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More Dive Trips

Budget Diving at Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

by Andrew Falconer

 

Pulau Weh, is a small island off the top of Sumatra, and is the first landmass of the Indonesian archipelago, celebrated by a "Kilometre 0" monument at its northern tip.
To get there I flew by Air Asia to Bali, then by Lion Air to Banda Aceh, involving two overnight stops. From Banda Aceh there is a two-hour ferry trip to the island, followed by a minibus ride to the dive centres.

I dived with Lumba Lumba Diving (www.lumbalumba.com), an established and well-run operation, although there are also other options. Located at Gapang beach, close to most of the dive sites, there are budget accommodation options at Lumba Lumba and Gapang and nearby Ibioh Beach. Restaurants are basic with rice, noodles, fish, chicken, eggs, tropical fruits, coffee and tea the main items. Being part of Aceh province, drinking alcohol (beer) is discrete but still possible. The 2004 tsunami inflicted damage on pulau Weh, but it seems now fully recovered.

 

 

 

Diving is from boats taking up to ten divers, split into smaller groups if necessary, and
most dive sites are only a short (5 to 20 minute) boat ride away. The sites are quite variable, featuring mostly steeply dipping canyons and drop offs with large boulders (in line with the island which is mostly steep jungle covered hillsides) and walls. In places there can be strong currents, although there are sites to suit all levels of experience. The visibility when I was there was variable, generally better deeper, as was the coral (especially fan corals).

 

 

As with many sites now, that are not fully protected from fishing, there was a general lack of large fish, although I did encounter one large school of Trevally. But there are certainly plenty of Moray eels and small reef fish, stonefish, crocodile fish and frogfish. There was also the odd shark and grouper.

 

 

For me, the highlight was a World War 2 German shipwreck, a freighter that was scuttled to avoid capture by the Dutch when Nazi Germany invaded Holland. A substantial wreck (130m long), the "Sophie Rickmers" lies upright with the decks at about 45m and the bottom 60m. Relatively intact (the masts and bridge have collapsed), but there is still plenty to see, with the holds open. Being deep, this is a decompression dive and is restricted to experienced divers.
As a bonus you can dive the "house reef" off the beach on your own for the cost of a tank fill, which is quite a good macro dive.

 

 

 

I spent ten days on pulau Weh, and also took the opportunity to spend some (non diving) time at lake Toba on the way back, which I can recommend as very laid back.

All up approx. costs (not including lake Toba) were as follows:
Flights: Perth / Bali return $370, Bali / Banda Aceh return $280
Diving: 10 boat dives plus 2 shore dives $300
Accommodation, meals etc (including 4 overnights in Bali and Banda Aceh): $700
Total approx. cost: $1650

 

February 2015