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SURFCAMPS Winter

    Tamraght, Marokko
    Guadeloupe, Karibik
    Taghazout, Marokko
    Fuerte, Kanaren
    Bahia, Brasilien

Surfing Mentawai Islands

Wellenreiten MentawaiThe way to surfers "Garden of Eden" is not easy to find. The Mentawais are still a fairly untouched tourist area, a five hours boat ride over the Indian Ocean away from West Sumatra's capital Padang. The official ferry is supposed to go twice a week, but more often than not it is cancelled every second time. The alternative is a ride on one of the local speedboats usually Sampans with two outside motors, to charter for three millions Rupiah for maximal six people. Well, paradise has its price.

The Mentawai Islands are one of the newest "hot spots" for surfers from all over the world. Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans whoever experienced the perfect and all-year constant waves around the area will not stop going into raptures about this world's best surf. As for example Gary Bergan, an Australian who surfed already on Hawaii, the Fidji Islands or on Bali: Together with his friends Glenn Rodier and Joe Metzl he became addicted to the Mentawai surf. "Even if you're already totally exhausted, you have to go out again to find the next surf who knows when you will get this permanent quality again?" he says.

It was only in mid '90s that tourism industry started to develop its business around the remote islands. Most surfers book group tours on big foreign charter boats and hardly land their feet on the islands being afraid of Malaria and the poverty of the inhabitants. Maybe they don't know what they're missing: an impression of the unique Mentawai culture and nature.

Until the end of the 19th century the Mentawais have been almost isolated for thousands of years, what explains that the primitive culture of the Mentawai tribes survived until today in her original form. In 1864 the islands have formally been made a Dutch colony, but it was only in 1901, that there was a garrison placed and the first permanent mission was opened by the German August Lett, who was eight years later murdered by the locals. Still over half of the population claims to be Protestant until today although Catholic and Muslim missionaries have been following, mainly traced by immigrants from Sumatra.

Mentawai Surf GendutThe only way to the inner areas of the island's unique rain forests are through the rivers. Transport is one of the biggest problems here, apart from the narrow streets at the main town on the coast, everything depends on boat owners and their often exorbitant charter rates. Despite all this, a trip up the river to the original villages in the rain forests will be unforgettable. To get an impression of the native Mentawai culture, one needs at least a five-day trekking tour.

Hiking up in the jungle is not possible without a local guide and it means standing a lot of mud and insects. But as long as you've got enough courage and proper equipment, you'll get the chance to spend some days with the Mentawai people, experience their daily life, their traditions and animist rituals. And maybe to find a totally new perspective of life. The guests are invited to stay with villagers in their long houses, to go for sago harvesting, building canoes, hunting with poison arrows or to watch the ceremonies of the Sikerei (medicine men).

Most of the trekking tours to Siberut are organized by agents in the tourist town Bukittinggi in the North of Padang to the anger of the local guides. Who dares to come alone to Siberut will easily find a guide. The best is to ask the staff of the National Park for information. The guest house of the National Park in Maileppet is anyway a much better option to spend a night than the only guest house in the main town Muara Siberut.

The Mentawai Islands still haven't got regular electricity, no internet and only a few telephones. But there's nothing to stop the influence of modern civilization. The indigeous people are already used to the foreigners coming to the rain forest, leaving some memories and desires, such as T-Shirts, water bottles, pencils or cigarettes. Some of them even speak a little bit of English. The inhabitants of the developped villages at the coast see the big surf boats coming and going asking themselves how they can be involved in tourism business. The kids start collecting and mending broken surf boards and learning how to ride the waves, provoking the rage of their parents by not doing the daily home work.

Until today there are hardly any offers to combine surfing and ethno-tourism on the Mentawais, but the first companies are on the way to get their piece of the new market. So far you will find the best mix of relaxing and adventure by staying at Wavepark Losmen. Here you can choose, if you rather go around the islands to find the best surf, going for fishing or snorkelling. Or ask for a local guide to take you up to Siberut¹s rivers in a day you can at least visit a Mentawai family at a traditional house or see a shaman dancing. And just in case you only want to enjoy the beautiful site, take a rest at the large bungalow, which Christie Carter built himself hidden behind the palm trees close to the beach and expect a replica of paradise.

Bilder zum Thema: Links zum Thema:

>> GALLERIES Surfspots: Mentawai

>> SURFLINKS Indonesien: Mentawai