A paradise on earth and the ride of a lifetime: that is how surfers describe the Mentawai Islands, an Indonesian archipelago.
The Islands were separated from Sumatra 500,000 years ago resulting in unique and breathtaking flora and fauna, and although just 130 km away from the main island Sumatra, its people were kept isolated until the 19th century.
Changes came quickly into the island – mainly from tourism, logging, and government attempt to mainstream the local culture, which has separated the people from the jungle.
However, the Mentawai Islands still have one of the globe’s most incredible and best-preserved indigenous culture. Nowadays both indigenous and immigrants speak variants of the original indigenous language, with the majority speaking the Indonesian national language and the minority the Minangkabau language.
The Mentawai people, estimated to be 64,000, still live a somewhat nomadic life at the coastlands and rainforests. The people carry a deep spirituality and have a rich culture: they tend to sharpen their teeth, cover their bodies in elaborate tattoos and live in wooden houses called Uma.
Men are more likely to become hunters of bigger animals- primates, wild pigs and deer, while women and children gather wild foods and may hunt smaller animals. The Mentawai people also keep pigs, monkeys, dogs and sometimes even chickens as pets.
You can get to Mentawai Islands via air or boat from Padang – Sumatra in Indonesia. I would recommend via boat, since there are three ferries that offer you 10 to 12 hours of overnight journey. There is also a speed boat ‘Mentawai Fast’ where the ferry would cost you 250,000 IDR around US$17.00. It leaves Padang to Mentawai from Mondays to Saturdays at 7.00 am local time. If you love surfing or getting to know the indigenous cultures, then head to Mentawai Islands.