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There are not many places in the world where you could find all packed into one small island some excellent world class surfing spots, exotic tropical forests, local tribal experiences, and rare exotic plant and animal species. Among the Mentawai islands lies a small, but unique and, not only naturally but also culturally beautiful island.
Pulau Siberut is the largest of the Mentawai chain of Islands, located in the Indian Ocean, approximately 100 km. off the west coast of West Sumatra, and separated from the main island by the Mentawai Strait. The island itself lies some 155 km from the province’s capital city of Padang. You will not reach this spot without much time spent travelling, however, the adventure and experience of all the natural beauty this island has to offer make it more than worthwhile. Pulau Siberut invites the adventure thirsty to come and explore all the wealth it possesses, including the rich culture, customs, and exotic tropical environment.
Siberut is home to the Mentawai tribe of approximately 30,000 people, who live isolated from the modern community. The Mentawai tribe is said to have migrated to the Mentawai islands from Nias island to its north, living an isolated life here for centuries until “discovered” by the Dutch in 1621.
A closer look into the inner workings of the life of the Mentawai is one of the main attractions for a visit to Siberut. The Mentawai tribe still maintains the lifestyle and traditions passed down from their ancestors from thousands of years ago. They live in houses locally called ‘uma’, made from wooden scaffolds which house several families each.
The tribe has its own language, culture, customs and some still profess a belief in animism. Their clothing is also very simple: Mentawai men wear only a loincloth made from the bark of the gum tree, while women only wear a simple skirt made of palm or banana leaves. Besides clothing, they also recognize a certain "timeless clothing", - the characteristic Mentawai tribal tattoo, - which sometimes entails tattooing the whole body in the traditional way, following a variety of tribal rituals. It is not uncommon to see Mentawai people covered from head to toe in tattoos. Their main food is sago and they raise pigs and hunt monkeys for their daily food.
Besides witnessing the Mentawai tribe’s isolated life, trekking in the protected tropical forests is very much recommended, while, enjoying the scenery around the island is another interesting adventure to be had. Approximately 2/3 of the island is covered with rain forest that offers trekking adventures which are not always easy but physically challenging and will be sure to get your heart pumping.
Much of the island is protected by and has been set to become a national park since 1993, known by the name of Taman Nasional Siberu . The Siberut National Park is one of the Biosphere Reserves working in conjunction with the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB).
The Siberut National Park is home to four types of wildlife primates found only in Siberut, these being Bokkoi (Macaca pagensis), Lutung Mentawai / Joja (Presbytis Potenziani Siberug), Bilou (Hylobates klossii), and Simakobu (Nasalis siberu concolor) . In addition to these endemic primates, there are also 4 different types of endemic squirrel species, 17 mammals, and 130 species of birds (4 of which are endemic).
A visit to the Siberut National Park is an adventure package with a combination of activities, such as boating, rowing, trekking through the (sometimes muddy) forest paths, enjoying the beauty of the rainforest, as well as observations of the rare species of both plants and animals. To explore the charm of Siberut, there are a number of service travel agencies, and tour guides can be found in Padang or Bukit Tinggi.
To enter the Siberut National Park, we suggest that you first call on the National Park Office, at
Kantor Taman Nasional Siberut
Jl. Khatib Sulaiman No 46
Gedung ex. Kanwil Kehutanan lt. 3
Bring enough cash while visiting Pulau Siberut or other islands in the Mentawai cluster as there are no banks or ATMs in this isolated region.
Make sure to wear comfortable and conducive clothes and shoes for exploring the tropical forests and inland Pulau Siberut.
Bring your own aspirin, malaria pills, and any other medicines you may need as there are no drug stores or pharmacies on these islands.
Mentawai tribesmen are delighted when presented with souvenirs of cigarettes and food when you visit them. Ask permission if you want to take a picture of them as most of them will ask for something in return for the captured images.
It is best to first pay a visit to The Siberut National Park visitor center in Maileppet (3 miles from Muara Siberut) before heading into the hinterland. Siberut National Park staff will be willing to help and share information about the national park and Pulau Siberut overall, or even become your personal tour guide.
To reach Siberut in the Mentawai islands, you must first fly to Padang, capital of West Sumatra. There are a number of domestic flights to Padang from Jakarta, Medan, Bali and other cities in Indonesia. There are international flights from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Padang.
From Padang’s Minangkabau International Airport, which is the primary airport of West Sumatra located about 20 km from Padang, you will make your way to the port at Muara Padang by bus or taxi. From there, visitors using the ferry or boat can cross the Indian Ocean to Pulau Siberut.
Located approximately 155 km from Padang, the trip to Siberut will take approximately 12 hours of traveling by ferry. The ferry will take you directly to Muara Siberut, the port on Pulau Siberut, the only island in the Mentawai Islands which has a regular ferry to Padang, West Sumatra.
The ferries have scheduled departures twice a week from Padang to Siberut; Sunday night (Sumber Rezeki Baru Ship) and Thursday night (Simasin Ship). This trip usually takes up to one day and will return back to Padang on Tuesday and Friday nights. Ticket prices are between Rp105.000, and Rp125.000. In addition, there are additional weekend ships operating on the first and second Sunday of each month. The Ambu Ambu ship departs on Saturday evening from Muara Padang and back from Siberut to Padang on Sunday night.
Another option is, if you depart from the Minangkabau International Airport there are small rental planes available on Tiger Air or SMAC which can take you to Tuapejat on Pulau Sipora, part of the Mentawai cluster and near to Pulau Siberut. After that, you can rent a boat for a trip of around 3 to 4 hours to Muara Siberut on Pulau Siberut.