Exciting, exotic enclaves

treasure islands Karnataka has at least a dozen of these, each in a class of its own. B V Prakash explores some of these enchanting spots

Exciting, exotic enclaves

As temperatures soar in summer, it is natural to escape to exotic locales that are far from the madding crowd, devoid of noise and traffic. You can unwind and rejuvenate in the lap of nature to cool those frayed nerves. It may be a pleasant hill station, a cool verdant forest or a place with a large water body such as a lake or reservoir. How about visiting an island this time? An island full of greenery and surrounded by clear blue waters?    Well, you do not have to go far to visit islands like the Andamans or Lakshadweep.  We do have quite a few island destinations in the state that are yet to find a place on the regular tourist itinerary.

Spread across the Arabian sea along the 320 km long coastline of Karnataka are some tiny islands and islets that seem to beckon the  visitors. Apart from the marine islands we also have some islands formed in the backwaters and the ones formed by the rivers. A visit to one of these islands may be a completely new experience. Here is a mix of popular and less explored island destinations that roughly  form a trail of islands of sorts:

Uppinakudru island
At about 6 km from the town of Kundapura is an island called Uppinakudru. This is a small island village formed by the river Kolluru in the north and Gangavali river  in the west and south. Though this is inhabited by people, the only approach is by boat. At one time, the island was known for the production of salt and was an important outpost during the time of Keladi rulers. The island is home to the folk art of Yakshagana Puppetry, a unique form of puppetry where in puppets are used to perform Yakshagana. The quietness and rustic charm of the island are appealing.

Netrani Island
Right in the middle of the Arabian sea is the lovely island of Netrani about 10 nautical miles (19km) from the famous beach town of Murudeshwar. Also called Pigeon island, Netrani is known for its unique ecosystem.

The high and steep cliffs on all sides make it hard to climb too. But the water surrounding this island is a treasure trove of underwater life. Full of coral stretches, it is home to more than 10 species of attractive corals and sponges  besides 25 types of ornamental fish. There are a few dive shops in Murudeshwar that offer a package of visiting Netrani including a session of diving. The journey to the island is enjoyable and the experience of exploring the exotic marine life is blissful. 

St Mary’s Islands
At hardly half an hour ferry ride away from the town of Malpe near Udupi is the now familiar St. Mary’s island. It is, in fact, a group of four tiny islands spread north- south along the coast. The northern island, also called coconut island, is the one that is popular among the visitors. Here you see a geological wonder of rock formations.

The island is full of hexagonal linear columns stacked together. It was millions of years ago that the molten lava of basaltic rock overflowed and the rapid cooling resulted in unique polygonal shapes of vertical columns that make a wonderful sight. It is also said that Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer first landed here in 1498 and named it after Mother Mary. One can walk around the little island, wade in the shallow beach or simply relax in the shade of trees or pergolas. A day trip is ideal as overnight stay is not permitted.

Sigandur
Sigandur is a small town near Sagara in Shivamogga district. When the dam was built on Sharavathi, the backwaters of Linganamakki submerged the landscape cutting off Sigandur from the mainland. It is strictly not an island in the sense that it can also be reached by land from Nagara town. But a vast water body surrounding it on other sides and the approach by huge launches across the backwaters makes Sigandur an island destination. The journey involves sailing past a number of little islets with stumps of half-submerged tree trunks jutting out here and there.

Sigandur is famous for the temple dedicated to Chowdeshwari. Here again, more than the island the journey in a ferry is what makes it memorable. The launch takes off from Holebagilu, 40 km from Sagara, and transports people as well as their vehicles.

Jaladurga Island
Jaladurga is a nondescript village near Lingasugur of Raichur district. Tucked away in the middle of a dry forest, it is an island formed by river Krishna. Flowing eastwards, the river forks and flows on the northern and southern sides of a moderate hill island.
The strategic location was what made it suitable to build a fort. Said to have been built by Adil Shahi rulers of Bijapur the fortress is abandoned and in ruins but for a few structures. Sangameshwara Matha and the temple of Yellamma are worth visiting. The top of the fort affords views of Narayanpur dam at the far end and the river dividing into two branches  surrounding the island.

Kurumgad Island
The island of Kurumgad lies in the Arabian sea off Karwar along with few other islands. At about 4 km in the sea, Kurumgad can be reached by a ferry from Sadashivgad Jetty near Karwar. This is one of the exciting destinations with many kinds of activity.
One can swim, snorkel, trek or watch dolphins. The island is also steeped in mythological legends that lord Narasimha, an avatar of Vishnu swam across to this island and made it his abode. Watching the sunset from the island can be an unforgettable experience.
These are some of the island destinations where one can head for a different kind of outing while there are other smaller and lesser known islands like Haigunda and Mavinkurve that await to be explored.

Basavarajadurga Island
Off the coast of Honnavar is another enchanting marine island.  Dominated by a fort built by Vijayanagar kings the island has a historic significance besides natural beauty. The Fort was later occupied by Keladi rulers and was named after their prince Basavaraj. The island can be reached by means of a fisherman’s boat, operated by local fishermen. It is not advisable to venture into the sea when it is rough and in monsoons.

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