The Ultimate Guide to the Mentawai Islands, Sumatra

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The beautiful Mentawai Islands are a small archipelago that sits off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are famous for their surfing conditions, being one of the top 10 surf spots in Indonesia. It even rivals those found in the surfer’s paradise of Bali.

As such, many surfers come to the Mentawai Islands after the surf season in Bali has finished. But surfing is not the only activity on offer here. Many of the islands provide delightful opportunities for trekking as well as fishing and snorkeling. If none of these appeals, then you can also spend time relaxing on the beaches here or learning more about the Mentawai culture.

The waves, turquoise sea, incredible underwater scenery, the best resorts, quiet and serene locations, virgin forests, tasting different foods every day, endemic animals, tattoos, and having adventures by staying and living like a Native Mentawai Tribe will set you up for an unforgettable holiday.

Beautiful view at Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Beautiful view at Mentawai Islands. Photo by Warm Winds Surf Shop

Where are the Mentawai Islands

The Mentawai Islands are located around 150 kilometers off the west coast of the island of Sumatra. They consist of Pulau (island) Siberut, Pulau Sipura Pulau Pagai-utara and Pulau Pagai-selatan. To visit here, you will have to first go to Padang in West Sumatra before making the journey across by boat.

The Mentawai archipelago has 4 large islands consisting of Sipora island, Siberut island, South Pagai island, and North Pagai island. Each spot has natural beauty with different advantages and characteristics.

Fishing village at Bintan Island, Indonesia

Map of Mentawai Islands

Why visit the Mentawai Islands

If you are a surfing aficionado, then the Mentawais offer some of the best surfing in the country. These islands are not to be missed as part of your wider surf trip in Indonesia. On the other hand, the Mentawais still offer you the chance to see a far less touristy side of Indonesia, with a fascinating culture that many visitors don’t get to see.

With relatively good travel links to Padang, the Mentawais are also quite easy to visit, especially for intrepid travelers looking for some adventures a little off the beaten track.

Best time to visit the Mentawai Islands

The best time to visit the Mentawai Islands is after the rainy season, which starts around November or December and then runs until approximately March or April. During this time it can rain every day, and if you want to spend time surfing or sunbathing then, this can be a rather damp time to visit.

Months like September and October are good picks as the weather is pleasant and this is also the low season after the summer holidays and before the winter rush for Christmas and New Year.

Flight tickets and accommodations are often discounted during this time. The overall general best time to visit the Mentawai Islands is during the dry season of May to October.

Surfing the waves of Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Surfing the waves of Mentawai Islands. Photo by Colm Walsh

Places to visit in Mentawai Islands

The Mentawais are islands of sand and surf so bear in mind that most of the things to see here are focused on beach life.

Siberut Island – the biggest of all the islands and where most of the population lives. Most of the island is made up of tropical rainforest, and for this reason, it is a UNESCO reserve. It is also the spot where you will find Siberut National Park where you can go trekking and explore the unique flora and fauna of these islands.

Sipora Island – If you want to see a more developed side of the Mentawais then head over to Pulau Sipora. It is the home of the ‘capital’ city of the Mentawais called Tua Pejat. The local government offices are also located here and it is the urbanest of all the Mentawai Islands.

Pagai Islands – separated into Pulau Pagai Utara in the north and Pulau Pagai Selatan in the south. Travelers hardly ever make it out that far, but you can charter a boat and cruise around the waters here if you want to explore further afield.

People of Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

River at Pulau Siberut Island. Photo by viajar24h.com, via Wikimedia Commons

Mentawai Islands Tourist Attractions

Beaches
Mapadegat beach and Jati beach are located in Tuapejat. But local tourists prefer Jati beach as an option coz the budget is more friendly. Nang Nyang beach on Siberut Island and Siruso beach on Siruso island are also interesting choices.

Tourist Villages
“Back to Nature” is the right term for tourists who want to recharge their minds by taking a package to spend some time living with the Mentawai native tribe in a large house called Uma. Tourists prefer Matotonan village to visit, located within Siberut National Park. 

The special ceremonies and activities you will get at the Mentawai tourist villages are:

  • Traditional Dance
    One of the traditional dances is “Turuk”. Turuk is a healing ceremonial dance involving Sikerei or Shaman.
  • Hunting Activity
    Hunting is a favorite of the Mentawai Native tribe.  Here, you will learn how to mix arrow poison and take part in archery and catching fish competitions.
  • Rituals
    The Eneget ceremony is one of many rituals, the ritual when a boy enters the adult phase. The child is equipped with arrows and bows to participate in hunting. Traditional ritual ceremonies are usually performed once a year during the full moon.

    The Mentawai tribe has a belief called Sabulungan, they believe that forests, plants, and animals have spirits and souls, when spirits are not well cared for, then the spirit can bring bad luck and the appearance of disease. 

    The South Pagai area is also called Sikerei Earth because the people of the tribe can treat the sick by summoning the spirits of the Mentawai Shaman who is commonly called Sikerei
  • Tattoo
    The Mentawai native tribe has a special Tattoo named Tatto Titi. Tattoo Titi is the art of painting on the skin. The Mentawai native tribe has a philosophy about a tattoo, tattoo is like an eternal fashion that can be brought to death for the Mentawai tribe. These tattoos serve as an identity and differentiation of social status in society. Stones, animals, and plants in the Mentawai people’s tradition become objects that are immortalized in their bodies.  The person who makes tattoos is called Sipatiti.
  • Teeth Grinding Tradition
    Sometimes also known as Mentawai teeth sharpening, as Mentawai tribal women, you have to have your teeth rimmed for beauty standards, but the toothpick tradition has already begun to be abandoned by them. 
People of Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

People of Mentawai Islands. Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Siberut National Park
If you plan to spend time and like to do hiking and love to see the kind of endemic animals, this is the place! You will meet Siamang Dwarf (Bilou), Lutung Mentawai, a Mentawai Ape (Bokkoi) and Pigtail Monkey called Simakobu.  Located in Siberut Island, Kepulauan Mentawai regency,West Sumatra.

Waterfalls
Mentawai has Pujujurung waterfall on Sipora island and Simatobat waterfall on south Pagai island which can be spot objects for camera shots or even bathing.  Feel the freshness and clarity of the water. If you are lucky, u will see Bilou and Bokkoi. 

Things to do in Mentawai Islands

If you like islands and beaches then you will find much to do on the Mentawais.

Surfing

Surfing is the top activity here with consistent surf breaks. Some popular surfing spots here are E’bay, Beng-beng, Nipussi, and Pitstop. Here you can get many islets and flawless reefs with sun-blue waters, and also offshore winds, and spitting tubes.

The best time to surf is April to October when the Indian Ocean produces large and consistent waves during those months. If you are not a surfer but you want to learn how to surf, don’t worry.  Some resorts provided surfing study classes for the beginner. Mentawai has waves of all shapes and sizes with 32 surfing surf spots.

Surfing at Mentawai Islands
Surfing at Mentawai Islands

Fishing

If you like fishing and want to feel the thrill of shouting “strike” and enjoying freshly barbecued grouper fish meat, choose Siruso beach in the village of Taikako, Sikakap, Kepulauan Mentawai regency, West Sumatra. The usual fishing using a rod, or spearfishing using a spear gun are both popular on the Mentawais. You will find a huge number of fish living in the shallow reefs around the islands.

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is also a great activity on the islands and the visibility here is excellent, so be sure to bring along an underwater camera for snorkeling. You can rent snorkeling equipment easily from many guest houses and hotels.

Some resorts have a complete packet for those of you who prefer snorkeling. WavePark Resort is one of them. No need for a boat, you can enjoy the seabed and coral reefs directly from the resort. The coral reefs have many caves that u can pass. Other spots can be accessed by boat.

Trekking and hiking

For anyone who prefers to stay on dry land, these are the best activities to do on the Mentawai Islands. There are treks to suit all levels of ability and you can either take a guided tour that lasts for a full day or go for an easy hike independently for a few hours. One of the popular trekking places is the Siberut National Park

Shaman traditional ceremony

If you are looking for a bit of local culture then make sure not to miss out on this. The indigenous people of the Mentawais are the Sikerei tribe. You will find this traditional performance information in hotels and guest houses on the islands.

Boat for surfing and snorkeling Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Boat for surfing and snorkeling. Photo by Warm Winds Surf Shop

Other things to do on the Mentawai Islands

Yoga – accompanied by an instructor, you and others in the group can do Yoga and meditation.

Jacuzzi – enjoying a Jacuzzi with a sea view through the window is something nice and relaxing.

Volley beach – playing Volleyball with some resort staff in the afternoon while waiting for the sunset is a must-try activity.

Canoeing or Kayaking – there are several locations in Mentawai beach where the waves are calm enough to spark the idea of spending the day canoeing.

Renting a boat – going around Mentawai with a rented boat is a way to enjoy the natural beauty of the Mentawai.

Local children at Dusun Toroji, Mentawai Islands
Local children at Dusun Toroji, Mentawai Islands. Photo from Beril Huliselan

Mentawai Islands Resorts and Accommodation

The most choices of places to stay on the Mentawai Islands would be on the big island of Pulau Siberut *. You may also find some remote and luxurious choices at Sipora Island, for example, the Simakakang Villa *.

Staying at a friendly resort is a must because you need at least a week to be able to enjoy this island. Here are some of the best places to stay on the Mentawai Islands.

Awera Resort (Mentawai Surf Resort)
Bungalow-shaped resort with swimming pool, spa, yoga, Jacuzzi, and surf classes. The nightly rate is 2,300,000 IDR. Located in Tuapejat, North Sipora, Kepulauan Mentawai Regency, West Sumatra.
Check out the latest prices on Agoda.com *
Check out the latest prices on Booking.com *

Nasara Resort
The resort has outdoor pool facilities, free wifi, Restaurant. Things to do like swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and canoeing. The nightly rate is 5.110.000 IDR. Located in Tuapejat, North Sipora, Kepulauan Mentawai Regency, West Sumatra.
Check out the latest prices on Agoda.com *
Check out the latest prices on Booking.com *


Driftwood Mentawai
The resort has restaurant facilities, a bar, a gym, and airport pick-up facilities (surcharge), and all rooms have kitchen facilities. Things to do: snorkeling, sunbathing by the beach. The nightly rate is 2.400.000 IDR. Located in Nyang Nyang Island, Pulou Masokut, South Siberut, Kepulauan Mentawai Regency,West Sumatra.
Check out the latest prices on Agoda.com *
Check out the latest prices on Booking.com *

Kandui Beach Villas
Kandui provides a family room with 2 big size beds in each room and uniquely has the facilities of a Mentawai tribal traditional house, namely Uma. The price is 7 million IDR per night. Staying in Kandui, you will get benefits with surf packages to the 4 best spots in Mentawai, the spots around Kandui Villas, Nyang-Nyang Island, Mainuk Island, and also on Karangniki Island. Located in Karangmajat island, Kepulauan Mentawai Regency, West Sumatra.

Macaroni Mentawai Surf Resort
Macaroni is perfect for those of you who want to do surfing while looking for tranquility, especially for couples who want to have a honeymoon. Some activities can be done such as boat rides around the island, being a fisherman, snorkeling, enjoying a spa with great views, free wifi 24 hours, and hot springs. The room rate is 2,000,000 IDR per night. The resort location is in Silabu village, North Pagai, Kepulauan Mentawai regency, West Sumatra.

Aloita Resort
If you want to get to the Aloita resort, you can rent a local fishing motorboat, which only takes 15 minutes from the dock of Tuapejat port. The room rate is 1.700.000 million IDR per night. Aloita resort has a limited number of rooms you must book one month in advance if you are interested. The place is great for swimming and snorkeling. Located in Simakakang Island, Tuapejat, North Sipora, Kepulauan Mentawai Regency,West Sumatra.

Wave Park Resort Mentawai
The resort has spa facilities, wifi, bars, and nightclubs. Activities carried out in the resort are snorkeling, boat rental, water skiing, and bike rides. Located in Mainuk Island, South Siberut, Kepulauan Mentawai Regency,West Sumatra.

What to eat at Mentawai Islands

Getting around won’t be perfect if you don’t try to taste traditional foods. The choice is yours, whether you want to eat extreme traditional cuisine or delicious traditional cuisine.

Rendang Padang had been tried and cooked by “The Jury of Master Chef” Gordon Ramsey when he visited West Sumatra a few years ago.

Toek Ulat Kayu and Batra Ulat Sagu are extreme foods because they are based on worms or caterpillars. This food is consumed with sago. Caucasian white tourists like Batra Ulat Sagu a lot when eaten raw.

Itik Lado Muda (processed duck meat), Dendeng Balado (thin beef), Sikoira (a type of white shellfish) and Anggu (endemic crab) are recommended cuisines to try.

Mentawai Islands at night, Indonesia

Mentawai Islands at night. Photo by Bruno Ahlgrimm

How to get around Mentawai Islands

The Mentawai Islands are easy to get around. You may be able to walk around on foot if you are just going from your guest house to the beach. If you want to explore further, however, then it is a good idea to rent a scooter or a bicycle which can be easily arranged from a local hotel or guest house.

How to get to Mentawai Islands

Jakarta to Mentawai Islands

From Jakarta, you will have many flight options to get to Minangkabau international airport in Padang city with one and a half hours of flight time. Once you landed at Minangkabau airport, you can use trains, Damri (airport-specific transportation), and taxis to get to the center of Padang city. You have to spend the night at Padang city before continuing to Mentawai. Yes, you need a little bit of effort to get there but it is worth it!

Padang to Mentawai Islands

It would be more comfortable to choose a hotel or lodging not far from Muaro Padang port because the Mentawai Fast Ferry departs at 7 am time and needs 4 hours before arriving at Tuapejat port. There is also a charter Ferry called ‘D-BoraSurf Charter’ too as an option. If you want to save money, you can use KMP Ambolo, KMP Ambu, and KMP Sumber Rezeki. They will depart at night with 11 hours of travel time. These ships have routes to Tuapejat, Siberut, and Sikabaluan.

Bali to Mentawai Islands

You will first need to fly to Jakarta from Bali and then follow the steps above from Jakarta to Padang and then onwards to the Mentawai Islands.

Local fishermen returning at Padang beach Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Local fishermen returning at Padang beach. Photo by Fadillah Jafar, via Wikimedia Commons

Where to go nearby

Padang – a coastal city with Dutch colonial buildings and fishing boats
Pekanbaru – the capital of Riau and well known for its modernity and cleanliness while maintaining many of its unique heritage architectures.

Travel Tips to the Mentawai Islands

Bring mosquito repellant, it is a jungle after all! If you are going for a trek through the tourist villages, you will be grateful to have your own sleeping bag. And quite like the backpacker style through any native villages, do not forget the toilet paper!

Travel Tips:
1. Book the best accommodations – Booking.com* or Agoda.com *
2. Find the cheapest flight options that suit you – Omio.com * or 12Go.asia *
3. Rent a car in advance and make your trip more convenient – Rentalcars *
4. Make the most of the time that you have! Exciting excursions, professional guides, and more – Klook *

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5 Comments

  1. Wanna ask if there is any safety issue on the ferry crossing to Samosir Island for example life jackets availability etc?

  2. Hi. I would like to know if there’s a ferry to/from Medan, Indonesia – Penang, Malaysia? How long is the trip? Would you know the price range (cheaper than air travel?) & ferry schedule? What about the safety issue? Thanks.

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