No fancy boats, but plain and simple! This is how the local people of the Mentawai live.

The Mentawai are known for its big and beautiful waves. The tropical surf spots attract people (mostly guys) from all over the world, who pay a fortune to go at a big, luxurious charter boat and to chase the waves. Most western people, and especially the surfers, often forget though that the Mentawai are also a couple of tropical islands, where local, often poor people live.

At North pagai, one of the southern islands of the Mentawai, I got the opportunity to spend five days with a local family. Reno Lainge Baje Sapalakai and his dad (Hendri Nasrani Sapalakai) gave me the possibility to stay with them and to see how they and their family are living. In short. Where the Western surf charter boats are very luxurious, the houses of the local people are not. Most houses are constructed of wood and they are built by the people themselves! Reno and his dad spend days to redecorate their existing house and they make their own chairs, their own tables and their own balconies. And if something is broken, they don’t call a company, but they fix it themselves.

Jali (Reno’s uncle) with the banana’s and Reno who’s picking coconuts

Most of the houses are built on the water front and it is no surprise that a tsunami or an earthquake could do big harm out here. Maybe not at Sikakap itself, because its located between a couple of islands, but at other islands like Simeulue the tsunami of 2014 caused a lot of damage. A lot of houses were destroyed and in the province of Aceh a lot of people were killed.

Reno has a big family (his dad has 11 brothers and sisters) and his family is strongly represented in Sikakap and the island of North Pagai. His dad sits in the parliament of the Mentawai, but he spends most of his time working on the guesthouse that Reno wants to construct. These guys don’t fool around. They work day and night! Don’t be surprised if you still find them working at 03.00 o clock at night. They make a lot hours, but your never hear them complain. Reno’s dad likes to sing when he is cutting the wood or constructing a chair. Sometimes they are so got up in their work that they forget to eat and forget the time. If you are building a guesthouse with your own (bare) hands, it takes time!

We also got the opportunity to visit Reno’s uncle Jali who lives in the jungle. Jali works as a security guard at the government, but most of the time he works as a farmer. He has small wooden house in the jungle, with only a few things in there. A fire, a chair and a bed (I haven’t seen it though) are all that his wife and his two young children need. It is amazing to see how these people can live in these simple conditions and still be happy. You don’t need all that luxury if you can live in nature and live from everything that is growing around you.

Around his house Jali planted a lot of banana trees, (a bunge of banana’s will earn him 15 dollars) a local fruit which I consider as lychee and lot of other plants, that give the uncle enough money and food to live from. The whole family works at the farm and grandfather (who lost most of his teeth) lives with them. This is how a lot of local people in the Mentawai live and that is what most charter boats, when they float around to find waves, seem to forget. There is nothing wrong with chasing the waves of your life, but it would be good to do something back for the local people. To give them a bit of money or other means, where they can improve their life with. Because these people are not only local and a bit poor, but also some of the nicest people in the world.

Dreamsurf in the Mentawai

Surfing the Mentawai. Isn’t that the dream of every surfer? This summer I got the opportunity to travel through Indonesia for a month and to explore several islands of this diverse, spread out country. After one week in Simeulue my next destination were the Mentawai. The tropical islands which are in front of Sumatra and that are known for its heavy, but beautiful waves. After my first struggle to find a safe and decent place to stay, I found the waves that I was looking for.

The surf in Simeulue was pretty heavy last week. I managed myself well out there, but I was a bit nervous to go surfing in the Mentawai. What if I would only find heavy, shallow reef breaks? I am not a bad surfer; I have been surfing for 16 years. But I am also not a professional surfer and if the surf gets bigger than 8 foot I can also get scared. After seeing also those videos of beautiful, but heavy surf, I was a bit nervous about my surf trip in the Mentawai.

Well, too be short. Those nerves were unnecessary! Eric of (a surfcamp called the Southern Mentawai Outpost) was an amazing surf guide for the first two days and he showed me that there are several spots in the Mentawai, where you can find easy, fun, but sometimes also fast waves. My first encounter with the surf spot called Roxies was a bit unfortunate, because after my seasickness I was too weak to handle those (big) waves. But on the last few days I had a blast with surfing Roxies. I love that spot!

We found some good waves there. Sometimes they were a bit fast and you could even find barrels there. But in general the waves at Roxies (a right hand point break) were just fun and easy to surf. After the heavy surf in Simeulue it was a relieve to find some easy, fun waves. One afternoon Eric and I just had the surf spot for ourselves and the other day I surfed there with three local kids.

This is why I love surfing. To have fun in the water, to play in the waves and to chill. After surfing for two days with Eric, I moved to Reno’s guesthouse called Oinan’s and I continued surfing with him. Reno is a local boy of 28 years old, that grew up in the Mentawai. For about 10 years he lived in Bali though and that’s why his English is pretty good.

Reno understands what having fun is and it has been wonderful to surf with him. He got a small boat from his dad and we used that to come around. His whole family helped with getting his boat ready and after some work on the motor, we were ready to go. It felt like an adventure to go out on a small speedboat, while all the international surf charters float around on big charter boats. It took us 45 minutes to get out to Roxies and it was fantastic. For about 5 hours we had the whole spot for ourselves. First it was a bit messy, but after that the wind went down and we surfed on glassy, head high waves for 2 hours straight. With nobody else in the water. This is what surfing in the Mentawai is about. This is every surfer’s dream and we managed to find it. That is an incredible feeling and I can’t wait to find more!

Scary moments on the Mentawai

Scary moments on the Mentawai

The Mentawai. The tropical islands in the Indian Ocean where every surfer dreams of going. With the most beautiful waves in the world! And I got the possibility to go there. Wowwww!! Isn’t that amazing.

But before I went there, I was going back and forward between my feelings of excitement and feelings of fair. ,,Don’t die out there, ok’’ a friend of mine said. ,,Please, be safe.’’ Two Australian guys, that I met on the island of Simeulue, made it worse. ,,Are you sure that you want to surf there? In the Mentawai you will only find heavy and nasty barrels. Are you up for that?’’

Because of all these comments I almost decided not to go, but Ian, one of the owners of a surfcamp on the Mentawai, convinced me to go after all. He said that besides the heavy reef breaks there, there are also more protected spots and that it would be fun to surf those waves.

Well, the travelling from the island of Simeulue to the most southern island of the Mentawai (Sibaru) was a nightmare. If you go travelling in Indonesia, don’t expect to travel easy and quick. It took me 2,5 days to get from Simeulue to the Mentawai. In short: one flight with a small propeller plane from Simeulue to Medan, a flight from Medan to Padang with a lot of waiting on the airport and 6 hours by boat to get from Padang (Sumatra) to Sikakap. Well, I sail catamarans in Holland, but I am not used to these kind of waves. Because of the bouncing and the turbulence of the boat I threw up 5 times and the most of the time between Padang and Sikakap I was lying flat on the floor of the boat. It was probably not in the best shape to arrive on the Mentawai but hey, I was there.

Eric, the other owner of the surfcamp, picked me up from the boat and he immediately showed me a good surf spot, called Roxies. Roxies is a fun and easy wave, but if it gets bigger than 6-8 foot its transforms in a heavy barrel. I decided to go for a surf anyway to experience my first surf session in the Mentawai. Well, it was good to be out there, but it wasn’t easy. The waves were pretty fast (closing out or just barrelling, just how you see it) and my weak condition after throwing up 5 times, didn’t make it any better. After another bumpy ride on Eric’s boat, I was glad to arrive on the small island, where his surfcamp was located.

Eric’s wife gave me a wonderful meal and I was happy with that. But then adventure for me begin. At least in my perception. The surfcamp is located on a small island, with nothing there but the surfcamp itself, which is made of 3 wooden huts and a kitchen. It is a beautiful place with palm trees, white beaches, a heavy surfbreak called thunders and a lot of jungle. It is beautiful, but personally I also found it a bit scary to be so far away from civilization. It takes 60 minutes to get from this island to Sikakap (the first real village), so if you need any medical help, you need to be sure that you don’t need it immediately. Eric is a smart guy and he is pretty handy guy, but I thought it was not a smart idea to be totally dependent of him.

They have built two beautiful huts on the island, where you can sleep in. The huts don’t have a real door though (only a net) and that made me think as well. There I was, lying on my bed, in a small hut with the jungle next to me. I am born and raised in Amsterdam (in Holland) and I am not used to the Indonesian jungle. How could I be sure that there weren’t any snakes that wanted to come in? Besides all the mosquitos which were present, I spent some time thinking about all the other animals that could come in. It was a beautiful hut, but I saw a rat passing by in my hut and my bag with valuable stuff was run over by ants. For a long time I couldn’t fall asleep. To be honest, I was too afraid to fall asleep.

I read for a couple of hours and in the end I called my best friend. I was crying! She told me that it would all be okay and said to me that I should do what was best for me. I gave it some thought and the next morning I decided that it would be better to find another place in Sikakap. Eric and his wife were very nice people, but I didn’t feel safe out there. Besides all their good efforts to make me feel at home there, I didn’t want to stay there. I did not want to be dependent on one person to get me in to safety when there was trouble. And I did not want to have to travel 60 minutes with a small boat to see a doctor. Besides all the animals, that was the main reason to leave. I felt bad for Eric and his wife, but I also felt that it was my own responsibility to feel safe.

After some searching I found a nice homestay called Oinan’s, which is located next to the river in Sikakap. They are still redecorating Oinan and it is not the most fancy place where you can stay in, but at least it was safe! Reno, the owner, and his dad are two lovely guys from the Mentawai, who immediately gave me a very warm feeling. They made me feel at home. Besides that it was also nice to have my own room (with a lock on the door) and to stay in the small local town called Sikakap.

On my next blog I will write about the surf in the Mentawai.


Surfing and exploring Simeulue gave me the opportunity to spend a week at the Mahi Mahi resort at Simeulue. To spend a week in tropical paradise and to surf some of the best waves around! One word: wow! Imagine to wake up in an air-conditioned room to open the doors at your balcony and to look at one of the best surf breaks in the area.

In Holland we surf on cold, sloppy beach breaks and here I have the opportunity to surf in warm water of 28 degrees Celcius and to surf on some glassy, sometimes heavy reef breaks. And don’t forget the palm trees on the background or the white sand. It is pretty fun to be in the water and to have a view at the tropical forest when you are waiting for the waves.

This morning I got up early (around 07.00) and I was able to surf the break for myself for about 40 minutes. I was the only one to sit one the right handers and I was able to catch a few nice waves. Isn’t it amazing to surf in tropical water and to relax after that, while you are looking at the surf. After my surf I got a nice and healthy breakfast, which is served every morning by the crew of Mahi Mahi. Oatmeal- banana pancakes with fresh fruit (pineapple, papaya and water melon!) on top of it. With a fresh dragon fruit juice and a cup of tea aside. That is very fulfilling when you have just surfed for 2 hours.

The food at Mahi Mahi is amazing. Every morning, afternoon and evening they serve a great meal. With some nice nasi, chicken, fresh fish and fresh vegetables. You won’t be starving if you stay at the Mahi Mahi resort. Far from that! It’s so nice to get a good meal after a long surf. There is almost nothing better than that.

Besides from the surf we have also made a trip to the jungle. Together with two local guys and Alia, a girl from Hawaii, we went bird watching. We saw a few birds (a wood pecker), but for me, the most special were the trees. I have never been in a tropical jungle like that and it is definitely worth checking out. It’s so green! And you see so many different trees, flowers, butterfly’s and other animals! Did you know there’s more than one type of bamboo? I didn’t.

Besides the beautiful nature and the great surf you need to meet some of the local people of Simeulue. I can be hard to communicate with them if you don’t speak Indonesian. But with a few words, a nice smile and some gestures you come far! Especially the kids love to play with foreigners and if you walk around or make a roadtrip on your scooter along the coast you get a nice hello from everyone. At Simeulue there are no people who are trying to sell you something or at least they don’t hassle you. That makes it really easy to walk around here and to just enjoy your holiday.


The photo’s are made by : Matthews Alexander Williams & Natasha Smit




A challenge: surfing in Simeulue

Surfing on the island of Simeulue. It is fun, but it also a challenge. The first time surfing at the spot called ‘The Peak’, which is just in front of the Mahi Mahi resort, I just paddled around. The waves were pretty big and I didn’t wanted to get my ass kicked immediately. I first wanted to explore and see how the spot was working. To see where to be and where not to be and to see what to do if you get a big set on the head. What is the escape route and how do you get in and out of the spot? Without getting your feet scratched over the reef.

The next day was already much better. I surfed at the same spot again, but now I was doing much better. The waves were a little bit smaller, but still a solid two meter high. I was able to find my position and able to take two waves. One wave to the left and one wave to the right! That were only two waves, but I was happy! If you are surfing in waves that challenging, two waves can already be enough.

Being a girl and travelling out to an isolated destination like Simeulue can be interesting as well. Not only because it is a traditional muslim country and as a woman you are supposed to dress up decently. You have to cover your shoulders and you can’t wear short shorts. But it is also interesting because you need to handle yourself as a girl within a surf community that is full of guys. Most of those guys are really nice, but some of them can be a bit macho as well.

It is different to be a surfer girl than to be a guy. We don’t always like big waves and we don’t always like to get washed. But if you go to a place like Simeuleu, which is full of big waves, you need to handle yourself. Take care of yourself in and out of the surf. You need to be able to pick your waves and swim up when you get hold down. And take care of your feet when your scratched them across the reef. That’s where surfing in Simeulue is about! It is lots of fun and it is beautiful to surf on a tropical island, but it is also a challenge. So if you come here, you need to be ready for that!