Siberut Island (4.030 km sq) is the largest island of four islands
in the Mentawaian archipelago. It is located about 155 kilometers
of West Sumatra coast, across the Mentawaian strait. The Mentawaian
islands belong administratively to Padang Pariaman Regency in
West Sumatra Province. Siberut is divided into two districts:
North and South Siberut with administrative centers at Muara Sikabaluan
and Muara Siberut which also service as respectively market centers
We can meet the indigenous Mentawai people who live close to
nature and still live in comparative isolation, maintaining their
age-old ways. Its virgin rainforest, is inhabited by a number
of animal species that cannot found anywhere else in the world,
among them some rare monkey species, pleasant surprises wait to
The island also offers continuous spectacular white sand beaches
with shallow shelves jutting out to the sea and fringing coral
reefs, excellent for snorkeling and leisure a luxury for most
of the islanders. It can only be found a few coastal communities.
We will be rewarded with stunning views and beautiful jungles
abounding with unique plant and wildlife. The real highlight of
our journey though, is the chance to meet the Siberut people,
traditionally hunter, gatherer clans who are now coming into contact
with the modern world. We will stay as guests of a local Kerei
(medicine -man) in the Uma (traditional family house). Here, where
conditions are basic, we will gain a unique insight into the lives
of these people who maintain a belief system based on living in
total harmony with nature.
Siberut island recently received international attention as a
priority conservation area, for the unique culture of the ethnic
Mentawaian and endemic of its biodiversity that need to be preserved.
Although the island has plenty to offer, the potential has not
been utilized fully especially for tourism. Most visitors to the
island are only interested to see the culture at the indigenous
tribes, such as the communal clan life in the traditional UMA
house along the riverbanks.
Siberut National Park occupies the western half of the island,
ranging from the northern coasts. At present the Integrated Biodiversity
Conservation Project organized by PHPA, MOF, together with local
government, local NGOs and other institutions, conducts the community
based conservation program.
Topography and Climate
Siberut Island is characterized by a wet equatorial climate, with
minimum and maximum temperatures of 22o C (71.6F) and 31o C (87.8F).
The dry season is from February to June and the raining season
is from July to January. Siberut is hilly with wide variations
in elevation. Almost 60% is covered by tropical rain forest with
many forest types such as: primary dipterocarp forest, primary
mixed forest, swamps forest, Barrington forest and mangrove forest.
Also, there are many rivers on the islands with a complex system
Community and Culture
Although Siberut is only a small island, the internal variations
in language, culture, life styles, and in resources is rather
substantial. There is no clear indication of when the first man
arrived on Siberut, but anthropologists suggest that the bataks
of North Sumatra first settled on the island several thousand
years ago. In many ways, the Siberut people are among the most
archaic people in Indonesia.
The Mentawaian are traditionally organized as matrilineal groups
and the social life centered around the UMA, a communal long house
which held a clan of people related through a common ancestor.
The UMA vary in size between 30 to 80 members divided in nuclear
family units, referred to as LALEP. Because of internal friction,
the clan might split up and form a new group or a single family.
The Mentawaians believe that all living objects, men, plants and
animals are supposed to have spirits. The only specialist in the
community is the medicine man, KEREI, responsible for communication
with the spirits and the souls. In case of misfortune or illness,
he is called in to restore harmony within the group or in relation
with the spirits in the environment. An elaborate Taboo system
based on religious beliefs with respect to the environment is
a dominant characteristic of traditional life on Siberut.
Visit and stay in a Mentawaian village, trek to the jungle, learn
about sago processing and bark cloth processing, and do other
activities that will heighten our interest in and fascination
with the natural philosophy of the Mentawaians.
Very few visitors have explored the thickly forested island. Visiting
a cave in central Siberut or waterfalls in the northern and southern
parts of the island, are possible upon request with our guide.
Be observant of our surroundings. We may have the chance to see
and hear some endemic wild life. Siberut has four endemic primates
that in local names are called Bilou (Hylobates klossi), Simakobu
(Simias concolor), Bokoi (Macaca pagensis), and Joja (Presbytis
potenziani). There are at least five species of squirrels and
chipmunks and birds abound everywhere on the island. Padding a
canoe trekking on muddy trails balancing on a shipper log, wading
through a shallow river, brushing through a dense jungle - are
all parts of an unforgettable jungle adventure on Siberut.
Some good coral reefs can be found along the east, south to southeast
part of Siberut and the surrounding small islands. Along the coast,
continuous, white sand beaches, magnificent lagoons, enfacing
mangroves and Coral Sea gardens all promise an exciting coastal
adventure. Dolphins (Stenela longirostris) can be seen along the
east coast. Other sea mammals such as digong (Dugong dugong) occasionally
can be sighted near the sea grass by the mangrove along with three
protected species of sea turtles.
A motorized boat can reach Masilok Beach on the southern part
of Siberut within an hour. The island's resort, dominated by coconut
grows, a lagoon with beautiful white sand beach, promising a very
relaxing environment. The west coast breaks from Siberut Island,
connected only by sea garden and mangrove that lie side-by-side
making it a unique experience for diving. Accommodation and fresh
clean water are available. If we plan to travel to nearby islands,
it can be arranged with local owners. In the southwestern part
of Siberut lies Sagulubek Beach, with calm and clear waters making
it ideal for wind surfing. In the northern part, Sikabaluan beach
offers an excellent dip in warm water to soothe the soul.