An uninhabited island in the middle of the deep blue Arabian Sea, carpeted with heaps of sea shells and decorated with various kinds of polygonal columnar geological formations - that’s St. Mary’s
Islands near Malpe beach in Karnataka. A hidden treasure and an absolute must-see!
|St. Mary's Islands|
We took an overnight bus from
to Udupi and stayed at Malpe beach. The beach had lovely white sands and was ideal for swimming. Our travel book recommended an excursion to St. Mary’s Bangalore Islands and so we decided to make a trip there the very next day. The ferry ride to the islands took over 20 minutes and we were told that although the name actually refers to a group of four islands, we would be dropped at the island which was most popularly visited. The ferry stopped a few metres away from the shore and we had to wade through knee deep water to reach the island. Although the travel book had told us what to expect, what we actually saw exceeded all our expectations. The island was completely uninhabited and the only folks around were those who had taken the ferry along with us. The sea was mostly deep blue with shades of turquoise.
|Basaltic Lava Columns|
The characteristic feature of St. Mary’s
Islands is the presence of stunning polygonal column-like structures formed with basaltic lava, millions of years ago. Each formation is unique and it was fascinating to look at them closely- most columns were stuck to each other but revealed the joints, some columns stood with slight gaps in between. Some columns looked as if they were vertically bunched together and chopped at the ends smoothly while others seemed to be chopped leaving jagged, uneven endings. Although the Geological Survey of India has recognized it as one of the geological monuments, we did not see any particular effort to educate the visitors about its composition, formation, scientific studies being conducted and so on. Thus, for most visitors, it remains only a beautiful sight to be enjoyed. Another interesting fact we gathered was that Vasco da Gama is believed to have first stopped at St. Mary’s Islands before reaching Calicut during his first voyage to in 1498. That also makes it historically significant, but again, we did not see any signs or information on the island which supported this claim. India
The island is also a shell-collector’s paradise as there are heaps and heaps of shells on the beach. The island has a small park for children with slides and swings and some benches to sit. There are no shops or restaurants on the island and we found this to be very unusual. On the way back in the ferry, we wondered if keeping the St. Mary’s Islands out of the regular touristy traps was a carefully considered policy of the authorities meant to actually preserve the local geology or if it was a missed opportunity of promoting geo-tourism or if it was simply a sheer indifference towards our rare and incredible wonders.
|Heaps of sea shells|