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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One of Andaman’s Pristine Islands that is turning into a garbage dump!!

This place has huge political and historical significance as this is where the infamous Kaala Pani punishment was meted out to the Indian prisoners. And, to top this, this place is one of Andaman’s pristine tropical islands. But, cleanliness is of hardly any significance here at Viper Island.

 
As soon as one enters Viper island from its only boat jetty, one can spot garbage strewn around the entire beach and amidst the coconut trees and sadly most of it is non bio-degradable plastic.

 
What irks me most is that the locals don’t mind this place becoming a garbage dump!! Little do they know that they will lose their income (from tourism, fishing and agriculture) if this keeps going on.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Corbyn’s Cove Beach from different angles

Corbyn’s beach, nestled in a cove near Port Blair, looks exotic from different angles.


I figured this out by walking the entire beach stretch, by climbing the rocks at one end and the densely forested hills on the other.

 
While walking down the main beach pathway, one can keep gazing at the lovely lane of coconut trees while lapping up the sound of the gentle waves.
 

Or, if you are on the beach during low tide, you can climb the rocks that jut into the Bay of Bengal and play hide and seek with the crabs. This is where you can get a panoramic view of the Corbyn’s cove.


Then, if you are adventurous enough, you can climb the densely forested hills nearby and soak in the view of the entire sea along with the cove.

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Wildlife Sighting during a cruise at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala, India!!

The view of the shola forests, the lovely greens and the vast hills is not the only thing that one gets to see during a cruise at the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

 
In addition, the jungle loving tourist gets to see a lot of wildlife in its best forms.


The Periyar Tiger Reserve is known for its elephants and tigers. But, sighting a tiger from a boat is very difficult unless it comes down to the river to quench its thirst.


And, I was just plain unlucky not to see the pachyderms. However, I was able to sight huge herds of the gaur. Gaurs are the largest bovine animal and are highly muscular in nature. Their white socks are a very pretty sight.

 
I was also lucky enough to sight huge groups of the wild boar who were busy grazing in the far away grasslands.


Overall, my best sightings were of the fish-loving cormorant and darter birds that were sunning themselves on the dead tree trunks. One could see these ultra flexible birds from a very close range.

 
I was able to sight other birds including kingfishers. But, the surprise package came in the form of a fresh water tortoise that had crept up a small rock and was soaking in the sun.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ripples in GREEN!!

I was on a boat cruise through the Periyar Tiger Reserve, when I captured this very different sight in my lens.

 
The ripples in the water, the reflections of the sun from the surface and the underwater green plants that lend the water its colour make this a dreamy sight! What do you think?

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Jungle Cruise at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady, Kerala, India

Most national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India offer their jungle and wildlife experience through jeep safaris or elephant safaris.


But, at Periyar Tiger Reserve, it is slightly different. The tourists get to see the forests and its wildlife from inside/on a boat.

 
This wildlife sanctuary and tiger reserve nestled in the Western Ghats is one of Kerala’s most sought after jungle holiday destinations.


The boat cruise on the Periyar river presents its tourists with some very unique sights.


The naked tree trunks in the middle of the river is a very  different sight indeed. It is very interesting to see the boats go left and right trying to manoeuvre through these tree trunks.


It is said that this river floods during the monsoons and by the time the water recedes, the river had changed its course.


Along the river are these green grasslands followed by dense green shola forests that make for an extremely lovely sight.

 
Even if one doesn’t get to see any wildlife on this boat cruise, which is very rare, one can still admire nature’s abundant beauty here. And, the various shades of GREEN here are so very pleasing to my eye.


The calm waters, the fantastic green cover, the dead tree trunks and the hills of the Western Ghats in the background make this boat cruise a very memorable one.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Corbyn’s Cove Beach – Port Blair’s Favourite!!

The setting is special. A pretty looking lagoon, gentle waves, a nice safe cove and a clean and soft beach surrounded by coconut trees nearby and hills and tropical forests beyond.


What more can one ask for? It makes for a great beach destination.

 
This cove and beach is situated just 7 kilometres from Port Blair city. To make it better for tourists, there are a couple of beach facing restaurants that dish out the best sea food. No wonder, the Corbyn’s Cove Beach is a favourite of the islanders.

BTW, don’t miss out on the matka kulfi here? It is yummilicious!!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

View of Port Blair from atop the Cellular Jail watchtower

The Cellular Jail may have had an infamous past, but the views from atop the watch tower are simply stunning.

 
There are satellite dishes amidst coconut trees nearby. Then we have the bluish green waters of the Bay of Bengal. And in the yonder, we have the views of many tropical islands that are dense and green.


Very picturesque indeed!

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Cellular Jail Museum – Remembering the infamous past

As I kept wandering about the various wings and corridors of the Cellular Jail, I came upon the Cellular Jail Museum.


This is where one can see life size models that depict the life of a Cellular Jail inmate.

 
The prisoners were punished in various ways. For a certain type of crime, they were whiplashed by the jail officers and made to break huge rocks into small stones for hours.


Then, the other punishment was to strip the prisoner, make him stand on the main portico and whiplash him till he fell unconscious. This was done to send a lesson of fear to the other jail inmates.


Then, the most infamous one was to get the prisoner to grind groundnut/palm oil and whip him if he stopped due to fatigue or pain.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Cellular Jail Gallery!!

The Cellular Jail at Port Blair, which is a national heritage site features great galleries.


Painters and artists alike from all over the country have contributed their works here.


These paintings in the Cellular Jail gallery are not only fabulous in design and taste, but are also monumental in helping tourists visualize life in the jail and outside (around Port Blair) during pre-independence days.

 
While some paintings illustrate the atrocities meted out to the Indian prisoners, the others provide chronicles of the lives of Indian freedom fighters.

 
Then there are some that show fights between the bows and arrows of the local Andamanese tribes and the guns of the British officers.

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Cellular Jail at a glance!!

Most Indians would have heard about the infamous Cellular Jail or the Kaala Pani punishment.


This is where the British during pre-independence days made the Indian freedom fighters suffer for standing against them.


And, what suffering it was!! I literally cringed at the sights when I visited the Cellular Jail that is being maintained as a National Heritage Monument at Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.

 
The buildings are like dungeons. The narrow corridors and the narrower dimly lit jails are awe-inducing.


The two-floored gallows are also a very disheartening sight. But, if one were to see this all from the sight of a building, then one would hardly feel anything. They would just be seeing brick and mortar.


But, if one were an Indian, and even better, if they know the history of Cellular Jail, then seeing these will bring out one’s patriotic spirit and would ooze hatred against the British and the Indian servants who followed their wicked orders.

 
The atrocities and the punishments meted out to the denizens of this jail would make even the strongest person cringe in pain.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wanna go on a Motorcycling Holiday to the Himalayas!

This July and August, Motours, a motorcycle adventure company from Bangalore is organizing 3 fully packaged motorcycle rides to the Himalayas (One way trip to Ladakh, A Ladakh/Jammu & Kashmir Round Trip and the Baspa, Kinnaur, Spiti and Lahaul Loop of the Indian-Tibet Border)! And since this is the first year since company formation, the rates are the lowest in the market.

A quick highlight can be seen in the flyer below.

A word of encouragement for all those interested, but worried about credibility of this young organization is that all these Himalayan rides will be managed and run by experienced motorcyclists including me who have travelled the length and breadth of this vast country. Also, each motorcycling package has been prepared keeping in mind all comfort and safety requirements of the rider and the pillion.

Additional facilities like getting a bike on hire, motorcycle and travel insurance and motorcycle transportation can be arranged for a nominal additional cost.

I am definitely going on this Himalayan Motorcycling Holiday! Would you want to join me?

For all kinds of questions, feel free to contact me!

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Cruise to Lakshadweep Islands - FAQ and Review

Most of you know that I had recently gone on a cruise to the Lakshadweep Islands that is situated to the west of the Kerala coast in India. A lot of my friends and readers alike had expressed interest in knowing more about this tropical paradise. So I decided to put together this small report that aims to answer most of your questions and also provide my review based on my experience.


Questions and Answers

When did you go to Lakshadweep Islands?
Feb 08 to Feb 12, 2010

When is the best time to go to Lakshadweep?
After the monsoons to before the summers

Does one require special permission to go to Lakshadweep Islands?
Yes. Indians are allowed on all islands, but foreign tourists are allowed only to the islands of Agatti, Bangaram and Kadmat. Permissions can be got at the Lakshadweep Tourism office at Cochin or through your travel operator.

What are the available modes of commute to Lakshadweep?
By Air to Agatti Island or by cruise liners from Mumbai, Mangalore or Cochin.

How did you book your travel?
I booked through SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports) that handles all administration for Lakshadweep travel and tourism. They offer various packages to suit different needs.

Which package did you take?
I took the Coral Reef Package 5D/4N.

Did you book online or go through a travel agent?
I looked up the packages online at Lakshadweep Tourism’s website and then booked my tickets through their associated travel agent Clipper Holidays located close to Brigade Road at Bangalore.

How much did the package cost?
The overall package cost me INR 12,500 per head inclusive of taxes. Though, I spent additional for water sports like scuba diving (INR 2500 per dive; a dive lasts between 45 minutes to 90 minutes) and snorkelling (INR 100 per hour towards gear rental).

Which all islands were covered as part of this package?
Kavaratti, Kadmat and Kalpeni.

What all are covered in this package?
Accommodation on ship (dormitory, 4 person cabins or 2 person cabins) depending on class of booking. I had opted for the dormitory, that is similar to a train’s AC compartment. All food during the course of the journey either on the ship or on the islands. Island Sightseeing and some water sport activities.

Can you give more details about the day-to-day itinerary? This is not available on the Lakshadweep Tourism website.
Note: I have linked my blog posts to respective sections of the itinerary for your convenience.
Day 1:
8 AM: Report at Lakshadweep tourism office at Willingdon Island, Cochin to collect boarding pass. Security Check. Board bus to Cochin Port. Board Ship. Explore ship and enjoy Cochin harbour view. 1 PM: Lunch on ship. 3 PM: Ship leaves Cochin Harbour. Rest in your respective places or enjoy the ocean view and evening sunset. Night on the ship.

Day 2: Breakfast on Ship. Shortly, land on Kavaratti Island. Welcome session followed by relaxation on the beach, glass boat rides, swimming, kayaking and snorkelling. Lunch at Kavaratti. Local sightseeing including some rocky beaches, the marine museum and the desalination plant. Back to ship after evening tea. Evening, dinner and night on ship.

Day 3: Breakfast on ship. Shortly, land on pretty Kadmat Island. Welcome session followed by relaxation on the beach. Others went for local sightseeing while my friend and I went for scuba diving and snorkelling with Lacadives, a professional diving outfit at Kadmat. Spent the afternoon and evening exploring the beach. Then there was evening tea and snacks and then back to the ship. Dinner and night on ship.

Day 4: Breakfast on ship. Take a boat to Kalpeni Island. Welcome drink followed by kayaking and snorkelling session on nearby island. This was followed by lunch and some local sightseeing, which we chose to skip and instead chill out on the beach side under the shade as it was quite warm. Then, there was evening tea and snacks and then we walked to the main jetty through the island though we had the option of taking the bus/jeep. Back to ship. Dinner and Night on ship.

Day 5: Breakfast on ship. Arrival at Cochin Harbour by 10 AM. Disembark by 11:30 AM.

Which cruise liner too you to these islands?
Arabian Sea, the latest addition to the Lakshadweep government’s fleet.

Is liquor available at Lakshadweep?
Only at Bangaram Island.

What activities can one engage in at Lakshadweep?
Water sports stand high on the list with scuba diving, kayaking, snorkelling and water games being very popular. The beaches are great to explore and so are the islands with their nature’s bounty and local culture. Relaxing on the beaches with a book in hand is also a popular option.

Did you like your cruise to Lakshadweep Islands?
I absolutely loved it.

Would you go there again?
Definitely. These islands will always remain on my travel bucket-list.

Are 4N/5D enough for one to enjoy Lakshadweep?


Maybe not. But, staying longer is expensive as accommodation on the islands are pricey due to monopoly in the hotel business and some islands having private status. Instead, one can take different cruise packages and explore more places and islands.

What is your Review? Any Feedback?

The Place

The islands are fantastic. There is nothing that I dislike about the Lakshadweep Islands. I am just mesmerized by them. The tender coconut water is the best I have ever tasted.

The Cruise
Fortunately for me, I boarded a brand new ship and hence did not find anything wrong with the cruise liner. Instead, I found it to be a iron beauty. Though, I would say that the toilets in the dormitory section can be increased. They have 2 toilets (Male) and 2 toilets (Female) for 210 passengers. The food on the ship left a lot to be desired. They hardly had any taste or variety. But, then, I guess, for the money, it was worth it.

There is hardly any entertainment on the ship. So one should plan and carry their music, games and movies with them to keep themselves occupied. And, finally, folks prone to sea sickness, do remember to carry your medication as the ship can roll a bit.

If you have more questions, feel free to comment below. That way, I can try and make this post a great FAQ for taking cruises to Lakshadweep Islands.




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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Golden Sands of Cherai Beach, Near Cochin, Kerala, India

Cherai Beach is one of Cochin’s prized possessions and it is a place where nature has been very benevolent.

 
Situated about 20 kilometres from the main city, Cherai offers the perfect combination of golden sands at its beach line and peace and tranquillity at its backwaters.


Locals say that the population at Cherai and nearby has exploded over the years leading to huge crowds at the beach during the morning and evening hours.


But, they also mention that this population explosion hasn’t damaged the beauty of this place.


A short distance from the beach are the tranquil backwaters. One can see fishermen busy on these backwaters during the sunrise and sunset hours.

 
Then, we have the Cherai Beach Resorts that offer tourists the lovely option of enjoying both the backwaters and the beach by situating its property right between the two water bodies. The Kerala ayurvedic massages and the spa sessions are a speciality here and so is Toddy, the local Kerala brew.

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