West Sumatra is a household name amongst water sports lovers and what made it the most visited part of the island is undoubtedly its coastline. Padang`s endless stretches, pristine offshore islands, equatorial climate and the mighty Indian Ocean swell will surely not leave any surfer disappointed.  The pros have surely heard of the ‘Mentawai’.

The Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra

MENTAWAI ISLANDS – AN ULTIMATE SURF HOLIDAY DESTINATION

The chain of islands, spanning along the entire coastline of West Sumatra, is sort of an extension to the pristine shores of the mainland. The Mentawai archipelago, well-known by experienced surfers, is not just a big-wave-paradise and brilliant diving location, but also an idyllic holiday spot, offering everything one would imagine to be a dream island; crystal-clear aquamarine waters, radiant corals, white sands, coconut palms, beachfront bungalows and tropical waterfalls.

Approaching the Mentawai Islands by boat

Surfing and scuba diving are the major points of interest in the Mentawai Islands, but even the rainforest provides ideal conditions for jungle trekking and wildlife spotting. The inland jungles are still largely man-untouched, and various tours can be organised at any resort.

What truly amplifies the whole adventure is the tribal culture; numerous ethnic tribes that are frozen in the prehistoric times inhabit the archipelago. Thanks to the growing eco-tourism, you can actually visit the communities and experience a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

Mentawai Islands` lush interior provides fantastic jungle trekking

THE SECRET OF TERRIFIC SWELLS

The surf in the Mentawai truly is epic. When the outlying archipelago was discovered in the 1980s by the Sydney surfers Chris Goodnow, Scott Wakefield and Tony Fitzpatrick, they named the first break they found ‘P-Land’. Later on, the surfing location became reputation of being the best surf charter zone on the planet.

What the pioneer surfers found out is the unusual consistency of surf that is caused by the islands` broad exposure towards the open Indian Ocean and its crashing waves. There are many surf resorts to choose from where the sportsmen can get a good advice and useful tips related to the weather, conditions, where to find the desirable spots and so forth.

Today, the Mentawai is a premier surfing location in the Indian Ocean with steady swells all-year-round.

Ultra-consistent surf in the Mentawai Islands

MENTAWAI TRIBAL VILLAGES

On the top of that, The Mentawai islands is an increasingly popular eco-tourism hotspot. The indigenous people still lead a primitive way of life and follow the traditions of their ancestors. The Mentawai tribes are animists, living deep in the forest in, so-called, ‘Uma’ longhouses, and the isolation makes them totally self-sufficient.

The indigenous tribes inhabit five main islands: Siberut, Sipura, Sibigau, North Pagi and South Pagi, and only Pulau Siberut is fully open to foreigners who can book an eco-tour to visit the traditional villages and learn more about their culture, or even stay in an ancestral Uma longhouse.

The Mentawai forest people, traditional Uma longhouse, Pulau Siberut

ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN THE MENTAWAI ISLANDS

  • Surfing – of course! Catch a wave and enjoy the epic surf (advanced surfers, make sure you always get updated info, ask for some tips and advice at your surf camp)
  • Scuba diving – discover secrets of the unexplored underwater word (experienced scuba divers, guide essential, booking at one of the island`s resort)
  • Ecotourism – arrange a tour to Pulau Siberut to interact with local tribes who still live in a way their ancestors used to hundreds of years ago (there are a few homestays and eco-lodges on the Mentawai Islands, but they are fairly costly.)

Mighty waves of the Indian Ocean provide excellent surfing all year round

WHEN TO TRAVEL

Sumatra is generally recommended to visit between June and September, during the dry season. Especially, scuba diving, snorkelling and eco-tourism are dependent on good weather.

Although the Mentawai Islands have great surf conditions throughout a year, the rainy season makes some places inaccessible and it would be impossible to reach the Mentawai Islands. Hence avoid travelling between December and February.

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Padang (via Jakarta/Singapore/Kuala Lumpur).

You will need to take an overnight slow ferry (the whole night) or day fast ferry (3 hours) from Padang to Pulau Siberut/Mualasiberut if travelling independently.

However, most of the visitors book a hotel online (accommodation is limited, and it is recommended to pre-book it) and simply hire a boat that takes them to from Padang directly to the resort.

For all international flights go to www.momondo.com or www.skyscanner.com

For all domestic Indonesian flights check out www.garuda-indonesia.com

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Eva Bodova

Eva Bodova

Sunday 17 June 2018

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