Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Pulau Weh - scuba-diving off Sumatra's north-west tip

The second part of our trip to Indonesia involved a week's scuba-diving at Pulau Weh, a small island off the north west tip of Sumatra.

To get there from our previous destination, Yogyakarta, we had to fly to Banda Aceh via Jakarta. Flight and ferry timetables meant we had to spend a night in Banda Aceh before taking the next day's ferry for a two-hour trip to Pulau Weh. Most people know the name of Banda Aceh as it is the city closest to the epicentre of the 2004 tsunami, although you'd be hard put to know it now as much has been reconstructed. 31000 people died on that day.

Banda Aceh, February 2005

A lot of NGOs came to the city in the aftermath, and from a tourist point of view this had the negative effect of driving accommodation prices up artificially - room prices in BA do not reflect quality at all unfortunately!

Ferry from Banda Aceh to Sabang, capital of Banda Aceh

Map of Pulau Weh, showing dive sites

The ferry arrives at Balohan. Our dive club was situated at Gapang.

our dive club

It's a very quiet and idyllic location. We stayed in accommodation belonging to the dive centre, but there is other accommodation too. We had a choice of rustic eating places for our various meals:



another lunch option

tuna sandwich - made with fresh tuna!

our favourite dinner restaurant

freshly caught dinner!

Gapang Bay

looking to the island from out in a dive boat

One of our dives was on a tugboat wreck in Sabang harbour:

tugboat wreck

On the way back we stopped at some hot springs bubbling up from the sea floor in Pria Lot Bay:

another reminder of local volcanic activity
Here's some of the aquatic life that we saw on other dives (note that all photos with a date encrusted on them were taken by Rob Taylor (thanks Rob!)).

moray eel with attendant cleaner shrimp
not sure whether this is a green or hawksbill turtle

sea anemone

group of garden eels

clown fish in sea-anemone

This sea star looks striking but is actually quite harmful to the coral reefs - it's a crown of thorns, the second largest sea star in the world:

this type of sea star destroys the coral reef

On our last day we couldn't dive as it was a Friday and to respect local Muslim custom no boats go out diving or fishing. So we hired a scooter and visited some of the rest of the island.

vegetation, island interior

monitor lizard

Not far from Gapang is Indonesia's northernmost point, which is marked by a commemorative monument.

Indonesia's Point Zero

It's guarded by a group of aggressive monkeys, who are not above stealing anything they can get their hands on.

a few of the thieving monkeys

Thankfully we also met some nice locals!

visitors from Banda Aceh

Suggested reading:

A Diver's Guide to Reef Life by Andrea and Antonella Ferrari. A photographic field guide describing 1200 species of fish and other aquatic life that live on and around the world's coral reefs.

Suggested listening:

Here's an excerpt about Aceh on the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent October 25th 2011 programme.

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