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Called ‘Pasuthivu’ or ’Nedunthivu’ (the island of cows) by natives, it was named ‘Illha das Vaka’ by the Portuguese and renamed Delft by the Dutch, after the town in the Netherlands. It covers approximately 4,700 hectares and is sparsely populated. Delft has emerged relatively unscathed from the recently ended conflict and has kept its charm from the old days. Except for the bus, there are no vehicles in the island and the visit to the island is usually made in the trailer of a tractor. Houses are fenced by coral-stones piled up or by palmyrah leaves, which gives to Delft its particular aspect. It has a haunting beauty which is made even more appealing when you find that its barren plains are populated with wild horses which were introduced by the Portuguese in the 1600’s. These horses are forbidden by law to leave the island and the population is now in the lower hundreds. Beside the wild horses, curiosities are plenty. There is the baobab tree, the Quindah Tower, the wells of Sarapiddi, the old stables, etc.
The most pleasant season is probably July to August when the rough weather has subsided yet you are welcomed with a slight breeze. January and February are cooler like in the rest of the island but January can be wet.
Visitors have to take the ferry from Kurikattuwan, on the southern tip of Pungudutivu (about 45 minute drive by car from Jaffna) while the journey lasts about 1 hour.
There are two ferry services a day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon but it is advised to check first prior to planning your trip. The timetable is subject to important changes due to weather conditions and the state of the boats.
Upon reaching the island there is a single bus available, going back and forth on the unique road. It is probably advisable to hire a tractor which can take you on a more detailed itinerary.
This small fort, made from coral and now in ruins, was probably located here due to the favourable mooring facilities offered by the bay for old vessels and its easy landing facilities, since the other coasts of the island were exposed to the open sea. In its relatively well preserved state, it is easy to imagine the Portuguese soldiers living in difficult conditions far from home on this romantic but isolated island. Look for the little stone pigeon cote for carrier pigeons.
Located along the main road and the only one frequented by the bus, you can head towards the General Hospital, while the fort is just behind it, closer to the beach.
This tree (adansonia digitata) amazingly found on the island of Delft stands isolated in its splendour. It is presumed to have been brought by seafaring Arab Traders to Sri Lanka (one on Delft and some in the Mannar District). Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam in his book Ancient Jaffna speculates that it was used as a tree-totem by the early Arabs for their animist worship. Baobab trees are the longest-lived species on earth. The Baobab Tree is also called the ‘Bottle Tree’ because of its strange looking shape. It has a short stubby trunk of enormous girth and can be just as tall as it is wide. It is capped with a small crown of spindly root-like branches which are almost leafless. The fibres of the bark can be used to make rope and cloth and its fruits are edible while the leaves too can be eaten. Their trunks can be hollowed out without killing the trees.
The Baobab is native to Ethiopia and is found widely in central Africa and has long since been naturalised in India.
This is an intriguing banyan tree which extends its canopy over a large area of land.
The Banyan tree is an evergreen which grows to a height of approximately 25 m and has a wide canopy which is supported by roots descending from its branches. Initially dependent on its host, it eventually kills it. This hardy species of fig grows extensively in Sri Lanka being able to support a large number of different environmental conditions. What makes this particular Banyan tree so interesting is that its canopy extends over such a large area that is approximately 60 m long and 30 m wide.
The largest specimen in the world is to be found in India and covers an area of about two hectares.
This tower served as a navigational landmark. It is situated on the wind- battered, barren southeastern coast of Delft. The tower is believed to have been covered with a reflective surface which could be seen from far at sea. There is a low central chimney-like shaft which creates a vacuum forcing air upwards. It is not known whether this has been used for smoke signals or some other type of signal.
The wild horses of Delft come from a breeding stock maintained from Portuguese times. They roam freely over the flat, grassy windswept plains of Delft. Some are privately owned and are branded but are left to free-range, while the others have never been lassoed. It is truly a unique and spectacular sight to see these herds grazing with their foals, lift their tails and race into the distance as you approach too close to them. A protection law has been placed over the horses and it is forbidden to remove them from the island of Delft.
It is in this area that the best water of the island is to be found. Next to the ancient well and irrigation system has been built recently while the pumping station has been financed by the European Community to distribute water to the whole island.
During the Dutch times, this island of Delft was named after the town of Delft in Holland probably because of its similar irrigation system of canals crisscrossing the flat land.
This is an interesting rock formation due to erosion which resembles a very large footprint of almost a meter long. Visitors often gather here to witness this natural landscape.
The stables at Sarapiddy were probably built in the 19th century by Nolan, an English Officer. Today there remains only the wall at the end of the building and several pillars. The structure seems to be of very simple architecture.