Do you want to trek Mentawai jungle? Read some tips.
I’ve written about our Mentawai experience but now I’ll share some information about the actual jungle trek, guides and money.
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Tips and tricks on Siberut trekking
1. How to get there?
To Padang you can come by a plane, usually from Jakarta. Buses, waiting in front, are very cheap and take you from the airport to the city. To way to the island of Siberut is more tricky. Ferries drive are quite dependent on the weather but you can see the schedule on the picture below.
Taxi from the city to the port costs you around 50.000 IDR/person and takes one hour. Tickets for the ferry without bed cost 81.000 IDR (you can rent a mat for 40.000 IDR) and VIP bed with air-con costs 125.000 IDR. It takes you 10 hours of very slooow riding and if you have a weak stomach, don’t forget about the motion sickness pill. Just keep in mind it doesn’t go every day. Fast ferry takes around 3 hours and goes to the island on thursday and saturday (cost is 250.000 IDR).
2. How to pick a guide? *read the update in the end about guides.
Probably the trickiest part on this adventure. You are totally dependent on your guide and we’ve heard stories first hand of guides leaving their costumers in the middle of the jungle; guides being ‘possessed by ghosts’ and forced their customers to fancy resorts. We talked to our Shaman hosts who told us guides pay them abnormally low amounts of money for accommodation (and take all the money for themselves) and even stealing from them.
Speak the language.
It’s better to have a guide born on Siberut because he speaks their language and has many connections. Some guides are affiliated by a guesthouses/hotel and are more reliable because people have a person to complain to (this is not a guarantee that everything will be perfect). They usually charge more.
Ask, ask, ask. And state your mind.
The trick is to define the day plan as much as possible. Ask about it many, many times because it always changes and some guides like to stay at a certain house more days than needed, because they have company of their friends. If you want to move to another place, if you want to go deeper in the jungle, say it loudly and firmly.
Bad and good guides.
Most of the guides are very young and love the smell of money. They all know each other by names. On the picture above is our guide LEVI (or MALEI in Mentawai, or WILEK) who left us in the jungle without food and money for three days. You can read about it here. ALAN is another guide who was possessed by a ghost and changed the plan of our neighbors in the guesthouse.
Our friends were quite satisfied with Matheus (+6285264137645, Facebook: email@example.com) and the porter we were left with, Sulai, was very caring, he’s Matheus’s cousin. He doesn’t have a phone but you can ask for him on Siberut. He will be happy to help.
3. What about food?
Water and food is about 100% more expensive than in Padang, that’s why is good to buy as much as possible in Padang. Keep in mind that you’ll be feeding yourself, guides, porters and the families as well. Locals share their food with you but it’s not something you would eat everyday.
Although we had all food, drink and gifts (mostly cigarettes, tea and sugar) included in the price, our guide left us with no food and water. We would still recommend you buy (2 people):
- 5 kg of rice (70.000 IDR)
- 10 cans of sardines in tomato sauce (150.000 IDR)
- 20 packets of noodles (40.000 IDR)
- 10 l of water (40.000 IDR)
- Chocolate bars and candy for the children (50.000 IDR)
- 30 packets of cigarettes (never enough of those) (450.000 IDR)
And take everything you don’t need, clothes, accessories, medicine, toys, hairbands for girls. They’re happy to have anything you give them 🙂
All together around 50€.
Here is an estimate what you use per day, including 2 tourists, one guide and a family you live with:
- 1,5 kg of rice
- 4 packs of noodles
- 1 l of water (you drink tea or boiled)
- 5 packets of cigarettes
- 3 chocolate bars and 10 candies
- Guide should tell you exactly how many food and water he’s going to buy in Padang and on the island. 1 week is a lot of water. Go to the store with him and be involved. This is the mistake that we made and in the end it was too late. Don’t forget the tobacco for the Shamans and their wives. You can only buy it on Siberut.
Jungle is wet and slippery, mosquitos are all over and malaria is still present. There is no trash bins. These three topics you need to cover on your own.
- You can buy rubber boots in Padang for 100.000 IDR.
- Buy at least 30 %DEET repellent somewhere else as it seems Padang doesn’t have it. Houses in the jungle have enough mosquito nets so no need to buy it. Cheap doxycycline pills can be bought here, we had no side effects.
- Don’t forget to bring a raincoat. It rained every daywhen we were there.
- Bags for any kind of trash. You don’t want children use used tampon applicator as a flute, do you? 🙂 They’re also good to protect clothes and camera from water.
- Camping gear like sleeping bag, warm clothes, etc.
5. How much to pay?
Guides usually give you a price for the whole thing, everything included (even taxi and ferry tickets). Of course, you have to bargain a bit. We paid 5 million IDR and another million for stuff we bought, for 7 nights. 380 € for both. The prices differ a lot, we met people who paid 1.5 million for 2 nights (95 €).
You have to pay in advance and by that you loose all control of food, water and cigarettes, how much they pay the locals. It would be better if somehow you would pay the locals and make a fair price but it would take a lot of energy. We really do hope things will get better.
6. Go with the flow!
Leave your worries, doubts and bad thoughts on the ferry and relax. What happens, happens. You will have a beautiful experience anyway. Just be mindful of what’s going on with the plan, food and cigarettes.
If you have any questions on Siberut trekking, please leave a comment below. We’ll be happy to help!
*Update april 2016: Our friend Saška sent us some valuable information about good guides for Mentawai trek (fyi, she really recommends Ricky beach house, a great location 30 km south of Padang). Her experience:
Three guides are from the same family and (sometimes) live in Aman Agus house. Everyone in Siberut port know where it is (4 km, village Muntei). They will probably be in the port if they don’t have a customer. Their names are: Agus, Lugi in Sarul. Sarul is Matheus’s brother and was also her guide (only two in the group). Price for 4 days was 5 million, everything included (except for the drive from/to Padang). But they opted to pay only for the guide (400.000 IDR/day) and everything else by themselves, and payed altogether 3.2 millions. je brat od Matheusa in je bil tudi njen vodnik (bila sta samo 2 v skupini). Cena štiridnevnega treka za 2 osebi, vse vključeno
Her comment about the guide: Sarul was really nice and funny a s a guide but from what I’ve seen Korne (Kornelius) is the best guide. We met him and his two tourists by accident and hung out wth them. He is totally devoted to customers, arranged everything from food preferences, jewelry making, sago worms and more – a really active, good guide. His price was 3.2 million for 3 days, all included. And one more comment. Korne looks like a cave man so don’t be repelled by his looks. We were scared of him in the port because of his strange looks. Don’t believe the first impression 🙂