When it comes to this part of Indonesia, travellers usually come to Sumatra for hanging with wild orangutans, or surfing the Mentawai Islands. Nias is mostly attractive only to the surfing community.

Having one of the best right handers around, Nias is clearly an island where surf breaks scatter the coasts but that aside, the appeal is limited to the generic travelling community. For surfers who enjoy riding from dawn to dusk, Nias ticks all the boxes.

Nias, Indonesia
Nias is a small island (population approx. 700,000), 130km West of Sumatra mainland, and could be considered fairly underdeveloped. There’s just one road leading from the airport and if anything happens to that section of the road, the island has few resources available to keep functioning well. Many of the islands roads are windy, unsealed, and indirect. Expect a major queue at petrol stations in demonstration of how efficiency hasn’t quite made it’s way to Nias yet.

Gunung Sitoli is Nias’ airport. Planes fly between here and Medan (Sumatra’s capital city) plus some of the smaller islands nearby. The airport is simple; not the type you’d worry about checking in 3 hrs prior to departure. All departures are domestic and arriving 30 minutes prior to flying should be sufficient.

There are ferry’s that travel to Nias, but the timetable is limited. The ferry schedule is:

  • Singkil to Nias: 6 hour journey, Mondays and Thursday morning. Economy class is approx 52,000Rp
  • Sibolga to Nias: 10-13 hour journey, Tuesday’s, Thursday’s and Saturday’s at 7pm. Cost is approximately 65,000/120,000Rp economy/VIP

There are plenty of drivers lingering around Gunung Sitoli airport hoping to take you to accommodation. Without any obvious signs of a system, somehow each independent driver appears to either work within a larger organisation or be overly gracious not to take another drivers business. The drivers speak limited English and have a particularly laid back attitude. Expect to cooperate as there are no other options for travel from Gunung Sitoli, and the airport isn’t located near accommodation, nor are there buses on the island.

Nias isn’t the kind of place for a tropical beach holiday. The ocean is warm and clean but in terms of sandy beach holiday with glamorous holiday accommodation, Nias would easily be replaced by more attractive Indonesian beaches. On Nias either the ocean has a rocky floor, big waves that aren’t so good for swimming, or travellers could lazing about in swimwear among the locals. Nias is where you go for surfing and that’s about all.

One of the most popular surf spots is Sorake. Located on the southern coastline, Sorake boasts one of the world’s best surf breaks. It’ll take around 3 hrs to drive from Gunung Sitoli to Sorake, and on arrival expect the surf break, a few losmen, and little else. Nothing but surf = surfer’s paradise.

Nias, Indonesia

Sorake’s surf break is at the end of a road that has around a half dozen very basic losmen, one slightly nicer accommodation, and a few local houses. There isn’t a market, shops or anything similar so arrive prepared. The rocky shore isn’t great for swimming. But for surfers, this could be an ideal spot; budget accommodation, hard to reach and therefore minimal tourists, and friendly local kids.

Nias indonesia
Local surf culture at Sorake is inspiring. The kids ride boards which are either handed down from tourist, or broken ones that were once left behind but have been repaired. The kids ride the waves after school, cheerfully encouraging one anther to give it a go and getting to know the tourists. This is certainly a happy wave culture that is second t none.

There are other breaks on the island, as well as surf schools and camps. No public transport available on the island or scooters for hire mean that Nias is the kind of place where you choose your surf break and accommodation, then stay put for the duration of your surf holiday.