Nias Island (off western Sumatra, eight hours by boat from Sibolga) is a popular surfing destination in the Indian Ocean. About the size of Bali, it has terrific beaches, a famous break and an ancient megalithic culture. The interior Nias if covered by mountains that reach an elevation of 866 meters. Many forest have been cleared. There is no clear rainy or dry season. It rains between 200 and 250 times a year. The heaviest rains are from October to December. Nias was largely spared by the 2004 tsunami but hit by a large earthquake afterwards. The island was struck by damaging landslides, floods and an earthquake in 2001. Chloroquine-resistant malaria has been reported on the island.
Nias is the name of the archipelago off the west coast of North Sumatra consisting of 131 islands. Nias Island is the largest, covering an area of about 5,000 square kilometers—slightly smaller than Bali. Of the 27 islands immediately surrounding Pulau Nias, only 11 are inhabited. Pulau Nias (Nias Island) itself is approximately 125 kilometers west of Sumatra. The Nias Islands are located in the Indian Ocean, running alongside Sumatra but separated from the mainland by a deep trench. They include the islands of Nias, Simeulue, the Mentawai Islands and Enggano, of Nias Island is the largest.
Nias Island is 130 kilometers long and 45 kilometers wide, lying 125 kilometers off Sumatra’s west coast. The far-flung island is known for it rugged terrain, fiercely independent people and a distinct hierarchical culture Few early trading ships dared to approach these islands because of their forbidding appearance, choosing instead the ports of Padang and Bengkulu in Sumatra instead.
Due to the island’s remote location, it’s easy to presume the people of Nias to have lived for centuries in isolation. Strangely though, this is not so. This marvellous island holds almost prehistoric records of trade with merchants from the Middle East, Europe and Mainland Asia. In fact, until the 19th century, Nias was known as the location of the slave trade. Though not alienated from the outside world, Nias has managed to keep its own unique culture remarkably intact; bypassing Indian, Islamic and European Influences that have swept across Asia. Some historians and archaeologists argue the island to be one of the few remaining Megalithic cultures still in existence. The predominant religion today is Christian Protestant at about 86 percent. The remaining 14 percent are equally divided as Muslim and Catholic. Nonetheless, until this day, Niasans continue to practice their indigenous culture and tradition.
Today Nias is most famous for stones and surf. Stone jumping (lombat batu) is a phenomenon where local young men jump over stone walls up to two meters high while the surf here is famous the world over for massive breaks and awe inspiring swells. 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.
Like most places worth going, Nias Island is not easy to reach. To go by sea, start at the Sibolga Port in Sibolga city on the Northwest coast of Sumatra. Take the ferry to the port of Gunung Sitoli on Nias Island. The trip takes between 8 and 13 hours, depending on the weather. Sibolga is about 12 hours from Medan by bus. By air, start at the Polonia Airport in Medan, North Sumatra and catch a flight to Binaka Airport,Gunung Sitoli. Daily flights are available from Medan to Gunung Sitoli on Merpati Nusantara Airlines and Wings Air.
The Nias live on the island of Nias and other islands near it off the west coast of Sumatra. Also known as the Niasan (English), Niasser (Dutch and German), Ono Niha, Orang Nias (Indonesian), they have traditionally farmed sweet potatoes, cassava and rice and fished with outrigger canoes. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993) ~]
Anthropologist Mario Alain Viaro wrote: “ Situated on the borders of the Javanese Empire, the last bastion of Asia before the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean, Nias Island has produced a civilisation noted for its complex social structures and architecture, wooden and stone statuary, and remarkable weaponry. [Source: Viaro, Mario Alain, “Ceremonial Sabres of Nias Headhunters in Indonesia”, Arts et cultures. 2001, vol. 3, p. 150-171]
The people of Nias have an interesting history of animism and ancestral worship, although the majority is now Christian. About 85 percent of Nias are Protestants, 10 percent are Catholics and 5 percent are Muslims. Elements of traditional religion have endured in the form of concepts about sin and merit and the use of healers to deal with matters related to spirit possession. Their feasts of merit are intended in part to win the blessings of local fertility gods. Only men who have hosted enough feasts get full burial honors. ~
The Nias have traditionally practiced slash-and-burn agriculture and as result many of the islands where they live are now deforested. Cash crops include coffee, rubber, cloves, and patchouli oil. Pigs and gold are traditional indicators of wealth and are traditionally given as bride wealth and feasts of merit. ~
Traditionally Nias villages are ruled by a chief who heads a council of elders. Society is hierarchical with the aristocratic upper caste at the top, followed by the common people, and below them the slaves. Along with being warriors, the people of Nias are traditionally farmers, cultivating yams, maize and taro. Pigs were considered a mark of social status and the more pigs you had, the higher your status in the village.
The people here have a reputation for fierceness and a militaristic culture which is one of the reasons Nias has resisted the impact of foreign influences for so long. The warrior culture of Nias goes back for centuries when local villages would band together in coalitions and declare war on each other. Inter-village warfare was fierce and furious, provoked by a desire for revenge, slaves or human heads.
Nias is an ancient land. While no one knows exactly how long people have lived on the island, according to Nias legend life originated at the Gomo River where six gods descended and began the human race. This is why Nias people call themselves ono niha or ‘children of the people’. From Central Nias people moved North and South developing distinctive languages, customs and art in each region.
Throughout its history, the Chinese, Portugese as well as Arab traders have all explored Nias. The island became known as a source of slaves with the Acehnese, Portuguese and Dutch all probably having bought slaves from here at one time or another. In fact, up until the 19th century Nias’ only connection with the outside world was through the slave trade.
The Nias islanders have cultural links with the Bataks on Sumatra, the Naga in India, Dayaks in Kalimantan and aboriginal groups in Taiwan. In the old days they practiced headhunting and fought wars between clans to secure heads for funerals and wedding doweries. Nias island was not brought under the control of the Dutch until the 1950s. Before that time many Nias were captured by the Aceh or traded with gold and became slaves. Christianity made great inroads among the Nias beginning in 1915 through apocalyptic conversions movements known as the Great Repentance that characterized traditional Nias beliefs as works of the devil. Despite a century of contact and conflict with the outside world, Nias traditional culture today remains remarkably intact. The population of the island is spread over more than 650 villages, many of which are inaccessible by road. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993) ~]
Recorded accounts of Nias Island date back to the period of trade by Baghdad merchants with India and China, by way of Southeast Asia. Suleyman (851) first wrote about the island and described it “to contain an abundance of gold. The inhabitants live off the fruit of the coconut tree, from which they make palm wine, and cover their bodies with coconut oil. When someone wants to get married, he must bring the head of an enemy. If he has killed two enemies, he may take two wives. If he has killed fifty enemies, he may take fifty wives.” Other early accounts of Nias Island include: The Book of Indian Wonders ( Kitab adaib al-Hind), dated by Van der Lith to the year 950; the writings of the famous geographer Edrisi (1154); a description of cannibals inhabiting the island by Kazwini (1203 — 1283); accounts by Rasid Ad-Din (1310); and descriptions of a large island city by Ibn Al-Wardi (1340). [Source: Viaro, Mario Alain, “Ceremonial Sabres of Nias Headhunters in Indonesia”, Arts et cultures. 2001, vol. 3, p. 150-171]
Nias Earthquakes and Tsunamis
On December 26, 2004, an earthquake of enormous proportions struck just a few kilometers north of Pulau Nias. Measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale, it was one of the deadliest recorded natural disasters in history. The tsunami that followed the earthquake changed the island’s coastline remarkably, with the coast moving 50 meters inland in some areas, and as much as 100 meters of new land exposed in others. Hundreds were killed and much of Nias was destroyed.
For Nias the worst was still to come. On March 28, 2005, A "great" earthquake struck the Banyak, Nias and Simeulue Islands off the west coast of Sumatra. ASC reported on its website: The earthquake had a magnitude of 8.7 on the Richter scale and caused considerable damage to life & property in the region. A damaging local tsunami was generated in the vicinity of earthquake adding to the damage. This earthquake was initially believed to have been a large aftershock from the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake that occurred to the north. It has since been determined to have been triggered due to changes in the static stress regime of the region brought about by the 2004 event and was thus not a large aftershock. [Source: ASC (Amateur Sesmic Center), Pune India]
“The earthquake was centered nine kilometers west of Teluk Asin, Pulau Bangkaru (Sumatra), Indonesia. According to a report by the government of Indonesia's agency for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, 839 people were killed and 6,279 others were injured in this earthquake. The island of Nias was hardest hit badly damaging several villages and the large towns of Gunungsitoli and Telukdalam. Eyewitness said the shaking was so severe that people could not stand. Damage also occurred on the island of Simeulue and in the town of Sinabang in the southern part of the same island. Parts of the Banyak Islands sank by as much as 3-feet while parts of Nias such as Lagundri Bay were uplifted. Damage was also reported at Gunung Meriah, Meulaboh, Samatiga, Simpang Kiri, Singkil and in the Tapanauli regency on Sumatra. The earthquake was strongly felt in Banda Aceh, Lhokseumawe, Medan and in the Bireuen Regency on Sumatra. It was also felt at Bengkulu, Jambi, Krui, Padang, Pekanbaru and Riau. At Banda Aceh, the shock was experienced for nearly 75-seconds. People had some difficulty standing and eyewitness saw cars and trucks shaking under the impact of the quake. Panic followed once the shaking ended and hundreds of people fled to higher ground, using any means available. Similar scenes of panic were witnessed at Medan and in other cities in Sumatra. [Ibid]
“In Thailand, the earthquake was felt in many parts of the country. High rise buildings in the capital, Bangkok and in the city of Hat Yai were temporarily evacuated. In areas hard hit by the December 2004 tsunami such as Khao Lhak, Krabi, Nakhon si Thammarat, Satun and Songhkla, people immediately began moving to higher ground once they felt the earthquake.
“A damaging local tsunami struck Banyak, Nias, Simeulue and the west coast of Sumatra following the earthquake. Fearing another tsunami thousands of people fled to higher ground in Banda Aceh and other parts of coastal Sumatra, Indonesia. A boat off the Banyak Islands experienced strong swells and unusual currents for as long as two hours after the earthquake. A local tsunami struck Nias Island with wave heights of 4-5 meters and swept away many people at Sirombu. A 3-4 metre wave struck the islands of Banyak and Simeulue and the Sinkil district on Sumatra. At Sinkil, residents reported a waves of 4-meters, causing flooding upto a metre high in some parts. A 2-metre wave struck the village of Sirombu on the west coast of Nias sweeping away a few people. Flooding upto a metre was also reported from as far north as Meulaboh. The south coast of the island of Simeulue was struck by a 3-metre tsunami causing moderate damage to the port and airport facilities on Simeulue Island and resulted in at least 100 deaths. On Sumatra, the tsunami flooded parts of the towns of Meulaboh, Sigli and Singkil. At Singkil, a tsunami, reported to have been up to 4-meters high damaged many buildings. At Meulaboh, the sea receeded, drawing out the water from the river and then returned to flood coast. [Ibid]
“The earthquake did not generate an Indian Oceanwide tsunami although measurable changes were recorded at many places in the Indian Ocean basin. Tsunami warnings were issued for many countries in the region including India and Sri Lanka but were later withdrawn. Thousands of people in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand were either evacuated to safer places or fled of their on accord to higher grounds. In Sumatra, roads leading out of Banda Aceh were jammed with vehicles and people trying to flee the city. Similar scenes were repeated across the region. In Sri Lanka, residents of Colombo, Trincomalee and other coastal areas were advised to more away from the coast as a precaution. At least 5 deaths were reported from Sri Lanka. These were the result of road accidents or heart attacks due to panic driven escapes by the population to higher ground at places such as Mavadippalli and Kalmunai. Hundreds of people fled to higher ground at places such as Batticaloa and Vadamaradhhi East.
The number of tourists declined dramatically after all this, but in recent years they they are slowly beginning to filter back in.
Getting to and Traveling Around Nias
Sibolga (west coast of Sumatra, 11 hours by bus from medan) is town with about 85,000 people on the west coast of Sumatra. It is the departure point for boats to Nias. The town is famous for its pushy touts and shifty travel agents. The ferries for Nias generally leave around 8:00pm and take eight to 10 hours to reach Nias. They often leave one or two hours late. To get a ticket for the ferry you advised to go straight to the ticket offices rather than dealing with any intermediaries. In Sibolga visitors can watch fisherman sail their boats into the picturesque Indian Ocean. Pandan Beach (10 kilometers north of Sibolga) is a seaside resort with white sandy beaches and restaurants that offer fresh grilled fish.
Most of the accommodation on Nias is quite basic and consists mostly of home-stays and losmen oriented towards surfers. The risk of malaria is high so make sure you take adequate precautions and bring mosquito repellent. If you are hiring surfing equipment make sure you pay a fair price. If it is too cheap you may end up having to pay inflated damage costs.
When it comes to getting around, patience is a virtue. On Nias transport can be slow and difficult to access. In Gunung Sitoli the bus terminal is 1.5 kilometers south from the center of town. There are also minibuses or opulet which go from Gunung Sitoli to the southern market town of Teluk Dalam.
Nias Island is located off the West Coast of North Sumatra in a very remote location. It is accessible by air and by land and sea. The later takes over 20 hours. Then it is another five hours or so to get to main surfer and traveler area. Gunung Sitoli is the gateway to Nias. Binaka airport is 15 kilometers from the town. The port if 5 kilometers away.
There are two airlines that fly directly to Nias: Merpati and Wings Air. Both fly fly between Polonia Airport in Medan to Gunung Sitoli in Nias. It is possible to fly into Gunung Sitoli from Medan. Merparti operate two flights a day between Medan and Nias; Wings operates one. SMAC also fly to Nias twice a week from Padang. These fly only Mondays to Fridays. From Padang you will transit briefly at Pulau Telo Island then from there straight to Binaka Airport. International flights to Medan are from Singapore, Bangkok in Thailand, and Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ipoh, Malacca and Subang in Malaysia. Domestic flights are available from all major cities in Indonesia including but not limited to Jakarta, Surabaya, Aceh, Bandung, Padang and Pekanbaru.
If you are looking for a more economical mode of transportation, there is also the option of taking a ferry. You can take the ferry from Sibolga (North Sumatra) directly to Teluk Dalam, which usually takes between 11-13 hours, depending on the weather. The ferry leaves from Sibolga at 8:00 am daily, except Sunday. Ticket prices are Rp 69.000 economy, and cabin tickets for Rp103.000. Tickets can be purchased at Gunung Sitoli or directly at the Sumut Port in Sibolga. Contact Pelni for information on ferries to Nias. Pelni, Jl. Cengkeh No. 38, G. Sitoli / Pulau Nias, Tel. (0639) 21846, fax: (0639) 22171
Once in Gunung Sitoli, surfers continue by land at least to Sorake Beach via minibus. Sorake Bay is about 60 kilometers from Gunung Sitoli. Tourists are advised to bring enough cash, as ATMs are few and far between.
Sights on Nias Island
Gunung Sitoli, the main town in Nias, is the site the island’s only airport, on the northern part of the island. There are lots of small restaurants and some places to stay along the main street. Most places of interest to travelers s are in the south around the port town of Telak Dalam, which is 128 kilometers from Gunong Sitoli and takes four hours to reach by car and 6 hours by public bus.
Gunung Sitoli is the capital city of Nias with most of the islands tourist facilities concentrated there. It is home to a small museum. In the nearby villages of Sihireo Siwahili and Tumoro are some examples of traditional architecture. In Gomo there are some ancient megalitiths but the sites are difficult to get to. The best surfing spots are mostly around Teluk Lagundri, a horseshoe-shaped bay near Teluk Dalam. The break at Pantao Sorake has been described as the best right-hander in the world. The waves are best from June to October. No-surfers can enjoy treks to traditional illagges.
In the southern villages of Bawamataluo and Hilisimae visitors can see performances of traditional war-dances and their thrilling version of the high jump in which men leap over a 1.8-meter-high stone wall. Lompat batu, or stone jumping, is derived from an ancient form of war training where jumpers had to leap over a 1.8 meter tall stone wall often topped with pointed sticks. Today this is performed as a tourist attraction and the pointed sticks are no longer used. In the war-dance performances dancers wear traditional costumes and feathered headdresses.
Bawamataluo is perched on a hill 400 meters above sea level and is reached by 88 steep steps. The houses are arranged along a stone-paved street. The "Hall of the Chief" which contains stone chairs weighing up to 18 tons are supported as is the rest of the building by wooden logs. Outside are stone tables where the dead used to be left to decay. In Hilisimae there are a number of stone monuments, including a two-meter-high stone phallus. On Hilisimaetano there are 140 stone houses.
Nias the island is widely considered to be home to the oldest megalithic culture in Indonesia. Rumah adat — old stone carvings, can be found around the central part of the island. Some of these date back 3,000 years. In the villages of Nias you can see the unique architecture which has developed over centuries to resist frequent earthquake tremors. The houses are set on pillars which rest on stone blocks. These pillars are then re-enforced by slanting piles which creates a very strong three dimensional structure. Some people say the design of these ship-like wooden houses was inspired by Dutch spice ships. Look at the intricate symbolic wooden carvings which adorn each house. The village of Hilisimaetano in South Nias has more than 100 traditional houses.
In the central highlands the villages around Gomo have some of the island’s best examples of stone carvings. This area is difficult to access though and it might mean a slug through the jungle or hitchhiking with a local to get there. South Tapanuli (southern part of the province) is a land of dense rain forests and beautiful scenery. Tor Sbohi has a nice hot spring. In Padang Bolak there are ruins of a 11th century Hindu Temple.
The main attractions for many visitors are the spectacular waves and sandy beaches.. Experienced surfers can do battle with the enormous breaks at Lagundri Beach. Surfing conditions are best from April to October. Off the coast of Nias lie the islands of Pilau Bawa and Pilau Aru. There is excellent surfing in Pilau Bawa which is accessible via a two hour ferry ride from Nias. To get to Pilau Aru you will need to charter a boat.
Nias Heritage Museum
The Pusaka Nias Museum in Gunung Sitoli is dedicated to the “Ono Niha,” or the People of Nias. Situated on two hectares of land, the museum displays over 6,500 historical objects from Nias tribes, including jewelry, household items, weapons, traditional musical instruments and ancient megalithic statues. In 1972, a Catholic missionary named Father Johannes M. Hammerle began collecting cultural objects, art and history of the people of Nias. Over time, the collection grew, and he meticulously recorded the name and use of each of artifact and item. In 1991, the museum, whose core is Father Hammerle’s collection, opened.
The Museum is divided into five main pavilions. Every object comes with a detailed description in both English and Bahasa Indonesia to explain its meaning, history and function. There is also a mini zoo and a garden for the cultivation of unique Nias flora, which were once used in traditional medicine. A library holding hundreds of books as well as audio-visual aids is also available for both students and the general public to get to know and explore more about the people of Nias and their culture.
Pavilion I presents a variety of artifacts relating to the personal lives and religious beliefs of the Ono Niha. Pavilion II shows a replica of a traditional Nias house, adorned with intricate carvings and monuments that portray the lives of Niasans of high status. Other objects related to status such as jewellery and other precious goods can also be found here, as well as kitchen appliances and equipment made of wood, stone and ceramic. Pavilion II also holds a selection of “bola nafo,” which are intricately designed bag-shaped handicraft, native to West Nias. One of these measures 3 by 3.5 meters, and is the largest recorded bola nafo in Indonesia.
Pavilion III displays objects to do with the daily life and routine activities of the Ono Niha. These include shelters, household technology, art, carpentry and weapons used for hunting. Pavilion IV is dedicated to important events from the history of Nias immortalized in stone. Why stone? Because, as the Niasans say; stone does not change, stone remains in its place, stone is beautiful and lives forever. Pavilion V is used for temporary exhibitions, lectures, audio-visuals and discussions.
Two meeting halls are available for rent, built in the style of traditional Nias houses with stone walls and curved, wooden roofs. Visitors are also provided with the opportunity to live in custom, tribal homes for a small nightly fee. A simple cafeteria is positioned on the waterfront outside the museum, facing out to the rocky beach. Admission fee into the museum is Rp2,500 for adults, Rp1,000 for children, and Rp20,000 for foreign tourists. Photography within the museum is forbidden. NIAS HERITAGE MUSEUM, Jl. Yos Sudarso 134-A, Gunung Sitoli 22 812, Nias, North Sumatra,Tel. 0639-21920 For detailed information please check: museum-nias.org
Teluk Dalam; Base for Nias Surfing and Megalithic Villages
Telak Dalam (128 kilometers 4 hours by car, 6 hours by public bus from Gunong Sitoli) is a port town and surfer haven. Most places of interest to travelers on Nias are around here. Telak Dalam is a nice enough place. Surfers come for the challenging sites and fierce rolling blue waves. You can also see traditional ‘stone, or boulder jumping’ here.
There are approximately 60 homestays lined up right along the Lagundri and Sorake Beaches. The fees here are fairly economical with a minimum price of usually around Rp75.000, per night. These are usually equipped with basic daily necessities such as bedding, private bathrooms, clean water, electricity, fans and mosquito nets.
Here are some references of nearby hotels in Teluk Dalam that you can refer to when choosing your accommodations. 1) Hernelis Hotel, Jl. Imam Bonjol, Dermaga Teluk Dalam, Nias Selatan, Tel. 081396391075. 2) Penginapan Siotu, Jalan Sudirman, Keyhole Surf Camp Tel. 081374692530; 081396661419; 2) Resort Pantai Sorake, Desa Botohilitano, Tel. 21195 21197 3) The Heritage Teluk Dalam, Jl. Dermaga Baru, Teluk Dalam Tel. 7321289
Surfing at Sorake Bay and Lagundri Beach
As far as surfing goes in Indonesia, the Bay of Sorake and Lagundri Beach on Nias island is THE ultimate destination. Nias’ Sorake Bay is an internationally renowned surfing spot, and has become one of surfing’s most exotic wave-searching destinations. Every year, surfers flock from across the globe for a chance at its legendary point break. International surfing competitions have been held in Nias since 1993, and even the World Championship Surfing competition in 2000. Touted as the second best surfing spot in the world after Hawaii, the bay is located in the district of Teluk Dalam on the Southern tip of Nias Island.
Before the island’s discovery by three wandering surfers in 1975, Nias was known only by a few hard-core travellers—the island’s main visitors being archaeologists who went there to study its ancient culture and megalithic traditions. The “tourism boom” brought about by the surfers caused a rapid growth in eateries, accommodations and attractions, but much of the culture and tradition have survived and maintained their authenticity despite outside influences.
Offering some of the best waves in the world, surfing in Nias is the absolute highlight for professional and advanced surfers. For beginners, the best time to surf is in the morning, before the waves get too big, and the current too strong and dangerous. Boards can be rented from the beach surf resorts, and reliable surf trainers are ready to help you balance and catch your first waves.
Surfer Accommodation in Sorake and Lagundri
There are a large number of accommodations on the beaches of Sorake and Lagundri, most of which are homestay style guesthouses and a few bungalows facing out to sea. Rooms are generally simple, but clean and inexpensive. It is possible to book ahead, or just show up and shop around.
Keyhole Surf Camp is a convenient and economical guest house, with the Sorake beach right at your doorstep. 7 rooms are complete with sheets and beddings, private bathrooms for each room and large wall fans. Food and drinks are available, including cold beers. Fresh fruit such as bananas, watermelon, apples and papaya, as well as tea, coffee, fruit juices and bottled water are all included in the surf camp package price, and are available at all times. Surf lessons are also available.
Keyhole Surf Camp
Sorake Beach, FanayamaTelukDalam 2281, Nias Island, Tel. 62 — 8137 469 2530
62 — 8139 666 1419, E mail: email@example.com
Nias1timmy@gmail.com, Website: niaskeyholesurfcamp.com
Oichoda Losmen and Surf Stayis located just 100 meters from the legendary Nias Break, Sorake Beach. It is owned and operated by a local Nias family, who have opened their home to surfers since 1985. 12 rooms are available, each with private bath and three excellent meals a day included in the packages.
Oichoda Losmen and Surf Camp
Sorake Beach — Botohilitano,TelukDalam South NIAS, Tel. 62 — 812 6411 8520
62 — 812 6376 5554, E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: niasoichodasurfcamp.com
Saroke Bay, Saroke Beach and Lagundri Beach
Sorake Bay is enclosed by the beaches of Lagundri and Sorake, giving it both left and right hand breaks. Unaffected by winds and tides, the constant flow of waves is perfect for novice and professional alike to practice, play and perform! Waves are typically 3 to 5 meters, but have been said to reach as high as 15 meters. Some start from as far as 200 meters from the beach, can have up to 5 levels, and even rolls unbroken all the way to shore. The catch-phrase “All time Nias,” comes with the understanding that unlike most parts of the world, Sorake Bay delivers non-stop waves throughout the entire year, making any time of year the best time for surfing. The highest waves are between May and September, with most competitions being held from June till July.
Saroke beach is a paradise for surfers and is located at the mouth of the Lagundri Gulf. At peak seasons, this beach is visited by surfing tourists from all corners of the world who come to ride these high waves and enjoy the long white sandy coast. The high waves and rolls on this beach have been touted the second most perfect waves after Hawaii. This may no doubt be due to their height, reaching up to 15 meters, and the five levels of wave which are hard to find on any other beach. The popularity of these waves and the charming surrounding scenery has led this beach to become a well-known destination world-wide. Several international surfing competitions have been held here. Along the coast are also home-stays ready to accommodate visitors who wish to spend more time on Saroke. .
Lagundri Beach is a white sandy beach which lies about 13 kilometers south of Teluk Dalam. This beach is directly adjacent to Sorake beach. Much like Sorake Beach, Lagundri Beach is also a favorite surfers’ destination although its waves aren’t as high as those at Sorake. Because of the lower waves, Lagundri is more suited for activities such as swimming, sunbathing on the smooth white sand, and snorkeling, although much surfing is still done here too. Some of the attractions particular to this beach are the diving and snorkeling as the waters here are rich in beautiful ornamental fish. A walk on the beach can be a very relaxing and refreshing activity, as you enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery, rocks that adorn the coast, and the clear water with waves breaking along the beach. The cool ocean breeze caressing your face as you stroll along the beach is an experience not soon to be forgotten.
Aside from surfing, spend the day partaking in other available water sports, playing beach volleyball, sunbathing, or just taking a leisurely splash in the cool waters. If you stop and observe, you may even catch a glimpse of sea turtles and other marine life swimming alongside you. A myriad of beautiful beaches surround the coast of Pulau Nias, many of which are most often deserted. The beaches are not only plenteous, but also diverse; from gently sloping, soft, white sands, to rocky reef lagoons and high cliffs.
From Lagundri beach, you can take a walk to visit the traditional villages of Batuhili, Hilimaetano and Lagundri. In times past, villages were built on top of hills for security, and were usually rectangular with a row of houses on each side. The people of Nias built their houses on colossal ironwood pillars with towering roofs. Not only were they almost impenetrable in former tribal warfare, but their flexible, nail-less construction proved effectively resilient to earthquakes. Each village functioned as a separate entity, and up until just a few decades ago, mini-wars would break out with people killed. Warriors would attack other villages to find slaves, and in many villages you will find the sites that were once used to sacrifice victims. Ancient stone sculptures can still be found, as well as huge, round stones which were used for money.
Genasi Hill and Hilisataro
Genasi Hill and Hilisataro (between Teluk Bay and Saroke and Lagundri Beaches) are two places worth a look. Genasi Hill has a hilly landscape offering a stunningly beautiful panoramic seaview with the horizon in the distance. If you are driving you will definitely want to stop to enjoy this rare panorama. Take some photos and enjoy a drink from one of the roadside stalls as you soak in the beauty surrounding you.
After enjoying the beauty of Genasi Hill, you can make your way toward Hilisataro. Hilisataro is a gently sloping, sandy beach. As you approach this coastal region, along the way, you will start to see more and more palm trees, bananas and sweet cocoa vendors lining the road. Much like at Lagundri Beach the waves here are not that high or strong, but still present a fun day for beginner surfers. This can be seen as practice grounds before advancing to try out the more challenging waves at Sorake. Swimming activities are also very enjoyable at this spot.
Nias the island is widely considered to be home to the oldest megalithic culture in Indonesia. Rumah adat — old stone carvings, can be found around the central part of the island. Some of these date back 3,000 years. In the central highlands the villages around Gomo have some of the island’s best examples of stone carvings. This area is difficult to access though and it might mean a slug through the jungle or hitchhiking with a local to get there.
In the Gomo area of central Nias, one can find ancient stone carvings as well as free-standing menhir stones. The menhirs have been erected at least 500 meters above sea level, perhaps to avoid possible destruction by tsunamis, which have frequently swept the island over the millennia. Many of Niass’ menhirs are carved in the form of the female body. They stand 2 to 3 meters tall and are symbolic of human fertility. In many areas of the world, Menhirs have lost their function as a sacred object, and are left merely as archaeological remains. But not on Nias. Even today, the Nias preserve and perform the megalithic rituals, and new menhirs are still erected.
The megaliths at Orahili Village, in the District of Gomo consist of various forms and show a mixture of old and new megaliths. Old megaliths includes as menhirs, terraces, and flat stones. Among the new elements — which are also classified as megaliths — are human and animal statues. Great megalithic structures built in circular or arch shapes, some dating back over 3,500 years, are the oldest found in Indonesia. They were built to of the great ancestral chiefs after they died and praise the Creator of the universe. These monuments can be found in LahusaIdanotae, Tetegewo and Tundrumbaho.
Bawamataluo (25 kilometers from Teluk Dalam) is perched on a hill 400 meters above sea level and is reached by 88 steep steps. The houses are arranged along a stone-paved street. The "Hall of the Chief" which contains stone chairs weighing up to 18 tons are supported as is the rest of the building by wooden logs. Outside are stone tables where the dead used to be left to decay. In Hilisimae there are a number of stone monuments, including a two-meter-high stone phallus. On Hilisimaetano there are 140 stone houses.
The Nias traditional architecture, known as Omo Nifolasara, seen at in the traditional houses ay Bawomataluo village is very well preserved. The last remaining structures of their type left in Indonesia, the houses have been built in a row, and have approximately the same height and almost the same shape. The houses in the village are believed to be hundreds of years old. Every week in this village hosts performances and competitions of “Nias stone or boulder jumping’, and the Fataele Dance, a traditional war dance unique to Southern Nias. Bawomataluo is also the most easily accessible compared to other traditional villages around theTeluk Dalam bay. Bawomataluo Site was nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June, 2009.
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The Bawomataluo settlement is located in the Bawomataluo Village, under the District of Teluk Dalam, in the South Nias Regency. The area covers ± 5 Hectares with an altitude of 270 meters above sea level. This kampong is situated on the heights of the hills and is relatively safe from any tsunami threats, despite having a distance of only 4 kilometers from the seashore. To enter this housing complex, one must go through a concrete stairway that resembles a terraced gravesite with 7 steps in the first section and 70 steps in the second part. The houses face each other with a distance of 4 meters apart and in the middle of the complex, there is a stone arrangement that is placed in an open space used for ceremonial customs and rituals. In between these traditional houses, newly built houses have been erected facing each other in a straight line from the northwest to the northeast. In the middle of the complex, there is a row of houses parallel towards the southeast. Inside the complex, there are 500 houses with a population of 7,000 that consists of 500 household heads. The Chief's or the King's house is located in the South West side and is the largest in the complex. Based on the genealogy/family tree of the community, it is stated that the designer of the houses was King Laowo as the founder of the Kingdom of this region and are descendants of the Gomo family. Later on, the construction of the house was finalized by Saonigeho (Siliwu Gere) who was also the first generation of the Laowo family. Currently, the house is occupied by the heirs from the fourth generation of the Laowo family. The house is estimated to have been built in 18th century. [Source: Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia]
“The meaning of Bawomataluo in the local language is the "Hill of the Sun". This site is a traditional settlement that was part of the megalithic traditional rituals of the past that can still be seen from the cultural heritage. The Bawomataluo settlement is semi-macro settlement located on the flat peak of the hill aligned from the southeast to the northwest. The megalithic monuments are divided into horizontal positions known as the daro-daro and those positioned vertically known as the naitaro. These two different types of megalithic monuments represent the male and female gender. Hundreds of naitaro and daro-daro can be found in the yards of the houses in all social strata.
“Bawomataluo is situated on the heights between valleys and deep gorges that surround the settlement. Not far from the valley, there is a water spring of abundant volume of water. The layout of this settlement apparently had been planned in accordance with the topography. The residential buildings and the facilities for the rituals have also been aligned with condition of land. The stakeholders of the culture of this settlement are not only smart in building the structures but also have the wisdom and the intelligence in selecting the location and addressing the environmental challenges to sustain their livelihoods.
“The Bawomataluo Settlement reflects a masterpiece of the ability to construct and integrate a settlement with monumental megalithic tradition. The original traditional architecture in Bawomataluo is expressed significantly through the organization pattern of the settlement and the shape of the houses/homes (omo hada). Common facilities were built as a complementary and only used occasionally. The distinct shape can be observed from the dimension and scale of the houses and the means of entrance to the house. A certain symbol is used to identify the owner's social status. For example if the house is large with an entrance under the house, this shows that the owner is the si ulu or si ila.”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020