Asian Geographic

{ Delft Island – PALK STRAIT, SRI LANKA }


Also known as Neduntheev­u or Nedunthivu, the island of Delft is located in the Palk Strait, northern Sri Lanka. Unlike many other islands in Sri Lanka whose names are in Tamil, Delft goes by a Dutch name, taking after the city in the Netherland­s named by Rijckloff van Goens. Shaped in a rough oval, Delft covers just 50 square kilometres – around eight kilometres long by six kilometres wide – and is surrounded by shallow waters and beaches of broken coral and white sand. Delft is home to a largely Christian and Hindu Tamil community, who lives closer to the northern coast.

Delft is the second largest of Sri Lanka’s islands with a history that spans over 1,000 years. The history and heritage of Delft has been influenced by Ceylon’s relationsh­ips with the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonists since the 16th century. Originally utilised for the rearing of cattle and horses, the island was first described as Ilha das Vacas, meaning “Island of Cows”, before the name was later changed by the Dutch. Delft is famously home to over 500 wild horses, which were originally brought to the island in the 1600s by the Portuguese and raised for the needs of the army. The horses are protected by the government and have been left to roam through the dry thickets of the southern part of the island, and though many have owners, the great majority still live freely and have never been used for work.

Arriving to the island, you feel its history tugging at your sleeves with every step you take. From the quaint villages to the colonial ruins from centuries ago, Delft offers more than what meets the eye.

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