Diving in Indonesia – Pulau Weh: The Hidden Paradise
Indonesia offers some of the world’s best scuba diving. When talking about scuba diving in Indonesia usually well-known places such as Komodo, Sulawesi and Raja Ampat come to mind.
However there is a tiny Island that is still quite unknown to tourists and scuba divers alike.
Pulau Weh is located on the north tip of Sumatra, in the Aceh Region. There is a point on the island called “Km 0″ (Kilometer Zero) and it is apparently the extreme point of Indonesia where the country starts.
Until few years ago it was very difficult to reach the island since it was not very well connected to the local and international airports. It is now easy to fly to Banda Aceh from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Jakarta and from there to catch the ferry to the island.
Love At First Sight
In October 2010, my partner Dom and I had just finished a very busy working dive season on the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia and we wanted a place with some really good diving where we could relax.
Dom knew of Pulau Weh through word of mouth so we decided to give it a go. We arrived on a rainy day but nonetheless we fell in love with this jewel island straight away!
Despite the rain we hopped on a motorbike taxi that drove us from the ferry dock to Iboih Beach where I heard it was the best place to find accommodation. We drove for about an hour under the rain through breathtaking scenery! We found a home, at least for a while.
The Dive Shop
We worked at Rubiah Tirta Divers on Iboih Beach a local family owned business. It started back in 1970 by Mr. Dodent and it is now run by his three sons: Yudi, Isfan and Iskander.
They also work to protect the local marine environment in the area. It is a great dive shop to dive with, the owners and staff always try to make every customer happy. (www.rubiahdivers.com)
They are the driving force of marine conservation is the area with the late Dodent winning several awards for work in the area.
I worked and fun dived in several places in south-east Asia and Pulau Weh really has something special about it.
The diving is quite diverse. The Indian Ocean to the east of the Island and the Pacific Ocean to the west, both contribute to the bio-diversity and variety of marine life.
The variety and quantity of marine species is outstanding. Some of the most colourful species are found here including the Juvenile Emperor Angel Fish, one of the cutest little creatures of the Oceans. The visibility is always good, normally around 25 meters and rarely dropping below 15 meters.
Diving is good all year round. When the water starts to get cooler at the end of September beginning of October, the big creatures of the sea arrive. Schools of Mobulas (Devil Rays) and Manta Rays can be easily spotted together with slender Black Tip reef Sharks.
Currents are very challenging at most dive sites around the island. We found ourselves on many dives having to perform some “underwater rock climbing” in the middle of ripping “washing machine” style currents. Loved it!
Only five minutes boat ride from the dive shop there is a dive site called “Arus Palee”, literally translated into English as “Bastard Current”.
This dive site definitely keeps up to its name!
My favorite dive site is “Tokong” a massive pinnacle of volcanic rock surrounded by a variety of colourful fish, black tip reef sharks, devil rays and the occasional manta ray. It is also known as the moray eel capital of the world, in fact they can be found hiding into every hole. Currents can be very strong. This dive site is not to be missed.
Pulau Weh is also a great place for deep diving. The Sophie Rickmer Ship Wreck. It is a 134 meters long World War II cargo ship that lies at a maximum depth of 60 meters with the top starting at about 37 meters. It is a decompression dive and requires divers to be at least rescue divers with a certain minimum number of dives. A must do.
Every time I go diving somewhere else now no matter how good the place is I always think of Pulau Weh.
Getting And Staying There
Direct flights to Banda Aceh from Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia), Penang (Firefly) and Jakarta (Lion Air). From Banda Aceh there is a slow and a fast ferry to Pulau Weh.
The best place to stay is Iboih Beach. I recommend Erick’s Green House, Eka’s O La La or Pele’s Place but there are a few more offering basic and clean accommodation.
Iboih Beach offers several restaurants with delicious local and western food. Deedee’s Kitchen, Mama’s and O La La offer a very various choice of tasty dishes.
Bring cash since there are no ATMs on Iboih Beach. Rubiah Tirta Divers accept VISA and Mastercard.
Enjoy every moment on the Island. I left a piece of my heart in Pulau Weh, it is difficult not to fall in love with it and its people.
Your dive paradise?
Do you have a place in the world you count as your personal dive paradise? Do you share it with other?