Legend-wait for it- ary surf spots (the best in Indonesia and second in the world after Hawai!), megalithic structures and animist rites on a remote island. Interesting mix, isn’t it? Well, you can find this cocktail of surf and culture in South Nias, Indonesia. Getting there is not easy and you’ll need to earn the right to surf one of the most regular waves in the world and experience some truly different culture.
Connections from South Nias
South Nias is pretty isolated from the rest of Indonesia so you probably want to go there as a standalone trip. But, since you will have to transfer in Medan airport, you can always visit other places in Sumatra and stop by to give a high five to a few orang utangs in Gunung Leuser Park or go eat a happy pizza in Lake Tobba. Serious explorers can also consider exploring other areas of Nias Island or Bukit Lawang, Aceh and Weh Islands, Bukit Tinggi, Pandang.
Getting from Singapore to Sorake beach
Fly from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) to Gunung Sitoli (GNS). There is no direct flight from Singapore so you will have to transfer in Medan – Kuala Namu (KNO).
Silkair, Jetstar, Tigerair have daily flights between Singapore and Medan and offer a wide range of schedules and fares. From Medan Kualanamu airport to Gunung Sitoli (Nias island airport) there are 3-4 daily flights operated by Wings Air (Lion Air). Flights are in the morning (from 5.30 AM to 2PM). Merpati also operates some flights.
Getting there: SIN to KNO – Silkair: 7:30 AM – 7:55 AM (1h35 flight) then KNO to GNS – Wings Air: 11.30 AM – 12.20 PM (50 min flight)
Coming back: GNS to KNO: Wings Air: 3:15 PM – 4:05 PM then Silkair KNO to SIN 8.05 PM – 10.20 PM
Return ticket from SGD 300.
Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares. Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight or check directly on the airlines websites (as some Lion Air flights may not be available on Skyscanner).
As much as possible, avoid overnight transit where you will have to travel to Medan city to find a hotel. On your way back, plan ample buffer time before your night flight as Wings Air is not the most reliable airline when it comes to timing. From Medan to Singapore, only Silkair offers an evening flight. Jetstar and Tigerair flights leave too early to be caught.
There are also a couple of ferries operating from Sibolga (on Sumatra) to Gunung Sitoli (around 10 hours) and a fast boat (around 4 hours). Only for the braves…
Getting from Gunung Sitoli airport to Lagundri bay
The best option is to get a private car. Having your guest house arrange your transport can be a good way to avoid negotiations with the local drivers (that may charge you more). The price of the transfer is usually included in the package offered by the guesthouse. The 60 km journey will take about 3 hours and will cost you around SGD 55 .
Where to stay in South Nias?
In South Nias, tourists and surfers usually stay at Pantai Sorake in home stays facing the main surf spot. These Losmen are family run businesses offering all-in packages as the infrastructures for tourists are limited. They all offer about the same level of comfort, quality and service, but these 2 are places of choice (same family name but not related):
- Nias Key Hole Surf Camp: situated just in front of the main surf spot access – the Key Hole –
- Raffiel Losmen: Quieter, situated a bit away from the main surf spot.
Both offer all-in packages from USD 55 per person per day and include the transfer from and to the airport. They can also include a tour by motorbike or car. Check with them when you book. If you are alone, you might have to share a room with someone else. Rooms are basic but clean. Efforts are made to keep certain standard considering the remoteness and lack of funds but don’t expect the (honey)moon. Unfortunately (?), at the moment none of the major booking websites offer accommodation in South Nias. So you will need to book direct with the Losmen. But you can try your luck with the below searchbox:
To see & to do in South Nias
Surf (or learn surfing)
Lagundri beach has good waves (3 to 5 meters) with limited current. It is a safe spot for beginners, especially in the morning where waves and currents are softer. Some waves start from 200 meters from the shore and have 4 levels or more. You can rent a board from the only hut on the beach near Horas Damas restaurant. You can buy surfing lessons by the hour or as a package if you plan to stay for a few days. Some packages also include accomodation.
Explore the villages (itinerary 1)
You can rent a motorbike for around IDR 200,000 per day. Or you can also rent a car (including driver and gas) for around IDR 500,000 per day or do a half day excursion (this is an interesting option for surfers who want to spend more time on the board)
Villages are accessible by tracks (often in bad condition) with steep slopes: riding a motorbike can be a challenge for inexperienced drivers. The distance between villages are long and places of interest can be far from Pantai Sorake where you will most likely stay (10 to 15km).
Motorbike tours suggested below can also be done on foot instead. Considering the distance, good physical conditions is required if you plan to trek (and it’s wise to shorten the itinerary). If you are adventurous, overnight stay in a local homestay may be possible. The journey will take you 15km to the first village then about 12km across the different villages and a final 15km back to Pantai Sorake). Here is a list of villages to include in your itinerary:
Orihili, Bawomataluo: visit the king’s house and see people jumping over the stone, Siwalawa, Onohondro, Hilinawalo, Bawogosali, Hilisimaetano (get transport back from the main road)
Explore the villages (itinerary 2)
Another alternative is this circuit: 15km to first village via Teluk Dalam then 16km across the various villages and a final 15km stretch to go back to Pantai Sorake).
Hilimondregeraya, Hilifarono, Hilinamosawa, Hilifalago (via Hilifarono), Back to Hilimondregeraya
You can also go visit the following isolated villages in the region:
Bawodobara (by motorbike via Teluk Dalam), Hilitobara (by motorbike via Teluk Dalam), Hilimaeta (walk from Sorake beach via Lagundri beach), Hilimaenamol (walk from Sorake beach via Lagundri beach), Botohilitano (take the path from Sorake beach or go through the abandoned resort at the end of Sorake beach)
- Go visit Teluk Dalam: it’s South Nias main port and it hosts markets and local life.
- Take a tour to a waterfall: ask your losmen to guide you to the waterfall. You can jump into the water from a small cliff.
Go to Sobatu beach. This surf spot is accessible only by motorbike + walk from Botohilitano, or by private boat from Sorake beach. Desert beach with big waves. Bring your own water and food. You’ve been warned Robinson.
More info to prepare your trip
Internet access is available in most guesthouses (but don’t plan to download a full HD Movie in seconds).
Get some cash before you get there as there are not many ATMs and credit cards are not accepted everywhere.
We don’t want to put you off but you need to know that Malaria is a risk on the island, especially around the many muddy places (damaged tracks, swamps…). Cover your body or use mosquito repellant if you want to limit the risks.
Finally, a huge tsunami stroke South Nias in 2004 destroying many infrastructures and killing hundreds of people.
What to pack for South Nias
Your main bag
That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.
- Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
- Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
- Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
- Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
- Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
- Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
- Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
- Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
- Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
- Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
- Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
- Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
- Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
- Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
Your small bag
That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.
- Your passport, cash, credit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
- Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
- Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
- Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
- Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
- Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
- Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
- Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
- Camera and its protection.
Remember that this one comes on top of the Regular pack (above)
- Beach towel or equivalent (pareos / sarongs are lighter)
- Snorkeling equipment: mask, scuba, (fins?)
- Shoes you can wear on the beach or in the water (to protect your feet from being cut by corals)
- Dry bag if you plan to go on a boat and want to keep your stuff dry.
Well, you will probably adjust your bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips!
Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!
- Language: Bahasa Indonesian
- Time zone: Jakarta, Sulawesi: GMT + 7, 1h ahead of Singapore;
Bali has no time difference with Singapore
- Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
- Phone: + 62
- Electricity: 220V 50 Hz
Immigration and airport taxes on arrival
- If you are eligible you will need to pay for a visa on arrival. The price is USD 25 or the equivalent in other currencies. It is valid for 30 days. Check as it may vary (some airports charge 22 EUR, some others 25 EUR).
- If you travel to Bintan, Batam, or Karimun, you can get a 7 day Visa on Arrival for USD 10.
- On busy weekends, expect to wait for quite a while at the immigration counter.
- Make sure your notes are perfectly clean and without any note or stain. USD bills must be from 2003 or more recent. Coins are not accepted. Change (if any) is given in Ruppiah.
- On departure, you will need to pay the airport fees. These fees are not included in your tickets when you book your trip (hence the price difference between the inbound and outbound flights to Indonesia). They vary from one airport to the other. They are usually around IDR 150,000 per person. You need to pay these in Rupiah
National Public Holidays in Indonesia
|Thursday||January 01||New Years Day|
|Saturday||January 03||Maulidur Rasul|
|Thursday||February 19||Chinese New Year|
|Saturday||March 21||Hari Raya Nyepi|
|Friday||April 03||Good Friday|
|Friday||May 01||Labour Day|
|Thursday||May 14||Ascension Day|
|Saturday||May 16||Isra Miraj|
|Tuesday||June 02||Waisak Day|
|Thursday||July 16||Cuti Bersama|
|Friday||July 17||Hari Raya Puasa|
|Saturday||July 18||Hari Raya Puasa|
|Monday||July 20||Cuti Bersama|
|Tuesday||July 21||Cuti Bersama|
|Monday||August 17||Independence Day|
|Thursday||September 24||Idul Adha|
|Thursday||December 24||Cuti Bersama|
|Friday||December 25||Christmas Day|
* check the exact date as it varies from one year to another, check this website for other years.When Public Holidays falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday.