Indonesia days 17-19: authentic beach village life on Nias Island

Following my quiet, solo time at Lake Toba, I was ready for some beach time, so I headed to one of Sumatra’s beach islands on the west coast called Nias Island. There are a LOT of islands to choose from in Indonesia, and Nias isn’t usually on the backpacker trail radar. I ended up on Nias because a few weeks ago, I was looking at volunteering gigs on Workaway when I was considering working at another hostel like I did in India. I connected with Arif from Salty Dog Hostel on Nias Island, and after some back and forth, I couldn’t fit it into my plans. We kept in touch and I decided to visit as a guest. 🙂 It was the absolute best decision since this hostel, Arif, and the people here have made me feel at home and have helped me experience authentic island life.

Day 17: travel day + swimming hole + cultural village

I flew into Nias from Medan in the morning and then took a 2.5-hour cab ride to my hostel. The slow, steamy beach vibes hit me right away as we drove through along the palm tree-lined coast with bright blue water. It was different from any other part of Indonesia yet and I was ready to switch into beach mode.

I made it to Salty Dog Hostel and was immediately greeted by the other volunteers and Arif. I felt at home right away and was honestly happy to see other westerners who were so friendly and social. The hostel itself was right on Baholo Beach and had plenty of common space to chill. I felt like I could be genuinely happy just hanging out at the hostel the entire time, but that didn’t happen of course. 🙂

Within minutes of settling in, Arif asked if I wanted to join the group at a secret swimming hole, and I said yes! I joined Arif, the volunteers, and some Indonesian guests to a trailhead where we hiked in the jungle to the swimming hole. It was a steep climb that took about 20 minutes.

When we reached the swimming hole, it felt like our efforts were so worth it. There were 12 pools all with clean, crystal blue water…and the best part – we had it all to ourselves!

Sweating from our hike, we happily jumped in and swam around. The boys even cliff jumped off a 10-meter cliff. I’ve cliff-jumped in the past but I feel like those days are behind me. 😉 It was such a lovely afternoon, and I’m so grateful Arif took time out of his schedule to show us this local secret!

After swimming, Arif took us to a cultural village called Desa Bawomataluo. This was a tourist attraction where they preserved the village with the history of Nias. People were still living there, and we saw locals dancing in the street, playing volleyball, and selling street food.

It was sunset hour and we had a nice view from the village steps.

There was a man who performed traditional stone jumping. We watched as he jumped over a stone 2.5 meters high! In history, men had to jump over the stone to prove they were strong enough to fight in battle.

Our evening ended with grabbing dinner in the cultural village and sleeping early. Between the travel and a full day’s activity, I was pooped. What an amazing first day!

Day 18: Beach day + fishing attempt

The next morning, I woke up feeling fresh, and I decided to join the crew at Sorake Beach. Most of the volunteers enjoyed surfing and went out almost every day. As much as I wanted to, I decided to hold off on surfing this trip because it has been making my back flare up. Nevertheless, I was excited to see everyone on the waves and enjoy some beach time.

We started off at the Lagundri break on Sorake Beach, which was a famous break for advanced surfers. We were curious to people-watch as the wave was too big for everyone at the hostel. It was pretty incredible seeing these surfers catching such big waves. Nias is well-known in the surfing community, and most tourists coming here are usually experienced surfers. However, Nias didn’t feel touristy at all and had that authentic island feel.

Then, we drove to the other side of the beach where the waves were more gentle. The guys jumped in, and I hung out on the beach and enjoyed my tea.

After a morning on the beach, I headed back and got some lunch with the volunteers from the hostel. Since they had already been in Nias for weeks, they knew all the best local spots. We went to one of those places where you can pick from pre-made food…so tasty and a nice change from the touristy food at Lake Toba!

The afternoon was spent chilling at the hostel and taking a walk around the beach. I loved our quiet little pocket of Nias which was a few kilometers from the busy town.

In the evening, one of the volunteers, Kareem, spontaneously asked, “who wants to go fishing?!” I decided to join. 🙂 Kareen has been in Nias for 2 months already and owned a bunch of fishing gear. We hopped on a scooter and took off! It felt pretty ridiculous holding the long fishing pole on the scooter – like we were jousting in medieval times.

Fishing was a lot of fun! We didn’t catch anything, but it was pretty funny as we attempted to fish while locals next to us laughed at us like we were fools. It was also nice to chat with Kareem, as like me, he did not want to surf in Nias but was able to find plenty so far.

After fishing, we stopped for dinner at a street stall selling chicken satay. So tasty!

We all hung out in the common space at night. We listened to music, chatted, and played pool. I just loved the social energy at this hostel while not feeling like a party hostel. 🙂

Day 19: scooter adventure + evening party

The next morning started off being lazy at the hostel. I enjoyed the scenery and peace, minus the neighbors blasting karaoke next door at full volume. 😛

The adorable hostel dog – everyone loves her so much!

Then, Kareem and I decided to go spearfishing. Kareen bought all the gear, and when he told me about his spearfishing adventures yesterday, I was dying to try it. As we packed the gear, I could not believe how much stuff we needed! It felt pretty ridiculous wearing this backpack on the scooter – I felt like a little kid wearing a big backpack to school. 😛

We drove 30 minutes to another beach that had good snorkeling and fishing. The drive was just lovely, as I got a close-up of the coastal views.

Unfortunately our fishing plans didn’t go as we hoped. We attempted to make a reef entry, but the tide was low and I got thrown around onto the sharp reef. it felt too dangerous so we decided to call it quits. Hoping to try again later this week at high tide!

After that, we stopped by another village to try and spot crocodiles by the river. It felt like we were the main attraction as a dozen locals followed us around, took photos, and were so curious about us. It was clear they didn’t see tourists very often.

After our fishing defeat, fortunately, the day picked up after. Our hostel threw a little party as it was one of the volunteer’s last day. We all partied into the night, and it was a very good time.

Overall, I’m happy with my time in Nias so far. I mentioned in my last post that I was feeling a bit isolated in Indonesia, but here in Nias, it’s been a complete 180 as I’ve bonded with people at this hostel. Arif has been such an amazing host too. Traveling has its ebbs and flows, and after 2 weeks, I’m grateful to finally be in a comfortable environment that I love.

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