Kandui Resort, Mentawais – A Travel Review by a Surfing Mama
Kandui Resort, located in the beautiful Mentawais Islands off West Sumatra in Indonesia, is every surfer’s dream. One of the most remote places I’ve ever been to and, also one of the most beautiful. We have been dreaming about coming here for many years and we not only finally made it happen, but made it happen with 10 of our closest friends.
After a four-hour boat trip and two days of prior travel, we made it to the place we would call home for ten unforgettable days. Without saying a word, you could feel the energy and child-like excitement between us all. No words were needed as the sparkle in our eyes said it all. This place was breathtakingly beautiful and gosh were we ready for this holiday to begin. We knew a massive swell was forecasted and therefore could not ignore the immense power of the ocean waters slowly moving, rolling and shifting beneath us. A beautiful rhythm soon to be discovered by all surfers amongst the group. We all knew we were going to be catching some of the biggest and best waves of our lives in the days to come - the anticipation was high and the nerves were real.
This place has the hottest sun we’ve ever felt, some of the most beautiful and warmest ocean waters we’ve ever seen, definitely the most ridiculously perfect waves in the world, an abundance of fresh coconuts, shells and pristine empty beaches. It’s perfection for surfers and non-surfers alike - The kind of place that makes you want to quit your day jobs and take up island-life as a fulltime profession. Where you connect with nature, live off freshly caught fish, coconuts and monkey finger bananas, and never want to leave.
Kandui Resort operates on alternating 10 or 11 day slots and takes a maximum of 18 guests at a time. It attracts surfers from all over the world. We booked this trip 10 months earlier knowing that June would be one of the better months to travel to the Mentawais. But ultimately, the main reason we picked June was because it worked for all 11 of us friends that decided to come on this trip. Every single person that works on this island said that we got the best 10 days of the entire year. The entire year!! The biggest and best swell, perfectly cloudless and sunny days, ridiculous sunsets every night, a beautiful full moon… Some Kandui regulars argue it was the best 10 day combination of swell, wind and tides in nearly a decade. I know that we would have had an amazing time no matter how good the weather and waves, but hearing that certainly makes us feel extremely lucky and grateful.
Traveling to Kandui with Children
We traveled here with our two beautiful children and although it is a bit of a schlepp to get to (factor in two days of travel), it is worth every little bit of effort. And getting here is part of the journey and adventure after all. I had asked about babysitting options and was told there would be someone available if we needed. My expectations were that I’d be able to leave the kids for a couple of hours here and there so that I could get a surf in or head out on a boat with the rest of the crew. Boy were my expectations exceeded. Beyond exceeded. Although Kandui doesn’t market itself as such, it is extremely child-friendly. Kaia, our 6 month-old baby girl, was practically adopted by the local staff for the entire 10 days that we spent on the island. The ladies that looked after her were experienced, loving and so genuine. For the first few days I would hand her off for a few hours at a time and by the end of our stay, I would literally only see her for 10-20 minute slots during the day to nurse her, before she was whisked off again by the beautiful Vera (the experienced grandmother on the island), who became a second mama to her in those days. I have never experienced this level of care and love in babysitting and the word ‘gratitude’ doesn’t even begin to explain what I felt.
Noah, our 2.5-year-old son, was able to come with us on most outings, but if Rob and I both felt like a surf at the same time or would prefer to leave him, he was also happily minded by the warm hearted and caring staff. He spent his days playing with kittens, dogs, feeding fish, as well as the tortoise. We took him SUPing, surfing on the smaller waves out the front of the resort, took him on boat trips to watch other surf breaks, and spent hours with him playing on and off the pontoon in the ocean. There is no swimming pool at Kandui Resort but they do have plans to build one in the coming years, which will make the place even more amazing and child-friendly.
The Mentawais is on every surfers wish list. Most surfers will access this remote place in the world through a boat trip. Whilst this is most certainly special, being able to stay at a resort whilst still having unlimited boat access to some of the most amazing surf breaks in the world, is literally a dream come true for any surfer. And as a wife of a surfer, with children in tow, staying on a resort is the only real way to do it J If you love surf and the culture that surrounds it, I cannot recommend this place enough.
Surfing and Beyond
Although this place is paradise for anyone that is lucky enough to spend some time here, it is fair to say that if you are not a surfer and your better half isn’t a surfer either, you won’t want to choose this place as a holiday destination. The main attraction is surfing after all and for most that come here, that is all you do, day in and day out. The boys always got up at the crack of dawn to go surfing. Most of them would come back for breakfast and lunch, but it wasn’t uncommon if they stayed out all day. One of our friends stayed out for an entire 12 hours of surfing in a day. Literally 12 hours, no lie. The resort has a couple experienced surf guides that are able to advise which surf breaks are best given the current wind and swell forecasts, so you always feel like you’re in good hands. There are countless world class surf breaks within a 20min boat ride radius but most are 5-10min away from the island. Lucky for us girls, our two favourite breaks were right out front so we never had to go far at all. Two of our friends that traveled with us, wrote up a fantastic blog post on this trip, explaining all the surf breaks and activities in much more detail than I could ever do. There are also a whole heap more amazing photos of the boys surfing on there! Check out their beautifully written post on their website 'Two Years Notice' here.
Surfing has always been a love of mine and I really wish I would have stayed more consistent with it since I first gave it a go during a summer surf camp in France when I was 15 years old. Unfortunately, other hobbies and life interests look over these past 10 years and I didn’t spend much time surfing in my 20s. Something I regret, I must admit, and therefore one of my intentions for my 30’s (I turn 30 this year and am starting a ‘30 in my 30s’ Intentions List!) is to give surfing a red hot go again. This trip was the perfect kick-starter for that. Going to a place where the main focus is surfing is the way to go. The surfing stoke that surrounds you just makes you want to paddle out and catch waves, that would normally be way out of your comfort zone. I loved having my hubby and best friends by my side, encouraging me. I loved watching them surf, learning from them and seeing the pure joy on their faces after they caught the best waves of their life. Surfing on reef (what the Mentawais is famous for) is definitely not my favourite and admittedly I was scared and nervous most of the time, but nothing bad ever happened, so although the fear was completely normal, it was easy enough to overcome. I had to duck dive a few 3 foot sets (which is verrrry big for little, beginner me) and got caught on the inside a few times. My arms were jelly after 10minutes into a surfing session and at times the reef was only waist or knee deep high, but I never once regretted going out for a paddle. I caught my biggest and best waves yet, I tried ‘pumping’ for the first time, I got over my fear of steep take offs and took a few solid, memorable tumbles in amongst it all. I am so grateful for my surfing buddies, for their encouragement and support - my surf stoke has never been so high.
Watching our little man, Noah, conquer so many fears was by far, the absolute highlight of the trip for both Rob and myself. From running away from 5cm waves on the shoreline and screaming blue-murder, to now pulling off waves most adults would think twice about catching and saying “go fast again”. From not even wanting to touch ocean waters here in Cape Town to now standing above the ocean on our local beach and saying “go swim in the deep water and catch da waves”. His floating endlessly in the ocean, riding on boats, feeding fish, catching waves with his Papa and dishing out countless hi-fives to the group was just pure sunshine on this trip. He became so comfortable in the massive body of blue ocean water and we are so proud of our little water baby.
Below are a few more amazing pictures of the boys catching some of their best waves - First images are of David, then of Rob, Yanis, Jay, and Ryan. The surfing pictures below are set up in slideshow format so be sure to click on them to move through.
The Stoke is real.
Not many surfers come here with their non-surfing partners and even fewer come with their kids. It may not be perfect for every traveler (some may want more luxury and other may want more variety in activities or cultural experiences), but it was absolutely perfect for us. Having so many of our close friends with us obviously made it even more special. Although you will meet fantastic, active and well-traveled people here, both Rob and I agreed that coming with a few close friends made this trip truly unforgettable. Rob shared some of the best waves of his life with his friends (I could never keep up with their level of surf) so when I didn’t feel like surfing, I was able to have girly conversations with the other gorgeous girls that came on this trip, whilst sun tanning, collecting shells, snorkeling, SUPing, exploring little nearby islands, or taking walks on the pristine empty beaches of Kandui Island itself. There is plenty to do even if you are not a surfer. On one of the flatter days, a few of the boys went spear fishing, whilst others took out kayaks and SUPs after finishing their rounds of ping pong matches in the nearby games room. And although it wouldn’t hurt if they had a spa-like set up at the resort (I mean, who would say no to an exfoliation or facial!?), unfortunately that infrastructure doesn’t exist…but they DO have a couple of fantastic masseuses on site for those much-needed post surf massages.
My favourite activity of all? Those sunset sessions on the pontoon. The resort has its own private pontoon set up out the front, about 300m off the beach. Its right next to 4Bobs, one of the most consistent and fun surf breaks in the area. We would all head out to the pontoon most days around 5pm with a few eskys full of drinks. We would have cruisy music playing, watch and/or surf super fun waves, swim in the warmest ocean waters, and share a few too many Bintangs, whilst the sun was setting and the most beautiful colours painted the skies around us. Noah came with us every evening and I swear it was his happy place. In and out of the water like a fish. Every night would get better than the one before and the icing on the cake was the full moon towards the end of our trip. Surfing with my hubby and best friends after the sun had set with a pastel-pink-coloured sky and the biggest, round and heavy, full moon on the horizon. Truly unforgettable.
Because Where Would we be Without Food
I didn’t have any expectations for the food. I was simply excited that I didn’t have to worry about cooking or choosing anything off a menu for 10 days straight. As a busy Mama, that is luxury enough. You can imagine how stoked I was (we all were!), when we discovered how delicious, plentiful and varied the food was. Think home-cooked breakfasts, followed by wholesome, healthy, and warm lunches and dinners. Barbecued lamb, crumbed prawns, lemon butter salmon, fresh ahi poke, creamy mustard chicken were a few of my favourite. Warm veggies and a salad option came with every meal and honestly, we couldn’t have asked for much more. And obviously, the food tastes even better when you spend countless hours swimming or surfing in the ocean.
As for drinks, my absolute favourite were the endless fresh coconuts we had available to us. At no cost at all, the staff would open fresh, cold coconuts at any point during the day. Soft drinks were free, fresh fruit juices were also available at a minimal cost and Bintangs would only cost us $1 each. We got treated to many free ones as well though as every esky full of Bintangs that ended up on the pontoon or on one of boat outings was absolutely free. You certainly pay your part upfront for staying at Kandui Resort but once you are here, there was such a feeling of unprecedented generosity and kindness that you forget you ever needed to pay anything at all.
Once the sun had set and we had washed the salt off our sun-kissed skin, we all gathered in the common room (also the dining room) and spent the evening eating good food, recounting our stories and watching the day’s photos and videos being played on the big screen. No matter what surf break you went to, there would nearly always be a boat accompanying you and the other surfers during your session, taking photos/videos and supplying drinks and snacks for that much needed energy. Those photos would be replayed that evening, which allowed everyone to share in on your surf stoke and experience. We would laugh, be impressed, pat each other on the backs and countless ‘yewwwws’ of encouragement would echo in the room. It created for such a great vibe in a big group of individuals and certainly broke down a few barriers with the people that we didn’t know before.
And That’s a Wrap
Although there is Wifi on the island, which is wonderful for keeping in touch and sharing snippets of your epic adventure, you will feel removed from day to day life whilst calling this tropical paradise home. Only being able to access it by boat (there are no roads on the island), most definitely helps in allowing you to connect with the magic of island life. I didn’t wear shoes for ten days straight, felt present, relaxed, sun soaked and so alive. We didn’t look at our watches much at all, forgot what day of the week it was and most of our daily activities were dictated by the movement of the tides in the ocean. There is truth to the saying…”At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.” Something I could get used to.
We came from all over the world (SA, US, Australia and Europe) and travelled for days to make it to this remote island in Indonesia. We caught the best waves of our lives, spent hours upon hours in the warmest and bluest ocean waters, laughed a lot, demolished a lot of sunscreen, drank too many Bintangs, ate delicious and wholesome food, and made a pact to definitely come back. This trip had a unique energy to it. We were sad to leave but our hearts felt full in every sense of the word. Kandui holds a rare magic that is hard to find in this world. I know we will be back.