There are not many places in the world where you could find all packed into one small island some excellent world class surfing spots, exotic tropical forests, local tribal experiences, and rare exotic plant and animal species. Among the Mentawai islands lies a small, but unique and, not only naturally but also culturally beautiful island.
Pulau Siberut is the largest of the Mentawai chain of Islands, located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 100 km. off the west coast of West Sumatra, and separated from the main island by the Mentawai Strait. The island itself lies some 155 km from the province’s capital city of Padang. You will not reach this spot without much time spent travelling, however, the adventure and experience of all the natural beauty this island has to offer make it more than worthwhile. Pulau Siberut invites the adventure thirsty to come and explore all the wealth it possesses, including the rich culture, customs, and exotic tropical environment.
Siberut is home to the Mentawai tribe of approximately 30,000 people, who live isolated from the modern community. The Mentawai tribe is said to have migrated to the Mentawai islands from Nias island to its north, living an isolated life here for centuries until “discovered” by the Dutch in 1621.
Siberut island, Mentawai islands (Source : haluannews.com)
A closer look into the inner workings of the life of the Mentawai is one of the main attractions for a visit to Siberut. The Mentawai tribe still maintains the lifestyle and traditions passed down from their ancestors from thousands of years ago. They live in houses locally called ‘uma’, made from wooden scaffolds which house several families each.
The tribe has its own language, culture, customs and some still profess a belief in animism. Their clothing is also very simple: Mentawai men wear only a loincloth made from the bark of the gum tree, while women only wear a simple skirt made of palm or banana leaves. Besides clothing, they also recognize a certain “timeless clothing”, – the characteristic Mentawai tribal tattoo, – which sometimes entails tattooing the whole body in the traditional way, following a variety of tribal rituals. It is not uncommon to see Mentawai people covered from head to toe in tattoos. Their main food is sago and they raise pigs and hunt monkeys for their daily food.
Besides witnessing the Mentawai tribe’s isolated life, trekking in the protected tropical forests is very much recommended, while, enjoying the scenery around the island is another interesting adventure to be had. Approximately 2/3 of the island is covered with rain forest that offers trekking adventures which are not always easy but physically challenging and will be sure to get your heart pumping.
Much of the island is protected by and has been set to become a national park since 1993, known by the name of Taman Nasional Siberut . The Siberut National Park is one of the Biosphere Reserves working in conjunction with the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB).
The Siberut National Park is home to four types of wildlife primates found only in Siberut, these being Bokkoi (Macaca pagensis), Lutung Mentawai / Joja (Presbytis Potenziani Siberug), Bilou (Hylobates klossii), and Simakobu (Nasalis siberu concolor) . In addition to these endemic primates, there are also 4 different types of endemic squirrel species, 17 mammals, and 130 species of birds (4 of which are endemic).
A visit to the Siberut National Park is an adventure package with a combination of activities, such as boating, rowing, trekking through the (sometimes muddy) forest paths, enjoying the beauty of the rainforest, as well as observations of the rare species of both plants and animals. To explore the charm of Siberut, there are a number of service travel agencies, and tour guides can be found in Padang or Bukit Tinggi.
To enter the Siberut National Park, we suggest that you first contact to the National Park Office, at
Kantor Taman Nasional Siberut
Jl. Khatib Sulaiman No 46
Gedung ex. Kanwil Kehutanan lt. 3
There are several accommodation options on and off this small island. There is an inn at the Siberut National Park. You can inquire directly at the National Park office. Kantor Taman Nasional Siberut Jl. Khatib Sulaiman No 46 Gedung ex. Kanwil Kehutanan lt. 3 Padang-Sumatra Barat.
Another option, if you would like to know more and be closer to the life of the Mentawai tribe and feel their way of life, you can stay at people’s homes here. You can elicit information on personal homestays at the port Muara Siberut, upon your arrival. For those of you who like to surf or would just like a place directly on the beach, there are cottages along beach at the surfing locations, such as on-Nyang Nyang Island, which is only a short speed boat ride from Pulau Siberut. Additionally, there is also a larger resort on Pulau Nyang-Nyang, the Pitstop Hill Mentawai.
Another place of interest, located in Sabang, is a surf camp. From here surfing tours of the Mentawai Islands are regularly scheduled as well.
Surf Camp Siberut Jalan Kandis 1v No 03Rt 03 Rw 05 Olo Nanggalo Padang 25000.
There is a guest house and restaurant in Muara Siberut. Mentawai island trek adventure travel organises 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.
Cultural tourism is one of the treats offered specifically at Pulau Siberut, namely the Mentawai tribal life and distinctive culture.
Lifestyle, traditions, and tribal customs of the Mentawai tribe are attractions that would not be found in any other place in the world. Witnessing the unique way of life of the Mentawai tribe will be an enriching cultural experience. The existence of traditional houses inhabited by several families (Uma Mentawai) is the first place to get to know and take a closer look at their daily lives.
Traditional activities that they do every day are equally interesting, such as menyagu (cooking sago), hunting, making poison arrows, creating traditional tattoos, making Kabit (traditional pants), ceremonial dances typical to the Mentawai (turuk) and medicinal treatment rituals by Sikerei (shamans). In addition, other traditional villages that you can visit are the Madobak, Ugai and Matotonan villages.
As part of the Mentawai Islands, that are famous for some of the best surf in the world, marine tours are another adventure offered on this island. At Pulau Siberut there are regular boats sailing to and from Padang, and they also play an important role in the transportation among the Mentawai Islands.
For those who like to surf, there are Pulau Nyang-Nyang and Karang Bajat at the southern tip of Pulau Siberut, two small islands just a short speedboat ride away. The large waves that come barreling toward the beaches at both of these islands are well known among surfing enthusiasts, attracting experienced surfers from all over the globe. In addition, other marine activities that can be enjoyed here are snorkeling, swimming, fishing and ultimately just relaxing and enjoying the beauty of the pristine white, sandy beaches.
Taman Nasional Siberut now has speed boats for rent, accommodations with a capacity of up to 30 people, and a visitor center building as an information center for tourists who want to explore the national parks in particular and Pulau Siberut in general.
The location and the terrain make ecotourism activities, especially trekking in the national park, a very challenging and full of adventure. You really can never be completely sure what your day will hold for you. Some of the trekking routes will traverse through primary forests with very muddy soil conditions. While trekking through the jungle you will see the Dipterocarpaceae trees, forest orchids, wild flora and fauna and a tropical forest rich with a variety of species found only on this island. Bird-watching and catching a glimpse of other primates and animals, endemic to this island, are other excursions that can be added to the variety filled list of activities to do on this exotic little island.
To reach Siberut in the Mentawai islands, you must first fly to Padang, capital of West Sumatra. There are a number of domestic flights to Padang from Jakarta, Medan, Bali and other cities in Indonesia. There are international flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Padang.
From Padang’s Minangkabau International Airport, which is the primary airport of West Sumatra located about 20 km from Padang, you will make your way to the port at Muara Padang by bus or taxi. From there, visitors using the ferry or boat can cross the Indian Ocean to Pulau Siberut.
Located approximately 155 km from Padang, the trip to Siberut will take approximately 12 hours of traveling by ferry. The ferry will take you directly to Muara Siberut, the port on Pulau Siberut, the only island in the Mentawai Islands which has a regular ferry to Padang, West Sumatra.
The ferries have scheduled departures twice a week from Padang to Siberut; Sunday night (Sumber Rezeki Baru Ship) and Thursday night (Simasin Ship). This trip usually takes up to one day and will return back to Padang on Tuesday and Friday nights. Ticket prices are between Rp105.000, and Rp125.000. In addition, there are additional weekend ships operating on the first and second Sunday of each month. The Ambu Ambu ship departs on Saturday evening from Muara Padang and back from Siberut to Padang on Sunday night.
Another option is, if you depart from the Minangkabau International Airport there are small rental planes available on Tiger Air or SMAC which can take you to Tuapejat on Pulau Sipora, part of the Mentawai cluster and near to Pulau Siberut. After that, you can rent a boat for a trip of around 3 to 4 hours to Muara Siberut on Pulau Siberut.
Bring enough cash while visiting Pulau Siberut or other islands in the Mentawai cluster as there are no banks or ATMs in this isolated region.
Make sure to wear comfortable and conducive clothes and shoes for exploring the tropical forests and inland Pulau Siberut.
Bring your own aspirin, malaria pills, and any other medicines you may need as there are no drug stores or pharmacies on these islands.
Mentawai tribesmen are delighted when presented with souvenirs of cigarettes and food when you visit them. Ask permission if you want to take a picture of them as most of them will ask for something in return for the captured images.
It is best to first pay a visit to The Siberut National Park visitor center in Maileppet (3 miles from Muara Siberut) before heading into the hinterland. Siberut National Park staff will be willing to help and share information about the national park and Pulau Siberut overall, or even become your personal tour guide.
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