HomeBlogs Nias Island: Idyllic Surf and the Last Megalithic Culture Alive Located west of the island of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean are a chain of
islands, running alongside Sumatra but separated from the mainland by a
deep trench, they include the islands of Nias, Simeulue, the Mentawai
islands and Enggano. Few early trading ships dared to approach these
islands because of their forbidding appearance, veering instead to the
ports of Padang and Bengkulu in Sumatra.
centuries, the people here lived in virtual isolation as these islands
were left mostly untouched, until early in the mid 19th century when
Dutch and British vessels came to anchor here.
Today, Nias island
belongs to the province of North Sumatra, Semeulue is in the province
of Aceh NAD, Mentawai forms part of West Sumatra and Enggano belongs to
the province of Bengkulu.
The island of Nias is the largest among
these islands. It is 130 km long and 45 km wide, lying 125 km off
Sumatra’s west coast. Today, Nias is popular for its rolling waves,
equaled only by surf on neighbouring Mentawai islands. Australian
surfers in search of the perfect wave were among the first to “discover”
Nias and the island is now home to the Indonesian Open surfing
Championship at Lagundri beach.
interesting about Nias are the traditional villages of Bawomataluo and
Hilisimaetano in the south that can be reached via Teluk Dalam by boat
from Sibolga or by plane via Gunung Sitoli from Medan. Airlines flying
to Gunung Sitoli are Susi Air, SMAC, Merpati Air and UNHAS. There’s also
a weekly ship departing from Jakarta to Gunung Sitoli.
reaches Bawomataluo by a massive flight of large stone stairs at the
main entrance. Here stands the oldest and largest traditional house
which is still inhabited and owned by the royal family, but may be
visited as a museum. The house stands on massive one meter thick
hardwood pillars, is a total 20 m high, and reputedly built without
nails. While traditional houses in the south of Nias are square, houses
in the north are oval in shape.
was part of the famous Hippie trail of the 1960s, particularly
travelled by surfers, which lead to Bali. Some claim that the waves at
the southern beach of Sorake are better than the ones in Maui.
report that the 2005 earthquake has made the waves even better,
hollower and longer. Its famous seven second tubes have become nine
The best known surfing area is Sorake Bay, close to
the town of Teluk Dalam, on the southern tip. Enclosed by the beaches
of Lagundri and Sorake, the bay has both left and right-hand breaks. As
they wait for waves, surfers can often see sea turtles swimming below.
There are also two consistent, world-class waves in the nearby Hinako
Islands, Asu and Bawa. Many lesser-known, high-quality surf spots with
low crowds await adventurous travelers.
Nias has retained one of the most unique cultures in south east Asia,
expressed in large stone monuments, paved plazas and stone-jumping
Earlier called the last living Megalithic Culture in the
world—although now disputed—Nias is a rice-growing society primarily
influenced by the Bronze Age Dong-son culture of Annam (North Vietnam),
and by early Hindu, Chinese and Muslim traders. Folklore relates that
the Nias people originated from the Gomo River area in the central part
of the island, where gods descended and sired the human race. From here
the culture spread north and south developing different traits, but both
maintaining the Gomo area as their ancestral home. Chinese chronicles
called Nias the “Gold Island”, while at one time in history it was also
known as the source of slaves and thrived on the slave trade. The
majority of the population is now Catholic or Protestant.
Nias, the nobility was wealthy as is apparent from their impressive
traditional dwellings, the stone slab megalithic monuments in front of
their ancestral homes and their elaborate ritual feasts that included
the entire village. They also kept slaves whom they sold to foreign
traders. This custom was stopped in the 1840’s.
village is a fortress with large stone-paved central “plaza”. Stilt
houses stand parallel on either side of the plaza while bamboo
barricades protect the village from outside attacks.
impressive are the stone jumping rituals, known as fahombe, which was an
initiation rite towards manhood and practiced by warriors. Here
acrobatic tribesmen today leap feet-first over piled-up stone columns of
2.5 meters high and half a meter wide. The stone jumping ritual and the
simulated war dance ritual may now also be performed for tourists.