Kalpeni - aaah, doesn't the sweet name conjure up a restful island with lovely beaches? The first thing we did on Kalpeni was to visit the Tip Beach. It's named thus because it is at the tip of the island, duh!!! It's a beach right out of an island paradise brochure...
Here we found dozens of hermit crabs scurrying about in their borrowed shells. And I wondered how like a human couple they are, beginning life in a "starter" home and then gradually upgrading to bigger dwellings as the family expands - unless of course it's a Malayali couple who will build the biggest mansion they cannot afford to have, pay off the loans all their lives, and then rattle about in the huge house like two dried nuts when the kids are all gone.
One would think the sea had SOMETHING better to do that draw wavy lines over parts of the beach???
And depositing all these weird-looking rocks for us to play with???
I could go on posting pictures of Tip Beach ad nauseam. If I had been left to my own devices, I would have spent the whole day wandering up and down the beach, meditated with the hermit crabs, spent time in the hut gazing out into the sea and waded over and over again in the shallow channel...
But bigger and better things were to come, so it was good that we did go to Koomel beach on the other end of the island. But not before DH delivered a personal Taj Mahal!
Koomel beach too had ample space for rest and relaxation...
If one were so inclined... But we opted to take a small boat to the neighboring Pitti islet to indulge in water sports. We tried kayaking which was slightly difficult due to the pull of the tides. My arms ached with the unaccustomed exercise that evening. But it was a lot of fun! I had to double up with Ani and let me tell you it was slightly nerve-wracking to keep from being brained by his paddle and try to make us go in one direction.
But the best thing was snorkeling off Pitti islet. The shallow sea-floor right next to the island was a farm of sea cucumbers - no they are NOT plants. I thought they were some kind of rock and picked one of them up and dropped it back hurriedly as it felt limp like a rotten cucumber! But a little way from the shore, as we went into deeper waters, we found coral formations of the cutest kinds. I guess we could call them baby corals. Swimmers are required to wear a life vest at all times. This made it easier for to float face downwards just beneath the surface while breathing freely.
The cutest coral I saw looked like a purple brain around the size of two footballs. One part of the "brain" had delicate pink and white spiky coral around which a school of tiny fish were swimming with a larger one of the same kind. On the other side of the "brain", in a crevice near the floor, a tiger lobster's tentacles waved gently. I hope he wasn't planning to make a meal of the tiny fish circling above him!
As I stopped paddling and gently floated about, more and more fish of all hues and shapes appeared. A slight undulation along the sea-floor beneath me caught my eye. It turned out to be a lacy white fish that reminded me of a bride in her white gown and lacy veil. Its movements were so gentle and mincing that I followed it totally mesmerized.
After almost an hour, I let the incoming tide nudge me back towards the island. As I was floating dreamily over the beginning of the sea-cucumber field, one of them raised itself partially off the sea-bed, enlarged one of the several dark holes on its body and spat something out. I hurriedly found my legs and stomped off as far as I could from that rude sea-cucumber! Huh!
Here we are rockin' the snorkels!
On our way back to the main island we saw two huge turtles swimming by. Judging by their size, DH commented that they could well be a hundred years old and have been here during the British occupation! I was glad that I had not encountered one of them while floating dreamily over the coral paradise. Kalpeni is said to have a better scuba-diving experience than Kavaratti as there are more varieties of live coral around the island. We decided to give it a miss as the snorkeling had been brilliant enough.
The afternoon saw us trundling off to a coconut mill and hosiery unit on the island and the tourist group as a whole did its best to boost the local economy. We came back to Koomel beach to laze in the shade and see this...
A couple of old-timers and a bunch of Gen Y'ers gathered to give us a rousing Parichamuttu performance. It was fun to watch the formations and hear the thud of the wooden swords and shields. The first few numbers were appreciated with lukewarm clapping. I was almost dropping off into a doze when a new number with familiar lyrics and faster tempo suddenly came on. It took me a few moments to realize that they had adapted a well-known Hindi movie song to their art form. This number was hugely appreciated by the largely North Indian tourist crowd and there was enthusiastic clapping along with the song as well as afterwards!
I wondered about using the same technique to make Kathakali a little more palatable to the masses... then hastily banished the impious thought!
At the end of the day, we heartily welcomed the sight of our "mother ship" waiting for us...
Ithi Lakshadweepa savari: Kalpeni kandam samaaptham!