Delft Island, an coral island located on the west of the Jaffna Peninsula. It can be reached by daily ferry. What did we discover during our one-day trip…
It was almost half past eight, a navy boat which should take us to the Delft Island was just visible at the end of the long jetty. The day had began with a quick breakfast, prepared especially early by extemely polite manager of the Blue Whale Hotel. We crossed the road to the Kurikattuvan harbor on the Punkudutiv Island (about 35 km) at morning sun company, which silvered the surface of the lagoon and reflected the geometric shapes created by the fishing nets. A beautiful morning promised a good day. Guided by the service in blue uniforms, the passengers occupied efficiently. Beams of light falling through the small portholes, like reflectors, caught the faces of passengers from the darkened space of the deck below. Despite the heat, almost an hour ferry tour passed unnoticed, thanks to a pleasant conversation with a neighbour, then it was time to go ashore. We had to decide quickly if we should visit the island by jeep.
The first attraction was a giant baobab, which five people could link hands around to surround the tree. It would be easy to conceal a large number of people In the hollow giant Friends and family back home might be surprised to see this photo pop up on social media as it looks as though it was taken in deepest darkest Africa. The information plaque next to it said that baobabs were planted in Sri Lanka in the 16th century by Arab merchants. Some claim that the baobab leaves were to be used as food for horses brought here by colonists.
As we moved on, clouds of dust were behind us. After a few moments, both we and the interior of the jeep were covered with a thin layer of white dust. Well, we would have liked to have been informed earlier that we should have ‘dressed down’ for the occation. A bottle of water turned out to be very useful to flush out the dusty throat and quench the thirst-induced heat.
Our next stop is the now famous Growing Rock. Apparently it grows a ‘staggering’ few centimeters a year. Some people see it as something extraordinary and treat this place as sacred. I was not convinced. The rock resembles a lingam, the symbol of Shiva, worshiped in the Hindu religion. Probably, that’s why the Hindu temple was built next to it. Others say it is simply a piece of coral reef, that’s been around for hundreds of years and is still alive.
The monotonous flat landscape of the Delft Island is diversified mainly with palm trees, thorny bushes and grass. The blissful sea breeze gives a pleasant respite from the sun which is now scorchingly mercilessly. Two lonely silhouettes of fishermen loom over an empty sea horizon.
On a sea shore with a plenty pieces of corals, there was the Queen’s Tower, which was used as a navigation point. Inside there is a centrally located shaft, by where apparently smoke signals were released. The tower, with its technical solutions, arouses the interest of a male member of the group, while the ladies devote themselves mainly to studying countless forms of coral. Each step was a new discovery, where amazing patterns are created by nature. The corals stacked in random mosaics by locals, create a unique, one-of-a-kind coral fences.
The Giant Footprint is another mystery that has tried to be explained by reaching out to beliefs and myths and legends. Who could have left this one-metre-human-footprint embedded in the rock? Only a mythical giant. Some say it is the footprint of Adam, others, the Buddha’s. I was told the Hindu inhabitants of Delft believe that this print was left by Hanuman, the king of monkeys and the devoted servant of Rama. What is beleive? Does it matter? Myth, mystery and legend only add to our experience and awaken our imagination and leave long-lasting memories.
The island of Delft is famous for its wild horses. It is estimated that there are currently about 500 of them. In fact, these horses were brought here in the 16th century by the Portuguese and raised for the needs of the army. Subsequent colonists continued and even developed a horse Reading ranch, which was finally discontinued in 1906. The horses were left alone and freely roamed the dry thickets of the southern part of the island. Although they live freely, many of them have their owners. However, they have never been used for work and they are now protected by the government. The horses can not be held captive and taken out of the island for commercial purposes.
The colonists left behind not only wild horses. There are several monuments of their stay over the island. Among them are the remains of a small fort, a horse stable and a dovecote preserved which is well preserved.
The dovecote was inhabited by postal pigeons, which were used to carry messages between the Delft Island and Jaffna. It was a part of a garisson, built by the Dutch near the fort.
There is also a beautiful empty beach near the fort . We spent the last few hours on it, each of us left to wander freely. The gentle sea breeze Cooley us nicely during the walk, which ended with skin burns visible only in the evening, for me as well.
Despite this, I still have the memory of a gently rippling blue ocean and bright, warm sand etched on my mind: tall, crumpled trunks of coastal palm trees, with fishermen families cleaning the nets in their shade and colourful boats set on the sand waiting for the evening catch.
However, the real “icing on the cake” was our lunch.
Anton, the restaurant owner, prepared a real feast for us. In slightly spartan conditions, we enjoyed a delicately-sweet crab meat in a light-spicy Tamil curry sauce. Freshly caught, baked fish and velvety dhal. This really was manna from Heaven. Believe me!
We were returning on the last ferry. This time on board, with a whole bunch of local people and a few motorcycles. Pressed into a corner, sitting on a coil of ropes, I tried to get my eyes fixed on one point on the horizon to compensate for the rocking effect, which would inevitably lead to seasickness. The sun had invariably burned with the same power. Every uncovered piece of my white body was as pink as the delicious crab we had eaten earlier. Finally, one last look at the disappearing Nedunthiv, an island commonly known as Delft. One of the most beautiful days during our stay in Sri Lanka. Relaxing, interesting and unforgettable.
1. Take a bus from Jaffna to the ferry harbour in Kurikattuwan(around 6 am, take a first ferry).
2. The first ferry is at 8:30, the next one is at 9:30. Return one is at 14:30.
3. You can travel aroud by rented tuk-tuk or jeep.
4. Have a lunch at Anton’s Island Hub, Tel. 0777890620
6. Delft Samudra is a hotel with a restaurant. You can rent a scooter or a bike here: www.delftsamudra.com