By Dian Hasan | September 15, 2009
Among the international surf crowd, Padang, the provincial capital of West Sumatra in Indonesia is known as a jump-off point to get to every surfer’s dream destination: The Mentawai Islands. A smallish archipelago of about 70 islands, of which the 3 largest islands of Siberut, North Pagai (Pagai Utara) and South Pagai (Pagai Selatan) are renowned for having among the most consistent surf in the world.
It is the journey enroute to Mentawai, however, when one passes little isles scattered around Padang Bay, that often go unnoticed. These hidden jewels of West Sumatra are worthy of a stop-over to experience their natural beauty. Sikuai, Pagang and Cibudak Islands are just some of them.
Indonesia‘s natural beauty is – quite simply – indescribable! Astonishing to say the least. What I find even more astonishing is the fact that for its size, Indonesia (the 4th largest country by population) is by far, the least known! The world’s most unknown large country! It certainly gives it a different ring when you spell it out.
It is a fact, however, with a great degree of truth. After all, as the world’s largest archipelago – spanning over 3,000 miles – with a limited infrastructure (relying mostly on inter-island sea transportation), it’s not easy to navigate each of Indonesia’s largest islands, and experience her beauty.
I must confess, I view Indonesia’s “isolation” positively though, as at least the relatively imbalance development of her islands has meant that large parts of her natural assets, notably her national parks spread across all the main islands are relatively untouched. This of course is changing fast, as huge tracts of precious tropical rainforests in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Borneo) are being lost to the palm oil, pulp and logging industries.
Thanks to the internet, Indonesia’s beauty is starting to spill out across cyberspace and the blogosphere, via people sharing pictures and talking about them through various social media networks. Among the world’s travelers, interest in Indonesia is nothing new. It has always attracted very specific niche markets, following specific passions, ie: diving, surfing, hiking, trekking, kayaking, birdwatching, culture vultures, heritage and architecture, etc. And that’s how Indonesia is best experienced.
So it comes as a breath of fresh air to take in the beauty of Sikuai, Pagang and Cibudak Islands in Padang Bay, West Sumatra. And this is a mere “drop in the ocean” of Indonesia’s natural wonders. For now, however, they remain idyllic virgin islands waiting to be discovered. It will be a while before they offer world-class accommodation, if ever. All for a good cause. Keep the overly modern encroaching development at bay.
What is clear, however, is that when it comes to idyllic tropical islands, the world’s largest archipelago certainly has a natural advantage over other travel destinations!