St Mary’s Islands are a group of four small uninhabited islands in the Arabian Sea, near Udupi in Karnataka state, India. It is situated off the coast of Malpe. These islands are also known as Coconut Island and Thonsepar. These islands are unique in their geological formation of Basalt Columns of lava or rock columns.
It is believed that Vasco da Gama landed at St. Mary’s Islands in 1498 on his voyage from Portugal, before setting his foot at Kozhikode in Kerala. He named one of the islands as ‘O Padrão de Santa Maria’ and thus got its current name.
Coconut Island, North Island, Daryabahadurgarh Island and South Island are the four islands of St. Mary’s islands.
St Mary’s islands are among the 26 Geological Monuments of India. Coconut Island and Thonsepar islands are considered as an important site for “Geo Tourism”.
These islands are not crowed and are very neat. You can explore these islands and take selfies! With those rock lava formations as the drop, these selfies are worth its salt. Swimming is not allowed, as there are rocks around the beach. Security guards are there in these islands to prevent tourists from Swimming.
There is not much of sand in the beaches. The western coast of beaches have a large number of seashells of different sizes and shapes.
There is no permanent buildings. Animals are also not there in these islands.
St Mary’s Islands were formed due to the sub-aerial sub-volcanic activity, which might have occurred around 60-88 million years ago, during the time of rifting of Madagascar from the Indian sub-continent.
Hexagonal rock formations is the characteristics of the northernmost island and is unique in India. The island measures around 500 meter X 100 meter with a large number of coconut trees. Hence the island got its name, Coconut Island.
Vadabhandeshwara Temple is situated near to the Malpe Beach. Jet skiing, parasailing, banana boat ride, etc, are available near Malpe Beach.
How Do I Go to St Mary’s Islands?
Malpe Beach is at around 5 kilometers from Udupi town, the administrative headquarters. Frequent bus services are available up to Malpe bus stand. You may hire an auto-rickshaw or walk the distance from the Malpe bus stand to the ferry station.
Boats starts only when there is a minimum of 30 passengers are there. On working days, the starting time gets delayed up to 10.30 am or a little later, due to this. On holidays, boats may start at around 9 or 9.30 am. The last boat to the mainland from the islands is at 5 pm. The cost for the round trip is around Rs. 400 (increased rate from April 2019).
It takes around 15-20 minutes of travel by boat from St Mary’s Island Boating Office at Malpe Beach. These islands are at around 6 kilometers from the mainland. You need to wade through the water, once you reach near the islands. i.e. Boats can not go to the islands due to the rocks.
I was told that there are other boat services also from the Malpe Beach, which starts at 8.30 am and costs anywhere between Rs. 250 – 400. These boats seems to be operated by private people. These boats go even with 10 people. Return journey for this boat is available up to 5.30 pm. Please confirm this with the locals.
Udupi railway station with station code UD, is the nearest railway station to Coconut Island and Thonsepar islands. Mangalore is at around 60 kilometers from Malpe Beach. The nearest airport is at Mangalore.
Tips for St Mary’s Island Tourists
There are no restaurants or hotels at these islands. Tourists are not allowed to stay in the islands. There is a small shop selling juice, snacks, water, etc. It may not open on certain week days or is opened late. The islands may be closed during the 3rd quarter of the year, for two months or so.