Lakshadweep: Island Paradise Emerges as Prime Tourist Destination After PM Modi’s Visit

When preparing to touch down on the Lakshadweep archipelago, situated in the Arabian Sea about 490 kilometers west of Kochi, India, a captivating panorama of blues greets the eye. The closest strip to the pristine white shores, adorned with countless coconut palms, presents a gentle hue of light blue. As the view extends towards the sea, the water transitions into shades of turquoise, and further out, it deepens into an emerald blue expanse.

“It’s truly captivating,” remarked Shradha Menon, a geologist from the Indian Institute of Technology, who made multiple visits to the islands over the past two years to investigate carbon sedimentation. On each journey, she found herself among a select few passengers on the 36-seat flight from Kochi to Lakshadweep, mostly comprising island residents and government officials.

However, recent times have witnessed a surge of interest in the islands among Indian travelers, sparked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in January 2024. Images of him strolling along the pristine beaches and snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters were shared on his official social media accounts, garnering hundreds of thousands of views. In his message, he expressed, “The beauty of Lakshadweep can’t be described in words. To those who like to visit beaches and islands around the world, I urge them to visit Lakshadweep.”

Subsequently, the archipelago found itself thrust into the limelight. Google searches for “Lakshadweep” spiked to their highest level in 20 years, reported The Economic Times. Mainstream media outlets suddenly featured travel articles, while YouTube and Instagram were inundated with videos and reels. MakeMyTrip, a major Indian travel booking platform, reported a staggering 3,400% surge in searches for Lakshadweep after Modi’s visit.

The Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports (SPORTS), responsible for tourism in Lakshadweep, experienced an unprecedented influx of inquiries. Abdul Samad, one of SPORTS’ water sports instructors who accompanied Modi during his snorkeling excursion, noted a drastic increase from one or two inquiries per day to at least 10 since the previous month. Cordelia Cruises, operating routes from Mumbai, Kochi, and Goa to Lakshadweep since September 2021, witnessed a staggering 2,500% surge in booking queries post-Modi’s visit.

Plans are already underway for new beach and water villas on Suheli and Kadmat islands, confirmed Samad. Additionally, during India’s budget speech on February 1, Finance Minister Neermala Sitharaman highlighted Lakshadweep’s inclusion in discussions regarding improved connectivity to India’s islands to boost tourism.

Lakshadweep, a speck in the Arabian Sea, comprises 36 islands, including 12 atolls, three reefs, and five submerged banks. With a population of approximately 70,000 on its 10 inhabited islands, the region relies predominantly on fishing and coconut cultivation.

Distinguished by its pristine white sands, Lakshadweep’s beaches stand apart from those along India’s mainland coast. Vardhan Patankar, with 15 years of experience in the region and serving as conservation director of GVI, elucidated that the atolls, unique to India, hover just above sea level. These formations, remnants of ancient volcanoes, gradually submerged to their current level, fostering coral rings protruding from the ocean’s surface. “Lakshadweep, mere meters above sea level, finds protection in its coral reefs,” Patankar explained.

Like many islands worldwide, Lakshadweep confronts the impacts of climate change. According to The Lakshadweep Research Collective, rapid coastal erosion threatens the archipelago’s land cover, with the loss of an entire island, Parali 1 in Bangaram atoll, documented in 2017. Moreover, the region has endured four significant ENSO-related temperature anomalies and three devastating cyclones in recent years, leading to widespread coral bleaching.

“Based on conservative estimates by scientists, Lakshadweep could succumb to submersion by 2050,” Patankar cautioned. He emphasized that any additional strain on the islands due to tourism or development projects, coupled with industrial fishing, could exacerbate the situation, hastening their demise.

In an effort to mitigate the impact of escalating tourism, SPORTS intends to maintain restrictions via a permit system. Encouraging cruise ships and yachts to visit the islands is part of their strategy, aiming to minimize overnight stays and thereby regulate waste production and preserve groundwater resources.

However, concerns linger among scientists regarding potential damage to the delicate coral reef barrier by large vessels, critical for deflecting storm surges. Furthermore, the construction of high-end villas and associated carbon footprints raise apprehensions, along with the potential escalation of commercial fishing to meet tourist demands.

“Tourism growth must be carefully regulated to ensure the sustainability of Lakshadweep’s ecology,” Menon stressed.

For travelers venturing to Lakshadweep, practicing environmental consciousness is paramount. Fortunately, a plethora of low-impact activities awaits exploration.

Renowned for its shallow waters and diverse marine life, Lakshadweep offers unparalleled snorkeling and scuba diving experiences. “Underwater visibility is exceptional, enhancing the allure of the reefs during diving and snorkeling expeditions,” noted Patankar.

The underwater realm teems with a vibrant array of marine species, including snappers, groupers, moray eels, butterflyfish, and black-blotched stingrays. Green sea turtles often grace the waters, sometimes visible even from the shores. Among the fascinating sightings is the yellowmask surgeonfish, which undergoes a striking color transformation from yellow to purple as it matures.

The night sky, unperturbed by light and air pollution, provides a mesmerizing spectacle. “I’ve never witnessed such a profusion of stars, constellations, and shooting stars as during my three-day sojourn on the island,” shared Shalina CV, who visited Lakshadweep with her family in September 2023. She added, “Lakshadweep epitomizes a serene island where time seems to stand still, enveloping visitors in a surreal tranquility.”

Night fishing presents another captivating adventure, allowing tourists to join local fishermen on boating excursions and try their hand at pole-and-line fishing for skipjack and yellowfin tuna. Government-operated dive centers offer a range of water sports, including kayaking, windsurfing, and parasailing.

Several locally-run homestays, such as Abdul Rahman Homestay and Feroze Homestay on Agatti island, and Kinak on Kalpeni island, provide clean and comfortable accommodations. Some enterprising locals have also established private tourism enterprises, such as Landiago, offering unique experiences like visits to Minicoy Island’s Juma Masjid or exploration of an old lighthouse. Booking trips through local operators not only contributes directly to Lakshadweep’s economy but also facilitates a deeper engagement with the islands’ culture and heritage.

“I believe the islands are safest in the hands of locals. Collaborating with them to empower and bolster their capacity to safeguard the islands represents the best hope for their preservation,” asserted Patankar.

Ramanan Raghavendran Assumes Leadership as Chair of University of Pennsylvania’s Board of Trustees, Championing Sustainability and Philanthropy

Ramanan Raghavendran assumes the role of chair for the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania, succeeding Scott L. Bok, who held the position from July 2021 until his resignation in December 2023.

A distinguished alumnus of Penn, Raghavendran currently serves as the managing partner and co-founder of Amasia, a global venture capital firm with a specific focus on climate and sustainability.

J. Larry Jameson, Penn’s interim president, expressed his enthusiasm for Raghavendran’s appointment, referring to it as an “inspiring choice.” Jameson highlighted Raghavendran’s extensive connection to the university, having earned three Penn degrees and actively participated in various leadership roles. He also acknowledged Raghavendran’s professional experience, particularly in navigating a rapidly evolving business landscape. Jameson expressed confidence in Raghavendran’s collaboration with other distinguished trustees to advance the university’s significant and impactful missions.

Julie Beren Platt, who served as interim chair and will resume her role as vice chair, commended Raghavendran’s dedication to Penn. Drawing from her experience working closely with him on the Executive Committee, she emphasized his thoughtful approach to listening and his deep investment in relationships.

In response to his appointment, Raghavendran conveyed his honor in assuming the role of Chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees. He expressed a profound belief in the crucial role that esteemed American universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, play as custodians of the values that define modern civilization.

Raghavendran’s professional journey in venture capital and growth equity spans over three decades. He has held influential positions at General Atlantic, Insight Partners, TH Lee Putnam Ventures, and Kubera Partners. His career commenced at McKinsey & Company, marking the beginning of a trajectory that would lead him to his current leadership position at Amasia.

Beyond his corporate pursuits, Raghavendran actively contributes to societal and environmental causes. He currently holds a position on the board of SF Goodwill and serves on the advisory council of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University. Over the last 30 years, he has played a pivotal role as a seed funder and board member for numerous NGOs. His ongoing affiliation with Magic Bus, an organization dedicated to supporting at-risk children in South Asia, further underscores his commitment to social impact.

Raghavendran’s association with the University of Pennsylvania dates back to 2014 when he first became a university trustee. In 2020, he assumed the role of chair for the local, national, and global engagement committee. His contributions continued to grow, as he joined the executive committee in 2022. Furthermore, he has been actively involved with the School of Arts and Sciences board of advisors since 2012, eventually becoming its chair in 2022.

In summarizing Raghavendran’s multifaceted engagement with the University of Pennsylvania, it is evident that his commitment extends beyond his professional achievements. His extensive involvement in various capacities underscores a deep-rooted passion for the institution’s growth and impact.

“With three Penn degrees, devoted University engagement in multiple leadership roles, and professional experience in a rapidly changing business environment, he is poised to partner with other distinguished Trustees to support our university’s important and impactful missions.”

Reflecting on Raghavendran’s appointment, Platt adds, “Having worked closely with Ramanan as a member of the Executive Committee, I have seen first-hand his passion for and commitment to Penn. He is someone who listens with intention and invests deeply in relationships.”

Finally, Raghavendran himself emphasizes his belief in the vital role that institutions like the University of Pennsylvania play in shaping and preserving the values of modern civilization. “I am honored to take on the role of Chair of Penn’s Board of Trustees,” he states, encapsulating his deep sense of privilege in contributing to the university’s leadership.