Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Minicoy islands, Lakshadweep

February 19-25th, 2016
If it was Andamans in 2015, it was the Minicoy Island in the Lakshadeep Archipelago in February 2016; so once again I am aboard the BNHS camp and on-baoard the MV Arabian Sea for the 21 hour 398 Kms rocking journey southwest of Willingdon Island, Cochin and across the 9 degree channel to explore the beautiful tiny coral Island that is the farthest corner south west of India. 
We are a small group - just 8 of us including Prachi Galange the tour leader from BNHS; as we meet and introduce ourselves at the Willingdon Jetty, the excitement is palpable. Exploring the ship and interacting with the hospitable crew is in itself a good introduction to life on the high seas. 

As the sea is turbulunt, we are informed that mid-sea we will need to jump off our big ship into smaller boats that will arrive for us shortly. After a long wait where our ship crew have very kindly turned off the air-conditioning (LOL), our boat arrives and we are expected to take an accurate leap across the boats & alas into our boat that will take us to our destination. The 45 min drive under the hot sun but a beautiful blue sea is exhilarating. I am reminded of the old song O'er the honey Blue Sea sung by Frederick Harvey in his melodious baritone voice. Start of an adventure indeed!
Map of Minicoy

So here's bringing you a few glimpses of this extraordinary journey

Above & below: views of the beach on which the 20 bedded resort is located

Clean and comfortable cottages - being a beach resort, the attached bathrooms are without a roof and also have a separate entrance to ensure you remove the sand and water before entering the room.

Sunset over the jetty

Coconut trees dot this tiny island

The lighthouse built in 1837 adds an interesting aura to the island

in the sea - ready to admire the life underneath


Part of the reef bed

Above & below preparing for the underworld!

Closer look at the over century old lighthouse

And finally, what lies in the ocean bed - brain corals, mushroom corals, variety of Fish the blue green Chromis, Daschylus, beautifully coloured butterfly fish and lots of interesting creatures.
 Corals are considered the rain-forests of the oceans as they play host to a large variety of life. They can therefore be considered  large reservoirs of bio-diversity. Corals are found mainly in the tropics and India is fortunate to have a good variety of them.

An Eel wanting to come out after the human presence goes

Coral known as Acropora

Endangered species Trdacna maxima or Giant Clam


Not much of birdlife on this island except an abundance of House Crows. Recorded 7 species. above is the Grey heron and below is the Whimbrel in flight

Getting ready to board the boat
 The quant little island has some beautiful winding roads of coconut trees and 11 villages so here are some glimpses of human life on land

healthy competition - boat used for boat races can take 44 people

Desalination plant

Last morning in Minicoy

View of the island from the boat

And finally back to Willingdon islands, Fort Kochi

 Above & below - a view of the Jetty at dawn

About Minicoy:
8.2784° N, 73.0462° E
 The ancient name of Maliku (Minicoy) was MahiladÅ«, mahila (women) + dÅ«(island) meaning women's island. However, Minicoy is also called Maliku. Minicoy is the second largest and the southernmost among the islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago. 

The small population numbers around 10000 and very creditably has a  literacy rate of 82%. While the local population follows Islam as a religion, it is also interesting to note that the family structure follows a matrilineal system.  

The atoll contains two islands. The main island is located on the eastern and southeastern side of the lagoon, along the reef fringe. It measures about 10 km from its northern end to its southernmost point and it is about 1 km wide in its southern half, while the northern half is a narrow sandspit, often less than 100 m wide.  On the southern side of the main island lies the uninhabited islet of Viringili  which in earlier times was used for leaving Leprosy patients.

A trip to any of the islands of  Lakshdweep should be planned by registering with the local authority in Cochin - SPORTS.It is mandatory to obtain the mandatory permission before embarking on the journey. Only 10 tourists are allowed at a time on the Ship and there is a 20 bedded tourist resort run by the government of Lakshdweep. So you do need to plan in advance.

 My special appreciation to BNHS, the ever positive Isaac who made this trip happen & the group leader Prachi who enthusiastically introduced us th the world under the ocean. the local BNHS researcher Saluddin & the team of people who patiently and with a smile served us both at the resort and on the boat
A good reference book is the the latest book on Marine life by Deepak Apte.