Mentawai Magic – 7 Days
Siberut Island, off the western coast of Sumatra, is truly a land lost in time. The Mentawai people who have inhabited this remote isle for thousands of years represent the most archaic and fascinating culture in all of Indonesia. To visit these people as invited guests in a respectful manner is a life experience never to be forgotten.
Thom Henley has worked closely with the Mentawai on numerous trips to their jungle island over the past twelve years. He has authored a book on their culture: Living Legend of the Mentawai and donated all revenues from sales back to the Mentawai Health, Education and Tourism Assoc. (MHETA). The Mentawai who make up this clan-based group will provide all guides and services for our expedition. Our trip will support indigenous tourism exactly the way the Mentawai want it to be.
This amazing eight-day adventure begins in Singapore as we our board Silk Air flight to Padang, Indonesia. It is a short but dramatic flight crossing the great island of Sumatra. Arriving in Padang we will have an afternoon to take in the sights and sounds of this thriving center of Minangkabau culture before dinner, and boarding our all night boat to Siberut.
Siberut is a magical place, and we will sense that magic right from the start. As we boat up the jungle-lined Siberut River all trappings of “civilization” seem to disappear behind us. We will have several days to set our schedule to the everyday pace of Mentawai life. “Mole, mole,” the Mentawai are fond of saying. They believe it is important to set a “spirit-pleasing pace” to one’s life.
Over the course of four days, we will live in traditional Mentawai “umas” – extended family houses, and take in the experiences of daily life. Harvesting sago, making tapa cloth, net-fishing in the rivers, making arrow poison, gathering and preparing jungle medicines, enjoying a clan feast, and having the honor to observe sacred ceremonies, are but a few of the traditional activities we will have the privilege to partake in.
In addition to the cultural highlights, there will be ample opportunity for soft adventure and nature studies. We will trek through the lowland rain forest, paddle a river in dug-out canoes, swim in the refreshing pool of a paradise waterfall, explore mangrove forests, snorkel over living coral reefs, hike along unspoiled beaches, and feast on fresh seafood at our final night beach lodge.
Following our return boat trip to Padang, on day nine, we have the opportunity to enjoy a refreshingly cool, and quite different, experience in the central highlands of Sumatra. The Minangkabau people are a matriarchal society with a rich and proud history. The ancient center of their highland civilization, Bukkittingi, will be our hotel base to explore many fascinating cultural sites in the area. We drive back down from the mountains to Padang for our return flight to Singapore on day twelve, having shared an experience few have ever had, or ever will.