Plan Your Mentawai Dream Trip
As we approach the 50th birthday of the MV Indies Trader, the first surf charter to arrive in the Mentawais, we wanted to provide an informative overview of the boats in the Mentawais. There is a reason “Indies Trader” is a household name in the surfing community, and we feel confident in our operation, even with all the competition listed here.
The history of the Mentawai Islands starts with only the Trader and a scattering of adventurers hitching rides on local boats, progresses to the first generation of captains and charters in the 90s, and lands with more than 40 boats operating out of Padang and cruising around the many islands of the Mentawais. Of course the latest new factor is the land camps, which have also significantly changed the game, offering stationary land based options. However, the surfer that was raised on the alluring images of faraway islands and epic waves, or waking up to the sound of the anchor being pulled to head to a new break will still seek that “bucket-list” trip, and the Mentawais remain the iconic place to do so.
The Mentawai Islands conjure up images of pristine beaches, crystal clear water, and perfect waves. Comprised of over seventy islands, the Mentawais have a plethora of different breaks from hollow lefts to peeling leg burner rights. Unique reef formations around these islands ensure that waves break perfectly and there is consistent swell year round. The summer months, from June to August, bring peak conditions. Due to its remote location, the Mentawais offer opportunities to surf perfect empty waves during the right season. Those who have surfed elsewhere in Indo (Bali or Java), know the frustration of battling lineups of hundreds of other surfers on the more popular breaks. Surfers dream of having the adventure of a lifetime aboard a charter boat taking you to some of the best spots in the world without dealing with crowds. When this dream becomes a reality, you want to be confident that the company you choose to sail with will provide the experience that meets your expectations.
The first thing many surfers will look at when starting to look at options for their Mentawai trip is the total cost of their charter boat. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for and opting for the cheapest option may not ultimately provide you with the most value – especially considering the time and money you’ve spent just to get across the world. When it comes to choosing a charter boat for your trip, there are definitely varied choices in terms of budget, accommodations, size of charter etc. Regardless of what you want, here are a few things to look for when deciding which charter boat will take you on your next surf adventure.
Safety is an important aspect of choosing a boat company that often gets overlooked, but definitely should not. Navigating through the myriad of islands in precariously shallow waters takes an advanced level of skill that requires decades of experience. Hundreds of people die in boating accidents in Indonesia each year, and many as a result of errors committed by the captains. Watch out for cheaper boat options, that will have captains who don’t surf themselves, don’t have the necessary experience, and have an unqualified crew. Make sure your Captain has a license of ANT V (Master 5) or higher so that you can be assured they have the proper training to know how to deal with emergencies and make prudent calls on weather conditions and risk.
The quality of the boat also contributes significantly to your safety. Many of the cheaper boats are Indonesian built wooden boats without waterproof bulkheads or fire control systems. These boats wouldn’t pass a proper inspection and therefore can’t be covered by insurance. Imagine spending all the time and money to get to the Mentawais and your trip gets ruined by your boat breaking down or getting wrecked. You would be surprised how frequently this happens. For example, Rip Curl’s Quest 1 boat sank back in 2015, due to the engine room flooding. Luckily, those on board were able to evacuate and were eventually rescued by Martin and the Indies Trader 3.
Some wrecks and fires –
- Quest 1 – Sank (Rescued by Trader 3) – Incompetent crew, poor maintenance
- Katika – Burnt near Rags Right – Gallery Fire
- Indies Explorer – Burnt in Port-Bungus
- Star Koat – Hit the reef and caught fire (rescued by Ratu Motu)
- Midas – Caught inside by tsunami at Macaronis
- Sea Dog (Anjing Laut) – Sunk – Fiberglass delaminated off wooden planked hull
- Sri Wedana – Washed aground at Lance’s Right, anchored in Keyhole overnight hit by a squall, no radar, bad judgement, no qualified crew
- Lautan Megah – Rick Cameron’s boat that caught fire – Karma
- MV Diane – Washed on to the beach in squall , bad ground tackle only one of 2 main engines operable near Macaronis (Trader 3 Rescued)
- KM Alissa – Sunk due to hull integrity failing, no bulkheads in moderately rough seas
Some boats depend on cell and VHF for communication, but there are no cell phone towers on the majority of the islands and once you’re five miles from the nearest tower you lose service. This is why it is important for your boat captain to use a satellite telephone and a Single Side Band Radio in case of emergencies. Don’t skimp on safety!
P & I Liability Insurance on the vessel
- -What happens if your boat sinks and you lose everything, or you are injured due to negligence, or you die in a fire or drown?
- -Look at the fallout of the Quest 1 to see the lawsuits
- -Ask about insurance cover, P & I club entry before booking, ask to see a copy of the policy
- -Many local Indo boats don’t have watertight bulkheads – meaning if you catch a leak the boat will likely sink – Like the Alissa. Many have fiberglass sheathing. One had fiberglass sheathing over the wooden planking, seas got rough planks started moving, fiberglass delaminated and came off in sheets, no caulking between planks, boat sunk.
Captain License valid for type of boat – Master V (ANT-V) / Master 4 (ANT IV)
- -Master V license covers boats less than 78ft
- -Master IV license covers boats less than 115ft
- -The captain needs a qualified First Mate, Engineer and crew who can also assist during an emergency
Fire Control Systems
- -Fire fighting equipment readily available, Fire extinguishers in all spaces. Fire blanket
- -Engine room fire control system either Co2 or Mistex
Fire Alert Systems
- -Smoke alarms in all spaces
- -General Fire alarm audible throughout vessel
Bilge Pumping Systems, Bilge alarms
- -We’ve seen boats with shop-vacs acting as Bilge pumps, Quest 1 was lost due to inoperable bilge alarms and pumps
- -Bilge alarms (visual and sound) on all spaces, tested regularly.
- -Primary and secondary bilge pumps, one must be diesel driven, plastic recreational battery powered bilge pumps are not suitable without proper backup. Main engine driven high volume or separate diesel drive bilge pump/fire pump
Passed Proper Maritime Survey
- -There are reasons for strict maritime regulations – mainly the safety of the guests
- -Most boats on this list would not pass, ask when the last survey was
- -Vessel to have Solas Approved life jackets for all pax and crew with lights
- -EPIRB, tested with current cert
- -Liferafts- at least 2 with either raft capable of accommodating passengers and crew. ie 16 person minimum, 10pax 6 crew
- -Satellite telephone or in reach device or similar. Do not go to sea without this. How can you call for help if you can’t call.
- -SSB radio, that is working and surveyed with Radio license.
- -SART-search and rescue transponder
- -Liferings with lifebuoy lights and smoke
Whether you have a particular break you want to spend most of your time at or hit as many spots as possible, it is important that you find out what your options are before booking your boat. Conditions, crowds, and weather can be unpredictable so having a captain that surfs is vital to the success of your trip.
Cheaper boats with an all Indonesian crew like to stick to breaks that are near cell towers so that they can use their cell phones while the guys are surfing. They’ll come up with excuses as to why they can’t or shouldn’t visit other breaks but in reality they just don’t want to be bored without cell service. A lot of the Indo captains also have a bonus scheme where they will get more money if they use less fuel. Ask about the company’s optimal travel itinerary as well as their back up plans in the case of weather/swell changes. Check if your boat has 24/7 satellite internet to avoid having to stay close to the cell towers.
Comfort on Board
Most charter boat trips last 10+ days so it is essential to choose a boat that is comfortable, well maintained, and stocked with provisions. For many surfers, this trip will be their first experience spending such a large amount of time out on the ocean. You want your boat to feel like an oasis to relax and recharge in after spending all day surfing. Make sure to look at the age of the boats you are researching and find out if any major renovations have been done to enhance guest experiences.
There are a variety of boat types available and can be categorized by their size, capacity, quality, amenities, etc. The most common boat types to see are: Yacht, Sailboat, Catamaran, Converted Trawlers and Patrol Vessels, and the most common – Indonesian. Yachts and some of the Catamaran boats are usually going to be the most expensive on the list but provide the most comfort and amenities. The most common type is the traditional wooden Indo boat, which will have been converted to accommodate surfers. Sailboats look awesome, but many times you are still cruising around on your motor, as the Ments are notorious for being oily glassy without wind for sailing. Also many sailboats include their bowsprit and swimming deck in their length – so your actual living space will be smaller than that.
Think of your boat as your floating hotel, ask what type of amenities and space are most comfortable for your 2 weeks at sea.
Prices in charter boats vary greatly and you should look at all aspects of your trip when budgeting. Look at the per person per night cost, and also factor in additional expenses such as:
Beer & Drinks
Many boats offer a beer quota of 2-8 beers per day. Check this out so you don’t get hit with a high bar bill on the way out. Wine and Spirits are generally not included on most of the boats – if you are interested in this, do some research before to make sure the boats will be stocked ahead of time, and you know the price you are getting.
Without internet you may feel like you’ve lost out on some leads back home, which may have you rushing back or stressed about things you may be missing out on. Only a few boats have satellite internet which allow you to stay up to date with work or family issues that may come up while you are at sea. The other boats will either be out of touch (perhaps that’s what you are looking for), or will be anchored up next to one of the few cell towers on the islands – which can get very crowded. If that’s the case, make sure you get a SIM card ahead of time.
Mentawais surf tax
Ever since 2016, there is a mandatory surf tax, make sure you know if this is included in your bill or will be paid on departure.
Duration of Stay
We always recommend two week trips to maximize your swell window. Traveling half way across the world and missing a major ground swell is a huge bummer. More and more boats are offering shorter trips with more time in port in Padang. The boats who stay out longer can usually nab a few days when most of the boats are in port, and can sneak even the high profile spots empty.
Choosing you charter boat can be a daunting task but by making sure the company you choose has the right experience, quality equipment, and skill you will alleviate a lot of your anxiety knowing that you will be in good hands. Having confidence in the company you choose is essential to making sure you have everything you need to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. Cutting corners to save a buck may very well cost you that perfect wave.
The Asia is a typical Indo style boat, similar to the other 75-80′ Indo boats like the Oasis, Malaleuca etc. They claim to be the cheapest charter in the Mentawais – with dorm style accommodations for 8 plus another 3 room cabin for 11 guests total.Visit Website
The Barrenjoey is an Australian built sailboat. John McGroder and his wife Belinda have been operating her since about 2000 and John is an accomplished captain. He skippered the MV Indies Trader during parts of the Quiksilver Crossing before buying his own boat, the Barrenjoey. Accommodation is dorm style + 2 private cabins.Visit Website
The Bintang is a well known boat in the Ments – 115′ long (tied for the longest boat in the ments with the Star Koat 2) but also having that traditional sailboat look. Many sailboats include their bowsprit and back swimming platforms in length. She was built in Perth in 1988, but went through a refit in 2017. As is the case with most sailboats, accommodations are dorm style below deck.Visit Website
Built in an Indo style, but by westerners to accommodate wider and taller areas, with lots of room – 10 surfers per trip in the dorm style cabin.Visit Website
5. Crystal Clear
The Crystal Clear is a new catamaran, operated by long time boat captain around indo, Moose. She is a new boat, built in 2016 – being uniquely yellow colored.Visit Website
The D’bora is a large Indo boat (80′) similar in shape to the Oasis or Malaleuca or its sister ship the Indo Satu. Guests will sleep in a shared dorm style space for 8, plus another area for 2 more surfers for a total of 10 guests. The D’Bora and Indo Satu are operated by Mentawai Daze.Visit Website
7. Huey 1
A unique boat for the Ments, as it is a Japanese patrol vessel. It has been maintained and operated by Sooly since 2005, with a new refit in 2018. They proudly state they have never missed a day of surf due to mechanical issues. Shared dorm style sleeping for 8 plus some private cabins for a total of 10 surfers.Visit Website
8. Indies Trader III
The Trader 3 is one of the most luxurious and iconic boats in the Mentawais. The original MV Indies Trader has a rich history of discoveries, and was the first charter boat in the Mentawai Islands / Sumatra, and though that boat has moved on to the Marshall Islands, the Trader 3 continues the legacy, and offers supreme comfort, range, satellite internet, jet ski and more – for those who want to pull out all the stops. 24/7 Satellite Internet lets you go further out and still have access to surf and weather forecasts, as well as emails and messages to back home. You don’t have to hang out near the crowded cell towers.Visit Website
9. Indo Satu
The Indo Satu is a new boat, built in a classic indo style with wood trim. She is run by the owners of the D’bora. Guests stay in shared dorm style accommodations below, with up to 8 surfers.Visit Website
The Jiwa (meaning “soul”) is an Indonesian sail boat with dorm style accommodations below deck for up to 10 guests. The main hang out area is on the shaded top deck with a comfortable sitting area. Surf guide, former UK pro surfer Eugene – with many trips heading north, but also doing trips in the Mentawais.Visit Website
11. Kai Dua (Kaimana II)
The Kai Dua (Kaimana 2) is bigger sister to the Kai Satu (Kaimana 1), built in 2013. She has a shorter overall length at 75′ (compared to 80′) but has a large main deck and upper deck to give a lot more room for larger groups so you have plenty of room (standard 10 or max 12).Visit Website
12. Kai Satu (Kaimana 1)
The Kai Satu (Kamaina or Kaimana 1) is being renovated for the 2019 season. She is the twin boat to the Malaleuca, similar to the 80′ Indo style boats, with 6 double berth cabins below and a shaded area on the top deck.Visit Website
13. King Mellenium II
She is an aluminum catamaran that was built in Australia in 1995, and refit in 2007. There are 4 triple rooms which can fit 12 surfers total. Similar form factor to the Addiction but a bit smaller (62′ compared to 80′).Visit Website
14. King Millenium I
The King Millenium 1 is the cheaper of the two King Milleniums, featuring traditional style Indo building and 3 double and 1 Quadruple bedroom below.Visit Website
15. KM Aileoita
The Aileoita is another Indo style boat, that comes in at 70′ and can fit 10 surfers. Good for budgets if you are ok to stack in 10 people on a relatively small boat.Visit Website
16. Kuda Laut
The Kuda Laut is one of the smallest boats available for charter in the Mentawais, coming in at 58′ (Switchfoot, Tengirri and Orca Laut are also under 60′). She is an Indo built sailboat, with an extensive refit in 2018. Shared dorm style accommodation below for up to 8 surfers.Visit Website
17. Maha Bintang
The Maha Bintang is not to be confused with the Bintang Sailboat, surfers just like naming their boats after beer they like! She is a smaller (62′) yacht built in 2010, good for smaller crews, with a max capacity of 8 surfers in 2 x 4 person rooms.Visit Website
The Mahogany is an Indo style boat, built in traditional Bugis / Sulawesi style in Indonesia timber.Visit Website
The Malaleuca is an indo style boat with lots of room for guests in 6 cabins and a large covered upper deck area. They do not try to be the fanciest boat in Indo, but claim to be the best value.Visit Website
The Mangalui (or Mangalui Ndulu meaning “wave searcher”) is a long time Mentawai boat, designed by Matt Cruden and Greg Spindler, arriving into Indo in 1996. The boat is now partnered with Resort Latitude Zero (in the Telos). Matt does not captain every charter, but works with experienced captains. Guests stay in dorm style bunks for 8 + 2 more near the saloon.Visit Website
21. Moon Palikir
One of the larger boats in the Ments (fourth only to her sister the Star Koat 2, the Ratu Motu, and the Bintang), with private cabins as opposed to some of the shared dorm style sleeping arrangements of other budget charters.Visit Website
22. MV Addiction
The Addiction is a mid-range/high end charter (along with the Pelagic, Trader 3 and Ratu Motu), with lots of inside the main deck due to the wide profile of the catamaran. Though up to 12 guests could fit, most charters are 10 surfers split between the 5 cabins.Visit Website
23. Naga Laut
The Naga Laut is a large boat which can accommodate up to 14 guests, but standard trips are anywhere from 8-12 surfers. She was built in 1999, and captained by Sumatra local Captain Ramu.Visit Website
The Nomad is a traditional Indo boat built in 1995, captained by the young Jake Thompson – who probably surfs better than anyone on the trip. They also offer complimentary photo service as well.Visit Website
26. Nusa Dewata
The Nusa Dewata is an Indo style boat, the first boat built in Indo specifically for surf charters back in 1992. She is a smaller sailboat, good for small groups of 5-6 surfers.Visit Website
27. Nusantara (Samudra Biru)
The Nusantara (also known as Samudra Biru or Blue Ocean) is a unique shaped catamaran, being the only one of its kind in the Ments. Accommodations are located below in each pontoon, with room for 5 in each.Visit Website
The Oasis is an Indo style boat, similar to some of the other charters with a shaded back upper deck and 4 double berth cabins below. She became part of the Mentawai surf boats in 2007 when the owners partnered to build her.Visit Website
29. Ocean Dreams
Ocean Dreams is an Indo style boat, coming in at 75ft. She is similar to a lot of the other Indo boats in terms of form factor. Dorm style accommodations.Visit Website
30. Orca Laut
The Orca Laut is a newer boat doing charters, but under a crew with lots of experience, including former Indies Trader crew. They claim “Champagne Barrels on a Bintang Budget” on their social media.Visit Website
The MV Pelagic is the smallest of the mid-range/higher end boats in Indo (Trader 3, Ratu Motu, Addiction), with 4 double rooms for up to 8 surfers. She was built in Australia in 2002 by Fine Entry Marine.Visit Website
32. Raja Elang
The Raja Elang is an Australian built yacht, captained by Tony “Doris” Eltherington. Doris is a longtime friend of Martin Daly, and former skipper of some of the Indies Trader boats. He is a great surfer, and also known for finding and rescuing Brett Archibald, who fell over during the crossing from Padang and tread water for 27 hours.Visit Website
33. Ratu Motu
The Ratu Motu (formerly the Indies Trader IV) is the biggest surf charter boat in the Mentwais. There are a few boats that are longer (Bintang and Star Koat 2), but the Ratu Motu is bigger overall. With tons of cabins, including luxury state rooms on the main floor, plus 4 more state rooms with ensuites below + tons of double berth cabins – you can fit a small army on her. You can also land a helicopter on the top, which is unique, and was featured heavily in Young Guns 2. Affectionately called the “death star”, as a surfer sits in the lineup and see a boat coming around the corner “That’s not a boat, that’s a death star!”Visit Website
34. Santa Lusia
The Santa Lusia is a budget charter boat which can fit 11 guests in shared, dorm style accommodations. She is a 65 foot Indo style boat.Visit Website
35. Santana Laut
The Santana Laut is a unique boat, being a converted Trawler / Fishing boat. She has the industrial look with a high up deck and can fit up to 12 guests.Visit Website
The Saraina is an Indo style boat built in 2003, and refit in 2014. Owned and operated by Mentawai Local Dedi and surfer Trent Woodleigh. Bunk style accommodations below, with 2 rooms each with 5 beds.Visit Website
37. Sibon Baru
The Sibon Baru (formerly the Bohemian Baru) is a 62′ catamaran, which can fit up to 12 guests in 6 rooms. Built in 2011, she has the sister boat run by the same company, the Sibon Jaya.Visit Website
38. Sibon Jaya
The Sibon Jaya is the slightly larger (70′) sister to the Sibon Baru. Built in 2015, she is new with nice interiors.Visit Website
39. Southern Cross
Built from the ground up in 2002, the Southern Cross is an Indo style charter. Dorm style sleeping for 8 plus 2 private cabins.Visit Website
40. Star Koat2
The longest boat in the islands, coming in at 115′ (Tied with the Bintang, and the Ratu Motu right behind it at 110 and her sister the Moon Palikir at 100′). The Star Koat 2 was built in 2018 and has plenty of room, though most charters will have 12 surfers. You don’t want to go with too many more surfers even on the larger boats because of the insta-crowd factor of pulling up to a lineup.Visit Website
41. Swell Lines
Australian built charter boat, with 2 dorm style sleeping areas and one private cabin. Samia and Marco are Brazilian operators, formerly working with the Santa Lusia, but taking on the Swell Lines as of 2018.Visit Website
Switchfoot is another of the smaller catamarans like the Tengirri and King Millenium 2. She was built in Java by a German boat building company, commissioned by captain Jason Quinn. She is considered a mid range luxury boat, especially for smaller groups, though she can take up 10 guests in 5 double berth cabins.Visit Website
The Tengirri is an Australian built catamaran, the only one in the Mentawais coming in under 50′. It can go quick when it wants, up to 17 knots. She has been operating in Indo since 2005 and is good for small groups (up to 8) but at half the size of some of the other boats in the Indo, you might want to stick with less surfers.Visit Website
Click on Heading to sort Alphabetically, Type, Length, Capacity, Satellite Internet (Default is Length)
|Barrenjoey||Sailboat||70'||10||2 Double, Shared Space for 6||No|
|Bintang||Sailboat||115'||13||2 Quadruple, 1 Quintuple||No|
|Crystal Clear||Cat||72'||10||2 Double Cabins, 8 Singles Dorm Style||No|
|D’Bora||Indo||80'||10||2 Single, Shared Space for 8||No|
|Huey 1||Patrol Vessel||82'||10||Shared Space||No|
|Indies Trader III||Yacht||88'||8||3 Double / 2 Single State||Yes|
|Indo Satu||Indo||80'||8||Shared Space for Eight, 1 Single||No|
|Kai Dua (Kaimana II)||Indo||75'||12||2 Triple, 3 Double||No|
|Kai Satu (Kaimana 1)||Indo||80'||12||6 Double||No|
|King Mellenium II||Cat||62'||12||4 Triple||No|
|King Millenium I||Indo||65'||10||3 Double, 1 Quadruple||No|
|KM Aileoita||Indo||70'||10||5 Double||No|
|Kuda Laut||Indo||58'||8||Shared Space||No|
|Maha Bintang||Yacht||62'||8||2 Quadruple||No|
|Malaleuca||Indo||80'||10||4 Triple, 1 Double||No|
|Mangalui||Sailboat||84'||8||Share Space for Eight||No|
|Moon Palikir||Indo||100'||12||4 Double / 1 Quadruple||No|
|MV Addiction||Cat||80'||10||5 Double||No|
|Naga Laut||Indo||72'||12||4 Double, 1 Quadruple||No|
|Nomad||Indo||60'||8||Shared Space for Eight||No|
|Nusa Dewata||Sailboat||68'||6||Shared Space||No|
|Nusantara (Samudra Biru)||Cat||70'||10||Shared Space (5 in each side)||No|
|Ocean Dreams||Indo||75'||12||Dorm Style||No|
|Orca Laut||Indo||53'||8||2 Double, 1 Quadruple||No|
|Raja Elang||Yacht||65'||9||1 Double, 9 Single||No|
|Ratu Motu||Yacht||110'||18||8 Single State / 7 Double||Yes|
|Santa Lusia||Indo||65'||11||Shared Space||No|
|Santana Laut||Trawler||70'||12||Various Cabins||No|
|Sibon Baru||Cat||62'||12||6 Double||No|
|Sibon Jaya||Cat||70'||10||5 Double||No|
|Southern Cross||Indo||75'||9||Dorm Style for 8, plus 2 private cabins||No|
|Star Koat2||Indo||115'||12||6 Double||No|
|Swell Lines||Yacht||59'||10||1 Quadruple, 2 Triple||No|
|Tengirri||Cat||46'||8||4 Single, 2 Double||No|