The Mentawai Islands are a fantastic tropical paradise, mostly known as one of the best surfing destinations in the world. Most of its visitors go there for surfing. The archipelago consists of four big and more than 60 small islands. Of them, the most visited and well-developed is Sipora Island (on some maps called “Sipura”, but according to the locals, the right name is “Sipora”), often used also as a starting point to the other islands. Sipora is also most popular for surfing, but what if you are not a surfer? This article is for non-surfers who want to plan different activities on this island.
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Basic facts about Sipora Island
Sipora is one of the four big islands of the Mentawai Archipelago. It is not the largest one (the largest is Siberut), but it is the most developed of all, probably because is in the middle of the archipelago. That’s why it is usually used as a “base camp” for travelers who come to explore the Mentawai.
Sipora is about 55 km long and 25 km wide at its widest part. And although it is the most developed island, its developed part is only along its north coast. Everything else is wild, remote, and “far from civilization”, except for a few villages and a few surfing resorts.
The main town of Sipora is Tuapejat, which is also the capital of the Mentawai Regency. Tuapejat is also the main port of Sipora, the entry point to the island from Padang by ferry. There are also several hotels and homestays, a bank, several supermarkets, a gas station (if you rent a scooter), several local “restaurants” (quite different than a traditional restaurant) and shops, a photocopy center, and more useful points.
The other center is the tourism village of Mapaddegat, located on the east coast of Mapaddegat Bay, about 6 km from Tuapejat. This place is more serene and remote, closer to the wild rainforests and beaches. Again, several homestays are clustered here, as well as the café-restaurant Likat Mentawai, offering boat taxis.
There is one main road on the island, connecting Tuapejat with Rokot Airport (26 km). But Rokot, located on the east coast of Sipora is not a tourist place because this coast is not exposed to the open Indian Ocean, therefore there are no big waves for surfers.
Apart from these spots, there are only several small scattered villages, located mostly along the east coast, connected by a narrow paved road, as well as a small cluster of resorts around the famous Lance’s Left and Right surfing spots in the far south. And that’s all. Everything else is wild nature.
The wild interior
The interior is hilly (the highest point is 285 m altitude), covered by lush rainforest, almost uninhabited. The coast is wild, with long narrow beaches with leaning coconut palms (a typical tropical paradise card-image).
There are some small adjacent islands beside Sipora. The three most popular of them are Siburu, Silabok, and Pototoga, located north of the main island. On the west can be found the much remoter and difficult-to-access Togat Nusa, Pittojat, Nukok, and the largest of them- Siruamata. All of these islands are uninhabited, but there are surfing camps on almost each of them.
Finally, there are popular surfing spots, where the waves crash in beautiful tubular shapes. These spots are located about a km (mile) or two from the coast. The most popular of them are called Telescope, Iceland, Scarecrows, and Seven Palms, located in the north of Sipora, and Lance’s Left and Right in the south. Although you can be a non-surfer, you can still visit them, just to watch beautiful wavers and surfers, it is spectacular.
The inhabitants of Sipora are mostly Mentawais, as well as some Minangkabau immigrants. They are about 50% Christians, and the other 50%- Muslims, living modern life, mostly in tourism, fishing, and small local businesses. A long time ago, the Mentawais lived like some of their relatives on the neighboring Siberut Island, in traditional “Uma” houses, but now all of them have left this type of lifestyle.
This is what the Sipora Island looks like. As you can guess, there is much more than just surfing. But let’s dive into detail.
What to do on Sipora Island other than surfing?
Surfers stay on Sipora for weeks searching for the best waves, but what if you are non-surfer?
This island is a stunning tropical paradise, remote and serene. You can stay here for weeks too, just for relaxation, and you may want even more. But you can also be more active and dive more deeply into the fantastic landscapes and underwater world by trying various activities.
Look at the three small islands north of Sipora: Siburi, Silabok, and Pototoga. They are covered by lush coconut rainforest, and their coastlines consist of long narrow sandy beaches. There are also two mangrove lagoons- one on Pototoga, and one on Silabok. And the waters around them are perfectly clear and turquoise.
These islands are easily accessible by the local boat taxis. Most homestays on Sipora offer boat taxis. We personally used the service of Likat Mentawai in Mapaddegat, mentioned above.
The boat taxis are not like a “normal car taxi”, but they are like boat cruise services. They have their own designed routes and the boatmen (usually, at least two guys) are your guides. They know the best spots on the three small islands, and the time necessary for exploring them. In fact, they offer their routes as a product with prices somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 IDR per person. Usually, their tours are 4-5 hours long.
But you still can design your own route. You can discuss with them where would you like to go, and they can take you there, usually for a higher price.
When you arrive at the spots where the boats take you, you can relax on the beach, or if you are more adventurous, you can try to penetrate the forest interior of the islands. But most probably, you would want to take a look and enjoy the underwater world.
The boat tours to the three islands include a time for snorkeling. The boatmen know where are the best spots for this activity, usually at some beaches where you can explore coral fields full of colorful fish and other sea creatures.
But there is another spot specifically for snorkeling. This is the mini islets of Batu Tongga. It is difficult to step on the islets, but the boat stops beside them and you can dive around the boat and the islets, enjoying a specific type of underwater landscape (however, be ready for strong currents, anyway, you don’t have to worry, the boatmen will care for you if the currents take you too far).
How about scuba diving? Currently, there is no such a service yet (no diving centers, no PADI, and no liveaboard), but if you bring your own equipment, you can talk to the local boat taxis to take you a bit further, to deeper waters, where you can penetrate the depths of the underwater world.
Have you heard about it? It is a not well-known activity, but it is probably the most meaningful one. It is also called coral farming, and its goal is to preserve the dying coral reefs.
There is no organized scuba diving on Sipora Island, but you can try a coral gardening activity. Currently, there are some dying reefs around the island, just like everywhere in the world. The reefs die mostly due to global warming and pollution. But we can still slow this process, at least locally.
So, you can join a coral gardening team. In general, what they do is to get coral samples from the living reefs and plant them in the dying or already dead reefs, to make them revive again. And this process still involves some scuba diving or at least snorkeling.
Again, you can ask Likat Mentawai for this activity.
I already mentioned the beaches of the three small islands. But the main island of Sipora has many beaches too. In fact, most of its coastline (and it is more than 100 km long) consists of beaches. They are long, and narrow, with wild jungle and leaning coconut palms from one side, and the endless ocean from the other side.
These beaches are wild and empty. You can walk on them and besides a few locals, you will not see anybody else. Yes, you can swim there, but it can be dangerous- if an accident happens, there is nobody to help. On these beaches, you are like Robinson Crusoe.
The safest beach on Sipora Island is Jatti Beach, located just beside the main town of Tuapejat. There are a few homestays and local houses beside it, and usually, there are other people. But don’t worry, when I say “other people”, I mean just a few people- you will still be quite alone. There are no crowds on the beaches, and now crowds anywhere else on Sipora.
The other beach is Mapaddegat Beach. But it is not good for swimming- two muddy rivers flow into it, coming from the swamps in the jungle, so the water is not too clean (it is natural, not human-made pollution). At least, it is perfect for walking and enjoying the sunset.
This is in the interior of the island. But except for a few short trails leading to nearby waterfalls, this activity is for hardcore adventurers. There are also some muddy trails, mostly in the northwest part of the island, but many of them just end in nowhere, in the middle of the jungle. And further behind them, there is nothing, almost no trace of human existence, only a pre-historic rainforest, almost to the coastline.
There are no big predators on Sipora like tigers or leopards, but there is still a rich wildlife, including several endemic species of monkeys. Unfortunately, even this jungle is gradually shrinking, just like everywhere in the world….
But if you are not too adventurous, or haven’t prepared for such a wild adventure, at least you can try some short trails to the waterfalls. Two of these waterfalls are easily reachable from the nearby roads, but it is still advisable to go there with a guide. They are Pajujurung and Matorobibit waterfalls.
For a guide, I would again recommend Likat Mentawai. Besides boat taxi tours and coral gardening, they also offer jungle treks- not only to the waterfalls but even a bit further.
Sipora is a calm island, sparsely populated. Its inhabitants, the Mentawai people have abandoned their thousands of years of pre-historic lifestyle and today live modern life. On the other side, Sipora is not Thailand or Bali- if you are thinking about noisy nightlife and parties, forget about it!
You can walk around the villages of Sipora and you can see how the people live. Most of their houses don’t have yards and fences, but they are just established on both sides of a road, and the children play on the road.
But if you really want to see something more ethnic, you can visit Mapaddegat Tourism Village– a new cultural center, located on the south coast of Mapaddegat Beach. However, you have to check in advance- there are some cultural activities (dances and other performances), but they are not so often. If you are lucky enough to be there during such an activity, don’t skip it- it is something that you can’t see every day!
Now, let’s see some useful tips, only for Sipora Island, and only for non-surfers, like how to get to Sipora, how to move around Sipora and the nearby small islands, where to stay, what and where to eat, and more.
How to get to Sipora Island
To get to Sipora Island, first, you have to go to Padang, the capital of West Sumatra in Indonesia. Padang is your starting point. Once you go there, you have three options- fast ferry, slow ferry, and flight. And for them, you can three starting “sub-points” within Padang- Mentawai Fast Harbor (for the fast ferry), Teluk Bayur Port, and Minangkabau Airport.
The fast ferry is the most convenient and popular way. There are four fast ferries from Mentawai Fast Harbor per week. All of them depart from 7:00 in the morning (only on Sunday from 10:00), and arrive in Tuapejat, Sipora at 10:30 (13:30 on Sunday). Currently, the price is 350,000 IDR per person. It is the same on the way back, but the ferries depart from Tuapejat to Padang at 15:00, arriving in Padang at 18:30. Or, you can also reach Sipora from the other big islands of the Mentawai- from Siberut or Pagai Islands.
Slow ferry travels from Teluk Bayur Port in Padang and travels twice a week. It is an overnight ferry, traveling for 10 hours, so you spend the night there. For this trip, you pay 200,000 IDR.
There are only small charter planes that fly from Minangkabau Airport in Padang and arrive at Rokot Airport. Obviously, they are much more expensive, and they are seldom used by travelers to Sipora.
For more details take a look at our article How to travel to Mentawai Islands.
How to roam around Sipora and the nearby small islands
Once you arrive at Sipora Island, normally, first you have to reach your place to stay. If it is a homestay or hotel on the mainland of Sipora, most probably it will be located in Tuapejat or Mapaddegat. If it is in Tuapejat, you can walk for 5-10 min from the harbor. But if it is in Mapaddegat, you would need transport. There are ojeks (motorcycle taxis) usually waiting in the harbor for such travelers.
But if your accommodation is a surf resort on one of the small islands or in the remote ends of Sipora, usually, they will arrange a private boat for you to take you there. This article is about non-surfers, but they are welcome in these resorts too.
So, your accommodation is your “base camp” for the various activities you would like to do on Sipora and the adjacent islands. For the interior of the island, the best way to travel is to rent a scooter. Usually, the homestays and hotels on the mainland of Sipora offer such scooters for an average price of 150,000 per day. There are not too many paved roads, but you can still go to most of the points of interest.
For other activities like island hopping, mangrove forest exploring, snorkeling, and coral gardening, the best way is to join a “boat taxi” tour described above.
Where to stay on Sipora Island
The places to stay on Sipora Island can be divided into four groups:
- Homestays and hotels in Tuapejat. These are the accommodations with the most convenient location, near the harbor, close to more shops and markets. They are a bit more expensive. Among them, I can mention Hotel El-Shaddai, Mentawai Bagus Homestay, and Crow’s Nest.
- Homestays and hotels in Mapaddegat. They are more remote, but with a better environment, and more convenient for the activities like island hopping, snorkeling, and jungle trekking. They are also cheaper. Among them, the best are Arthur Homestay Telescope, Prima Homestay, Likat Mentawai Homestay, and Suzi Beach House. In general, Mapaddegat is the best location for budget travelers.
- Surf resorts (surf camps) on the three north islands. They are much more expensive, more luxurious, and mostly designed for surfers, with all the convenient services for them. The most popular of them are Aloita, Awera, Nasara, Tikus, and Favela.
- Remote resorts and surf camps on Sipora or other adjacent islands. These are “far from the civilization”. They are accessible almost only by boat, and they are also expensive. Among them, I can mention Togat Nusa, Yunsenatra Villas, Kingfisher Mentawai, and The Point Surf House, the last three located in the deep south.
What and where to eat on Sipora Island
If you imagine a famous resort with restaurants and supermarkets, Sipora is far from this. On the whole island, there are only several small café-restaurants where you can eat some local Indonesian meals. There are also several small supermarkets, located only in Tuapejat, where you can buy some snacks or noodles for breakfast or fast food.
But you don’t need to worry- most homestays and hotels offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not only Indonesian meals like Nasi Goreng (rice, chicken, and egg) and Mie Goreng (noodles, chicken and egg), all of them spicy, but also some Western food like sandwiches, and more.
What to bring for Sipora Island
If you plan to stay only on Sipora Island, you have to bring the normal things that you would bring for a tropical island. Of course, it depends on what activities you want to do there, but in general, it includes basic summer clothes (t-shirts, shorts, sandals, probably a summer hat and sunglasses).
Most likely, you will go to the beach, so you need everything for the beach- a swimsuit, slippers, sunscreen, and towels.
If you want to go snorkeling, bring your snorkeling gear– a mask, a snorkel, and fins (optional). But if you want to go scuba diving, you have to bring your own full equipment.
Finally, if you also want to go on a jungle hike, be prepared for mud- the climate is wet, with regular rains.
In addition, bring a mosquito repellent! In some places, mosquitos come in the evening and attack people.
Sipora Island is very safe. People are nice and friendly, but as in every part of the world, even in the safest, there can be exceptions (no pickpocketing, there are no crowds on Sipora), especially if you go alone in a remote place but not far from a village.
But the real dangers can come from the nature. Be careful when you step on the sea bottom- there are sea urchins, and extremely venomous sea snakes (sea snakes are not aggressive, they are afraid of humans, but in some cases, they can bite, and it can be fatal- there are no hospitals but only some “puskesmas”-es, health centers, only for basic help).
Also, getting lost in the jungle, or getting caught by an ocean current can be very dangerous too. And the biggest problem is that most probably, there will be nobody to help you!
This is Sipora Island. We stayed there for five days and tried most of these activities, it was fantastic! Then, we back to Padang, but if you have more time, you can stay longer on Sipora, or you can move to Siberut, try to penetrate deep in the rainforest to visit the Mentawai tribes there, or you can go to North and South Pagai. No matter how you arrange your itinerary, Sipora is a place that will leave a deep impression as one of the most beautiful tropical paradise destinations in the world.
Check some travel books about Mentawai:
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
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