LAKSHADWEEP – THE CORAL COUNTRY
The Lakshadweep islands are the only coral islands in the country. They almost seem to float out of nowhere some 400 kilometres from the coast of Kerala and of the 36 islands, only ten are inhabited. Most of them are long and irregular with a lagoon enclosed by a coral usually on the western side. . Believed to have been formed as a result of coral activity, each lagoon abounds with some spectacular growth of Corals which in turn supports a diverse array of marine life. The tiny narrow islands with their coconut palms, white coral beaches and lovely, shallow and waters, combine to make it a tropical dream few parts of the world could match.
. There are ‘ skip jacks, yellowfin tuna, mackerels, barracuda (easy to recognize by their long slim eel-like bodies), seer fish, the unicorn fish, the butterfly fish, the parrot fish, the lancet fish, the king fish, the rock cod, the rainbow runner, the chub, the snapper, the green and red snapper and flying fish. Then there is the rabbit fish (many types), the trigger fish (many types), the coral fish (many, many types) and so on.
It’s not just the conventional fish as we usually know them. Starfish, so common on beaches are rare in the deeper waters but are fascinating to watch if you can locate them in the white sand. They move in a peculiar way, gliding along without making any effort. You turn one over and you can see the underside of each arm with many hollow tubes which look like tiny fingers. These are called tube feet which can be pushed out and drawn back, each with a small sucker at its base which attaches itself to the coral rock and pulls the starfish along. From the same family are the sea lilies, which are flower-like creatures of the sea. Many have long stalks that support a head made of ten arms, or rays. Some are attached to the coral, some are completely detached and swim about freely.
One of the most fascinating creatures found in these waters is the octopus which has two eyes that are much. like your own. As a rule, an octopus takes,on same colour as the coral around which it is hiding. It changes its colour by opening or closing small coloured cells in its skin, often changing its pigmentation in a flash leaving you wondering if the nitrogen is getting to your head. The octopus belongs to the cephalopod family which also includes squids and scuttlefish all of which can, besides changing colour, shoot out a stream of black ink which clouds the water and confuses the enemy while the animal makes good its escape.
The harmless looking squid can be quite deceptive. In the sea they have perfected the art of ‘propulsion’ millions of years before man thought up of the jet engine common on our aircraft loft. The squid moves in .a particular direction by opening and shuttling the mantle very rapidly.
Water is drawn into the mantle cavity and then forced out through a siphon. Though you are likely to never see a giant squid so dose to the reefs, they are reputed to grow up to 50 or more fuel in length. The creatures are often strong enough to -even fight off the great sperm whale which feeds off, Own. the suckers on their long tentacles sometimes leaving scars on the thick hides of the whales.