or-more deck luxury cruise liner AIDA Bella. She was docked, possibly on a stopover between two other ports. One day... a lot of us thought, admiring her.


And sooner than we knew it, we passed by the cargo port and set sailing in the high seas, leaving the beautiful Kochi behind us.

Minicoy Island

As soon as I woke up, I hurried out into the deck to have a view of the sea. Living very far from a coast, I had little idea of coastal weather, landscapes, etc. The sea here looked much different from that in Kochi! The waters looked a lot more clearer and one thing was for sure - it had a completely different colour! Deep blue in the high seas, turquoise in the shallow waters and crystal clear at the beach. What a sight!


We docked at the eastern jetty at around 8 in the morning. Breakfast was served on board the ship. By 9:30, we were on the jetty, and were greeted by SPORTS staff. Our luggage was loaded in an auto trolley and we were whisked away in a jeep to the island resort on the only road through the island. I coulnd't find many pictures of the island-village (which by the way, has a sizeable population of about 14,000 according to 2011 census), so I didn't know what to expect. It was a pleasant surprise and a moment of pride seeing decent levels of development in this remote land. There is concrete road complete with ducts on either side for underground electric cabling (you don't find messy overhead wires anywhere in Minicoy!) Almost all houses were proper brick and concrete constructions. It's complete with a Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, a government hospital, private clinics, an SBI ATM and branch and a newly opened supermarket too!
In no time we reached the resort. The resort staff received us warmly and each of us was given a tender coconut as welcome drink. And then, we hit the beach. It didn't take us long to realise that was what we had come all the way for. Blue waters and white sands! For miles ahead, there was nothing but a beautiful play of shades of blue. No words, and no picture can do justice to this place.


The main must-do activity here is hands-down water sports. The marine life here is absolutely wild and spectacular, There's a great range of water sports on offer at reasonable prices. The instructors and coaches were amazing people. Mr. Siddique was our snorkelling instructor and Nishad was our dive master.

Snorkelling
On our first day we chose to go snorkelling. We started at the beach on a motor boat with all the gear. The cool breeze, deep blue-green water and the clear white sands - the feeling was beyond amazing. We were given a short and easy briefing about snorkelling on the boat itself. We had absolutely no difficulty learning snorkelling given that we already knew swimming. Even those who don't know to swim can enjoy snorkelling as they give floating vests to everyone. The snorkelling site, which is about a kilometre into the sea is abundant with corals - many of them alive. A great deal of wild fish are frequently spotted here- in our case we had the luck of seeing a group of Sting Rays.
Schools of many small fish moving together is such a nice thing to witness!
Here's the snorkelling site. The black patches seen from the surface are corals on the sea bed.


Diving
Underwater diving is a bigger affair. You carry the complete SCUBA apparatus with you and dive down about 4-6 metres. And see better corals. More varieties. More fish. It's just a lot more fun! Nishad gave us a good briefing even before we all started. He explained us our equipment, techniques, breathe-in and breathe-out procedures. What we were about to do wasn't exactly SCUBA diving, but try diving - a step behind SCUBA diving in that we would be completely assisted by our dive masters. One person and one dive master would go together and all the people would thus, take turns. SCUBA diving is permitted only for those who have completed try diving first.
The marine life was rich and elaborate. Colourful fish, corals of various textures and sizes, other inactive marine organisms we didn't even know existed! What's more.. they also carry a GoPro (underwater action camera) and provide you pictures and a video of your first dive in the Lakshadweep! This is a screenshot from the video shot by a GoPro. Yet, it doesn't do any justice to the wild variety of creatures we found there.


Resort and food
The standard A/C cottages are single room cottages with two single beds and an attached bathroom and an LCD TV. They are richly furnished with chairs, tables and even two cane chairs out in the tiny balcony for a relaxing evening chat. I believe the deluxe A/C cottages were built much later. They are of course much bigger and one of them has a beautiful sea-facing complete glass wall. Here's the deluxe cottage (on the left) and the standard one on the right.


The food was very delicious. You could see painstaking preparations in every simple thing. It was very heart-warming to see the efforts they put in to make our stay comfortable. All this, despite the fact that they need to bring in almost every consumable from the mainland ports like Kochi. Vegetables, rice, flours, towels, soaps, petrol - you name it.. every commodity has to come a long way from the mainland. You'd be disappointed if you expect a lavish buffet, but they put in their best efforts to make great food, within the available resources.


People

I can't wind up the post without a section on the people. To start off, they're all very well educated (91.85% literacy rate, 2011 census). Most probably a side-effect of its close relations with Kerala. You can see it everywhere. In their orderly lifestyle, in the sincere efforts they put in at the resort, in their gentle attitude towards tourists, in their commitment towards educating their own children, in their equal treatment of women - everywhere!

Gallery

#2 Dec 8th, 2016, 17:44
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  • ViShVa is offline
#2
Great report. No seafood served there?
#3 Dec 8th, 2016, 17:52
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  • rajatchakraborty is offline
#3
how did you arrange this trip? could you please provide some details about the booking process?
and how long did you stay underwater? you have to carry any O2 cylinder or breathing through some tubes? 4-6 meter underwater is ok? i guess some ear & eye protection will be required. I used to go 2-3 meter down and beyond that it was too much pressure without protection. [10 mtr water column== 1 kg/sq cm roughly]
#4 Dec 8th, 2016, 18:37
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  • 9vinp is offline
#4
Thank you ViShVa. Seafood was served, but we are vegetarians..
#5 Dec 8th, 2016, 19:00
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  • 9vinp is offline
#5
@rajatchakraborty
Tourism in Lakshadweep is kind of regulated, I feel. I think the best way is to book a ready made package available on www.lakshadweeptourism.com. This is the official govt. website of "SPORTS" (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports, a govt. body). You could book a package directly by paying them, or contact a SPORTS-authorised tour operator in your city (www.lakshadweeptourism.com/agents.html). This is what we did. We booked the Swaying Palm package by paying an authorised tour operator based in Hyderabad. Ms. Vidya helped us out fairly well and I believe she visited it herself.. you could consider booking with them. (Eezy 2 Travel Hyderabad, Ms. Vidya Reddy vidyareddy@eezy2travel.com 09849011774)
All these packages take the sea-route meaning you need to sail from Kochi. And that is the only way to reach Minicoy island. Other islands in the north like Kadmat, Kavaratti can be reached by air. Agatti island has air connectivity with Kochi (only one daily flight in the morning operated by Air India, as of 2016). Speedboats can be availed from Agatti to Kadmat or Kavaratti.

If you're organising your trip yourself without a package -
As for travel permits and accommodation - everybody needs a permit to visit Lakshadweep islands. Some islands are even forbidden from staying on - like the airport island Agatti - you can't stay on Agatti (although I find a private resort on Agatti on the internet). Our tour operator confirmed this. I find it safest to book the government ("SPORTS") resort, no matter what island I go to. For booking this, I think it's best to contact an authorised tour operator in your city.

As for diving underwater, the said time is 15mins, but we were there fairly longer.. about 20-25 mins. Yes, a cylinder is must for diving till 4-6 meters.. We went with a cylinder, a complete vest (heavy and professional-looking!), a face mask covering eyes and nose and a complete mouthpiece for breathing. The dive masters came with fins too. Ears are not covered. When you descend, you feel pressure in your ears increase. You should respond by closing your nostrils with your fingers and breathing out.. this pops the ears out. All this was explained properly in the briefing.
#6 Jan 3rd, 2017, 18:43
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  • Mohd Javed is offline
#6

Lakshadweep Trip Feb 2017

Hi Guys...!!

I am planning to visit Lakshadweep in Feb 2017. I want to travel at least 3 island. Will it be better to opt for Samudram Package or I should opt for some other alternative. Can anyone suggest me on it. Beside this if anyone can share the contact number or website of tour operator it will be helpful for me.

Thanks in advance.
#7 Feb 13th, 2017, 15:34
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  • arjunrobert is offline
#7
Awesome info 9vinp Thank you ..
#8 May 3rd, 2017, 16:44
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  • vamsi1119 is offline
#8

Suggestions

We are going on 9th of this may so could you please help us with all the necessities required in detail. I am also from hyderabad going through Ms. Vidya.
#9 Jun 23rd, 2017, 21:52
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  • santosh7719 is offline
#9
please tell complete day by day schedule of sports and are snoring and scuba is a part of package are you need to pay for that and how much

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