Nias Island, cultural paradise in middle of ocean

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(Photo: Pramitha Hendra)

IO – Visiting Nias Island feels like exploring a past life with a time machine. Time seems to stop when witnessing the megalithic culture that is still in pristine condition. In the middle of the Indian Ocean, the island is home to exquisite stone age culture.

With an area of ​​around 5,000 km2, Nias Island is always neat and charming to immerse ourselves into. The island consists of 27 small islands, 11 of which are inhabited, including Nias Island, Simeuleu Island, Mentawai Island, and Enggano Island. And Nias is the largest island of the group. For those of you who want to explore the splendor of the cultural paradise of Nias, there will be several lodging facilities available at Gunungsitoli, the capital of Nias. Inside, there is also the Nias Heritage Museum, which holds a collection of some 6,500 cultural objects crafted by the local community.

For centuries, Nias Island has been inhabited by people who live independently. The authenticity of their culture is well-preserved in the face of western cultural “contamination”, so it is not surprising that the culture and the tradition they preserve is like a magnet for tourists who come from afar. In the local language, Nias people often call themselves “Ona Niha” which means Son of Man.

Nias is famed for its stone culture, one of the most famous is the stone jumping attraction performed by local youths who leap over a 2-meter high stone wall. The Fahombe or stone jumping tradition was born from the habit of fighting between villages in Nias. The tradition was formerly specialized as preparations for war where each village fortified with bamboo as high as 2 meters, so the village men had to be trained to be able to jump over the barrier. This tradition is also a test of the courage and the initiation ritual of maturity for Nias Island boys.

If you want to experience the splendor of Nias culture, try to take a walk around the surrounding villages to see the houses with unique architecture that were built centuries ago. Interestingly, the house in the village of Hilisimaetano is earthquake-resistant, with pillars resting on boulders. The pillars were made with sloping stacks of stone to create a strong three-dimensional structure. Some say the design of wooden boathouses was inspired by Dutch ships carrying spices. Seeing these intricate wood carvings will amaze you when you visit the homes of residents in this region.

Nias Island is on the west coast of North Sumatra. Gunungsitoli is the gateway to Nias Island. Binaka Airport is 15 km from the city. To go to this destination, there are several routes, namely through the city of Medan or Padang. Every day there are at least two flights, in the morning and in the afternoon. From Padang there are two alternative routes by land and air. By the main road, a trip from Padang through Sibolga is a long journey of about 6 hours. From Sibolga to Gunungsitoli, you’ll be using a fast ferry. The journey takes about3 hours with the most expensive tariff of IDR. 100,000. By air, you can use the pioneering flights of SMAC airlines, which operate only on Monday and Friday. From Padang, you’ll transit briefly to Telo Island then from there directly to Binaka. The travel fare is IDR 250,000. (Pramitha Hendra)