Take a trip into the wild with an adventure to the Mentawai islands. Be surrounded by tropical rainforests and immerse yourself in the traditions of the local people. While the physical distance between the mainland and Mentawai is not great, this remains one of the most isolated places in Indonesia, and was only subject to outside influences at the start of the 20th century. A long way from the world of shopping malls and theme parks, this is where travellers come to get a truly off the beaten track adventure.
Located off the West coast of Sumatra, the Mentawai archipelago includes four municipalities – Siberut, Sipora, North Pagai and South Pagai – is the biggest of the Siberut islands and remains largely covered with tropical rainforest. From the moment you arrive on and see the white coral beaches, ancient rainforests and hear the cheeky black gibbons playing in the trees you’ll find it hard to resist falling in love with the place. This Siberut island is home to a rich array of bio-diversity which has earned it designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Mentawai islands, Sumatra (Source : macaronisresort.com)
The remote location of these islands means that the Mentawai people have had very little contact with the outside world. The archipelago is thought to have broken off from the rest of Sumatra about 500,000 years ago and it is only since the 20th century that outside influences began to have an impact on the local people. Today, the Mentawai still abide by traditional practices and live largely off the land. Local people have a strong spiritual relationship with the forest with a belief system that emphasizes harmony with creation.
It is believed people first came to inhabit these islands at least several thousand years ago. Most anthropologists classify the Mentawai people as Protomalay which means they have a mostly Neolithic culture but have not been effected by Buddhism, Islam or Hinduism.
Tatoos are an important symbol in Mentawai culture and reflect maturity, manhood and status. The art of this body painting has been inherited from ancient ancestors and the ink is made from natural fibres.
The biggest town on Siberut is Muara Siberut on the southeast coast. This is the major point of entry for tour groups from the mainland. From here, you can travel with a with a local guide and trek inland to some of the Mentawai villages. If your bahasa is good enough, chat to the locals and enjoy their hospitality.
Flawless Mentawai Islands (Source : theinertia.com)
The other big attraction for visitors to these islands is the world class surfing. With some of the best surfing conditions in the world, monster waves and swells that remain all year round, this is ranked by serious surfers as a must visit destination.
Boost your taste with exotic and fresh seafood that you can find in the local restaurants run by local people. If you are lucky enough, you can pick and cook your own seafood, but make sure you know the secret recipe/spices from Mentawai people. If you’re not into seafood, you can find regular meals as well.
Local handmade souvenirs like traditional hats, traditional bag and accessories will be genuine souvenirs for your relatives and friends. You can buy them in a souvenir shop or from the locals directly.
There is a guest house and restaurant in Muara Siberut. While travelling in villages, guests can sleep on the floor with a local family. Payment is up to you but is normally in the form of cigarettes or other gifts. Visitors are expected to bring their own food. Mentawai island trek adventure travel organise treks on Siberut island. This includes arranging accommodation of home stays with local clans and camping in the jungle. There are also a number of luxury resorts that operate on the islands, offering guests the chance to laze under palm trees while they savour the sunset. Mentawai resorts offer luxurious five star surf villas at HT’s resort. Siloinak resort, situated on its own private tropical island near Siberut, is the ideal place to sit back, relax and absorb the beauty of this deserted island. With 900 meters of coconut palm fringed beaches and a refreshing lagoon great for swimming among tropical fishes, this is truly a tropical paradise.
Mentawai atmosphere has the mission to provide a full service through sustainable tourism and integration with the indigenous people of the island. They are running boat trip that have all the amenities and experience people to serve our guest. Also provide trekking trip through the jungle of siberut island and tailor made surf trip around siberut islands, spent the night with the native speaker of mentawai island.
With some of the biggest breaks in the world, this is the place to come for some world class surfing. There is no ‘off’ season here, the surf is great all year round. Warm water, perfect barrels and limited crowds – once you surf the Mentawai islands, no where else in the world will compare. Trekking through the incredible jungle landscape, jumping over swamps, paddling in pirogues (traditional boats), surrounding yourself in lush green vegetation, all of this will be the experience of a lifetime. If you’re willing to brave the bugs and mud, a walk through an equatorial forest here will leave you lost for words. Many travellers make the trip to the Mentawai islands to absorb the culture, meet local clans and learn about ancient traditions. Come and see how a shaman (traditional healer, sometimes called a witch doctor) does his work. According to Mentawai beliefs, illness and accidents are nothing but symptoms of a trouble mind. The waters surrounding the islands are ideal for snorkelling and diving. Ecotourism activities are popular here too. As a habitat for rare primates, the natural rain forest of Mentawai is the perfect place for research or other educational purpose. Here, you can conduct research about :
• Snub-nosed monkey/Simakobu (Simias concolor) monkey family eat leaf as primary food
• Joja or Lutung Mentawai (Presbytis potenziani) easily identified for the long tail, white face and black hair head
• Bokkoi atau Beruk Mentawai (Macaca pagensis)
• Kloss Gibbon/Bilou or Siamang Kerdil (Hylobates klossii) famous for the beautiful voice, different compared to general monkey
To access all the beauties offered, you can rent a boat owned by local people. You can find the boat along the beach. The rate depends on your bargaining skill.
Sebaung Merauke Air flies between Padang and the Mentawai islands. It is a 30 minute flight. Flights can be booked via a number of local agents including Mentawai Air. Some resorts which operate on the islands will arrange flights and airport pick ups for you.
An overnight ferry service departs from Padang. It is best to regularly check times with ferry operators as timetables can change depending on weather conditions.
Probably the easiest way to get to Sirebut is to join a trekking tour. These tours normally depart from Bukittinggi or Padang and will organise transport to the island.
Independent travellers will need to be able to speak reasonable Indonesian to negotiate with local guides in Sirebut. They also must organise their own travel permits with police.
- Local people do not mind being photographed however it is polite to ask beforehand.
- The terrain in the jungle is rough and muddy so if you are coming for a hike, bring good hiking boots and appropriate clothing. Depending on what tour option you chose, be prepared for some long hard walks and basic accommodation and food.
- Mosquitos and leeches are common here.
- It gets very wet in the jungle so it is a good idea to line your pack with a plastic bag. Remember to bring a torch, and warm clothing as it gets cool here at night.
- Washing takes place in the river however you must keep a sarong or swimsuit on at all times.
- Bring your own surfboard with you, because it may be hard to find a surfboard shop in Mentawai.
- Bring all medicines and pharmaceuticals with you.
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