The Mentawaian culture
In the hearth of Siberut National Park lies the home of the Mentawaian medicine men. Hidden in dense rainforest are several communal groups living a semi-hunter gatherer lifestyle. These incredible, good-natured people live in complete harmony with nature. While daily activities mostly concern food gathering, they never retrieve more than they can consume. Sago is the Mentawaian staple food. The pith of the palm is ground into a flour and one tree can feed a family for up to 3 months. Apart from this, they cultivate food e.g. bananas and root vegetables, and they keep domestic animals like chickens and pigs.
A large aspect of the Mentawaian believe is that everything has a soul: men, animals, plants, objects and even temporary events like a bright blue sky. They believe that one must always take care of a soul, otherwise they might fly away or hurt someone. This is done by numerous little and large ceremonies. It is incredible to see that many still choose the traditional lifestyle over modernity. Especially since for centuries the Mentawaians seem to be one of the happiest people on earth. This idealization of life is certainly something we can learn from.
The jungle tours
In consent with the communal groups we organize jungle tours to several different villages. There you will be staying in the traditional longhouse called ‘Uma’. These communal houses are definitely Mentawaians’ most magnificent technical creation. During the daily activities you will learn in a hands-on way the culture, believes and traditions of the medicine men and their families. Such activities can be for food gathering: hunting, making poisonous arrows, fishing, learning the process from sago palm to sago bread, and collecting sago larvae. But also traditions: tattooing, loincloths, basket weaving and traditional medicine. Our tours occur in small groups and we preferably do not mix different groups together. Please get to know the different villages below. We do have group discounts.
Dorougot jungle package
Dorougot is the closest traditional village from Siberut Harbour and thus the quickest to get to. There are about five Uma’s in the village and some are open to receive guests. The most known Uma is that of medicine man teu Soromut AKA Cookie, named after his love for cookies and biscuits brought by guests. He enjoys accommodating guests and make jokes with the couple of English words he knows.
Surrounded by nature, Dorougot is a beautiful place to walk through. Also possible is a day trip to the Kulukubuk waterfall by foot or boat.
Buttui jungle package
After a incredible ride on the Rereiket river you arrive in the vibrant village called Buttui. Here you will stay in the traditional Uma of Aman Ikbuk and his family. Aman Ikbuk is always very curious about his guests and loves to get to know them.
You are able to reach the Uma by boat or partially on foot from Madobak, takes about 1 hour to walk from there. You can visit the Kulukubuk waterfall on a daytrip or on your way back to the Siberut harbour.
Malaggasat jungle package
A little past Buttui in a much quieter area lies Malaggasat. Here a medicine man built an Uma not long ago on top of a hill with a beautiful view. His name is Teu Agoi and he lives here with his wife, children and grandchildren. This is the perfect place to enjoy the culture and nature without any intense hiking.
You are able to reach the Uma by boat or partially on foot from Madobak, takes about 1.5 hours to walk from there. You can visit the Kulukubuk waterfall on a daytrip or on your way back to the Siberut harbour.
Attabai jungle package
In the midst of a beautiful valley, along a river surrounded by thick jungle lies Attabai. Here you will stay in the traditional Uma of Aman Toppele and his family. He loves animals, so the house is surrounded by dogs, chickens and pigs. Come here if you seek more privacy. Here, life is calm and withdrawn, very much in contrast with larger Uma’s.
You can visit the Kulukubuk waterfall your way back to the Siberut harbour. Best to combine with a stay in Madobak, Buttui or Malaggasat. Please consider if you are able to perform the hike, twice!
Sakuddei jungle package
The Sakuddei is one of the best known clans by anthropologists and researchers. During the 1950’s through the 1980’s the government forced the Mentawaians to give up their traditional lives and live in modernity. The Sakuddei is one of the clans which escaped in order to save their traditional culture. The Sakuddei live in one large communal uma and this is where you will be staying as well.
The hike to Sakuddei starts from Matotonan, you will have to stay here overnight. Locals walk the path in 6 hours, guests in up to 12 hours. At the end of the hike you might have to spent a night at the riverbank before a canoe picks you up to bring you to the Sakuddei uma. Guests may choose to travel the same way back or be picked up at Sagulubbe by boat at extra cost. This tour already includes a traditional dance ceremony. End your tour with a of couple days at the Umata Village accommodation at a special rate.
Simatalu jungle package
Simatalu is the mythical location of origin of the Mentawai. All clans have different myths and stories of ancestry, but they all start in Simatalu. These stories also describe how these first people started to emigrate, most of them due to conflict and quarrel. Together with the Sakkudei clan this is one of the oldest traditional clans.
The hike to Simatalu starts from Sirisura or Simabuggei depending on the condition of the Saibi river. You will have to stay one night before you start the hike to Simatalu. Most of the walking happens on rocks at the river banks with many ups and downs. Guests may choose to travel the same way back or be picked up at Betaet, by boat at extra cost. This tour already includes a traditional dance ceremony. End your tour with a couple days at the Umata Village accommodation at a special rate.
The dance ceremony
Pigs are an important currency on Siberut and approval of the souls is one of the most important aspects of the Mentawaian believe. Therefore, booking a dance ceremony is one of the best ways to support your host communal group. Not only is this an never-to-forget experience, this way they can earn the extra money to buy the things they cannot make themselves.
During the ceremony a pig will be prepared and eaten together with the communal group. All food will be evenly divided among the families present. After dinner the traditional music serves as a rhythm for the ‘turuk’ dance, in which various animals and activities are portrayed.
Included in the jungle tours
Excluded in the jungle tours