Delft, a distant island located towards the north western coast of Jaffna in the Palk Straits. The area spans over 4717 hectares, 8 km long and 6 km wide. Since the end of the war, local and foreign tourists have begun visiting this island, seeing places of scenic beauty and historical significance. Its terrain is full of limestone that is scattered with palmyrah palms, coconut trees and has expansive plains which is a beauty of its own for it is full of wild and free roaming horses which were brought by the Portuguese in the 17th century.
Many of Delft’s inhabitants had left due to the war and only a small population of 5000 still live there. Delft has survived the war and has remained unmarked therefore retaining its alluring charm from ancient times. There are no vehicles in the island except for the bus. Houses are enclosed by coral rocks stacked up on another or by palmyrah palm leaves giving Delft its own characteristic and unique architecture. An island of individualistic character and charm.
Delft Island was built and established by the Portuguese and then it was taken over by the Dutch rulers during the colonial era. The Dutch had built a barrack. The Portuguese called the island Ilha das Vacas and then it was renamed as Delft Island by the Dutch. Locally it is known as Needuntivu.
How to get there
To reach the island of Delft, one has to take the ferry from the north Jaffna. It is Kurikattuwan which is situated on the pier of Pungudutivu and is a 45 minute drive from the city of Jaffna. The ferry journey takes about an hour and there are two ferry services a day which is generally in the morning and afternoon. However due to weather conditions, the ferry times are subject to change.
The weather is generally warm and arid but the most pleasant season to visit is during July and August since the weather is breezier. Cooler months are January and February but January can be wet due to rain.
Dutch Fort – This small fort, made from coral is now in ruins. It was located here due to the easier mooring facilities offered by the bay for old vessels and its easy landing facilities. A well used facility by the colonists during the colonial era.
Baobab Tree – The Baobab trees are a legacy of the Portuguese who have brought and planted in the island. There is one in particular which is unique as the trunk has a hollow large enough to walk into giving enough room for two men to enter together. It is the largest tree in the Delft Island.
Banyan Tree – This Banyan tree is an evergreen tree which has a wide canopy and has a height of approximately 25m. It covers about 10-12 perch of land. The significance of this tree is in reference to its wide canopy.
Queen’s Tower – The Queen’s Tower also known as Quindah Tower was built by the Dutch during their rule in Sri Lanka. It was used as a navigation landmark for sailors and navies who were out at sea.
Wild Horses – Delft, famed for wild horses roaming around freely in its natural habitat. They are a legacy left behind by the Portuguese rulers and the Dutch took them over and then the British used them for transport. Delft Island was used for breeding horses by the Dutch and the British continued the practice. Today they are protected and can never be removed.
Pigeon Cote – This is the most striking building on the island and it still attracts many visitors. It is made of coral stone and it was used by the colonists by training messenger pigeons to leave messages for them as a mode of communication.
The Growing Stone – A standing limestone coral claimed to be growing in size with the passage of time which keeps visitors in wonderment. . It is considered as a miracle and regarded with reverence by the natives.
Ruins of Ancient Stupas – These are remnants of a Buddhist temple and the ruins of three ‘stupas’ which were said to have been constructed during the early Anuradhapura period. Three inscriptions were discovered on the stones used to pave this stupa. Thus, there is evidence of ancient Buddhist influence in Delft.
Giant Footprint – A footprint which is almost a metre in length is engraved in stone and is located near the ruins of the horse stables. The natives believe that this footprint was from a man who was around 40 feet in height. It is a mystery that has tried to be explained by reaching out to beliefs, myths and legends which only add to experiences and awaken imaginations and leave long-lasting memories.
Day Tour to Delft Island – A day tour travelling from northern coast of Jaffna, covering all major unique attractions of Delft Island.