How to choose (the right) surf charter boat
Planning a boat trip to the Mentawai Islands? Well before you contact the first charter you find online, check out our handy tips to help guide you along the way...
Firstly, pick a worthy leader even if it means self appointing yourself. You need someone who's organised and willing to research and contact endless agents and charter boats. Then, get a rough head count to gauge your group size which needs to be at least 4 but ideally closer to 10+. At this point we'd recommend creating a Facebook group page so the group leader can post his findings there and the group can comment too.
Note: Usually surf boats in the Mentawai Islands will give you the entire vessel if you have 10 guys. Although filling every bed might drive down the price (if you bring 11 or 12 guests), bear in mind that extra surfers will cramp your space in an already tight boat and not to mention another couple of guys in the line-up. Its not always more the merrier.
Whats better than a boat trip?
Picking the date for your surf trip
Choosing the right dates is tricky especially when you have to consider everyone's needs and opinions. Firstly, think about your friends overall surfing ability. Peak season will be the busier times in the Mentawai Islands but will more than likely guarantee some solid conditions. If your group consists of advanced chargers then bring it on but if your group is generally not as fit as they once were or there's a number of average surfers aboard, it might be wiser to go for one of the fringe months with surf smaller conditions & less other charters around.
Note: Most surf boats operate from April until October but many are running trips year round with guests happy to accept smaller but less crowded waves.
With set schedules of around 10-12 days, expect to pay around USD 2,200 – USD 3500 pp for your time aboard the charter boat. Check out flights, hotels and some beer money and you’ll soon get a picture of a ball park figure. Deposits are usually USD 500 per person & once they're due you'll soon get a more realistic group size and who's willing to part with their dollar. Shortly after, make a list of all the boats that fall within your budget and group size. Perhaps add an update to the facebook group page.
Choosing the right surf boat
Make a note of all the options that are within your group size & budget. You’ll realise that most charter boats will offer very similar experiences. And to a certain degree they do. The difference is in the detail and to find the best boat for your group, you’d be best off comparing some of the following factors.
Note: Make a spreadsheet and start documenting your findings.
Surf boat - size & shape
Try and find out the boats length and width. This will give you a feel of its size especially when making comparisons. Bigger is better. Recognise if its a motor cruiser or a sail boat.
Note: Catamaran's & motor cruiser's tend to sit stationary a little better than monohull sailing boats. Certainly something to consider for those prone to seasickness.
The Nusa Dewata and the Moon Palikir. Both impressive but both massively different surf boats.
For most vessels, full speed is around 8-10 knots but there are some surf boats that claim top speeds of 12 knots or more. Remember speed is your friend.
Note: Sailing boats can leave motor cruisers in their wake, although in reality, the sails rarely go up.
Cabins and social areas
Your priority is to find a charter boat with as much room as possible. Outdoor spacing is as important as inside space. Check the number of cabins. Some boats only have dormitory style sleeping quarters but (preferably) you’re after 2 or 3 beds per cabin.
Note: Outside deck areas are also extremely important factors. You'll spend as much time outside as you will inside so you're looking for a boat with more than one outdoor social area as well as covered and uncovered decks.
Dormitory or private cabin? Sleeping quarters are always a squeeze.
Your speedboat will play a big role in your trip. Ideally you want 2 boats shuttling you to the waves (speedboat as well as a small tender). Note the length & horse power.
Note: A roof can be a bonus, giving some relief from the sun - especially when hunting for waves a little further away.
Never underestimate the importance of your speedboat!
Most surf boats offer similar inclusions like airport collection, all meals, snack & soft drinks. Photography services usually aren't included (although some boats include them) so add this to the spreadsheet. Standard costs are USD 200 – USD 300 for photos per trip, per person. Also note the number of complimentary Bintang’s (beers). Most boats offer 2-3 free beers per person per night. Some will offer more.
Note: A/C usually comes as standard throughout each boats sleeping cabins and indoor social areas. But its always good to ask.
Outside deck areas ares as important as the interior.
The Captain and Surf Guide
In the Mentawai Islands, only charter boats with an Indonesian flag can legally operate in the area. The same applies to its captain that needs to be Indonesian. Other regions such as the Banyak Islands don't have the same regulations so international captains can operate legally. Surf Guide's will usually be Australian, Brazilian, American or European. They’ll always speak English.
Note: Some surf boats will have the same guide each year, so there's no harm asking the nationality.
Reputable surf boats will have all the safety features in place (life jackets, rafts, radio, flares etc) but its always good to ask.
Ask your buddies which boats they've been on or can recommend. You'll soon realise that surf boats aren’t on Trip Advisor and its difficult to get an authentic review that you can trust.
Note: Website reviews are impossible to authenticate. But Facebook page reviews are usually a little more legitimate, so be sure to check them out.
The Naga Laut. The bench mark of a good surf boat.
It’s always good to start planning early. Many groups will plan 18 months ahead to guarantee the dates they want aboard the boat of their choice. So there's never a better time to start planning than now!
As always, we're here to answer any questions you might have...