Choosing (the right) surf charter boat
The ultimate boat trip to the Mentawai Islands
If you are planning a boat trip to the Mentawai Islands, its pretty easy to become overwhelmed with the details. Here are some helpful hints and tips so that you can pick the right charter boat for your needs to maximise your enjoyment when visiting these remarkable islands.
Create Your Group
Before embarking on your adventure, the first step is to choose a leader. This will be the person in your group who organizes the trip, contacts the agents, arranges the charter boat, and so forth. If its just you and a buddy, thats fine, but in an ideal world get at least four people on board. If its a special occasion its usually easier to get a pass from the wife (or girl friend) in which case you should really shoot for around 10 friends. This seems to be the magic number to guarantee getting an entire boat (just for your group) which definitely makes for an even better trip. If you're a smaller group, certainly consider a smaller boat that caters for groups of 4-8 surfers. The point being, that whatever happens, you generally want to be the majority group onboard. This will mean you get more say on where you'll surf. It'll feel more like your boat too. So whenever possible fill the boat yourselves as otherwise you might end up with a couple of annoying tag alongs that might be a real spoiler. Boats feel particularly small when you're sharing with people you dont get on with!
Tip: Create a Facebook group page to keep everyone informed about the progress of the trip.
Choose the Date
Perhaps the toughest part of planning your trip is having everyone settle on a date to go. You’ll need to do this ASAP to get enough lead time to properly plan out the trip. If you are going during peak season, the earlier you settle on a date, the better. If there are some in your group who have not surfed in a while or may not be in the best condition, you may want to go during the off-season (November-March) when the surf is more forgiving & certainly less crowded.
Tip: Most charter boats run from April to October, but there are some that operate all year-round, so keep them in mind when booking your trip.
Set Your Budget
Standard boat trips will last for 10 to 12 days & you’ll expect to pay between $2,000 to $3,500 per person. Add flights, hotels & spending money & you'll soon get a ballpark figure. A typical deposit is $500 per person, so get that commitment right away from everyone to brush off the time wasters.
Afterwards, create a list of all boats that fall within your budget and update your Facebook group page, so everyone is in the loop.
Get the Right Surf Boat
Now that you know the size of your group and your overall budget, the next step is getting the right surf boat. While many charter boats are similar in size, there are important differences. Research the options in detail and choose the one that is best for your group. Some of the factors you should consider include the following;
Size and type of surf boat: Is it a motor cruiser or sail boat? For those who get seasick, a motor cruiser or catamaran may be the better choice as they're more stable when parked.
The number of Cabins: The more room, the better. Ideally 2-3 beds per cabin. The cheaper options usually have 1 large sleeping cabin which sucks if you're a light sleeper and some of your buddies snore (there's always one!). Also keep in mind the combined deck space so you have the occasional opportunity to escape from the group!
Speed: 8 to 10 knots is typical, though some may be a bit faster. Faster the better!
Speedboats: Ideally, you’ll want 2 speedboats (tenders) to shuttle your party to the waves each day, although many have just 1. Make a note of the length and engine size. You’ll want access to fast, powerful boats for obvious reasons.
Tip: Look for a charter boat that offers coverage from the sun in the form of a covered deck. It’s good to get a break from the heat of the sun, as its particularly punishing.
You’ll find many boats offer a wealth of amenities for your trip, including collecting your group from the airport along with meals, snacks, and soft drinks during your trip (very standard for all boats). Some will offer a few beers each day (approx 2-4 cans pp), so check out the beer quota. Plus, some will have photography services as an extra, so expect to add $200 to $300 for the photos per person (some offer free photos). Dont forget Mentawai Surf Tax is around $75 pp for 15 days. If you want to go to a different destination like the Telo Islands, some charters will add an extra fuel surcharge (of course some dont charge). Just make a note of all of these extras as they can really add up.
Captain & Surf Guide
When in the Mentawai Islands, only charter boats that fly the Indonesian flag can legally operate in the waters. The captain must also be recognized by Indonesia as well. This is different compared to the Banyak Islands which have different regulations. Your surf guide will always speak English.
The surf charter you choose should have all the required safety features which include the following;
Flares & More
Make sure they go the extra mile to ensure that you and your party have a safe trip. This is where checking out customer reviews and recommendations can be most helpful.
Note: All guests are required to have their own travel insurance with medivac (medical evacuation).
Since nearly all charter boats do not show on TripAdvisor, it may be difficult at first to find good customer reviews. You can always start with recommendations from friends and family, but if you do not know of anyone who has been on a trip to the islands, the next best step is going on Facebook to check out the boats Facebook page reviews.
Tip: Booking with a reputable booking agent (like Surf Camp Sumatra!) is also a great way to feel confident in booking your trip if you're stugging with recommendations. Agents are always able to offer the same pricing (as going direct to the charter boats) but will often give far better customer service!
Still unsure about where to start!?
If you're looking to take a boat trip to the Mentawai Islands (or Telos, Banyaks etc) but still feel unsure about your options, start out by checking out our recommendations here: Surf Charter Boats
We're always happy to answer any questions you might have so email us anytime at [email protected]