Travelling to Lakshadweep? Check out new tourism hotspots Bangaram and Thinnakara islands

Apart from beautiful beaches, crystal clear water and coral reefs, Bangaram and Thinnakara islands in Lakshadweep also have a story behind their names

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the Lakshadweep archipelago and his stay at Bangaram has turned the island, surrounded by turquoise blue waters, multicolored coral reefs and a variety of sea life, into a tourism hotspot.

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Not just Bangaram, the nearby Thinnakara island is also benefiting from the attention generated following the PM’s visit and the subsequent diplomatic row between India and Maldives over the derogatory comments made by some Maldivian leaders on social media platforms against Modi and India.

The incident resulted in many calling for a boycott of Maldives as a tourism spot and pushing the island archipelago as a suitable alternative.

The controversy has worked in favour of Bangaram and Thinnakara islands which apart from their beautiful beaches, large lagoons with crystal clear water and tranquil surroundings, also have a story behind their names.

“The name Thinnakara came from ‘Thinna Kara’ (Malayalam word that means the land where someone ate food). The story is that a group of warriors of the Chera Kingdom on a boat met with a wreck and took refuge in the island.

“There they found a lot of coconut trees and used the fruits to quench their thirst and hunger. Bangaram was derived from the word ‘Banna Kara’ (means a land to which people came). These warriors then traveled to Bangaram hoping to find an escape route to the mainland,” Saifullah, a local resident of Agatti, who stays six months in Thinnakara island for tapping the coconut sap for making coconut jaggery, told PTI.

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Saifullah, however, doesn’t know what happened to those warriors.

Apart from the lagoons and the crystal clear waters inhabited by a variety of sea life, there are also remains of a shipwreck near Bangaram, which is now a snorkeling hotspot.

“This shipwreck is said to have happened more than 200 years ago,” Saifullah said.

It could arguably be the only shipwreck ecosystem in the world where one can literally walk through the sea and see a plethora of sea life.

The water in this area, most times of the year, is only chest-deep and one can simply walk to the spot and see a variety of fish using a snorkeling glass.

The fish even nibble on biscuits or bread from the hands of the people.

Saifullah said that his father and his great grandfather have talked about the shipwreck during his childhood.

“Earlier, the remains were far from the coast. Now it has moved closer to the shore,” he said.

He further said that Bangaram has been a tourism destination for many years.

It had a casino on the island and resorts, but all of them were closed down later, probably due to the connectivity issues of Lakshadweep, Saifullah said.

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Presently, only Alliance Airlines has a single daily flight to Agatti Island, with two trips on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Apart from the flight, there is only one ship doing the service between Kochi and Kavaratti in a week.

All that is set to change in view of the plan to give the island archipelago a major makeover with a number of big projects in the pipeline, starting with improving the connectivity.

Both Bangaram and Thinnakara islands can be reached within 45 minutes on a boat from Agatti, if there is no sea turbulence, which has the sole airport in Lakshadweep.

Besides the proximity to the only airport in the archipelago, the two islands are also uninhabited, full of coconut trees and there are only 15 people living on Thinnakara island for six months when they are making coconut jaggery.

The Lakshadweep administration operates a five-star resort on Bangaram island and there is nothing else, not even a shop or people who are outsiders.

The uninhabited nature of the islands is also an attraction and occasionally tourists staying in Agatti, come to take a stroll on the resort property and go back.

The guests staying there, meanwhile, get to enjoy the tranquility, with no outside noise but just the humming of the sea breeze, due to the lack of local residents.

“This place is one among the most beautiful places in the world. I was here 8 years ago and I wanted to show this place to my friends. That’s why I have come back,” Joanna Ambika, an Indian adopted woman who lives in Sweden told PTI.

Swapnil and Jyothi, a couple on their honeymoon trip to Bangaram, also shared a similar view.

“I do not know why Indians prefer to travel to Maldives or Bali when they have the most beautiful place like this in India,” Swapnil said.

He opined that people should be travelling more to Lakshadweep as it has better facilities, people with great hospitality and good food.

“I wish if they could add one or more flights for connectivity then it would be great,” Jyothi said.

Bangaram may soon have more properties and a 22-acre resort proposal at Thinnakara by a private team may also come up if it gets disentangled from the litigation it is caught up in.

If more such facilities are offered on these beaches, the tourism landscape of Lakshadweep is surely going to have a major makeover.

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