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Bangaram and Thinnakara islands becoming tourism hotspots in Lakshadweep

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Bangaram/Kavaratti (Lakshadweep), Feb 10 (PTI) When the fishing boat carrying tourists wades through the turquoise blue waters, as it approaches the Bangaram island, one could clearly see the coral reefs and flashes of multiple colors inside those natural structures.

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You can spot large sea turtles and various fishes running away from the sound of the boat's propeller.

There is no need to question why Bangaram and its nearby Thinnakara island are considered the hot spot of tourism activity in Lakshadweep.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's photographs during his visit and stay at Bangaram, taken on a newly formed sand bank there has made the place even more popular.

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

Occasionally tourists who are staying in Agatti, come to take a stroll on the resort property and go back and the guests staying there return to their tranquility, with no outside noises but just the humming of the sea breeze.

"Bangaram has been a tourism destination for many years. We even had a casino on the island and resorts. But all of them were closed down later, maybe due to the connectivity issues of lakshadweep,"Saifullah, a local resident of Agatti, who stays six months in Thinnakara island for tapping the coconut sap for making coconut jaggery.

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His wife runs a small restaurant for tourists who visit Thinnakara.

Saifullah knows everything about Bangaram and Thinnakkara.

"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.

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"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," he said.

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

"These islands are the most beautiful in Lakshadweep as they have large lagoons with crystal clear water. We also have remains of a shipwreck near Bangaram, which is now a snorkeling hotspot.

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

He said 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.

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This could arguably be the only shipwreck ecosystem in the world where one can literally walk through the sea and see. 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 fishes using a snorkeling glass. They nibble on biscuits or bread from the hands of the people.

Compared to beaches in Bangaram, the beaches in Thinnakara are very shallow and offer an excellent opportunity for people to swim and enjoy the serene nature.

This uninhabited island is filled with coconut trees and there are only 15 people living on the island for six months, mostly involved in making coconut jaggery.

"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 had a similar opinion.

"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 as another 22 acre resort proposal at Thinnakara by a private team is now entangled in a court case.

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

Both these islands can be reached within 45 minutes on a boat from Agatti, if there is no sea turbulence.

Agatti has the sole airport in Lakshadweep. PTI KPK HMP ROH

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