What’s Going On In… the Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

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More than 500,000 years ago, the islands broke away from the Sumatra, creating a rich biological atmosphere protected within the Siberut National Park. Seventy islands remain off the western coast of Indonesia, Siberut being the largest island. It’s known for impeccable surfing, white beaches and sweeping sunsets.


One of the purest indigenous societies in Indonesia remains in the tropical rainforest of these islands. The Mentawai people have had very little contact with the outside world in the 19th and 20th centuries, remaining isolated in the jungle. For a long time, the civilization endured no crime or war, and simply honored each individual as an equal under the leadership of one head clan member.

Many people consider the Mentawai Islands to have the best-preserved indigenous cultures across the world. Today, pressure from the Indonesian government mainstreaming the islands’ culture, is forcing modernization over tradition.  


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It’s known as “ The Playgrounds” and is one of the world’s most prolific wave regions. Its location on the Southern Indian Ocean allow for consistent and quality breaks year-round. The best window to surf is during the dry season — April through September. It has every kind of wave for beginners to pro-surfers. Local guides take guests on boats discovering the best surf around whether it’s world-class barrels or mellow beginner spots.

Its fragile location makes the islands vulnerable to tsunamis and earthquakes. In October 2010, over 400 people died and entire villages were swept out to sea after the fateful 7.7 magnitude earthquake.



When traveling through the islands’ jungle, adventure travel companies often arrange accommodations for guests with local clans. You can also visit local restaurants where they will catch and cook fresh seafood for you in their own kitchens. Families accept payment of cigarettes or other gifts in exchange for food or a floor to sleep on.


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