23RD July 2003
TRAVELS WITH MY CAMERA /ANU MALHOTRA
CATCHING ‘ZOOBIES’ IN THE MOONLIGHT
“WE’RE ABOUT to land in Agatti. Please fasten your seat belts…” I look eagerly out of the window at the pale sandy flecks, dotted with green and edged with turquoise -floating like flowers in the cobalt blue Arabian Sea. The Lakshadweep islands, an archipelago of 27 coral islands and open reefs, are spread 200-400km off the Kerala coast. Only 10 of these islands are inhabited and Agatti is the gateway to them.
Soon we’re off on a small boat to the Bangaram Island, where we will stay for a four-day shooting stint. As I stand at the prow of the boa, the spray hits my face refreshingly, compensating for the hot noon day sun. The blue of the sea meets the blue of the sky, as we chug into an unending canvas of infinity. “That’s Bangaram over there” say the presenter, Sharad, to the camera, which pans across the blue to the tiny island coming up? A tropical paradise edged with pristine white sands. The boat now enters the lagoon surroundings the island and the water changes colour from a deep sapphire to a sparkling aquamarine.
I step off onto silver white sands and walk across to the coconut grove dotted with quaint thatch roofed huts. The manager welcome us. “Bangaram is a private resort of about 30 huts, spread over 128 acres. There are no television, telephones or newspapers here – just plenty of peace and tranquility!”. This tear drop shaped island is dense with coconut groves and surrounded by virgin beaches.
The next few days pass in a wondrous daze of delight. Filming here is a treat and every shot is postcard perfect. Sharad jokes, “I get paid to do this?” while we film him sampling the many moods of Bangaram, swimming and snorkeling in the bay, lazing on a hammock , swaying along with the palms or sun worshipping on the velvety sands. The dining room here offers a fabulous assorted range of cuisine. Eating a baked crab and lobster in the charming bamboo and thatch hut. I have to agree with Sharad.
After a sumptuous dinner, we stroll onto the beach and sit on the soft sand, close to the waves and watch the moon slowly setting on the horizon. It’s a peachy slice of melon beckoning us with a long trail of glided silver on the waves. The night sky sparkles with star burst. Suddenly I see silver glints in the water –as the waves break on the beach, they bring in tiny sparkling bits of light. I am amazed at the spectacle. “What’s that?” I ask, “Stars on the beach?” Sharad picks up a bit and it glows in the night. Soon, we are all scrambling on the beach, picking up the ‘Zoobies’
It’s a wonderful experience to be woken up by an early morning sun, after a night on the beach. We’re energized and rush through breakfast for a day of water sports, kayaking and windsurfing. Snorkeling is fun after I get the hang of it. I float over a coral paradise through which brilliantly hued fish weave about. “Look! There’s a turtle,” I beckon to the others, but each one is lost in his own techni-colour world of the deep and its magical inhabitants like eagle rays, lion fish, mantarays, morayeels and octopus.
The waters dissolve blue into pink at dawn, as we drift through rainbow clouds reflected in the tranquil lagoon. We’re filming a fishing sequence out in the open sea along with Babu in his local fishing boat. The total population of Lakshadweep is just over 50,000, the majority of whom are Malyalam speaking Sunnil Muslims, said to be descended from the 7th
century Keralite Hindus, who converted to Islam. The main sources of income are fishing, coconuts and related products. “I’ve caught something,” shouts Sharad, pulling out a huge tuna. We take a shot and then let the fish of hook, it slithers greatfully back into its sapphire home.
Babu now takes us across to a bunch of three small-uninhabited islands, space out in a triangle forming a small shallow lagoon in the centre. “You have these islands to yourself.” The islands are stunning and the idea to playing Robinson Crusoe is resistible. The day passes languorously, filming. Swimming, snorkeling, playing with rock crabs. Later, I sit on golden sands and watch another dramatic sunset from the Fairytale Island, drenched by the beauty, which sets off “zoobies” sparkling in my soul.
TRAVEL TIPS YOU CAN’T DO WITHOUT
- There are flights available three days a week from Goa to Agatti with the baggage allowance of 10kg.
- From Kochi to Agatti you can fly six days a week with the baggage allowance of 10 kg.
- There are passenger ships called Aminidevi and Minicoy with aircraft type seats, which stars from Kochi.
- The best option to stay at Kadmat island resort, Agatti Island beach Resort.
- All tourists going to the Union Territory need permits from the Administration of Lakshadweep for their duration of stay. Except for Bangaram, Kadmat and Agatti.
- For information contact Lakshadweep Tourism, Tel: 04896-63001,63002
- To book packages, contact Amit at lacdives#hotmail.com.