Siberut National Park
Siberut island recently received international attention as a priority conservation area, for the unique culture of the ethnic Mentawaian and endemicity 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 interested only in seeing the well promoted “culture” at the indigenous tribes, such as the communal clan life in the traditional UMA house along the river banks. To visit the island, some tour packages are arranged by tour operators from Padang and Bukittinggi.
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.
This booklet was produced to promote Siberut as a main destination or as an alternative route from mainland Sumatra. Furthermore, it is intended to encourage visits to the National Park and to the Mentawai archipelago, also.
Siberut island (4.030 km sq) is the largest island of four islands in the Mentawaian archipelago. It is located about 155 kilometers off the coast of West Sumatra, across the Mentawaian strait.
The Mentawaian islands belong administratively to Kabupaten (Regency) Padang Pariaman in West Sumatra Province. Siberut is divided into two Kecamatan (district) : North and South Siberut with administrative centers at Muara Sikabaluan and Muara Siberut which also service as respectively market centers of Siberut.
According to Forestry Ministerial Decree ), a 190,500 hectares area was declared as Siberut National Park in 1993.
The current population of Siberut is roughly 25.000. The population is mainly of Mentawaian origin, with a substantial number of Minang immigrants who have settled on Siberut, especially on Muara Siberut and Muara Sikabaluan. Most Mentawaian have traditional settled inland along the banks in the upper reaches of rivers. The major source of carbohydrate is sago palm (Metroxylon sagu), which grows in natural swamps. Fish, prawns and pig are the most common sources of protein.
TOPOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
The 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 type such as: primary dipterocarp forest, primary mixed forest, swamp forest, barringtonia forest and mangrove forest. Also, there are many rivers on the islands with a complex system of tributaries.
A CHALLENGING ADVENTURE
Traveling in Siberut is only for those who are able to endure the hardship of going basics and want to experience traditional village life. The trip to Siberut take 10 hours on the regular ferry departing Padang 4 times a week. Boot charters may be arranged from Padang port.
The luxurious facilities offered by conventional resorts, are presented in more natural ways. Only back-to-nature comforts are offered on some existing home stays. Instead of a swimming pool, the island offers continuous spectacular white sand eaches 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. Telephone service is even more scare. Anyone with discriminating taste will find it hard to find a decent restaurant. Some ‘warung’ or sundry stores sell some basic provisions for travelers. Learn to eat ‘sago’ with your fingers. The lack of medical facilities, by anyone with health problems. Taking malaria pills is advised before entering and white spending time on the island. The Mentawaians still uses traditional medicine to cure illness is.
Most roads are unpaved, and going up and down the rough trails leading to the national park can be unnerving. The hike sometimes requires crossing ravines and deep galleys on slippery rotting logs covered by moss. Do not be fooled by the serenity of the forest and be observant of wildlife.
If all of the above do not deter you from visiting this enchanted island, then you are the kind of visitor we expect. Nowhere else can you experience a tryst with rugged and unspoiled nature, commune with indigenous cultures right out of the past, then soak and bask in your own private paradise, all in one small tropical island.
A PLACE OF INTEREST
If you go by tour package organized by a travel agent, the main offering is the Mentawaian culture. Most tours do not promote Siberut as a destination for diving, snorkeling, surfing, wildlife watching, or natural history in biodiversity is matched by its may recreational potentials. Some of the interesting objects to see are:
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 anthropologist suggest that the bataks of North Sumatra first settled on the island several thousand years ago. In many ways, the people of Siberut are among the most archaic people in Indonesia.
The Mentawaian are traditionally organized as patrineal 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 your interest in and fascination with the natural philosophy of the Mentawaians.
Very few visitors have explored the thickly frested island. Inside the National Park pleasant surprises await the adventures visitor. Visiting a cave in central Siberut or waterfalls in the northern and southern parts of the island, are possible upon request with your guide. Be observant of your surroundings. You may have the chance to see and hear some endemic wild life. Siberut has four endemic primates which 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 shippery log, wading through a shallow river, brushing through a dense jungle – are all parts of an unforgettable jungle adventure on Siberut.
Coastal Discovery Adventure
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, enficing 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.
Masilok Beach on the southern part of Siberut can be reached within an hour by a motorized boat. The island’s resort, dominated by coconut grows, a logoon 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 you plan to travel to nearby islands, it can be arranged with local owners. In the south western 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.
Another activity is oaring with traditional sampan through the mangrove, zig-zagging past the enormous and thick prop roots. Enjoy the scenery and bring back pictures to show off to friends.t
HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest access to Siberut is through Padang, the capital of West Sumatra. Tabing airport is served by regular flights from Jakarta and Bali (Merpati, Sempati and Garuda).
For complete information, visit the National Park office in Padang on Jl. Raden Saleh and a tourism officer will greet you. Transportation to and through Siberut is served by three commercial ships that leave Padang regularly. Ferries leave every Monday (KM Sumber Rezeki), Wednesday (KM gaya Baru), Thursday and Saturday (KM Semangat Baru). The tickets will cost between Rp. 5,000,- to Rp. 15,000 with room. The room is only 2 x 1.8 meters with two bunk beds, very basic but will get you rested. The trip will take 10 hours (leaving Padang at 8:00 PM and arrive in Siberut at 6:00 AM). Take anti seasick pills necessary. From the ferry, smaller boats will take you to Muara Siberut for Rp. 1,000.
There is no land transportation except by foot. The main transportation is by boat, that can be chartered after bargaining. Rate depends on distance. To enter the national park, a permission can be obtained from the PHPA office in Maillepet. The Siberut Guide Association will help provide guide and information. Accommodatio
Muara Siberut/Maileppet Area
vailable tourist lodging freight on Siberut are primarily of the lower-end budget class. Syahruddin Hotel is the only hotel in Muara Siberut with 10 rooms and three communal baths. The hotel also operates a provision store that double as restaurant/coffee house. Two kilometers north of Muara Siberut is Maillepet, where the park office is located , several bungalows are available for tourists with prior arrangement. This will be the home base before traveling to villages. In the villages, you might get invited to one of the traditional houses (UMA), a long wooden house, with main room in front, usually doubling as a ceremonial center. Bring your own sleeping mat and preferably mosquito net. In certain villages such as in Madobak, there are small guesthouse with simple bathroom and toilet facilities.
TRAVEL ADVISORY AND REQUIREMENTS
* Before traveling to Siberut, it is advisable to take prophylactic doses of anti malaria medicine at least one week before departing for Siberut, and should be continued up to two weeks after leaving.
* Travelers are also advised to bring sufficient supplies of medicine (antidiarrea and seasickness, first aid and antibiotics if possible).
* Wear a good pair of hiking boots, bring dry clothes, raincoats and flash light.
* Respect local culture
* Leave no waste or garbage
An intereting site for the endemic animals is :