Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The coral islands of Karnataka

A few days ago, some of my friends saw an advertisement about a package tour to the Andamans. While two of them booked the package, others wistfully said they did not have so much time on hand to undertake a journey on the high seas from Chennai.
I tried to console them saying that they had not lost out on anything and that Karnataka itself has many islands that can be explored. My friends laughed and asked me whether I meant the island of Srirangapatmna. “There is nothing to explore here and besides it is only a riverine island. Tell us about any island that offers us water sports”, they said and added that they had only the weekend to spare.
I then guided them to the Western coast of Karnataka where there are several islands, many of them unexplored and with some breathtaking beaches, forts, hills, valleys and beautiful landscape.
Let me start with the islands in and around Karwar These islands offers a variety of water sports, including snorkeling, diving and coral reef exploration. The corals off  Karwar are beautiful and what is more they are unexplored territory.
The island and beach of Devbag should be the first destination of any tourist wanting to soak in the sea.
Devbag is full of beaches, casuarina plantations and natural landscape. It struck a chord in the heart of Rabindranath Tagore when he visited Karwar.
The climate in Devbagh island is very pleasant now. The best time to visit is between December and February. If you are visiting the island during monsoon, you will be greeted with deserted beaches and heavy rains.
Experience marine life here. You can go scuba diving or snorkeling. You can hire a boat and go around several pother islands here. Watch the dolphins frolicking in water. You can explore other lessers known islands here such as Kumaragarh, Oyster Rock, Anjudeep and Sanyasi.
I found it touching when  the dolphins followed us in our boat or rather trawler all along the Arabian Sea. Some of the islands have hammocks where you can sit back and relax.
There are several tribal communities living on islands around Devbagh area. You can mix with them and enjoy their hospitality.     
Since Devbagh is near Karwar, do not forget to take in the sights of the area-Karwar port and Karwar town, Karwar Beach, Biligiri Beach, Om Beach, Gokarna Temple, aquarium,  as well as the Kadra Dam.
If you like adventure, motor down to Goa which is 100 kms from Karwar.
Karwar is the safest port to the south of Bombay open for use during all seasons. The port is a hill projecting into the sea called Karwar head and it is surrounded by five islands Anjidiv, Kudumgad, Devgad, Mogral and Shamshigudda. These islands protect the port from heavy winds.
Karumgad Island
Kurumgad is a tortoise shaped island located 4 km into the Arabian Sea from Karwar.  It is just a km away from Devbagh. There is an abandoned lighthouse here. This island offers many water sports.  You can enjoy exotic beach walks, fishing, boat rides, nature walks, swimming, fishing, bonfires and barbecues, snorkeling, dolphin and seal spotting.
There is a beautiful Narasimha temple on the island. The annual fair held in January is very popular.
Check out the  Madhlimghad,Malilkurve, Nthrani, Penna and  Sadashivgad islands.

Madlimgadh Island

This Island is a picnic spot. Watch out for  wild Buffalos. This island was inhabited by the British for some time.


Sadashivgad is a small village across the Kali river from the town of Karwar. It was ruled by the Kadambas, Portuguese and Brotosh.
There is an  17th century fort and a temple to goddess Durga. The Maratha emperor , Chatrapathi Shivaji, visited the Durga Temple here. The fort was built in 1698 by Raja Sonda.
The hill on the island offers spectacular view of the Kali river joining the Arabian sea. The island is 5 kms north of Karwar.


This is a coral island is also known as Pigeon Island. It is shaped like a heart. It is 19 km from the Murudeshwara.  As the name suggets, there are hundreds of  pigeons apart from wild goats.
The island offers excellent sites for scuba diving, snorkling and coral exploration. If you are a Botanist or an explorer, examine the large number of corals, Many varieties of  coral, butterfly fish, trigger fish, parrot fish, eels, shrimps, whale, sharks and even orcas.
I have sighted turtles, whales, Napolean Wrasse, stingrays and even stonefish. The coral reefs were discovered only in 2005.
Do not cross this island to the neighbouring island as it belongs to the Indian Navy and they use it for target practice. Netrani offers diving suitable for professionals.
This is the best coral island of Karnataka. 

Sanyasi Island

It is a small island where several saints and swamijis sat in meditation. Avoid this island during monsoons as the seas get rough.
Oyster island
The Oyster rock island has one of the oldest lighthouses in the area. The Mahabaleshwara Temple of Gokarna is just across this island. The Om beach at Gokarna, shaped like the Hindu sacred symbol Om, is also worth visiting

Darya Bahadur Bagh Island

This is very close to Udupi and Malpe. It is a busy trade centre for exporting processed fish. Take a walk to the Balarama Temple here and also visit Malpe's oldest tile factory.
The Malpe beach us 6 kms from Udupi. It is one of the nest beaches in the area. The Malpe harbour is a boat ride  30 minutes away. This beach offers you a myriad of activities such as sun bathing, fishing, boating and even ocean bathing,  
The St. Mary's island is near Daria Bahadur Gadh island. It is 6 kms from Udupi. It is a basalt rock island  300 metres long and 100 metres wide. The rocks rise abruptly from the coean. Vasco Da Gama, the Portuguese explorer visited the island and placed a Cross here. He called this island “El Padron de Santa Maria.”  Hence the name. It has a coconut grove.
Panna Island

This is another small island situated nearly 5 kms from St. Mary's Island.


This is a small island  6 km towards north of  Kundapur in Udupi district.
Its name is because it was famous for trading in salt or Uppu in Kannada. This island is supposed to have some of the best sea food restaurants. I cannot vouch for this as I am a vegetarian and I do not eat eggs, that is cakes.
Tipu had stored his ammunition here during the wars with the British. It is a vantage point for those going from the Arabian Sea to Basrur. Coconut trees hide the island from view.
The temple of Gopalakrishna is worth a visit as is the nearby Shiva Temple.
The Vasudeva temple is the deity of the village. This temple was the seat of education in ancient times. The idol of Vasu deva is very old and regular application of Dandha on the forehead of the idol  has created a dent.
Islands around Dandeli
Dandeli is very near to Dharwad. It has many isles formed by the backwaters of Supa dam. All the isles are uninhabited and they provide a perfect spot for camping, fishing and picnicking.


It is a small island off the Cauvery in Kodagu. It is just 4 kms away form Kushalnagar. Nisargadhama is around 120 kms from Mysore and around 260 kms from Bangalore. A hanging bridge connects Nisargadhama  to the mainland.
Take time off to view the sun seat and sun rise. It is paradise for bird watchers and wildlife.  Enjoy picnic here , you can also use the paddleboats. Boat to your heart’s content and go to Nagarhole which is nearby.
About 65kms, east of Mysore, is the small island town of Shivasamudram in Mandya district.  The  Shivasamudram Falls is awe inspriring. Of course who can forget the waterfalls- Gaganchukki and Barachukki. Asia’s first hydro electric power station was commissioned here.
The Ranganatha temple here is famous.


Another Ranganatha temple is at Srirangapatna, another island in the Cauvery.
Srirangapatnam is the largest of the three islands of  the Cauvery. It is about 2 miles long and a little more than a mile wide.
Srirangapatna is 140 kilometers or 87 miles from Bangalore and 15 kilometers or 9 miles from Mysore. The Cauvery river divides here to form the island. There are many buildings relating to Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali here. The Ranganatha Swamy Temple is one of the biggest in Karnataka.  
You can have a panoramic view of  the island from the Karighatta Hill that is about five kilometers away. There is a small temple here. The British had placed their cannons during the siege of Srirangapatnam on this hill in 1799.


The bird sanctuary is just 4 Kms to the south west of Srirangapatna. It covers six isolated islands which are home to a large number of birds.

Nava Brindavana

This is small island more known for the brindavana of nine Madhwa saints. You can take the Theppa or coracle from Hampi or Ahnegundi to this island.

Narada Gadde

Narada Gadde in is Raichur and it is near Mantralaya. It is also called Korva.
The island is surrounded by Krishna river and it is 30 kms from Raichur. There is a temple dedicated to Narada here.
There is also a Veerashaiva Matha and a Samadhi of Vairagya Channabasavaswami who lived about four centuries ago.


This is another small island near Naradagadde. According to locals, this is the original place of Dattatreya. There is a Samadhi of Sripadavallabha Swamy.


It is a small island in Raichur taluk.


Jaladurga, in Lingsugur taluk, near Raichur is an island fort situated picturesquely in the Krishna river.
It is 13 kms from Lingsugur. It was an important fort of the Adil Shahs of Bijapur, and Meadows Taylor has given a fine description of it in his book, Noble Queen.

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