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+ Reef quality
+ Consistent swells
+ Light crowds
+ Untouched scenery
- No budget options
- Lack of information
- Dangerous navigation
- Malaria infested
Blue Tomato

Simeulue and Banyak Islands, Indonesia, EAST ASIA

, John Callahan

Surf Spots

Tea Bags
Thailand - Simeulue
Pulau Babi
Treasure Island
Lolok Point
Lizards Nest

The Surf

Simeulue and Banyak still maintain a frontier status, avoiding the charter boat congestion of the Ments through a combination of lower consistency and spot density, treating smaller groups to some lively waves, including one of Indo’s best rights. The offshore islands of Sumatra are no secret to surfers; the Mentawais attract ever-increasing crowds to it’s feast of barrels and Nias has continued to draw surf adventurers to Lagundri for the last 35 years, but head further north and the path is far less travelled. The remote island of Simeulue is located 120km (75mi) from the Sumatran west coast, where the surprisingly busy town of Sinabang thrives on trading cloves. To the east, and closer to the mainland by 50kms, the Banyak Island group is in the South Aceh Regency, supporting small populations on seven of the bigger islands, while the majority of the others remain uninhabited. Not surprisingly, these “Many” islands have kept off the radar as Aceh’s civil unrest made getting permits difficult until recently. Many spots remain nameless, or have multiple names from the different boat operators that ply these waters, but there’s a wide choice of lefts and rights, ranging from shallow barrels to deeper, long, cruisey waves as well as some good off-season beachbreaks.

When to Go

Equatorial shores generally suffer from a lack of exposure to swells, but the Southern Indian Ocean is the most efficient swell machine on the planet. Expect numerous 6-10ft (2-3m) SW swells per month between April and October, as well as occasional 3-6ft (1-2m) swells during off-season, with various 2-6ft (0.6-2m) cyclonic swells and some 1-2ft (0.3-0.6m) underlying wind swell. This area receives the same swells as the Mentawai between April and October, the optimal season being June-August. It still receives less swell than Nias which can be used as a back-up option if it’s really too small. Due to the doldrums latitude, wind patterns are pretty calm, allegedly producing glassy conditions 15% of the time. There are no real dominant winds. January to May tends to be NW, June to Sept is rather SE, and October to Dec is rather NE. Tide ranges are only 2-3ft (0.6-1m) but matter plenty at shallow spots, where sharp reefs pose a real threat.

dominant swell S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW S -SW
swell size (ft) 3 4-5 4-5 5-6 5 3-4
consistency (%) 55 65 75 85 70 70
dominant wind W -NE SE -N E -SW E -SW SW -N SW -N
average force F2 F2 F2 F2 F3 F3
consistency (%) 55 56 45 56 63 59
water temp (C) 29 28 28 27 27 28
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts
80,279 Simeulue

382km (239mi) Simeulue

GMT +7h

Travel Information


The climate in these islands is typically equatorial with very high temperatures interspersed by a few months of rain. Temperatures vary little across the year. Western Indonesia’s dry season is May-Sept but 1-2h late afternoon showers can still be expected. During the October to April rainy season, it’s rare to see more than half a day pass without any precipitation. Water is as warm as it gets, neoprene would only serve as reef protection. Lack of winds is good for glassy surf but does not help to dry clothes or feel cool -– it takes a few days to adapt.


This is one of the remotest areas on earth, forget about raging nightlife and think eco-activities: trek and dive on Pulau Palambak or Pulau Balai. Green turtles and occasionally leatherback turtles can be seen laying eggs on Pulau Bangkaru. The untouched jungles offer unique flora and fauna and are best explored by boat.


With few surf-related charters and one camp, crowds should not be a problem, even when other boats from the Mentawai area cruise over. Chloroquine-resistant malaria cases have been reported- take the appropriate medication. These shallow and treacherous reefs are several days away from medical attention; take a helmet and serious medical equipment.


Take everything, there are no exchange facilities and surfing equipment is unheard of. Pulau Balai (Banyak) is one of the only places with electricity in the evening. The Banyak Islands are getting increasingly popular with travelers and may not remain off the beaten path for long.