Mentawai Islands Offer Surfers Paradise
Though not a great distance from the mainland, Mentawai Islands and its people were kept isolated until the 19th century by strong winds, unpredictable currents and razorsharps corals. It’s thought that the archipelago seperated from Sumatra some 500,000 years ago, resulting in such unique flora and fauna that sees Mentawai ranked alongside Madagaskar in terms of edemic primate population. Of particular interest is Siamang kerdil, a rare species of black and yellow monkey, named simpai Mentawai by the locals.
The largest island, Siberut, is home to the majority of the Mentawai population and is the most studied and protected island in the archipelago. About 60% of Siberut is still covered with tropical rainforest, which shelters a rich biological community that has earned it a designation as a Unesco biosphere reserve. The western half of the island is protected as the Siberut National Park (TNS).
While the physical distance between the mainland and Mentawai is not great, this remains one of the most isolated places in Indonesia. There are 72 surfers paradise as main tourism attractions in Mentawai Archipelago. Surfing is big business in Mentawai as the island’s have consistent surf year-round at hundreds of legendary breaks. Mentawai is one of world’s 50 best surf spots by Surfing Magazine. The season peaks between April and October.
How to Get to Mentawai Islands
The Mentawai Islands are a chain of about seventy islands and islets off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. The Mentawai Islands have been administered as a regency within the West Sumatra.
To get to the Mentawai Islands you first need to go to the town of Padang on the island of Sumatra. There are around 10 daily flights there from Jakarta, Indonesia‘s capital, which take just over an hour. There are also a few direct flights a week to Padang from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru. There are also buses from Jakarta to Padang, but they can take up to 2 days and are not significantly cheaper than flying. Padang can of course be accessed by boat and bus from Malaysia and Singapore.
Once in Padang you need to get the boat to Siberut. 2 boats a week go from Padang to Siberut. One leaves Padang on Mondays at 8pm, arriving in Siberut at 7am. The return journey leaves Siberut at 8pm on Tuesday, arriving in Padang at 7am. To book tickets call (0751) 23 321.
Another ferry leaves Padang at 8pm on Thursdays, arriving in Siberut at 7am. The return journey leaves Siberut at 8pm on Fridays, arriving in Padang at 7am. Call (0751) 23321 / 27153 / 34037 to book tickets. These schedules are valis until the end of 2011. You are unlikely to get someone who speaks English on these numbers, so it may be easier for you to book tickets through Bevys Sumatra, a travel agent in the Hotel Batang Arau in Padang (tel: 7517810835, address: Jalan Batang Arau).
Where to Stay
Along with transport, accomodation will be your primary expense in Mentawai. Trekking guides will organise family homestays. Most of private surf resorts don’t accept short-term stays (less than seven days). However, there are alternatives.
If you stuct in Muara Siberut without a guidem there is very basic accomodation at Sirruhuudin Hotel on the water front as well as the odd homestays (as around the market). There are basic losmen around most of the Mentawai ports, and simple beach huts have sprung up around E-Bay and Playgrounds, to the south of Siberut. Bring all your supplies, drinking water and mosquito nets.