Stab Magazine | We Got Our Hands On Massive Development Plans For The Mentawais

We Got Our Hands On Massive Development Plans For The Mentawais

God help us all. 

Words by Rory Parker

It’s an inescapable irony that surf culture’s never ending search for uncrowded lineups and pristine locales lays waste to each and every one that’s discovered.

Tourism-based exploitation and gentrification inevitably follows. Even the best kept secrets eventually fall victim to a entrepreneurially minded visitor who thinks, “Man, I could build a few huts here and make a fortune!”

It’s a proverbial Midas Touch. Everything surfers lay hands on turns to gold.


Of course, the story of Midas is a parable about the danger of greed. Midas quickly realizes he can’t eat or drink gold, accidentally destroys that which he holds dear, and ends up begging Dionysius to free him from the curse.

Forests are razed to make room for developments, lineups become crowded, surf schools sink their hooks in. Soon enough the very things that attracted are gone. Sacrificed at the alter of capitalism.

It’s a situation that might be forgivable, should the money flowing into surf heavy areas directly benefit local inhabitants. But, all to often the reality is that lip service to benefit is paid in the form of ‘prevailing wages’ while the balance flows out of the community and into affluent pockets.

A prospective development on the southern end of Siberut, the largest island in the Mentawai chain, stands to continue that tradition.

Today, Stab got its mitts on a PDF of plans for a massive development called The Mentawai Bay. Spearheaded by the Sentosa Group, a hospitality management corporation based in Indonesia, the development seeks to build a 2639 hectare integrated tourism area, essentially a small city, leaning heavily into the area’s reputation for world class surf.

Anyone up for some spiritual tourism? 

Plans include an airport, harbor, theme park, water parks, multiple hotels, condominiums, an industrial area, landfill, Sea World, apartments, markets, zoo, retirement village, golf course, fish processing plant, and coconut oil and coal factory.

Located a mere 50 minute flight from Singapore the area could easily become a massive attraction to Asia-based tourism.

While documentation touting the project claims,”The Mentawai Bay project will transform an undeveloped land into an asset the people of Mentawai can be proud of [sic]” an accompanying SWOT takes a more cynical tone.

The SWOT lists local income as both strength and weakness, touting the prevailing wage of US$100 a month while simultaneously recognizing that said wages constitute “Poverty & low wages.” It also lists “Best nature sceneries [sic],” and “Rich with flora and fauna,” while ignoring the fact that the scale of the development will inevitably destroy both “Opportunities.”

Isn’t an eco beach just a… beach? 

According to Sentosa, the project has received approval from Indonesian authorities and will be designated a “Special Economic Zone for Tourism Requlation [sic].”

These exemptions include tax reductions, extended Rights of Use for corporations, and immigration policies facilitating the hiring of foreign workers.

As with all documentation meant to lure in investors, Sentosa’s plans are likely to be overly grand and never fully realized.

Nevertheless, the sad fact remains that yet another bit of pristine paradise is likely be be forever marred, and it’s all our fault.



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