While surfers have long flocked to the Mentawai Islands for its legendary waves, it's a destination that will also have a far-flung appeal to independent travellers, in particular for those wanting to meet the island's tattooed hunter-gatherer tribes. The islands' pristine beaches are also magnificent and as idyllic as any you'll find anywhere in Sumatra.
Though only 150km from the mainland, the Mentawai Islands and its people were kept isolated until the 19th century by strong winds, unpredictable currents and razor-sharp reefs. It’s thought that the archipelago separated from Sumatra some 500,000 years ago, resulting in unique flora and fauna that sees Mentawai ranked alongside Madagascar in terms of endemic primate population. Of particular interest is siamang kerdil, a rare species of black-and-yellow monkey, named simpai Mentawai by the locals.