Is this paradise? Pulau Merak Island, Sumatra

What does paradise mean for you? Where’s your happy place? For us it definitely revolves around the ocean; if the waters are clear, not too cold and the wild life is abundant, there’s a pretty good chance we’re happy. If you’re interested in travelling Sumatra (with kids), add this beach to your bucket list.


Merak Island is on the right hand side

Merak Island

On this basis, Merak Island, sometimes referred to as Marak Island, in Western Sumatra ticked all the boxes for us and we could not believe (after all the trash we’d seen everywhere else in Sumatra) how idyllic this place was.

Just check out the colour of that water!! Merak Island is only reachable by boat, obviously, and took us about forty minutes to reach. It’s perfectly child friendly with few currents and is ideal for snorkelling.

Pulau Merak

The view across Pulau Merak


Merak Island from the boat

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Where is it?

The island of Pulau Merak is located off the coast of Western Sumatra about ninety minutes south of Padang.

It is north of Pulau Sibuntar (another island), south-west of Ujung Kayumanang and south of Pulau Panggang and it’s been visited so infrequently that there’s almost nothing about it written in English at all (or not that I can find anyway).


The shores of Merak Island with another island in the background


Our eldest sitting on the boat arriving at Merak.

An uninhabited sand island!?

This 2km in length, white sand island is actually lush with vegetation. Tall, green trees sway above you and those that have fallen provide chairs and towel racks!

We spent ten (we actually went twice) , totally unspoiled hours on this picturesque island where we went snorkelling with the turtles, swimming with the fish, we paddled on the shore and frolicked in the warm waters.

It was bliss, as the kids kept telling me at least once an hour, and I think so too.


The island at mid-tide


Merak Island at low tide


Merak Island at high tide

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We visited twice?

Yes, we loved it so much that we went twice; the first time whilst we were staying at Rimba’s Ecolodge and the second time whilst we stayed at Ricky’s Place. 

The first time we visited was the day after a storm. The water visibility was a bit murky with sand particles and the waves were constant, albeit quite small. You can see this in the video below.

The second time we visited was a glorious hot day where the visibility was much higher and the fish population was active.


The beautiful waters of Merak Island


A day trip to an island in Western Sumatra


Merak Island waters

Just check out the water!

With high visibility water and lots of small coral reefs, not to mention turtles in the water, this island is a treasure cove for naturalists and ocean lovers alike. If you’re taking children to Sumatra, this is such a perfect introduction to marine life.


Our eldest enjoying the waters


Small waves on the island

Learn to Snorkle

I guess you could describe this as a virgin island; no habitable dwellings, visible coral reefs, a beach made from grains of pure white sand, turquoise glistening waters and no obvious rip to pull you out. We snorkled at least 100m off the beach in search of turtles and I never felt in any danger.  Of course the bottom is always visible but the turtles really are!


Snorkeling on the island


Clear waters

Just Sun bathe

I was surprised that visiting Sumatra in July was hot and sunny and technically that’s its winter. I can only imagine how warm it must be in the summer. You won’t need to sun bathe for too long so it’s good that the island has lots of shade.

If you visit please be mindful of the reefs and sun cream. Sun cream is incredibly toxic for living reefs and fish and effectively poisons them. We use coconut oil which as SPF 10 and after that we cover up with long UV sleeves – as seen below.

Covering up with UV tops is the best solution for everyone as many sun creams which advertise themselves as ‘reef friendly’ really aren’t.


Wearing long UV sleeves


Wearing his long UV sleeves

Explore the island

If you take a pair of sturdy sneakers with you, you can take some time out to explore the island. We found this little hut there which is designed for fishermen and locals fishing.





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Instagram worthy

Photos seem to be judged on how IG worthy they are today, so what do you think? IG worthy or not?

Would you visit this island? Would you take your kids to Sumatra?





A video from our time there

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Visiting Merak Island off the coast of Sumatra is the ultimate adventure trip for families. See turtles, fish and marine life off the coast or just paddle in the shallow, clear waters.

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As a small child my favourite book was 'People of the World' which featured Inuits from Alaska, children from China and farmers from Peru. It was a glimpse into another world that would inspire me to wander the globe in search of something special.


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