The Mentawai Islands in Indonesia are not very popular in the traveler’s route. Due to the difficulty of reaching them, only some decide to undertake the journey, while others stay in more urbanized islands and cities. Surfing in Mentawai is one of the greatest wishes of lovers of this sport. In just a few square kilometers you can find a huge amount of perfect waves. No matter the conditions, there will always be a beach break or point break that works. In addition, for non-surfers, this destination offers a true disconnection from reality and, if you want, the possibility of meeting the Mentawai, a tribe that decided not to move forward in time and still preserves ancient traditions. Find here information to visit the Waves in Mentawai and how to travel to this wonderful destination.
- 1 Information about the Mentawai Islands
- 2 Our Trip to the Mentawai Islands
- 3 What to do in the Mentawai Islands
- 4 Important information to plan your surf trip to the Mentawai Islands
Information about the Mentawai Islands
Located west of the island of Sumatra, the Mentawai Islands form an archipelago of some 70 islands. The main island is Siberut, which can be accessed by ferry or fast boat from Sumatra.
In addition to surfing in Mentawai that has made this archipelago very popular with travelers, the islands hide many other attractions. Among them its enormous biodiversity, where some species of monkeys and vegetation are only found here. Another attraction is the many pristine beaches with transparent waters.
Our Trip to the Mentawai Islands
Because Jona is an inveterate surf lover, we could not have visited Indonesia without going to the Mentawai Islands. We stayed in a hostel run by two French people, which was all-inclusive in meals and offered a boat twice a day that took the surfers and bodyboards to the wave chosen that day. No matter the weather conditions, here you can always find a good surf spot to enjoy.
What to do in the Mentawai Islands
Surfing in the Mentawai Islands
Actually, surfing is one of the main reasons to visit this place. Since 1990, surfers have begun to reach the Mentawai Islands in search of the perfect wave. It is one of the best destinations in the world for this sport. Because of the big amount of islands, no matter the conditions, you will always find a wave to surf. It is said that there are about 50 waves in the 70 islands that make up the Mentawai archipelago.
Despite this, this destination is not recommended for beginners. Most of the waves break into a shallow and alive coral reef, so any uncontrolled fall can lead to serious accidents and injuries. Without going any further, during our 1-week stay, 3 people were injured at a different intensity; one even had to be transported to a hospital on the island of Siberut.
In general, the surf stays in Mentawai are located outside of Siberut, the main island. Because the waves are not close one to each other, and they position themselves in different corners of the archipelago, it is important to reserve a lodging that includes a transfer boat for the surfers at least twice a day to the wave that is breaking that day.
Snorkeling and diving
If you do not like to surf, you can take your snorkel and, on days of good visibility, enjoy snorkeling in Mentawai and its enormous diversity of corals and fish. Some places, especially in larger cities such as Siberut, also offer diving.
The Beaches of Mentawai
Because of the virginity of these islands, you can also find wonderful beaches. However, many are difficult to access by boat because coral reefs are very dangerous. Even some islands are not recommended for tourists because of dangerous animals on the shore, such as snakes and poisonous spiders.
Wherever you are, you will always find a wonderful beach with white sand and turquoise waters. Relax, walk along the shore and enjoy.
Siberut National Park and the Mentawai tribe
We didn’t come here, but we can’t stop naming it. From Siberut you can take a guide to the jungle on the island (the Siberut National Park) to get up close to the Mentawais. This is a tribe that dates back more than 4,000 years and has preserved all its eccentric traditions, like big tattoos on its skin, sharpening its teeth, use of natural medicines and completely natural preparation of its food. It is like a door to the past because they remain completely disconnected from any technology or advance that has not come out of their heads.
Agencies organize guided tours, you can not make the journey for yourself. In these tours, they take you to visit several villas that can be separated by several kilometers of forest and mud. Get ready to walk in the rain, see millions of ugly bugs, complete disconnection of any cell phone or internet signal, go to the bathroom directly in the forest and sleep directly on wooden floors. An extreme experience, but they say it is immensely recommendable and rewarding.
Important information to plan your surf trip to the Mentawai Islands
Best time to go to Mentawai
Although there are always waves to surf, the best time to go to Mentawai is between April and October, during the dry season. This way, you will avoid the rain (although it always rains … it is impossible that you don’t have at least one ugly day!)
How to get to the Mentawai Islands
It’s not easy and it’s quite long, but you can.
Step 1: Plane or other means of transport to Padang, Sumatra:
The first thing you should do is get to the city of Padang in Sumatra. For this, you can get to the Padang International Airport. There are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta. You can also arrive by ferry from other islands in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Step 2: Ferry to Siberut in the Mentawai Islands
From Padang, you must take a boat or ferry trip to the island of Siberut. Depending on the means of transport, it can take 12 hours (by ferry) or 7 (by fast boat).
In case of choosing to arrive at Mentawai in a fast boat, do not forget to take pills for seasickness and take a sick bag with you in case you need to vomit. This is really common because the waves can be large and the boats move a lot.
Step 3: Local transportation to your accommodation.
Once it is Siberut, you should ask with your accommodation which is the fastest or cheapest way to get there. Many accommodations include this roundtrip transfer. Others will charge a supplement that we recommend paying to ensure an efficient trip.
Whatever the case, if you decide to stay out of Siberut or on another island, carry plastic bags to protect your suitcases and belongings in the event of rain and water splashing from the waves you may encounter along the way.
Accommodation in Mentawai
Due to the difficulty of accessing and the little development in infrastructure, it is difficult to find cheap accommodation. Most of them include transfer boats, food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and they even make all the transportation arrangements for the accommodation.
There are several resorts especially on the islands of Siberut and Palau Masokut, but if your goal is to surf, we recommend you to look for a surf-stay in one of the smaller islands. This way you will be closer to the waves and you can experience the true experience of “living in Mentawai”.
You can also choose a charter boat, conditioned with simple rooms, that move between different points of the archipelago in search of the perfect wave. This is undoubtedly the best way to travel and ensure the best surf because there is nothing limited by the time it takes to move around in smaller boats.
Health care and accidents in Mentawai
It is vital that you travel with a very good travel insurance if you are traveling to the Mentawai Islands. The probability of accidents and diseases in this area is quite high, as you will enter the jungle. Since the infrastructure development is not so good and there are barely hospitals, in the case of serious accidents you may need to travel by helicopter to Sumatra Island or other countries.
In the Mentawai Islands, you not only run the risk of falling on corals while surfing, but there are also several poisonous animals such as snakes and spiders. Be careful, but also travel protected by insurance.
Protection against mosquitoes.
The Mentawai Islands are in the middle of nowhere and are true jungles of native vegetation, ideal for the reproduction of thousands of mosquitoes and the transmission of diseases such as malaria and dengue. It is important that you take all possible precautions to avoid bites that, although you will certainly have several, the idea is not to be eaten by these flying bugs. Find our tips here.
Medical attention in Mentawai
Only in Siberut you can find health care, but quite basic. In case of major complications, accidents or illnesses you must return to Padang, which can take 10 or 12 hours at least. Take your own medications for the most common diseases, such as colds, sinusitis, wounds, diarrhea or what you think may happen to you. Do not do nonsense activities and take care of yourself so they don’t ruin your trip to Mentawai.
There is practically no internet connection, and if there is, it will be extremely slow. Get ready to disconnect from the world and leave technology aside. In some areas, there may be some local cellphone signal. For more information on how to stay connected on trips, click here.
Due to the underdevelopment in infrastructure and given that you are literally in the middle of the jungle, you will find thousands of mosquitoes. Avoid being outdoors at dawn and sunset, when most of these bugs come out to feed. Wear white clothes and try to cover your body as much as you can. Remember that there are malaria and dengue in this area of Indonesia, so it is important that you take care of yourself. You can read more tips on preventing mosquito bites here.