In the northern tip of Karnataka, nestled like a secret hiding in an alcove where no one thinks of looking, is a little gem of an island called Devbagh. There aren’t any beaches to be found where the sand is whiter or the water bluer, and there are few places where the solitude can be deeper and the silence more soothing. No wonder it has inspired and fascinated poets and writers with an allure that has stood undimmed with the passage of time.
Rabindranath Tagore himself had been out on a boat ride here on a moonlit night and this coastline had forever got etched into his memory, and is often credited as the place where the great poet had found his true calling.
Out in the open
It’s an early January morning when we arrive at Devbagh. The island is essentially completely cut off from the mainland, and so the last of the water that forms a strip around it has to be crossed over by speed boat from the Kodibagh Jetty, 10 minutes away. Out in the openness of the water, our spirits lift almost instantly. Dawn has just broken over the palm trees that line the mainland that we’re leaving behind in the distance, and the boat bobs gently on the water that is turning crimson with the first rays of the sun. The faintest of sprays are carried by the breeze; you inhale the freshness and taste with relish the sweet and the salt of the sea.
Once on the island itself, it is difficult to shake off the feeling that you are on a canvas that has been generously and leisurely painted by nature. Small ethnic huts with thatched roofs are nestled deep in a secluded grove of casuarina trees that stretch over for almost half of the beach. Once we’ve settled in, we step out on the patio and look beyond. All that is front of us is the golden sand leading on to the water that stretches blue and shimmering and endless, ringed by the white of the surf as it comes into the beach, before fading out in a gentle and ceaseless caress.
Paradise isn’t all lost, you think; in some corners of the world, it can indeed be regained. Devbagh is such a paradise that can be felt and touched.
Afternoons in a place like this are for lazing around, and that is exactly what we do. After a sumptuous lunch — one which we will always remember for having some of the freshest seafood that we’ve ever tasted — the time comes to seek out the hammocks that are strung up among the trees and curl up with a book, or simply lie on your back, looking up into the trees as they soar into the blue skies, the wind gently rocking you to sleep with the gentlest of sounds from the sea in your ear.
Later, at sunset, the skies explode. There are a few islands in the distance that arrest your eyes as you look out over the water and the sun sets behind them, sinking into the frothing water and leaving the heavens behind bathed in colours that are indescribable. The beach is endless and deserted. Crabs scurry into hiding as we approach. Flocks of seagulls fly out noisily. The feet touch the sand and sink into pleasure, the oozing water cleansing the tiredness from deep within our insides. We walk for miles on end accompanied by nothing but the sea, and playing chase with the rushing water from the waves is the sweetest game we’ve played in a long time.
The sea never leaves you in a place like this and, at night, sitting in the verandah and looking into the dimly lit shoreline, the breeze now quite a nip in the air, the mind settles into a treasured kind of peace. There is a forest on the back of the island, and sometimes, when all is still, and it is just the waves and the dark and the sound of the rushing water, we can hear an owl hooting into the night. An early morning walk to explore the forest on the island is a wonderful experience. The beach rings the path of the Kali river as it flows into the sea and a mangrove forest thrives in the estuary. These small creeks and rivulets are fascinating for the nature lover and bursting with life. Kingfishers sit hidden in the branches of the trees, locked in the trance of their morning fishing, their bright colours appearing like gemstones amongst the brown.
Peafowl forage in the mud, their plaintive cries in the distance always pleasing to hear. A grey-headed fish eagle lurks on the top of the tree, its keen eye scanning the waters. Purple crabs scurry along busily among the sand, heading to burrows we can’t see. Far above, a brahminy kite takes soars gracefully to the skies, a winged and fearless beauty of white and brown.
When not at the beach...
Once you are done with all the sunrise and the sunsets, and all the surf and the sand that you can soak in, there are other things to keep you busy. Kurumgad island, that is a short boat ride away, is an interesting place to explore and locals revere the Narasimha Swamy Temple there, an attraction worth visiting. As tourism has picked up, water sports such as banana boats, zorbing, kayaking, jet-skiing, water scooters and speed boat rides are now available. There is a wonderful tour at dusk to the lighthouse built in 1934, and truly seems like a place that is at the end of the world. And the bonus is setting out to the sea late in the morning and catching a glimpse of a school of dolphins porpoising through the water.
Devbagh is a true marvel, and far away from the madding crowds and the pursuit of thrill and achievement that has cluttered our daily lives, it’s a place where the heart and the mind find a peace that is ever more elusive. There may or may not be a poet in you, but if your eyes are open and if you can let nature come to you, Devbagh is one place that will open your eyes to the poetry that can be found in it. Long after you have returned, in one corner of your mind, Devbagh will etch memories that cannot be forgotten.