Delft Island, also locally known as Neduntheevu island, remains one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka. I had traveled up north to experience Jaffna, a place that remained out of bounds for tourists for a very long time. While Jaffna felt quite intimidating as a single woman traveler, Delft Island was quite the opposite.
Delft island, was once a dutch colony and this is where the name comes from. The island is largely inhabited and is known for its wild horses (also introduced by the Dutch), and stunning coastline.
How to Reach Delft Islands:
Located midway between Sri Lanka and India, Delft island can easily be reached by a ferry operated by Sri Lankan Navy once a day (this was during Covid, otherwise it’s 4 round-trips a day). The jetty to take the ferry is called Kurikkaduwan and there are frequent buses from Jaffna bus stand to Kurikkaduwan.
Jaffna to Kurrikaduwan bus timings:
- 6:30 am
- 8:30 am
- 9 am
- 10 am
Kurrikaduwan to Delft Island :
There are frequent buses commuting on this route.
Kurrikaduwan – Delft Island :
The first ferry leaves at 9 am, operated by the Sri Lankan Navy, this ferry can accommodate up to 100 people.
Non Covid period times – 8 am, 9 am, 1:30 pm, 3 pm, 4 pm
Delft Island to Kurrikaduwan:
- Morning ferry: 6:30/7 am
- Afternoon ferry: 3 pm
What to see/do in Delft Island?
Seeing horses in the rain-soaked wilderness was the highlight for me (after getting nearly killed on the return trip that is). These horses were introduced by the dutch (some say Portuguese) and they continue to flourish on the island.
I reached this water canal only because I was so persistent about wanting to see the wild horses. It was monsoon which meant the canal was overflowing and our tuktuk couldn’t cross this section but I’m glad we went nevertheless because it was very beautiful. By the time we reached the canal, I was already soaking wet so I just embraced the rain.
There was no backstory to this except the claims of locals who say they have seen the rock grow. This was validated by my tuktuk driver who came across as an honest person.
Once I decided to stay back in the island (even though I was packed for a day trip), I had my tea and walked as much as I could before the night fall. It was incredibly beautiful to walk the empty lanes of this island lined with beautiful traditional Tamil houses with corals making for boundary walls. The coastline wherever I went was absolutely stunning.
The one thing that left me awestruck was just how clean the island was. The general sense of cleanliness in Sri Lanka including the remote parts is praiseworthy.
There was a banyan tree that my tuktuk driver took me to see and the fun part was, no one can tell which is the original trunk anymore. It’s so wide and spread out – multiple parts have established strong roots.
This 55-foot tower was to help ships navigate in the dark. The fire lit at the base would be reflected up the spire of this tower.
What I liked about this place was walking around it. It’s by the coast (of course), and the beach there was incredible beautiful. It was not ideal for swimming for sharp rocks and violent waves but to watch the emerald green waters hit the rocks was beautiful.
Baobab tree is native to tropical Africa and Arabia, also grown in other warm regions. The trees are believed to have been introduced by the Arab traders in parts of Sri Lanka (34 locations across northern province) during the Portuguese rule.
The trees can store large quantities of water in their trunk and shed leaves during the dry season. The flowers can grow up to 7 inches wide. I learned that the fruits of Baobab tree is known to be one of the most nutrient-rich fruits in the world.
The remnants of Colonial past
There are many structures to see from the 17th century including the pigeon nest, dutch fort, queen’s tower. The messenger birds were important to the dutch to maintain relationship with other regions and were houses in the unique pigeon nest that still stands.
The Dutch fort caught the fancy of Ralph Henry Bassett who described it in detail in this book, ‘Romantic Ceylon: History, Legend and Story’.
Where to stay in Delft Island?
There are only 2-3 places one can stay at outside stating with locals (if invited).
Guest House Pradeshiya Sabha
Phone number: 021-2225210
Price: Non A/C room – SLR 2000, A/C room – SLR 3500
I was going to stay at Guest House Pradeshiya Sabha, as recommended by my tuktuk driver but the people just wouldn’t lift the phone call and no one showed up at the reception during my 1 hour wait time there.
I eventually stayed at Delft Samudra. While the place seemed to have taken the brunt of Covid, bathroom fixtures had gotten rusty but the I still loved my stay there. It was my birthday next day so it was nice to have a bit of niceties. The staff was nice enough to get me dinner when it got dark and I was too tired from all the walking.
Places of interest around Delft Island
Constructed in 1619 by the Portuguese, the Jaffna Fort changed hands multiple times. In 1658, it was captured by the Dutch who modified it into the pentagon shape that it exists in today. It 1795, it was then captured by the British who renovated it further and used it as their administrative garrison.
The fort is unique in it’s star-shaped design with a moat around. The 62-acre fort used to be host to a catholic church, Queen’s place, 21 dug wells, a prison, five ramparts, and artillery fortification.