When studying the map of Indonesia, you notice its thousands of islands; there are as many as about 18,000 islands in Indonesia. Some of the islands are bigger – like Java and Sumatra, and some of them are so small that they are hardly even marked on the map. I traveled to one of these smaller magical islands, called Nias. You may not have heard of it but believe it or not, it can be found on the map!
Nias Island is located in western Sumatra, in Northern Indonesia. If you have a larger view of the map, you can see that this beautiful island is not that far from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or Sri Lanka. If you´re traveling or studying somewhere in Southeast Asia: Could Nias be your next (visa) run destination?
If you are based in Bali, to exit Indonesia you can first book a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then fly back to Medan (the capital of Sumatra Island), Indonesia, and then fly from Medan to Nias. The flight duration from Medan to Nias is less than 1 hour. For those who are more hard core, Nias can also be reached by bus and boat from Medan. Take a bus from Medan to Sibolga, and then take a ferry ride from there to one of the harbours in Nias.
To be honest and to make it clear, Nias is not the easiest destination to reach. This island is for adventurous souls –it´s not about the destination, it´s about the journey through the jungle that gets you there. Surfers know about the sick tubes and long rides that are waiting for them in Nias, and therefore, they don´t mind the extra bit of travel because they know it´s worth it!
Arriving in Nias and getting down South to Sorake Beach
If you fly there, you will arrive in the capital called Gunung Sitoli, at Binaka Airport. The airport is the simplest airport I´ve ever seen! You step out from the airplane and walk 50 meters into the terminal building. Then you will see your baggage get moved to the other side of the wall, and then you go grab it. Few more steps and you have already exited the airport building! You will now be offered transports by all the local drivers.
On your drive through Nias you will see the jungle, rice fields, different coast-lines with waves breaking beautifully and no-one surfing them. There are no traffic jams, which allows you to watch small villages pass by. A lot of the time, local kids happily run after your car and greet you with, “Hello bule (foreigner in Indonesian language)” or “Hello Miss”. The few hour car ride from the airport to Sorake beach gives you a great opportunity to observe the nature, local architecture and culture that lives there. It really is a great introduction to the island of Nias. You will never get bored, and you will love the beauty and vibes along the way. You might even think to yourself, “I thought Bali was beautiful…”
This island hasn’t always been as beautiful as it is today. Nias faced a natural disaster of a tsunami in 2004 and 2005. Almost everything on the coast was washed out and destroyed. You can still see the houses up on a hill that the government built for the victims of tsunami who lost their homes.
Surf the perfect, world-famous wave, or enjoy the show from your hammock in a Losmen!
Big resorts, shopping malls and party streets? NOPE! That´s not Nias. You won´t see sun-burned, drunken tourists wandering around in their Bintang- tank tops. The island is still not over-commercialized, and the tourists that you see, are mostly surfers from different origins. However, the surf still never gets really crowded there. Even though the place is known of the big solid barrels, even the point break is still surfable for all levels of surfers sometimes. On a day, when you find it scary big at the point but you still want to have fun in the ocean, don´t you worry – you can still find fun surf around there around the year. The beach break at Lagundri Bay is good for beginners and intermediate surfers, and you can also rent a board there.
Nias – especially the Sorake´s point break is known among surfers, and this perfect right hander wave is considered to be one of the world´s best. During the surf season (May – October) Sorake is where the advanced surfers go to surf. Marcel Wau charging in the photo by Justin Bu´ulolo.
The coastline is mostly unbuilt. At Sorake Bay you can see Losmens – the Nias style accommodation. It´s a simple bungalow-kind-of-building. Losmens are located right on the beach, and relaxing in your hammock and watching the surf is the best entertainment!
Beach life – sometimes your dinner can come right to you when the fishermen come back with the fresh fish they’ve caught that day. You can easily BBQ it on a banana leaf over a pile of burning coconuts shells!
Because it is still an underdeveloped island, Nias might not be the best destination for someone who is looking for luxury and fancy restaurants. The accommodation option available are like home-stays with host families, and most of the houses include a lot of deals. You´re kind of a part of a local family when you stay there.
Some of the Nias-locals speak really good English, some of them aren’t as quite as good. This is where you can work on your Indonesian language skills! Even though Nias people speak their own Nias language, Indonesian as a “common language” is useful here.
Coconuts are helping the locals
As mentioned earlier, Nias is not commercialized. Even these cute Ono Niha products are not advertised on the island. I happened to hear about the place from my friend, and now you know about it too. The perfect natural souvenirs – pure coconut oil and coconut oil soaps!
Coconuts are an everyday delight in Nias and they are easy to find. Coconuts aren’t only used as just a healthy food or drink here; pure virgin coconut oil is produced At Jalan Lagundri, close to Lagundri Bay, at Ono Niha Coconut Factory. The factory is located next to Ono Niha Foundation base, which is a non-government organization for the people of Nias. By buying the coconuts used in the production from the local villagers and communities, the factory provides employment and income for over 200 local families.
The nature and the strong Nias culture offer so many fascinating things to discover! Rent a bike and go for a jungle adventure – find waterfalls and megalith stones. Visit Bawo Mataluo traditional village and see the king´s house. The village is on top of a hill and there´s a breathtaking view from there.
The scenery, spirits and traditional Nias lifestyle takes you ages back in a time. But after staying here, you realize you’re in no hurry to comeback to the present.
Moogaeles – Nias traditional dancers and Fateles – Nias warriors. Back then they tested warriors by stone jumping. If the warrior could run and jump over a 2 metres high stone, he was strong enough to defence the village in the war.
This post was written by our intern Helka in Bali. Find out more about studying in Bali: