St. Mary's Islands, also known as Coconut Island and Thonsepar, are a set of four small islands in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Malpe in Udupi, Karnataka, India. They are known for their distinctive geological formation of columnar basaltic lava.
Scientific studies indicate that the basalt of the St. Mary's Islands was formed by sub-aerial subvolcanic activity, because at that time Madagascar was attached to India. The rifting of Madagascar took place around 88 million years ago.
The islands form one of the four geological monuments in Karnataka state, one of the 26 Geological Monuments of India declared by the Geological Survey of India in 2001. The monument is considered an important site for "Geo Tourism".
The western coasts of the islands are a seashell haven with seashells of various shapes and sizes littered along the coast. There is no sand beach to swim and relax since it is scatted with basaltic rocks. The beach has security guards who ensure that visitors do not venture into danger zones of the islands.
All links to the island are only through the mainland town of Malpe, which is a major fishing harbor. The beach at this location is enlivening. It is located 5 km west of Udupi town, the administrative headquarters for the Islands. Apart from the Islands, Malpe too has tourist attractions such as the Vadabhandeshwara Temple and an image of Sri Balarama consecrated by the saint Madhwacharya, the founder of Dvaita Philosophy.
Flora and fauna
Colonies of gulls, Scolopacidae (sandpipers) and a few crows have been sighted on the Islands. But on the approach to the Islands from the Malpe beach, brahminy kites (Haliastur indus)), great white egrets, grey egrets (breeding plumage) and groups of large green bee-eaters have been recorded.
The Islands are bereft of buildings, fences, shops. There are no domestic animals either. There are only covered pavilions with park benches on the shore and further inland. Visitors can wander around freely and enjoy the hexagonal formations from vantage locations. Visitors have to carry drinking water and sun screens since the climate is usually hot. Since the last few yards of the approach to the island involves wading, it may be preferable to avoid wearing sneakers.