One of earth’s true paradises, the Mentawai Islands are found among the crystalline waters of the Indian Ocean. Though known as a surfer’s delight, these islands have so much more to offer. Here we show you this wonderful archipelago, characterised by its unique beauty and biodiversity and some of the most isolated primitive tribes in the world.
By Catarina Constantino
This archipelago near the west coast of Sumatra is part of Indonesia and is known for having some of the best waves for surfing in the world. With more to offer than incredible waves, the archipelago is composed of 70 islands, the largest being Siberut, Sipura, Pagai Utara and Pagai Selatan. Full of fascinating nooks, corners and crannies to explore, we show you how this exotic location can be ideal for a family holiday with plenty of rest, adventure and, of course, a lot of fun. The paradisiacal and practically deserted beaches are uniquely beautiful, perfect for resting and letting the kids play in freedom to the sounds of nature. The climate is one of tropical heat and humidity, with temperatures ranging from 29ºC to 32ºC throughout the year. For those who want to surf, the best time to go is between April and October, when the waves reach their peak.
HOW TO GET THERE
Getting to the Mentawai Islands can be difficult, but not impossible. Even with kids! However, there’s no escaping the stopovers, nor the (many) hours of travel, but once you step onto the white sand of the islands, it all pays off!
The first destination of this great adventure has to be the city of Pandang in Sumatra. There are flights from Porto and Lisbon. The trip is long, taking at least 24 hours, and always including two or even three stopovers. From Padang, you take a boat to the Mentawai Islands. There are boats every day and the journey time varies up to 12 hours. At first glance, this long trip may seem boring, but it’s best to think of it as a little adventure before reaching paradise.
To enter Indonesia, your passport must have at least six months’ validity. Those staying in the country for less than 30 days do not require a visa.
WHERE TO STAY
There are two types of accommodation on offer: resorts and boats. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Resorts are more comfortable and offer various activities for guests. Boats give you a different kind of freedom and are recommended for surfers. For those who prefer to sleep on the high seas, there are several options, such as Mentawai Surf Charters and Sibon Chartes.
Hidden Bay Resort Mentawais
Located next to Siberut in an exclusive bay where tranquillity and luxury predominate, Hidden Bay Resort seems to be the ideal place for a family holiday. In addition to surf-related sports, this resort offers a wide range of activities that promise to entertain kids and adults alike. From snorkelling, stand up paddle, fishing, hiking, games, local cooking courses, photography courses, massages, yoga, meditation, functional pilates and Five Konzept, the only hard thing is choosing what to do!
Price per night: Family Bungalow for two adults and two children from €192.81, with three meals a day and boat trips included.
Macaronis Resort is another incredible option. The whole space was created with surf lovers in mind and therefore offers ideal conditions for that sport. But it is also an excellent option for those visiting as a family, even if they don’t know how to surf. The resort has 16 rooms, all of them with a panoramic balcony over the Silabu lagoon. Surf, paddle board and kayaking lessons are available, as are diving and underwater fishing activities. Guided tours to the local villages of Silabu and Betamonga are also offered. Macaronis Resort is kid friendly and has special menus for children, alongside services designed to make the stay pleasant for parents and children alike.
Price per night: available on request
NOT TO BE MISSED
Although composed of dozens of islands, the archipelago’s tourist spots are found on the largest island, Siberut. Therefore, we recommend spending most of the trip in this area. If you have extra time and energy to explore outside Siberut, we recommend taking a boat to skip from islet to islet, enjoying the paradisiacal beaches and the breath-taking landscapes.
Siberut National Park
Located on the island of Siberut, Siberut National Park is a mandatory stop and it is easy to understand why. Almost two square kilometres in area, it is made up of a giant forest with unique fauna and flora. Because it is so rich it is part of the World Biosphere Reserve. Those who visit are enchanted by the 60-metre high trees and the unique species of birds and primates, such as the Siamang Kerdil, a yellow and black monkey that only lives in this region. The little ones will be amazed to experience this pristine location so far off the beaten track! We recommend taking a camera to capture the unique, photogenic landscape and to preserve your priceless memories.
The villages of Madobak, Ugai and Matotonan
The villages of Madobak, Ugai and Matotonan are not exactly tourist destinations, but that’s what makes them so special. These villages have their own culture, with traditions you cannot see anywhere else in the world. Although they are all on the same island, in Siberut each village has its own traditional houses, known locally as Uma. There is also a traditional ceremony performed by a Sikerei or Shaman. This ceremony is usually performed at weddings, when moving house, to facilitate healing or to ward off evil spirits. Some locals also have the traditional Mentawai tattoos, known all over the world. These tattoos are made with sugar cane ink and coconut charcoal, with a needle, a nail, a piece of wood and a hammer used to carve the design into the skin.
Although the villages are relatively isolated, their residents are used to visitors and to demonstrating and including outsiders in their traditions.
Kulu Kubuk Waterfall
To get in touch with nature and enjoy one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world, we recommend a stop at the Kulu Kubuk Waterfall in the village of Madobak. This imposing waterfall has two levels, with a total height of 70 metres. Besides its beautiful scenery for family photos, Kulu Kubuk is the perfect place to dive and enjoy a full day.
The sun and water temperature on the Mentawai Islands are extraordinarily warm. There is little or no telephone network, making it difficult to access the Internet and get mobile phone coverage. There are also no local shops, pharmacies, hospitals or much of anything else! As if that wasn’t enough, the archipelago is also prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. It is thus a good idea to go well prepared!
What to do before you go:
- Have a health appointment check-up before travelling;
- Get travel insurance;
- Get a yellow fever vaccination before the trip;
- Bring a kit of anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antipyretic, analgesic and antiemetic drugs.
During the trip:
- Apply SPF50+ sunscreen frequently;
- Use insect repellent;
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
A few words in Bahasa, the official language of Indonesia:
- Bagus: Good;
- Tidak: No;
- Ya: Yes;
- Terima Kasih: Thank you very much;
- Selamat Pagi: Nice to meet you.