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Udupi: St Mary's Island - Nature at its Resplendent Best
by Melisha Noronha and Vinod Prem Lobo

Jan 14, 2008

Each time we friends got together, we planned a trip to a quite getaway but somehow it never took off. Either a few of us were out of cash, or someone's bike had a problem or someone just had a bad stomach.

Like most other plans, this time we decided to make a trip to St Mary's Island - a trip we had been planning for over two years. Five enthusiastic self-proclaimed travellers decided on the last Sunday of December to make the grand trip happen. It was the perfect way to draw the year to a close. Sit by the sea and unwind taking a stroll down memory lane of the days gone by.

Yes! That's exactly what we did. Not five, but just the two of us. Wondering what happened to the rest? Well, one had a bad hangover of the previous night's unplanned party, one had an ailing dog with a bad cough who had to be taken to the vet and another thought it was not this but the following week and was not mentally prepared to have fun. Talk about people and their excuses!!!

Nothing could dampen our spirits as we embarked on the journey without the rest. For us it was a long-cherished dream of visiting the island because we felt strongly that it was a shame if we hadn't visited the island being in Mangalore.

Anyway the shameless people that we were, we headed to the island, just the two of us often being mistaken to be a couple.

St Mary's Island is a small patch of rocks lying 58 kms north of Mangalore and little to the north of the port of Malpe town. The best way to travel is by a service bus to Udupi, which is over an hours' journey from Mangalore. From Udupi, there are several local buses that can drop you off at Malpe.

Our knowledge base gave us a picture of a deserted island with only rocks, land and water seen endlessly around. Those who visited this place had told us it was an excellent spot to relax and tourists from all over the country visited the isles. No wonder Vasco da Gama is also said to have touched the island in 1498 before he reached Calicut. It is also said that he named it El Pardon de Santa Maria.

We nestled in our seats in the bus as we grumbled about all those who could not make it to the trip. But once we were out of the city, we began enjoying the journey gradually. It was relaxing as the roads were in good shape unlike a few months ago when going to Udupi was just nothing short of a roller coaster ride.

The sight of a hundred boats resting by the shore welcomed us as we entered the Malpe fishing harbour. Not to mention the smell of fish on the drying yard, the scorching heat too inflicted its share of pain on us.

The entry to the port can be got by paying a very nominal fee. If you are lucky to have an own vehicle, then a short ride away is the boating office. However since were not so lucky, we trod the dusty path for about ten minutes but enjoyed every sight on the way, clicking pictures, singing songs and pulling each other's legs.

It was half past one. The thought that we were nearing our destination kicked up a lot of excitement. The only way of reaching the island is by the private boats that ply the distance. At 70 bucks a ride, it's worth every pie. After waiting for a good half an hour, we finally saw the boat that was to ferry us across the sea.

The ride was an experience by itself. For city-bred people like us, our 'oohs' and 'aaahs' and 'wows' never seemed to end. The journey by sea takes about 45 minutes that go by in no time. For our company we had many couples around pointing out to each other the beauty of nature, children asking numerous questions, families clicking pictures from one end of the boat to the other and some boys who stood at the bow of the boat posing as Leonardo Di Caprios waiting for Kate to

The feel of the rough sea that made the boat to have rhythmic dumps had its own music. The thought that we were away from all the hustle and bustle of the city gave us a reason to sport a permanent smile on our faces.

The ride got even better when we had to switch boats mid sea. A boat came alongside ours' and we were asked to hop on. We are not good at judging nautical miles but we can tell you that the island is just five minutes away from where you board the second boat.

Across the waters, one could see a patch of greenery and some rocks. St Mary's Island - there it was! We got off the boat and into the water that touched the shore. And lo! Right in front of us lay one of God's most beautiful creations. It was the first time we were setting foot on an island.

Coconut palms adorn the island. The island provides a great backdrop for some good photographs. The scenery that captures the eyes is that of perfect coconut trees, the rocks and the sea that we drew at art class in school.

Another striking feature of the island is the columns of basalt rocks that stand tall on the shore and in the sea.

We were surprised to know that over 600 tourists spend their weekends on this island enjoying the pristine beauty of the isles. Regular ferry service was a boon, cleanliness on the island was what we felt needed some attention.

As we walked on to the other side of the island we noticed that there was no sand on the shore but just shells. In seconds we squatted and began picking shells and fought about who had found a better one. These small pleasures brought out the children in us.

The picturesque island, they say, was formed out of lava that erupted from the bottom of the Arabian Sea millions of years ago and is famous for its basalt rock formations. The Geological Survey of India declared it a National Geological Monument on November 16, 1979.

St Mary's Island is not for those who want lots of action on an outing but for those who want some time to themselves. Getting into the water is not advisable as the sea is very rough. The island has a makeshift stall that sells soft drinks and some eatables but it recommended that you carry refreshments from the Malpe market. And don't forget to carry the plastics back. You don't want to leave your mark on the island, do you?

Everything on the island, the greenery, rocks the blue waters was just the right invitation for a photographer and we too took turns to click loads of pictures. Calling it the right time to try our skills with the machine, a lot of trial and error went into our photography session. Thanks to the digital camera, that never got exhausted unlike the earlier film-loaded cameras.

If you think the island is a place for mindless freaking, you are wrong. A pair of watchful eyes will always be on you. Warning the adventurous tourists who climb certain dangerous rocks, the watchman who is 'all-supreme' on the island, is the man to be feared. Safety is his priority and with his whistle he sends timely warnings to ensure no untoward incident occurs and all are safe.

We never realized how time flew staring at the sea. What was most beautiful was yet to come. The sunset. Both of us were speechless as we watched the sun set on the horizon. What could be more beautiful than to be on an island, sit by the sea and watch the sun go down. As we watched the last glimpse of the setting sun, we could hear the sound of the boat hooting announcing its last trip. It was time to wrap up all the good times and take them back as memories forever. We
wished we were a group to head back singing and shouting but nonetheless two is still company and we had the best time we could.

On the ride back we were both silent, thinking of the time that we spent mesmerized in nature's resplendent beauty. As we got off the boat and bid farewell to a few friends we made on the island, we looked at each other, smiled and said " Hmmm....What Next?"

Viju Mangalore - Archives:

Melisha Noronha - Archives:

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Comments on this article
Lakshmi Bhat, UdupiTuesday, April 26, 2011
St Mary’s Island, a beautiful little island in the Arabian Sea, off the coast of Malpe. This little gem of an island, is twenty minutes away, by motor boat, from Malpe dockyard.
We had not been to St Mary's Island for many, many years and decided to go there last Sunday, 24-04-11.
We had beautiful memories of it and always told people that they had to go there, to see the naturally eroded hexagonal rock pillars and beaches with shells instead of sand and in some places, beautifully rounded pebbles and cobbles and boulders.
But, very, very sadly from the moment we got off the boat,and set foot on the island it was no longer what it had once been,beautiful.
There were bottles and plastics and tins thrown everywhere, an open garbage dump.
The beautiful pillars, with all their natural crevices had become a dumping ground for empty bottles. We had to search for a place to just sit and enjoy the waves .
Defaced, defiled and strangulated by human beings.
How can anyone even think of spoiling something so beautiful?
Tourists were coming and going, enjoying the beaches. I was wondering whether we had become so thick skinned and thick skulled to just accept all the filth as part of life.
Does it not prick the conscience of tourists and concerned authorities?
I don’t know.
But, I just know that now I would never ask anyone to go to St Mary’s, its condition left me so ashamed.

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caral, karkalaSunday, January 27, 2008
It was really very nice,,thanks both of u,,,,
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Octavia, malpe/dubaiSunday, January 27, 2008
Very nice article, every year I plan to visit this island, but never happend being in Malpe. This time in May, I make sure to visit this awesome place.
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Sukumar Talpady, Mangalore Saturday, January 26, 2008

Your article and photographs on St.Mary's Islands are very good and very nice. Very recently on Dec.31 2007, I wrote a letter to Deccan herald which was published requesting for the development of this island as tourist spot.

Very Happy to note that District Administration has proposed to spend Rs.2.5 crores to develop this island as tourist spot.

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Mr Augustine Daniel D'Souza, Udupi, Vasai Virar, State of KUWAITSunday, January 20, 2008
I always wanted to vist ST. MARY's ISLAND but never got a chance to visit this Island, Thank you for the information, next time I will visit this place surely.
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Ronald, Udyavara/DubaiSaturday, January 19, 2008
Wonderful ariticle & Nice place to visit if you are in Mangalore. People often visit Malpe beach and many do not visit St.Mary's iseland. Many Kannada movies are shot here as well.
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Austin Noronha, Vamanjoor / QatarThursday, January 17, 2008

How ironic is it that such a beautiful & pristine island exists in the vicinity of Mangalore city and I, being a mangalorean, am not aware of it. I am sure, like me, there are many more mangaloreans who have no clue about this scenic place. It just goes to prove that mangalore has a good potential for tourism but our government is neglecting it.

Melisha & Vinod, your narration of the article is, no doubt, top notch. I was expecting to see some more photos of this place and some more details like it’s area, inhabitants, etc.

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Merlyn Brito, OrlandoWednesday, January 16, 2008
Thank you for taking me there through your eyes. I have put a visit to St Mary's island on my 'to do' list. Merlyn
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Neville, Mangalore/MumbaiTuesday, January 15, 2008
Well I have visited this place about 3 years ago and its still fresh in my mind. Its a paradise and a beautiful island
Comment on this message     

Max E Rasquinha, Mangalore/Houston, TxTuesday, January 15, 2008

My grateful thanks to Melisha and Vinod for their wonderful article on St. Mary's Island. The name "Malpe" suddenly brought some flashback of nostalgic memories , memories that go back to the year of 1955. What a great opportunity to recollect a 53 year old sea journey of my trip from Mangalore to Malpe deep sea anchorage.

My dear teen-age friend had visited Mangalore along with her family. While she was returning to Bombay by the Scinida passenger ship m.s."Saraswati" I took the opportunity of accompanying her from Mangalore deep sea port upto Malpe deep sea port. The rough journey thru the rough waters in typical "Munjies" is still remembered. It was a nice three hour journey amidst the teen-age crave and craze, but was a worthwhile expedition.

Those three hours of sea journey enabled us to make a deep impression about ourselves and enabled us to get married in 1963, after eight solid years thereafter!! That reward is almost 45 years old this year!! I still remember the scenic journey from Malpe deep sea harbour to the shoreline with coconut trees all over.

 I took a bus from Malpe shoreline to Udipi enroute to Mangalore. It was a long long "Saraswati" voyage of 53 years well remembered and well compensated. We would like to visit Malpe once again and shall not fail to visit St. Mary's Island and witness the scenic beauty.

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Shashi, Udupi / Abu DhabiTuesday, January 15, 2008
I had been to this picturesque island several times. Every time I visit, find it more beautiful than before. Thanks to you, I’m nostalgic now.
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BG.Mohandas, UdupiTuesday, January 15, 2008
A timely reminder about such a scenic,beautiful Island off the coast of Malpe. Alas...the Governament has not done anything to protect this Island except to refuse to build a resort by a gulf based big businessman of Udupi origin!. Sunset pics are great to watch .
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Rajesh Sequeira, Kulshekar, DubaiTuesday, January 15, 2008
Viju It was a nice article I have heard a lot of St Mary island but I have still not visited this place nice to see the photogrphs which explains the nature. Next time when I visit Mangalore Surely I should visit this place Thanks for the information
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annelie, Monday, January 14, 2008
I always wanted to visit St.Mary's island but never got an opportunity. Thanks for describing your trip in such a manner that I almost made my journey while reading this article.
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