The Mentawais are an island group located in western Indonesia. The archipelago is located on the west coast of Sumatra and is known for the world’s best surf and countless white sandy beaches, where you can bump around all by yourself. In other words: paradise! But a paradise that requires the necessary preparation. Relatively little is known in terms of tourism, as there are no shops or mobile networks at all. You will be completely removed from the modern world and that makes this place even more special.
THE JOURNEY TO THE MENTAWAIS
To get to these tropical islands you travel by boat from Padang, West Sumatra. From the port you can take the Mentawai Fast for 295.000IDR (20 euros) to Siberut or Tua Pejat which takes about three to six hours. There are also night boats that take about 12 hours on the trip. These are half the price.
From Siberut or Tua Pejat you can then take a speedboat to the island of your choice. Usually the price is included in your stay. Make sure that this is well agreed in advance.
If you are traveling on a budget this is probably not the ideal destination for you. On most islands there are a number of small resorts, such as the Aloita Resort and Alaia Mentawai. We stayed at Favela Mentawai on the small island of Awera. There was only room for four people in our wooden beach house. A new, larger house is now being built on this private beach.
You shower with the collected rainwater, which was no problem for me. If it hasn’t been raining or when the water has run out, there are two options: no shower or shower with stinky, green water that is pumped out of the mangrove. The latter was the case with us, especially very nice for brushing your teeth ..
Many surfers also stay on a charter boat, so that they can always sail from surf spot to surf spot and thus save some costs.
As mentioned before, there are no shops or restaurants. That’s why all accommodations offer breakfast, lunch and dinner as well. This is another reason to book on time, because all groceries must be picked up on the main island or even from Padang. This therefore requires the necessary preparation for them. This way you are assured of tasty freshly cooked meals while on the island. Don’t forget to bring your favorite snacks yourself.
The waves in the Mentawai are of great class and this ensures that surfers from all over the world come to this surf paradise. Most surf spots can only be reached by speedboat. This is quite pricey and this also is being arranged from the accommodation where you are staying. They know exactly where the right places are for your level and at what tide works best.
The waves are consistent almost all year round, but do break on a razor-sharp reef. So don’t fall head first! Despite the high price it’s a fantastic experience and if you are lucky the dolphins will jump out of the water for you.
If you want a break from surfing, you can always go snorkeling or paddle boarding. In the middle of the Mentawais is a beautiful mangrove where you can paddle nice and quietly towards a lake. Pay attention to the tide. With low water, some pieces are dry and so you probably end up dragging your heavy board.
Don’t forget to bring your DEET and sunscreen here! It’s full of mosquitoes here.
With a guide you can visit a local tribe, where you will learn about the culture of the Mentawai Tribe. It’s also possible to stay here in a traditional hut.
The original inhabitants of the Mentawai Islands are one of the oldest tribes in Indonesia, also known as the Bumi Sikerei. Researchers believe they were already here 500 BC. Although many of them have now converted to Christianity or Islam, they also have their own religion, called Sabulungan. They believe that everything has a mind and soul. And when these spirits are not properly cared for, this results in misfortune or even illness. They also have many sacred objects.
As you might expect, rice is not the staple food of this strain, but grilled sago. Sago is starch extracted from the spongy center of various tropical palm stems. In addition, they eat the meat that is caught with the hunt. Usually this is boar, deer, chicken or fish.
Mentawai tattoos are considered to be the oldest in the world and for them they symbolize the balance between forest keepers and nature. The tattoos are made from natural products such as charcoal.
- Don’t forget to bring DEET.
- Dengue fever and malaria are present on the Mentawai’s, so don’t forget about malaria medicines or prevention.
- The best thing is to have your own surfboard. This makes you feel a bit more confident in the water and you don’t have to incur more costs to rent a board. Bringing your own board will also incur costs, so weigh this up for yourself.
- Take all your supplies and especially favorite snacks with you, because there are no shops.
- Make sure you inform everyone at home that you are sitting on an island in advance. There is most likely no telephone reception.
After the Mentawai Islands, it was time to explore the jungle of Bukit Lawang for a dose of wildlife!