Remote Delft Island

Delft, also known as Neduntheevu, is a remote island in the Palk Strait in northern Sri Lanka. The island is named after the Dutch city of Delft and, as always, there is also a Dutch fort on the island. We visited the island when we were in Jaffna, the biggest city in northern Sri Lanka. Visiting Delft is more about the journey to get there than anything else as the island itself is not overly pretty or interesting.

Getting There

Getting to Jaffna is easy and it will be even easier once the railway track is reopened all the way to Jaffna. The train only went as far as Kilinochchi when we traveled here. From Kilinochchi there are frequent buses to Jaffna, which take around an hour.

KKD Jetty

To go to Delft Island you have to plan carefully as the transportation options are limited. We took a bus (#776) from Jaffna to the ‘KKD jetty’ (Kurikadduwan). To make sure you don't miss the ferry it is wise to take the first bus, which leaves from Jaffna's central bus stand at 6:40 AM. The bus ride takes around an hour and a half and terminates at the KKD jetty. The bus ride itself is very scenic, driving over narrow causeways connecting tiny islands in the shallow sea.

When you arrive at the jetty you'll have to wait for the ferry. The first (and only?) ferry to Delft Island leaves at 9:00 AM. The last ferry back to the jetty leaves Delft at 2:30 PM (!). Ask around about the ferry but don't put to much trust in the information from the locals; we almost missed the ferry because people kept saying it was not there yet. Even one of the navy officers in charge of the jetty would happily continue talking to us about everything and nothing even though we had told him we wanted to take the ferry to Delft, which was about to leave right behind him. Only when I interrupted him and asked if the boat with all the people behind him was the ferry to Delft he said “Yes, yes, ferry to Delft” and continued talking to us. At this point the boat was already starting to leave so we jumped aboard as the boat took off...

Aboard the ferry to Delft Island

The ferry is... Interesting. It takes a lonely place on top of the boat-rides-I-hope-to-survive list. This is how I imagine people try to cross from Africa to Europe in overloaded boats with an engine that cuts out multiple times during the trip. We were lucky the sea was calm this morning. The sun, however, was already scorching hot and with no shade it was not very pleasant. Suddenly the ugly red Ray-Ban bandana a friend of mine almost threw away a couple months ago that I'd been saving in my camera bag made perfect sense in this situation.

Baobab tree

Upon arrival on the island a nervous police officer asks for my passport and a tuk-tuk driver approaches us and offers to tour us around the island. The police officer seems to get more and more confused as he looks at my passport and flips through the pages. I am pretty sure he has no clue what he is looking at. Discussions ensue between the officer, the tuk-tuk driver and some navy personnel. Eventually the officer takes a pocket agenda and tries to write down my passport number and my name. He is apparently not familiar with the latin alphabet as I see him scribble down some badly copied characters. “Do you want the other passport as well?” He shakes his head and returns my passport. This whole procedure was also... Interesting.

We agree on a price of 1,500 LKR (11.54 USD) with the tuk-tuk driver and he takes us to the sights on the island: a tree, a stone, a footstep, ruins of a prison, ruins of a horse stable and a Dutch fort. He also showed us wild horses. When asked about the marks on the backs of the horses: “It's the owner's mark”. So much for the ‘wild’ horses. The sights in itself are not very interesting, but combined with the remoteness of the island definitely worth a visit.

The great baobab tree

Courthouse

Pigeon hotel

This tower was used as a pigeon hotel by the Dutch. Pigeons were used to send messages to and from Jaffna.

Sri Lankan Jeti footprint

Horse stables ruins

Wild horses

After the ‘tour’ the tuk-tuk driver dropped us off at the harbour again. It was only 1:30 PM so we were expecting to wait for another hour before we would have to catch the frightening ferry ride back to the mainland. But then a navy officer comes running towards us: “Come! Ferry! Come!”. We are confused but follow the officer and end up on a different boat this time. No-one else is there, except three crates of fish. The entire ride back I tried to figure out what the purpose of this boat could be, but I couldn't figure it out. In the end I was very happy that we could take this boat, which seemed a bit more seaworthy than the one in the morning, as the sea was much rougher this time. I even suspect they put us on this boat on purpose because they didn't want us to end up in the ocean if we took the other boat...

So, Delft Island. It is an adventure and a fun and at times bizarre trip. If you are in northern Sri Lanka and want to do something different, go here.

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