Adventure

5 min read

Unveiling Mentawai: Indonesias Untouched Paradise Revealed

Whispered tales of Indonesia's hidden gem are true—Mentawai Islands await. Trek through untouched jungles and surf pristine waves. Ready for the secret? Read on, intrepid explorer.

Tobi Miles
October 15, 2019


The Mentawai Islands are a hidden gem located in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Relatively few people have heard of them, which makes them Indonesias best kept secret!

There are four islands which make up this idyllic paradise. Each offers palm fringed virgin beaches and epic waves, which has made the Mentawai Islands popular with surfers for many years.

Are the Mentawai Islands worth visiting?

Absolutely, if you have ever seen the Leonardo Di Caprio Movie "the beach" you will know that many people have the dream to escape to an island paradise.

However, in recent years many "island Paradises" have become over commercialised and ruined. So if you would like a backpacking adventure to a real off the beaten track paradise then the Mentawai Islands are for you!


Mentawai Islands

Fun Fact: The Mentawai Islands has my tattoo coated hunter gatherer tribes, which many flock to learn about there lifestyle, during guided rainforest treks.

Mentawai Islands - Where are they??

The Mentawai Islands are 150km of the coast of Sumatra & part of their territory. The four main islands are:

  1. Siberut
  2. Sipora
  3. North Pagai
  4. South Pagai


Source: Wiki commons, Sadalmelik

Fun fact: In Indonesia the word "Pulau" means Island. Thus you may see written on transport tickets "Pulau Sipora" which means Sipora island.

Mentawai Island Guide:

Siberut

This is the largest of the Mentawai Islands & home to most of the population. Approximately 60% of Siberut Island is covered with tropical rainforest and its a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The west half of the island is a protected National Park (Siberut National Park). As you might of guessed this island is popular with Rainforest Treks!

Pulau Sipora (Sipora Island)

Pulau Sipora is the most developed of all the islands with only around 10% of the rainforest remaining. It is also home to the regional government (Tua Pejat) and is a drop off point for many surfers.

Southern Islands (Pagai Islands, Selatan)

These Islands rarely see independent travellers. However you can charter a boat/cruise around the waters here if you want to adventure further than most.

How to get to the Mentawai Islands?

Flights?

In the past flights to the Mentawai islands have been unreliable at best, with weather delays & last minute cancellations. In 2018 there were no flights to Rokot Airport on (Sipora Island) Pulau Sipora. Sometimes Susi Air (www.susiair.com) offers flights from Padang, as a last resort.

Ferries to the Mentawai Islands

This is my preferred option of getting to the Mentawai Islands. They recently introduced the Mentawai Fast (A 200 seat speedboat), in addition to three ferries which offer overnight journeys. The ferry can take between 10-12 hours.

In Padang, you can book ferries through surfer friendly homestays & local agents.

Mentawai Fast Ferry

Mentawai Fast runs regularly from the dock in central Padang; some ferries stop at Sikabaluan which takes the journey time to Siberut up to 6 hours. Pre booking is a good idea during peak season, & arrive at least 30 minutes before departure.

How much does the Mentawai Fast Ferry Cost?

The Mentawai Fast Ferry Costs, 250,000 IDR ($17) although prices may increase slightly as demand rises.

Overnight/slow ferries to Mentawai Islands:

Ambu Ambu & Gambolo are the largest ferries which connect Padang (West Sumatra Mainland) to the Mentawai Islands.

How much does the ferry cost to Mentawai Islands?

The overnight ferry (10-12hours) costs just (92,000 IDR) ($6.50) for basic economy seats and air conditioned "VIP" seats for just 123,000 IDR ($9).

Insider Tip:

The Gambolo ferry tends to be more comfortable but they both can get really overcrowded.

The ferries leave from the Teluk Kabung port at Bungus, approximately 20km south of Padang.

You will need to take a taxi to get there (100,000 IDR) ($7) or use the Grab Taxi App and it will cost you approximately 75,000 IDR.

Insider Tip: Bring enough cash with you before traveling to the Mentawi islands as there is only one ATM in Tua Pejat, but it's not that reliable!

How to get around the Mentawai Islands?

The Mentawai Islands are relatively easy to get around. You can walk on foot if your just heading from the guesthouse to the beach, but if you want to head out further I suggest renting a scooter or bicycle. Speak to your hotel/guesthouse for further details.

Do I need a visa for the Mentawai Islands?

Most nationalities are eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival in Indonesia,  which costs just USD$35. You can renew this visa for another 30 days at any Indonesian Immigration office.

If you plan on staying longer i recommended applying for a 60 day tourist visa before arrival and then renewing it for each additional month. You can also to "visa runs" to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Some countries are Eligible for a 30 Day Visa Free of charge.


The Definition of Paradise. Mentawai Islands Indonesia[/caption]

Best time to visit the Mentawai Islands?

The best time to visit the Mentawai Islands is between May and October, this is dry season.September/October is also a favourite as the weather is nice & its also low season after the summer holidays, but before the winter rush.

You would be best avoiding the rainy season, which starts around November /December until March/April.

Things to do on the Mentawi Islands:

Surfing:

As one of the top surfing destinations in the world, you will be in heaven if you enjoy catching those waves. There are many surf retreats on the Mentawai Islands, with the most popular surf spots being; E’bay, Beng-beng, Nipussi and Pitstop.

At these surf locations you will find pristine reefs, blue oceans, islets and consistent breaks which makes the Mentawi islands a surfers paradise.

Snorkeling:

With clear waters Snorkeling can be a fun pastime, as you float over the lush reefs you will be treated to a pleathora of tropical fish.

Insider Tip:

As you guesthouse/hotel about snorkel gear rental.


mentawai islands Snorkeling

Fishing:

Of course with all those lush reefs and tropical fishes, catching them is pretty easy. Traditional Mentawai Spear Fishing is popular on the island, including with a spear gun or just use an old fashioned rod.

Kayak/paddle board -

Most surf camps/guesthouses offers Kayak Rental or stand up paddle boards for you to rent. These are a great way to explore the picturesque lagoons and then stopping to taking a swim in the secluded coves and for some dinner at a quaint fishing village.


mentawai islands Paddle Boarding

Shaman traditional ceremony:

If you want to experience local culture, then can and see a traditional performance by the indigenous people of the Mentawais, the Sikerei tribe. Information on times/places can be found at hotels/guesthouses.

View this post on Instagram

Sikerei (physician) in Mentawai is a person who is believed to have high spiritual strength and closeness to ancestral spirits to cure various diseases in the teachings of Arat Sabulungan, Sikerei has the duty to perform all rituals, punen (parties), starting from the ritual of establishing a new house , the procession of birth and death, going to the fields, hunting, and especially for the treatment and healing of sick people. Therefore a Sikerei plays an important role in the lives of the Mentawai people.

A post shared by  Mentawai Ecotourism (@mentawaiecotourism) on 2019-09-19T19:36:00.000+06:00

Trekking/Hiking in Mentawai

With over 60% of Siberut Island covered with tropical rainforest, its no wonder that Hiking/Trekking is one of the most famous bucket list activities you have to try here.

As a UNESCO biosphere reserve, you will be treated to some of the most lush rainforest & diverse wildlife in the world. Many guided tours offer treks suitable for a range of abilities, which can last from just a few hours to a full day.

Some mainland tour agencies in Padang offer multiday treks which can range from 6-10 days. Prices can vary but a took one which cost 3,500,000Rp ($250) for three days/two nights, which included local transport, food, accommodation, guide and permits...which was a great deal really!

[caption id="attachment_10579" align="alignnone" width="900"]

Mentawai Islands Rainforest 1

Before booking a tour or hiring a guide, clarify exactly what is included, guide fee/food/accommodation/transport etc.

You can also hike independently in Siberut National Park, for a few hours...just be sure to trace you steps and bring the correct hiking gear.

To book a tour with one of our on the ground partners at Town & Tourist, which includes, boat rides, jungle treks and even overnight stays with Indigenous communities, contact us using the form below:


We work with an Mentawai Ecotourism operator, which donates 10% of all tour profits to helping the Indigenous tribes & Mentawai villages, (info.)

Trekking Tips:

  • Bring some high quality hiking boots, see our reviews on the best here. No flip flops or Trainers!
  • Wear waterproof clothes -  you don't mind getting trashed. Be aware it can get real muddy out there & you may even have to swim through a river.
  • Buy essential supplies in Padang, where there is greater choice (and cheaper prices) than in Siberut.
  • Take precautions against chloroquine-resistant malaria - This still exists on Siberut, although SurfAid (www.surfaidinternational.org) has been working to limit its spread.
  • Bring DDT-strength insect repellent & mosquito nets if you’re travelling independently. If not tour agencies usually to provide them.
  • Bring Water Purification Tablets (or Stripen) as river water sanitation is poor. You could is a water pump to filter out impurities. Alternatively, you can carry a lots of litres of bottled water!
  • Bring a high quality torch for nighttime.
  • Double Bag everything in plastic bags, always keep sets of dry clothes in case it rains.
  • Buy items for bartering and as gifts. In remote communities, remember that everything tends to be shared, so bring plenty of food. Tobacco is popular, or you can offer practical items like machete blades, chisels, scissors, sewing kits and beads for jewellery. If you really feel like going on a shopping spree, buy a pig! (around 500,000Rp $35), this will definitely make you liked in the village! All can be arranged for purchase in Muara Siberut.

The most important thing you will require is a HIGH QUALITY BACKPACK, for our reviews on the best backpacks to use check out: Recommended Backpacks.

Want to capture some epic travel photos?


A Backpack can have your life in when traveling, make sure you've got a good one! [/caption]

Where to Eat?

All the guesthouses and resorts on the Mentawai Islands offer their guests meals, which are a mix of local and international cuisine. If you head into the towns of Muara Siberut and Tua Peja you'll find local restaurants doing local Padang-style cuisine.

Where to Stay?

There are plenty of surf resorts in the Playground & Tua Pejat regions. In addition to a few in Katiet, Pulau Pagai Utara and Pulau Pagai Selatan

If your on a really tight budget head to Niang Niang Island has the best choice for budget travellers.

For basic hotels, there are a few in Muara Siberut and Tua Pejat. Family homestays can also be booking with your trekking guide for just 100,000Rp ($7) per night.

Surf Camps & Guest Houses:

Guests houses (Losmen):  $35-$40/night inc meals.

Surf Camps are great all inclusive places to stay and come in two types:

  • Surf Camps/Resorts (mid range - $100-$200/night.)
  • Surf Camps/Resorts (High end) $300+.

The Majority of the high end places include private speedboat transfer from Padang and operate on an all inclusive package basis.

For Hotels/Accommodation booking tools check out: Recommended Hotels

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Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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