Mannar Island

Mannar Island, situated in the district of Mannar, is a dry and barren peninsula often referred to as an islet, although it actually takes the shape of a tongue. Talaimannar, located at the westernmost tip of the island, is nearly connected to Dhanuskodi, the easternmost tip of the Southern Indian peninsula, by a submerged coral reef in the Palk Straits. Historical references to Mannar Island include names such as “Manthei,” “Mathota,” “Mahathiththa,” “Mahaputu,” and “Mawatuthota.”

One of the distinctive features of Mannar Island is its thriving population of Baobab trees, a unique species known for its enormous barrel-like trunk, which can grow up to a diameter of 9 meters. The Baobab tree’s hollow trunk gives it the appearance of being planted upside down when its leaves are shed, and its rough, greyish bark resembles the hide of an elephant. The fruit of the Baobab tree, containing around 30 seeds, is relished by monkeys. Baobab trees were brought to Mannar by Arab traders to feed their camels, as the hot sandy lands of Mannar provided an ideal environment for their cultivation.

Constructed by the Portuguese in 1560, Mannar Fort was later surrendered to the Dutch in 1658 and rebuilt by them in 1696. The fort underwent further changes when it was surrendered to the British on October 5, 1795. Despite the passage of time, Mannar Fort remains in relatively good condition, with its four bastions still intact. Visitors are free to explore the fort, which offers panoramic views from its ramparts. Among the ruins inside the fort, visitors may notice two rooms, possibly former prison cells, as well as a structure resembling a church. Two watchtowers situated on the edges of the fort stand as reminders of its strategic importance throughout history.

Mannar Island’s unique landscape, characterized by its Baobab trees and historic fortifications, attracts visitors interested in exploring its natural and cultural heritage.