The setting is picturesque; the gentle barrel of a turquoise wave rolls slowly towards the sandy white beach. Surfers struggle to catch the wave. Several come crashing down while one surfer confidently rides the barrel before effortlessly flipping his board around and heading back out to the break. Such is the daily scene from March through to November on the Mentawai Islands.
Thanks to their exposed location off the coast of Sumatra the Mentawai islands are a Mecca for surfers. With warm waters and swells all year round you can almost guarantee good surf. But lets roll things back while I tell you a bit more about the islands.
The Mentawai Islands
The Mentawai Island chain, 100 km off the coast of Sumatra, is composed of over 40 islands. The archipelago separated from the mainland over 500,000 years ago. As a result of such isolation and time, the Mentawai Islands are inhabited by a unique range of flora and fauna that you won’t find anywhere else in Indonesia.
Most of the people who inhabit the Mentawai live on the islands of Siberut, Sipora, North Pagi and South Pagi. Pulau Sipora is the base for the regional government and the only airport on the island chain. Pulau Siberut meanwhile is the largest and most developed island, though half of it is protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The islands of North Pagi and South Pagi are a little bit off the beaten track and consequently receive very few tourists. It is possible to visit though if you’re feeling adventurous and can charter a boat.
Getting to the Mentawai Islands
If you want to visit the Mentawai Islands you have two, well maybe three options. The most convenient way to reach Mentawai is to fly into Rokot Airport from Padang. Susi Air runs an irregular service to the islands on small 12 seater planes. I’d recommend emailing Susi Air to book your ticket. Make sure to tell them if you plan to bring your surfboard.
The obvious alternative to flying is the ferry. Several companies run a fast ferry service from Padang to Tuapejat on Siberut. It’s a 3-hour service. There’s a daily service both to and from Padang. You can find the boat schedule for the aptly named Mentawai Fast service here.
If you were paying attention you’ll remember that I said there are three ways to get to the Mentawai Islands. Some of the more expensive and popular surf scamps offer a private speedboat pickup and drop off. This is obviously the most convenient option if you happen to be visiting the islands.
Where to Stay on the Mentawai Islands
Most visitors to Mentawai stay on the islands of Siberut or Sipora. You won’t find many hotel listings on mainstream hotel booking sites like Agoda (in fact the only listing we found was the comfortable 4 Star HT’s Resort on Sipora). There are a few more options for budget and mid-range accommodation on Airbnb (use this link for the full listings).
Much like Raja Ampat, we found the best service was managed by a local tour operator. In this case we’d recommend Mentawai Accommodation. They’ve got a nice easy to use website and you can arrange your hotel booking through the site.
What to Do When You’re There
There’s a good chance you’ll spend most of your time on the waves. That’s great (it is after all what the islands are famous for)! If you don’t know which breaks to hit, this site has a nice list of the best surfing spots around the Mentawai Islands. It’s not a complete list, but it covers the best spots.
You’ll also find some interesting, though mostly cultural things, to do out of the water. This includes watching staged for tourist shaman ceremonies on Siberut, jungle trekking in search of the rare black-and-yellow siamang kerdil monkey, which is indigenous to the Mentawai Islands.
The Mentawai Islands offer some of the best surfing in Indonesia and will be on most surfers bucket list. While it’s certainly difficult to reach it’s well worth the journey. I hope this guide will help you plan your journey. Enjoy the waves and have a great time!
Have you ever been to the Mentawai Islands? What did you think about the islands? Share your thoughts and useful tips in the comments below.