For most visitors Singkil is just a transit place on the way to Pulau Banyak. The first impression one gets when entering Singkil is not the best, partly due to the Nias Earthquake in early 2005. Click to enlargeMany buildings were destroyed and parts of Singkil just disappeared into the ocean. First time that happened was in 1935. Singkil was then located on the other side of the river. The people moved over to the present side near the Alas River. The river has been very important for Singkil. Not until later years it has lost its importance for the people of Singkil. Singkil got connected by road to the other Sumatra in the early 1990ies. Before one had to go there by river boat Around the turn of the Millennium Singkil became the center for a newly formed regency; Aceh Singkil. New government building started to grow up, but further away near the sea where a new harbor was built. This new part "Pulo Sarok" is the boring part of Singkil. If you have time, visit the old part, called "Pasar". It has a nice atmosphere, traditional wooden buildings and the life along the river is very lively.
Much of Singkil was destroyed in March 2005 and the scars are still there to see, especially near the harbor where the land sank. A new harbor has been built since.
The major income of Aceh Singkil derives from the vast palm oil plantations and a few palm oil factories. All the plantations are on the southeastern side of the river. On the other side is the Singkil Swamps, protected by law, but still suffering form illegal logging. The Singkil Swamps is a good reason to stay on for a few days in Singkil or Kuala Baru before heading for the beaches in Pulau Banyak.
The people of Singkil are a great mix of many ethnic groups: The Pak-Pak people along the river up-stream, the Nias people from the big island in the south, Minangkabau people from Southeast, the Acehnese from the Northwest, and many more groups. They are a rough and loud, but yet a very friendly and social people.