St Mary’s Islands near Udupi is a wonderfully calm and beautiful place. Hop over there to beat the maddening city rush and enjoy playing with sea shells.
Why do people go for a holiday?
Well, to break the monotony of daily life. To break cobwebs that entangle us and make life so complex. To relax and rejuvenate themselves, which is why hill stations and beaches are tourist hotspots.
People living in the cities, completely in love with urban culture who, just for once, want to run away from the clutter into a free, wild space that gives them complete freedom.
St. Mary’s Island near Udupi in Karnataka offers just this!
Picture this: A vast landscape with no roads, buildings, fences, vehicles, parks markets…absolutely no sign of human settlement whatsoever. Just the enchanting naked beach with diverse flora and fauna in full bloom. St. Mary’s Island is certainly nature at its best!
A cluster of four islands together forms St. Mary’s islands. These isles are unique in terms of their geological formation. Columnar basaltic lava structures form patterns that lend a very distinctive feel to St. Mary’s Islands. The northernmost island has a hexagonal shaped basaltic rock formation, which is one of its kind in India. The islands are also listed in the inventory “Geological monuments of India”, declared by the Geological Survey of India. They form one of the four geological monuments in Karnataka state. Being an important site for ‘Geo tourism’, the islands attract a lot of geologists and research scholars.
While on the island, tourist can collect shells, walk along the coast or
simply sit on the rocks and gaze over miles and miles of the azure
limitless ocean. The western coastline of the islands is a seashell
paradise with shells of assorted shapes and sizes littered along the
shore. The islands defy the conventional definition of a beach as a
place to swim and laze around. The whole area is scattered with basaltic
rocks and flat slabs to sit and enjoy the serenity of the place.
Security guards keep vigil on tourists to ensure that they do not
venture beyond safety zones.
Watching the sun set over and drown into the sea is another special
delight. Visitors are absolutely free to explore and walk about the
islands to enjoy mesmerizing geological formations from vantage
positions. It is a popular picnic spot with locals and tourists alike.
The islands of St. Mary’s islands are extremely rich in terms of
diversity of flora and fauna diversity. Colonies of Gulls, sandpipers,
Brahminy Kites, Great White Egrets, Grey Egrets, Green Bee-eaters can be
spotted on the isles.
While on a trip to St. Mary’s islands, visitors must not miss the
worth-seeing sights in Malpe like the Vadabhandeshwara Temple and an
image of Sri Balarama sanctified by the saint Madhwacharya, the founder
of Dvaita Philosophy. The nearby township of Udupi, with its religious
sites, also attracts hordes of travelers every year.
There is a very interesting story behind the name of this group of islands. According to folk lore, the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama landed here in 1498 during his exploratory voyage to India. He fixed a cross on one of the islands and named it El Padron de Santa Maria, as a dedication to Mother Mary. The current name stems from this very title that Gama gave to the islands.
Being an uninhabited landmass, there are no accommodation facilities
on the islands. Except for a couple of chairs and small cemented
platforms with thatched roofs, there is no shelter. The best option for
tourists is to put up at one of the hotels in Udupi or Mangalore.
Another alternative is to stay in the resort in Malpe. Paradise Isle
Beach Resort located along the coast of Malpe is quite a favourite with
tourists but is a tad too expensive. Another substitute is the Palm
Groove Resort at Yermal Bada which is about 15 km before Udupi. This
place is really wonderful for campfires or watching the sun set. There
is only one beach house here that has to be booked well in advance.
December to March is the best season to visit the islands. A lot of
tourists choose to visit St. Mary’s islands during the Christmas and New
Year period because the weather is at its pleasant best, thus adding up
to the holiday mood.
Reaching the Island
The islands are connected to the mainland only through the town of
Malpe, which is a major fishing port. It is 58 km to the North of
Mangalore, the coastal city of Karnataka, which is also the nearest
airport. The famous religious town Udupi, which is the administrative
headquarters of St. Mary’s Islands, is about 60 km.
The islands are accessible only by boat. Regular ferry services are
available to cover the 6 km distance between Malpe and the islands. The
first boat to leave for St. Mary’s island starts off at 9.00 AM provided
there are at least 30 people for the journey. The ticket cost
approximately Rs 70 for adults and Rs 30 for kids (aged between 3 and
10). It takes about less than 30 minutes to reach the island. At the
island another small boat will ferry passengers back and forth from the
Many movies have been shot on these islands, thus popularising them
among the masses. Due to an absence of human civilization, tourists must
carry water bottles, snacks and sunscreens with them in order to avoid
feeling like Robinson Crusoe on the islands! The whole trip takes less
than a day and can be completed on a shoestring budget of approximately
A journey to St. Mary’s Island is a beautiful sensory treat. Far, far away from the humdrum of city life, one can enjoy the vast seas, a lush green environment, tune in to chirping of birds and for once, be one with nature!