The Telo Islands are surfing’s best-kept travel secret

Have you heard of the Telo Islands? If you are a surfer, or want to become one — heck, even if you are the partner or a child of a surfer — it’s probably about time you learned about this Indonesian chain. That’s not only because they offer some of the most untouched and beautiful tropical islands on the planet, but also some of the surfing world’s most user-friendly waves.

The combination provides one truly unique vacation for every type of ocean-loving holidaymaker.

You see why you might want to travel here? Photo: Courtesy of Latitude Zero Resort

Situated off the west coast of Sumatra, and almost directly on the equator, the archipelago known as Kepulan Batu lies between the island of Nias to the north and the Mentawai Islands to the south. Those two destinations are widely known for the quality and quantity of their world-class waves. Which is great if you are a good surfer, but not much use if you aren’t.

The Telo Islands, although blessed with similar quality of waves, offer a very different proposition. For starters, they have a unique feel, with their limestone cliffs and platinum-white sandy beaches most often compared to the dramatic cliff islands to the north of Thailand. Unlike the Mentawais, the 100 islands in the chain can be navigated through a series of protected channels and lagoons. These flat stretches of aqua-blue water, reminiscent of the Florida Keys, not only make for quick travel through the archipelago, but offer safety from the wild waves and winds of the Indian Ocean.

Another bonus is the remoteness. The Telo Islands are accessed only by boat or private aircraft, which means they remain largely unspoiled by the rampant development that affects most parts of Indonesia. And with only three surf camps currently in the chain, crowds aren’t an issue.

Another empty wave reels off in the Telo Islands. Photo: Courtesy of Telo Island Surf Lodge

That’s why Matt Cruden, one of the first boat skippers in the Mentawais and who first started searching the Telos 20 years ago, set up his Latitude Zero resort here. After spending decades on chartered boats, he knew that many surfers wanted to bring their partners and kids, but a boat trip wasn’t an ideal option. With four kids of his own he also knew there was a gap for a family-oriented upmarket boutique resort experience. He just needed the location.

When he discovered an island with a natural coconut garden, a sandy beach lapped by clear, calm, aqua-toned waters with no offshore fringing reef that made it perfect for boat access, swimming or relaxing — and safe for kids — he knew he had his spot. Around a decade ago he set up Latitude Zero and his own version of a private paradise.

While his array of fast watercraft offered instant access to many of the waves he had discovered, the camp itself was aimed to please even the most diehard non-surfer. The resort’s luxury villas, pools, safe swimming, fishing and snorkeling mean the fun isn’t just all in the waves. They even offer a discount for the non-surfers in the group.

Oh, and babysitting!

The girls gather for a sunset drink. Photo: Courtesy of Latitude Zero

Besides Latitude Zero, the Telo Island Lodge too offers the beauty of the Telos and a protected lagoon, plus the bonus of two waves right on its doorstep. The waves, known as Max’s Left and Max’s Right, face opposite each other, meaning one is always offshore.

If that isn’t quite enough (and it usually is), there are another 18 breaks within an hour’s boat ride. The resort is also limited to just eight guests, meaning that crowds can never be an issue.

Fun waves, clear waters: Welcome to the Telos. Photo: Courtesy of Telo Island Lodge

Finally, the Telo Surf Villa offers a less boutique, more surf-centric experience. Its unique selling point is that one of the chain’s most fun and consistent waves, a right-hander known as Ranga’s or GT’s, can be accessed from the beach, which is a two-minute walk from the accommodation.

Again, as with most islands in the Telo, the setting is beautiful, the crowds tiny and the wave perfect for all levels. What more could you ask for?

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