Interesting Facts About Mentawai Islands, One of the Best Surfing Spots in the World

Interesting Facts About Mentawai Islands, One of the Best Surfing Spots in the World

Mentawai archipelago is one of the best gateaway places in the world. Lush rainforest vegetation, sunny beaches, high swelling waves and the hospitality of local people are the main attraction of the islands. Here are some interesting facts of the Mentawai Islands.

The islands

  • The islands of Mentawai are located across Mentawai Strait, 150 kilometers to the west of Sumatra Island, Indonesia.  The islands were broken off from Sumatra mainland during the Pleistocene ice age due to rising sea levels around five hundred thousand years ago.
  • Mentawai Islands comprise of more than seventy islands. Four largest islands are Siberut, Sipura, North Pagai and South Pagai.
  • The islands sit on an active seismic zone, the Sunda mega thrust that runs along the western coast of Sumatra Island.  That’s why the islands have high earthquake activities. Latest major earthquake occurred in 2010, followed by deadly tsunami. Numerous minor earthquakes had been occurring frequently afterwards. 

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The beaches and the waves

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  • The islands have several numbers of beautiful sandy beaches. As the islands are sitting on the edge of continental shelf surrounded by coral reefs, deep ocean water can surge up and creates monster waves. The waves last the whole year, making the islands an excellent surfing location.
  • The waves of Mentawai were first discovered by Australian surfer in the 1990s. Surfing tourism started to develop rapidly after this discovery. Today, Mentawai had been recognized as one of the best surfing locations in the world. 
  • The Mentawai Islands have the highest number of breaks in a single area. The famous waves which are included in the “world’s top ten” list are the HT’s, Rifles, Green Bush, Kandui, Macaroni and Telescope. 
  • Even though earthquake still poses tsunami threat in the region, extreme sport seekers (like the surfers) keep coming from around the world.

The wildlife

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  • The ecosystems of the islands mostly consist of tropical rainforests.  The forest is the home to various species of mammals endemic to the islands such as the Siberut Macaque, Mentawai Gibbon, Mentawai Macaque, Crab-eating Macaque and Mentawai Leaf-monkey.
  • Some species of mammals found in Siberut Island display particular physiological characteristic similar to human.  The most famous species is the little black and yellow monkey called “Siamang Kerdil”,
  • The islands’ high biodiversity had led UNESCO to declare Siberut Island a Man and Biosphere reserve in 1980s. 
  • After being excessively logged for 23 years, half western part of Siberut Island was finally declared as national park in 1993, thus preserving the wildlife on the island.  

The people

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  • The local ethnic group inhabited the islands is called the Mentawai people. The tribe came to the islands around four thousand years ago. They mostly live on Siberut, the largest island in Mentawai archipelago.
  • Although located not far from Sumatra Island, Mentawai islands are very much isolated. Sharp corals, unpredictable winds and currents had deterred the Mentawai from doing any traveling to and from Sumatra Island. So the language, tradition and custom of Mentawai people are different from any others living in Sumatra.
  • Anthropologists classify the Mentawai as Protomalay. The Mentawai lives in a traditional house called the "uma"

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  • The Mentawai had Neolithic culture and before the arrival of European trader, the tribe was not affected by any religious belief.   
  • For the Mentawai, tattoos made from natural fibers are important symbols of status, maturity and manhood.
  • The tribe was first observed by John Crisp, an employee of British East India Company, a joint-stock company formed to exploit the trade with East Indies and South East Asia in 1792.
  • After becoming part of Dutch East Indies in 19th century, German missionaries started to come and began their mission: converting the Mentawai to Christianity. After Indonesian independence in 20th century, Catholic missionaries started coming to the islands as well.
  • In 1980s cultural tourism started to develop. Mentawai Islands are now also known for their rich culture and tradition.

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Lindbergh Lendl Soriano
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