Lost in the Wilderness

Lord Dholakia

Many years have passed since Roy Plomley first introduced Desert Island Discs on the BBC. The sound of breaking waves, with seagulls in the background, has always remained in my memory.
Imagine my surprise when Ann & I were invited by Ravi Mehotra CBE on his Indian Ocean cruise as a guest lecturer. It was a journey of a life-time, cruising to Lakshadweep islands which lie in the hub of the Arabian – African – Asian trade routes.
How many of us can identify the location of these islands on a map?
Most of us have heard of the Maldives but few realise that there are a series of islands in the Indian Ocean. They provide the quintessential uninhabited paradise with sun drenched coral sand beaches, coconut palms swaying in the wind, lapped by the gentle waters of naturally formed lagoons. These are the worlds most spectacular tropical island systems, tucked away about 180 miles off the Malabar Coast of India. There are 36 Islands and each one is fringed by white coral sands. The water is crystal clear and the rich marine life is a joy to watch.
The 14 day cruise began in Goa with stops at Mangalore, the island of Suheli, Cochin, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Trivandrum and the island of Cheriyam before finishing back in Goa. Suheli and Cheriyam are uninhabited islands in the Lakshadweep system. Darwin theorised that the base of the islands below the reef is volcanic over which the coral settled. In 1799 the islands were annexed to the British East India Company but they became Indian Union territory in 1956. The only commercial crop is coconuts. Slow-moving sea cucumbers, shelled molluscs, hermit crabs, shrimp and lobsters inhabit the reefs with dolphins, turtles, rays and even flying fish making occasional appearances.
The islands were a magnet for a care free life. Almost all the facilities including a beach barbecue and cold drink containers were transported from the ship to shore. It was a real treat to sit and drink and relax amongst this stunning and largely untouched splendour.
But then it wasn’t simply the islands. To and fro we went down India’s coastline touching wonderful places like Cochin in Kerala
Old Cochin centres around Mattancherry Palace, where the nearby fort lies in ruins. Mattancherry Palace was presented to the Raja of Kochi by the Portuguese in 1557 in exchange for trading rights and it served as a backdrop for coronations of the Cochin Rajas.
We stayed in Colombo, Sri Lanka for two days. It is a beautiful and diverse city. Rather than visiting the Elephant Orphanage, a wonderful tour that we have done before, we enjoyed the hospitality at the Mt Lavinia Hotel. Many cameras have clicked here to photograph the stunning sunset for which the hotel is famous.
The cruise was full of other activities. Visiting Captain Mirko Vranicic on the bridge and being guided into port by Dolphins will remain lasting memories.
Then there were Indian cooking classes, bridge playing and matinee movies, as well as the usual casino, spa and beauty salon and dancing to the ship’s band. On this day I sang for my supper, giving two speeches. The first, ‘From Pier to Peer’, was about my life in politics. The second, ‘An Audience with Lord Dholakia’ was a more general opportunity for guests to talk with me and ask any questions they had.
We very much enjoyed this opportunity to spend our recess in such a relaxing way. It was a pleasure to be on a ship with an informal atmosphere, no dress code, and a friendly, and relatively small, group of other guests. It was also a joy to be able to visit wonderful places with, unusually for us, the time to actually enjoy them.
The world is changing fast. Climate change may mean that some of these islands will disappear over a period of time. To see the vastness of the ocean with the abundance of marine life made me realise how important it is to protect what is left.
This is a legacy we must leave for our children.

12 comments for “Lost in the Wilderness

  1. 14/05/2008 at 9:48 am

    Hello there. I was sent a link to your blog by a friend a while ago. I have been reading a long for a while now. Just wanted to say HI. Thanks for putting in all the hard work.

    Jennifer Lancey

  2. Bedd Gelert
    14/05/2008 at 2:20 pm

    Don’t tell us – tell Baroness Murphy and Lord Soley !!!

  3. Bedd Gelert
    14/05/2008 at 2:21 pm

    And puuuhhhllleeeeeeaaassssee don’t tell us that any part of this holiday involved FLYING ??!!

  4. Bedd Gelert
    15/05/2008 at 9:09 am

    Or alternatively.. Check out this story of a river journey, which has just won a Sony Radio Award..


    Climate Change – coming soon to a sub-continent near you…

  5. Bedd Gelert
    15/05/2008 at 10:53 am


    [Prince Charles] called on Governments to act within 18 months or risk causing a catalogue of natural disasters.

  6. ladytizzy
    15/05/2008 at 3:59 pm

    I do love reading about holidays. It’s been 10 years since we had one, due to keeping our business afloat, no thanks to this gvt. Sorry, grungy day after talking to two gvt offices and getting as much sense out of them as a dead parrot.


  7. Bedd Gelert
    15/05/2008 at 7:29 pm


    The other side of the ‘carbon equation’ and one which is often overlooked as it doesn’t seem as ‘sexy’ to the news media.

    Tiz – You have my sympathies as most people in the ‘bureaucrati’ have no understanding of how to run a business, or any sympathy with those running a business, and no comprehension that small/medium sized enterprises are the engine which fuels economic growth, employs people and pays the taxes which keep them in a job !

  8. Bedd Gelert
    15/05/2008 at 7:51 pm


    More about ‘eco-tourism’…

  9. ladytizzy
    17/05/2008 at 1:17 am

    Thanks so much, Bedd! Big hugs.

    It’s a strange world we inhabit. If I had been more ‘enabled’, I’d have grown/started up new businesses, employing more people (points awarded) but would likely to have taken holidays to exotic places as described above (points deducted).

    The issue of visitors to endangered sites to promote their endangered status is also strange. It was so much easier when I was young, travelling, learning and understanding different cultures, without worrying about my carbon footprint.

    It is sad that we are frowning upon the exciting travels of our future generations.


  10. Bedd Gelert
    18/05/2008 at 10:50 am

    Lady Tizzy, Check out this comment from Rhodri Morgan back in 2005.


    Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan AM, the First Minister for Wales, made this comment in a debate on policing: “The only thing which isn’t up for grabs is no change and I think it’s fair to say, it’s all to play for, except for no change.”

    A similar point could be made about the environment. I much enjoyed just ‘going for a spin’ in the car years ago – as Chuck Berry might put it ‘with no particular place to go’. I even popped over to Germany in the motor, as it was cheaper than flying back in those days. Bad Dog !

    It ill behoves me to be too sanctimonious on this front, but world population is over 6 billion and rising, so simply carrying on in the same way is not an option. I think it is a strength of the House of Lords that they don’t respond in a knee-jerk fashion to every single passing puff of wind, and are circumspect enough to take a step back and take time to consider the evidence.

    But likewise I think they are the ones who have the opportunity to look at the longer term, beyond the shallow time horizon of the next General Election, in terms of what must be done for the environment.

    The planet can take care of itself, and will be here long after we have gone – but are we prepared to risk the sacrifice of billions of our fellow travellers in the process ?

  11. Senex
    30/05/2008 at 12:14 pm

    It must have been fascinating for the locals to see and hear a British political Peer especially when the Maldives is a republic with no second house?

    Did you get many questions about a second house and what it does?

    I ask this because according to the link below their constitution is undergoing change to modernise it. It was previously a Sultanate and has now become a one-house democracy.

    Their political infrastructure is more fascinating to me that the islands themselves. It seems to have remained untouched for centuries and this makes it even more fragile than the eco systems that surround it.

    With regard to your political party and your name ‘Liberal Democrats’, I find this intensely annoying. Everybody refers to your party as the Liberals but you still insist on keeping the name you have taken.

    It seems to be an act of denial to the rich political legacy of the Liberals, which undertook such good work for the poor when the Labour party were still in nappies. Whatever did you do to break that faith, fail to get into bed with the labour unions?

    How about having a word with the ‘Rats’ that caused the name change with a view to returning you to a name with provenance and one that rolls off of the tongue more readily?

    It might encourage ‘New Labour’ to do the same especially if they enter a political wilderness caused by bankruptcy or banishment by the electorate.


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