The Mentawais are a chain of about seventy islands and islets approximately 150 kilometres off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia with the islands lying off the Sumatran coast across the Mentawai Strait. Among these islands are four main ones; Sipora Islands, Siberut Island, North Pagai Island (Pagai Utara) and South Pagai Island (Pagai Selatan). Siberut is the largest of the islands and the only one which has a regular shipping service that connects with Sumatra. A paradise for surfers with over 400 surf spots some even considering the conditions to rival those found on Bali. With many heading here after the Bali surf season has ended. The rich land conditions and biodiversity are what attracts visitors for a range of activities and cultural experiences. With it’s protected areas, plantation fields and agriculture which have become the livelihood of the locals. Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province and the largest city on the Western side. It provides a staging post, international airport and large port for yachts to berth before beginning their voyage across the Mentawais and famous for it’s unique culture and culinary expereiences including the world famous dish rendang.
Surfing is not the only activity available. Many of the islands provide exciting opportunities for trekking, fishing, snorkelling or lapping up the sun on any of their white sand beaches. A much less touristy area of Indonesia, the Mentawais offers are rich culture especially good for travellers looking for some adventures not otherwise seen in more civilized areas. An excellent area to drop watersports equipment with wave conditions making it a fun place for jet skiing and getting up close to the surf break or exploring the many private bays to park up on white sand beaches and taking in the views of the surrounding jungle, plants and wildlife or snorkelling amongst the fringing coral reefs.
Although the preservation of the islands has meant that a lot of the areas are now protected there are some spots for fishing. With species such as trevally, dog-tooth tuna, wahoo, Spanish mackerel, barracuda, coral trout, yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, rainbow runner, sharks and sailfish. Trekking and exploring the flora and fauna of the national park to find exotic plants and endemic animal species including primates such as kloss’ gibbon, Mentawai macaque and Siberut macaque or engage with the friendly indigenous Mentawai people who still follow age-old traditions using hunter, gatherer techniques. Living in comparative isolation they welcome visitors and willingly offer to teach their ways of life. These areas are a UNESCO reserve made up of tropical rainforest, swamplands, mangroves and some hilly elevations.
If your visiting to enjoy the underwater marine ecology the Mentawai region will not disappoint. Home to a large variety of fish and coral reefs, among some of the most beautiful and diverse in Indonesia. The abundance of nutrients in the surrounding seas, as well as the large variety of corals, contribute to a wide assortment of biodiversity in terms of fish species, turtles, crustaceans and invertebrates. A large number of coral and sponge species, sea fans, pipe coral, bubble coral and barrel sponges are found here. Many species of tropical fish can be seen including grouper, trevally and barracuda as well as very colourful nudibranchs, starfish, sea cucumber and the rare pleurobranchs. This underwater world offers a plethora of experiences for any scuba and free diving enthusiasts who seek a unique experience of water activity and collection of sea life. Exploring the many islands by private yacht is the best way to take everything in and the freedom to hop between the islands, exploring each corner of the Mentawais will be an experience those who visit will not forget.