Pulau Weh is located on the northwestern tip of Sumatra, a 350 meter wide channel fills the gap between Pulau Weh and its reef-encircled sister island, Pulau Rubiah where good drift dives can be had. The island also offers wrecks, drop offs and an amazing array of marine life. Most dive sites are reachable by boat within 30 minutes from Ibioh, a pleasant fishing village where most visitors find themselves based.
The Dive Sites
There are upto 20 dive spots around Pulau Weh, we will cover the more popular ones. Gapang house reef is densely populated with marine life such as scorpionfish, lionfish, leaffish and blue spotted rays, topography makes a nice easy dive, it is also a good spot for the night dive. Pulau Rubia has a couple of nice coral gardens that drop down to 30 meters or so, black spotted and honeycomb morays are resident here.
Arus Balee is the name of the water passage around the rocky pinnacle situated between the islands of Seulako and Rubiah. Appropriately nicknamed by the Acehnese Arus Palee, which means bastard current! This attracts the bigger feeders including sharks and barracuda. Pulau Seulako offers some great drift diving opportunitys in the strong currents.
Batee Tokong is a great spot to find morays including the rarer fimbriated and yellow margined species. The sheer concentration of the creatures here is astounding. A steep slope densely covered with gorgonians continues downwards to over 40 meters, where a second wall starts. On the north side you’ll find a 24 to 28 meter deep plateau commonly called Shark Plateau where black and white tip reef sharks, gray sharks and the occasional silvertip are often seen.
Pantee Aneuk Seuke or ‘The Canyon’ offers caves, arches, walls and canyons often with big visitors such as mantas, barracuda and napoleon wrasse. For the deep freaks the best spot is Pantee Peunateung with its drop off to around 70 meters. Big schools of trevally and chevron barracuda are often seen around the drop off, however caution must be taken diving here as the current often sweeps downwards. Looking up through the vertical fields of gorgonians into the dappled sunlight is magical. Batee Gla has some great rock formations, swimthroughs and arches which can be good to drift through when the currents are strong.
There is even a wreck dive or two here, The 134 meter long Sophie Rickmers is an impressive wreck, covered with corals and home to several morays and groupers, situated in the sheltered bay of Pria Laot. The cargo steam ship was built in 1920 in Germany. On May 1st, 1940 she was one of 5 ships confiscated by the British in the waters around Pulau Weh. However the crew of the Sophie Rickmers sunk their own ship at that same day. Decompression diving is required here as the wheelhouse is at 37 meters, the decks at around 45 meters and the straight bow resting on the bottom lies at over 55 meters deep.
A shallower wreck of a tugboat can be found at 14 meters in Sabang harbour, she makes for a great macro dive. At nearby Pria Loat bay streams of hot spring bubbles from an underwater volcano make a memorable experience.
Batee Meuduro pinnacle is situated around an hour away on the south side of Pulau Weh, it is one of the islands top sites with great viz, big pelagics and several species of shark.
In March 2005 a group of 15 divers/scientists/students did post tsunami reef survey at depths of 3 and 10 meters around Pulau Weh. A quote from Zeehan (Marine Biologist, Singapore University): “Most sites were ok – especially if they are deeper than 10m. For the shallow areas, the damage ranged from minimal to patchy to complete wipe-out. Of the sites looked at, two of these were very very bad with 90% of the reefs gone. However, they are NOT charted dive sites. It seems, out of the charted dive sites, only the reefs within the Rubiah/Iboih channel were very affected (even then, in a very patchy fashion). There was about 70-80% loss of mangrove trees etc and there was actually a reef 50m in front of the mangroves which (as mentioned above) was completely wiped out. I cannot go into the details right now but we will be putting up the report/data and hopefully photos online in 2-3 weeks. Restoration efforts are being looked into. All in all, the damage level was very much lower than we expected.”
How to get there:
From Banda Aceh, you can take a ferry in the morning in Ulee Lheue Sea Port and arrive in Gapang Beach. The trip will only take a couple of hours, or 45 minutes if you decide to ride a speedboat. Or if you’re from Medan, you can go to Banda Aceh first by bus or plane. Traveling from abroad? Several airlines can be used as well to reach Banda Aceh. Please refer to Banda Aceh to see ‘how to get there’.
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