Published on March 22nd, 2013 | by Anusuya Suresh3
Islands of India – Beyond Andaman and Lakshadweep
Say the word “island” and for anyone familiar with India, the first names that come to mind are the exotic and picturesque pearls of the Indian Ocean: Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep. Indeed, these are places of a rare virgin natural beauty – destinations you ought to visit at least once in your lifetime. However, there are a few other islands of India that are not as well-known, but truly worth visiting – Netrani and Nisargadhama in Karnataka, Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Diu off the coast of Gujarat and Majuli in Assam.
Also called Pigeon Island because of the large population of pigeons found here, Netrani is a coral island that is easily accessible from the coast of Karnataka as well as Mumbai and Goa. Most people do not step onto the island because of the jagged rocks that make it difficult to reach the land; instead, the focus is on diving and snorkeling from a boat anchored close to the island to get a view of the several species of parrot, trigger and butterfly fish, corals, shrimps, eels, black and white tip sharks, turtles and stonefish.
If you are an adventure enthusiast who likes diving and snorkeling, get in touch with one of the companies located in Mumbai, Goa or Karnataka who can make the necessary arrangements. The island next to Netrani is used for target practice by the Indian Navy and therefore, a trip to this place requires permission from the Indian Navy, which the travel company can arrange. The months between June and September are out of bounds because of the choppy waters; plan a visit during December or January to have the best experience.
About 2 kilometres away from Kushalnagar located in the hills of Coorg is the island of Nisargadhama in the middle of the Cauvery river. Best known for the dense bamboo, teak and rose wood forest, this is an ideal picnic spot to visit with your family. The sandy river bed, boat ride, children’s playground, elephant ride, deer park and orchidarium here ensure there is enough to keep even little kids interested.
The Karnataka Forest Department has constructed the hanging bridge that is the point of entry to Nisargadhama; it also maintains a guest house and a few bamboo cottages on treetops that can provide you with a distinctive holiday experience. If you plan to stay here, make sure you book in advance, by calling at 08272-228305, because people who suddenly walk-in may not be provided accommodation, especially during the peak season.
You can also take in a little of the Tibetan Buddhist culture by visiting Bailkuppe that is located about 10 kilometres away from the Nisargadhama resort or travel to Madikeri – a popular hill station that is about 30 kilometres away. The place has a unique beauty during the monsoon between June and September; however, if you are taking kids along, it may be best to schedule your trip for the period between October and May.
If you want a break that lets you connect with your inner self by seeking the divine, schedule a trip to the island town of Rameswaram. Famous for the lingam that is said to be installed by Lord Rama before He walked across the bridge to Lanka, this place is a pilgrimage centre that has places of holy significance. The most important of these are the Agni Theertham, Jadayu Theertham and Viloondi Theertham and the Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple.
If you need a refresher course on the spirit of surrender to God, hard work and humility, take a trip to the fishing village of Dhanushkodi – this is where Vibheeshana, Ravana’s brother is said to have taken refuge in Rama; this is also the birthplace of India’s former President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
To reach Rameswaram from the mainland you need to travel on the Pamban Bridge – a beautiful railway journey on a cantilever bridge that stretches for about 2.3 kilometres on the Palk Strait. There is also an adjacent bridge that connects the island with the mainland by road and driving or walking on this is a truly breathtaking experience.
If spending time basking in the warm sunshine and frolicking in the sea as you enjoy the beautiful sunset is your idea of a relaxing holiday, head to the best islands of India, Diu, which is located off the coast of Gujarat. This place along with Daman, is one of the union territories of India and can be approached via Ghoghla if you start from Saurashtra. Buses from different parts of Gujarat will also take you to Diu. In many ways, this island has an ambiance similar to that of Goa, albeit minus the crowds of foreign tourists. Besides the beaches, there are churches, temples, a fort, a seashell museum and the Nayda caves that make for interesting excursions.
Best known as the world’s largest deltaic island located in mid- river, Majuli is an island in the middle of the Brahmaputra river in Assam. This island is also home to several rare and dwindling species of migratory birds such as the Whistling Teal, Geater Adjutant Stork and the Siberian Crane, and is a bird sanctuary of sorts. The local people belong to several different ethnic groups with their own distinctive forms of art and culture that are a treat to experience. Jorhat in Assam is the gateway to Majuli island and is approachable by bus from Guwahati; you could also take the train or a flight to reach Jorhat and then take the ferry to the island.
Make it a point to visit this beautiful island soon, because within the next 15 to 20 years, it is expected that soil erosion will probably cause it to be completely submerged under the river. Being a largely under-developed area, there is not much by way of accommodation – just one hotel is available; however, there is a Circuit House and a few Inspection Bungalows are also available for which you have to contact the Sub-Divisional Officer at Garamur in Majuli. Some guestrooms may be available at Uttar Kamalabari, Natun Kamalabari, Bhogpur, Auniati and Dakhinpat, too.
Now that you have the necessary information, it is time for action. Consider your special interests and go ahead and visit one of these beautiful islands of India – not only will you have a wonderful holiday, you can probably introduce other like-minded travelers to these lesser-known locations.
Photo Credit: Kalai Sukanta by CC