St. Mary’s Islands – An escape to a little paradise
St. Mary’s Islands are a group of four islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Malpe in the coastal district of Udupi in the state of Karnataka, India. They are known for their distinctive geological formations of columnar basaltic lava created by sub-volcanic activity. It is said Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama stopped at these islands on the way to Kozhikode in Kerala, placed a cross of Mother Mary here and thus christening these islands.
Malpe is about 4km from the temple town of Udupi and this slice of land is about 30 minutes out into the sea from Malpe Beach. On another randomly planned trip, my friends and I hopped into the regular boat service to islands in the port of Malpe. Waddling across the backwaters, having glimpses of the placid Malpe seashore and yards of ship-building in the background, we set on our little voyage towards the islands. Water was so clear that we could see almost 10ft below the surface.
As we inched towards the islands, we were shifted onto a smaller boat since the larger one couldn’t dock close to the shallow shores. It was only then did we realize the grand splendor of this group of islands.
Just a few meters above the sea level, the north-south aligned islands form a non-continuous chain. The four largest islands are Coconut Island, North Island, Daryabahadurgarh Island and South Island. The columnar lava found reveals a magnificent array of hexagonal shaped or polygonal columns divided into a flat mosaic. The place is a sea-shell haven with seashells of innumerable shapes and sizes littered along the shoreline. Moreover, it is one of those rare instances where one beach is all sand and the other full of shells. The prominent coconut trees and its cover reflect in an azure south sea colour here.
Though the tides are too strong, we did find a stretch where we could venture into the water though we didn’t dare make it too far deep. Some insane moments followed- salty water gulped in, shells that pricked inside clothing, we made out of the water only when it had started getting hot.
On the island, various birds can be spotted like the gulls, crows, Brahminy kites, Great White Egrets, Grey Egrets etc. There is no habitation here so it’s totally untouched except for some pavilions and park benches provided for the tourists. Well, for adventure enthusiasts though there are jet-skiing and paragliding on the shores of Malpe beach on the way back from the islands.
The serenity of the place is absorbing in itself. Easily, we spent more than 4 hours relaxing on the stretches of rocks watching the mild waves lash on to the shores, crabs clinging onto the crevices of the rocks, little fish skidding across fissures in the shallow sea.
Here are a couple of snaps taken by a professor of the college that I studied in. He is very enthusiastic about aerial photography and I had a chance to work under him as a project student in developing unmanned aerial vehicles.
Statistical details: courtesy Wikipedia