Mangaluru conjures images of narrow, winding streets fringed with coconut palms, towering arecanut trees and sprawling terracotta-tiled roofed bungalows. The main allure is its unique cultural identity, a distinctive cuisine, an exciting mixture of languages and a melange of temples, mosques and churches. Ensconced on the coast, on the estuary of the Netravati and Gurpur rivers, this flourishing entrepot makes a pleasant and convenient stopping-off point between Goa and Kerala. It is indeed the best place to start one‚Äôs journey of the sights of Dakshina Kannada, a dream terrain with lush green forests, fields, meandering rivers, and a fantastic coastline.
For the spiritually inclined, there are a multitude of places of worship. Start with customary darshan at the Mangaladevi Temple, from which Mangaluru gets its name. Equally interesting is the Kadri Manjunath Temple enshrining the exquisite bronze images of Lokeshwara. Nine water tanks with reputedly therapeutic waters adjoin the temple. You can also have an eyeful of Chola architecture at the Kudroli Gokarnath temple nestling at the foot of a hill. The region is also a delight for food lovers, with many delectable seafood dishes originating from here, along with the 'gadbad' ice cream and others.
The venerable steepled churches in Mangaluru are a reminder of the city‚Äôs strong Christian association. Some of the impressive ones are the Rozario Cathedral, the dome of which was supposedly modelled on St Peter‚Äôs Basilica in Rome, the Church of the Most Holy Rosary, the Milagres Church and the St Aloysius College Chapel with its magnificent Biblical frescoes adorning the walls and ceilings. With its priceless collection of artifacts and rare exhibits, Aloyseum, the college‚Äôs private museum, is worth a visit. Equally impressive is the Shreemanthi Bai Memorial Government Museum with its splendid collection of artefacts. Among the more remarkable mosques in Mangaluru are the Jumma Masjid in Bunder, the Idgah Mosque at Lighthouse Hill and the Durgah of Syed Mohammed Shareeful Madani in Ullal.
The St Aloysius Church in Mangaluru
Dakshina Kannada will awe you with its rich, unique, distinctive cultural heritage. ‚ÄúIntrinsic to the coastal regions of Tulu Nadu are the several seasonal rituals and festivals like ‚Äėbhoota aradhane‚Äô and also ‚ÄėNagamandala‚Äô (a unique snake worship ritual), celebrated by the local populace. Besides these, you can see Yakshagana and other traditional dances that are specific only to this region.‚ÄĚ says Eulalia D‚ÄôSouza, Proprietor, Lia Tours & Travels.
‚ÄúThere are other plentiful treats like the Pilikula Nisargadhama, a sprawling 300-acre integrated nature and wildlife park with boating facilities, a wildlife safari, a mini aquarium, an arboretum and a science centre. Also worth a visit are the cashew nut processing factories and the 120-acre Soans farm, a wonderland of horticulture,‚ÄĚ she adds.
‚ÄúFor beach buffs, there are pristine beaches, like Panambur, Sasihithlu, Someshawar, Tannirbhavi and NITK. Sasihithlu Beach even played host to the first global surfing festival and kite competitions. Only a few beaches like Panambur, Sasihithlu and NITK have very basic amenities. However, most of them lack infrastructure like roads, quality accommodation, eateries and facilities to emerge as tourist hotspots. Though some private operators have developed water sports in Tannirbhavi and Panambur, they are not managed very professionally,‚ÄĚ rues Manoj Kumar, Managing Director, My Trip Guide.
Mangaluru is not short of fabulous beaches, but lacks salesmen of its beauty. There have not been many development projects taken up by the government in this region. ‚ÄúDakshina Kannada district should take a cue from the neighbouring Udupi tourism. Beautification of beaches and improvement of infrastructure has helped them grow by leaps and bounds because the district administration has taken tourism seriously,‚ÄĚ adds Manoj.
However, one tourist facility that is popular in Mangaluru are cruises. ‚ÄúWe have done remarkably well in the last few years by handling almost 35,000 foreign tourists in a year by cruise liners in the Mangaluru Port. From just four to five of them, we added nearly 30 cruise liners before COVID-19 hit us hard and grounded all our cruise liners,‚ÄĚ Eulalia D‚ÄôSouza shares.
Dakshina Kannada already has everything that is required to be called as a Tourism Hub. ‚ÄúIt is very unfortunate that the Tourism Department has not made any concerted efforts to promote the myriad tourist attractions. Karavali‚Äôs enthralling dance forms, colourful rituals, Kambala (a traditional buffalo race) and lip smacking cuisine need to be showcased, marketed and promoted. Most events like Kambala and festivals are not advertised in advance and tourists come to know after they see them reported in the newspapers,‚ÄĚ points Ravi Menon, Managing Director, Arjun Tours and Travels.
Despite being the only major place in Karnataka which is well connected through air, water, rail and road, little headway has been made to promote tourism. ‚ÄúThe main problem is the lack of accurate and comprehensive tourist information. Adequate awareness and promotion are woefully lacking. Mangaluru tourism has neither a website, nor an office to dole out tourism brochures, maps, etc. Many times, we have printed publicity material for distribution among our clients,‚ÄĚ Eulalia D‚ÄôSouza laments.
Explaining why the tourism potential of Dakshina Kannada has not been fully tapped, Manoj says, ‚ÄúOfficial apathy, lack of initiatives from local representatives and tour operators, lesser number of tourism stakeholders and lack of support from state government bodies is what is keeping Mangaluru from being an exciting tourist destination. A major chunk of the Mangaluru hospitality industry has been designed by the Mumbai lobby, where tourism is restricted to restaurants and bars only. No visionary from Mangaluru has looked beyond that level. In the Karnataka tourism entity, there was no proper representation from Dakshina Kannada. Destination promotion involves a lot of hard work, commitment and investment. This can be done only by the state Tourism Department in collaboration with the stakeholders on board in promoting the events.‚ÄĚ
Eulalia D‚ÄôSouza agrees that tourism in Dakshina Kannada needs a major push. ‚ÄúWith the second wave of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, business was absolutely nil. It is not only a testing time, but tough and turbulent times are ahead for the entire travel fraternity, with no help whatsoever coming from wheresoever and whomsoever,‚ÄĚ she says. She also adds that Karnataka has to imbibe lessons in marketing tourism from the neighbouring tourism-savvy coastal states like Goa and Kerala. ‚ÄúIt only requires a positive push and willingness from the concerned officials to promote while they are sure there is a huge potential. We only need to wake up from that deep slumber with updated promotional technology and showcase our beautiful coastal city,‚ÄĚ she suggests.
Susheela Nair is an independent food, travel and lifestyle writer and photographer contributing articles, content and images to several national publications besides organising seminars and photo exhibitions. Her writings span a wide spectrum which also includes travel portals and guide books, brochures and coffee table books.
All pictures by Manoj Kumar, My Trip Guide.