Pulau Nias, off Sumatra, Indonesia is located in a chain of islands parallel to the coast that are separated from Sumatra by the Mentawai Strait; Simeulue is located about 140 km northwest, and the Batu Islands are located about 80 km southeast.
This chain, which resurfaces in Nusa Tenggara in the mountainous islands of Sumba and Timor, is the forearc of the South Sumatra Basin along the Sunda Trench subduction zone.
At Nias the oceanic plate is being obliquely subducted under the Asian Plate at the rapid rate of 52 mm a year (Milsom).
Nias Island lies on latitude 1Â° 30' north and longitude 97Â° 98' east. It covers an area of 5,625 km2 which is mostly lowland area of Â± 800 m above sea level.
Nias is the largest of the islands off Sumatra that are part of North Sumatra province. This area consists of 131 islands and Nias Island is the biggest. The population in this area is about 639,675 people (including Malay, Batak, and Chinese).
Administratively it was a kabupaten (regional government) of the province North Sumatra. In 2003 it was split into two regencies, Nias Utara (Northern Nias) and Nias Selatan (Southern Nias). The island's northern capital is Gunung Sitoli.
Gunung Sitoli is the capital city of Nias and it is the center of administration and business affairs of regency. There are several travel agencies hotels, public busses and rental cars to support tourism here. There are also some government and private banks available.
The main tourist/surfing area is Lagundri Bay, close to the town of Teluk Dalam, on the southern tip. Enclosed by the beaches of Lagundri and Sorake, the bay has both left and right-hand breaks. As they wait for waves, surfers can often see sea turtles swimming below.
Nias was part of the famous Hippie trail of the 1960s, particularly travelled by surfers, which lead to Bali. Some claim that the waves at the southern beach of Sorake are better than the ones in Maui. It has been the site of several international surfing competitions in the past, particularly before the 1998 Indonesian Reformation Movement.
Nias is home not only to a unique human culture but also endemic fauna which differ from other areas of North Sumatra because of the island's remote location separate from Sumatra. Some have cited local culture as one of the few remaining Megalithic cultures in existence today, a culture some experts say is fast disappearing in the prominent world trend of technological diffusion and the spread of global culture.
However, Gunung Sitoli is home to Nias' only museum, the Museum Pusaka Nias, which houses over 6000 objects related to Nias' cultural heritage. The museum had recently built a new building and had improved their storage and exhibitions when the 2004 earthquake and tsunami occured. The museum suffered some damage to the grounds and collections, but museum staff are working to recover from this devastating event.
The predominant religion is Protestant Christianity, practiced by slightly more than half the population, introduced by German missionaries in the early 19th century.
The 1,000 rupiah Indonesian bank note in the 1990s featured a Nias stone-jumper performing the traditional activity of jumping a stone wall.
On December 26, 2004 the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake struck a few kilometers north of the island, creating tsunamis as high as 10 meters. 122 people were killed and hundreds more rendered homeless.
On March 28, 2005, the island was again hit by the 2005 Sumatran earthquake, initially presumed to be an aftershock following the 2004 quake, but now regarded as the second-most powerful earthquake in the world since 1965. At least 300 people are reported dead, with the possibility of more than 2,000 casualties. Hundreds of buildings have toppled, and many thousands have been made homeless.