Known for some of the best surfing beaches in the world, Nias is a top destination for anyone in search of an exotic island holiday away from the crowds.
Words by Vikaria Lestari
Under a bright blue morning sky, the Garuda Indonesia plane from Jakarta, with its 96 passengers, lands smoothly at Kota Gunungsitoli’s Binaka Airport, Nias Island.
Off the western coast of Sumatra, the island may be a far-flung destination, but it’s widely known among ocean lovers as one of the best surf spots in the world.
A perfect base from which to explore the rest of Nias Island, Kota Gunungsitoli offers nine wonderful beaches and a number of other attractions worth visiting. Visitors can marvel at the Togi Ndrawa Cave, which is believed to have been lived in as long as 12,000 years ago; the Pusaka Nias Museum (Heritage Museum), which tells the story of the island’s people, their customs and culture; traditional Nias houses in Tumori village and much more. You can also please your palate with a local favourite, lehedalo nifange, a slow-cooked dish made of taro leaves and dry-fried grated coconut. Another dish you should try is babae, a porridge-like mix made of black-eyed peas, coconut milk and eggs, normally prepared during Christmas or to be presented during traditional ceremonies in the south of Nias.
After exploring the oldest and biggest city on Nias Island, head south to the worldfamous Sorake beach, around three hours’ drive from Kota Gunungsitoli (there are plenty of minibuses available to take you to the beach). In fact, getting to Sorake Beach from anywhere in the world has become even easier, with the recent launch of Garuda Indonesia’s direct route from Jakarta to Kota Gunungsitoli, flying three times a week.
Sorake Beach, in Teluk Dalam, the capital of South Nias Regency, is considered the second-best surfing spot in the world after Hawaii. Waves are said to reach as high as 15m. Between May and September, the surf is most consistent, with six- to eight-foot (1.8–2.5m) barrels spinning down the reef with machine-like precision. While most competitions are held from June to July, any time of year in Nias is good for surfing, reflected in the local catchphrase ‘All Time Nias’.
The Point, Sorake’s main break, is the world-class right-hander that put Nias on the map – surfers from across the globe flock here to experience the legendary waves. However, there are more manageable waves at The Point’s Kiddies Corner. Lagundri beach, only two kilometres from Sorake, boasts even more beautiful scenery along with white sand and perfect blue water. Here, surfers can ride waves up to a distance of 200m.
However, Nias Island is not only a destination for surfers and sun worshippers. It also offers a wealth of cultural, architectural and historical attractions. Bawomataluo village in the district of Teluk Dalam, South Nias Regency, only 30 minutes’ drive from Sorake beach, still preserves megalithic culture and rituals. Megaliths, big stones used to construct structures and monuments, are an intrinsic aspect of Nias culture, used in stone-jumping ceremonies. You can witness stone jumping (locally known as hombo batu) performed in front of the chief’s house at Bawomataluo. Originally, the stone jumping ceremony was part of an initiation rite for young men to be accepted as adults and warriors. The stone tower is built as high as two metres and as wide as 90cm, so jumpers need plenty of practice before performing to avoid serious injury or death.
In Bawomataluo, you can also find the traditional house of Omo Nifolasara Sebua, believed to date back to the 18th century. Built without the use of nails, the house has many exquisite and highly artistic features, with design aspects similar to those used for boats. It was built to be earthquake resistant, with an intricate system of braced diagonal pillars standing on stone slabs rather than driven into the ground.
The west of Nias Island is also well worth exploring. Relax and watch the spectacular red and orange sunsets at the famous Sirombu beach, in the district of the same name. Sirombu town is two hours from Kota Gunungsitoli and adjacent to Asu Island, where surfers will find a 200m left-hand point break.
Whether you are lured by the waves, or the opportunity to find out more about an intriguing island culture, or simply the promise of feeling the sun warm your skin while lying on the sand of a pristine remote beach, Nias is an exotic treasure waiting to be explored. Our tip is to get there as soon as possible, before more people discover this gem on the fringe of the Indian Ocean.
JAKARTA – GUNUNGSITOLI – PADANG – JAKARTA
Frequency 3 flights per week
Flight Time 2 hours, 20 mins
5 Senses – Sight
PUSAKA NIAS MUSEUM
One of the best museums of its kind in Indonesia. As well as historical artefacts there are conservation projects and a guest lodge; there are activities throughout which focus on the preservation of Nias culture. www.museum-nias.org