I just returned from a dive trip with Lumba Lumba. Before the trip, I had done some searches here and read a report that seems more like a storyline for a thriller years back. The writer did not come back to defend his views when the dive operator gave their account thus I took his report with a heap of salt, while also not totally discounting safety concerns raised, not that it affected my opinions.
The trip took place between 5 Feb to 15 Feb 2016, being with Lumba Lumba on 6-14 Feb 2016.The Journey
SG - KL : arrived 1800hrs, 5 Feb 2016
KL - Banda Aceh : arrived 0830hrs, 6 Feb 2016 (local time)
Personally, this was planned rather wrongly. I booked SG-KL-Banda Aceh with a long transit period, thinking I can hop over to KL for dinner. It didn't happen after weighing the intensity of people leaving KL (KL Sentral) for the CNY holidays. KLIA2 is a shopping mall, while KLIA (the international airport) is less impressive.
Spent the night on the carpet floor of the departure hall, couldn't sleep, and developed flu on 6 Feb 2016 (seems like a ruiner for a dive holiday).
Reached Banda Aceh and headed to the jetty (fixed taxi fare Rp140,000). The mistake, blindly follow the queue at what seems like a ticketing counter. My target was to take the 1130hrs ferry. It was only at about 1100hrs that I suspected I'm queuing rather bindly. The ticketing counter is actually at the gate area of the slow ferry. Missed this 1130hrs ferry due to my folly. Took the 1430hrs ferry instead. Slow ferry fare Rp28,000.
At the jetty in Pulau Weh, took a taxi that the driver refuses to reduce price saying it's CNY period (whatever), fare Rp250,000.
Reached Lumba Lumba resort just at about 1700hrs (hope I didn't remember wrongly).
My room was the Living Colors Room (shared bathroom/toilet). It was comfortable enough, at Euro 13.50 a night.Dive Courses
Had planned for 2 dive courses, namely Enriched Air Nitrox (Euro 120) and Deep Diver (Euro 190). They were very packed with different courses and their 3 instructors schedules were almost back to back. First thing they did was, assess my duration of stay, so they can plan when to slot in my courses.
My instructor was Albert Saiz Tezanos. Did a search and found his facebook (hope I did not get it wrong).https://www.facebook.com/albert.saiztezanos/media_set?set=a.1589779746416.2084975.1293528825&type=3
I remember when I took my OW and AOW, the instructors were good. But when I encountered Albert, I see a difference between good and professional! Good is what we expect of every instructor, professional is a class above. Thank you Albert! It was fun, it was enriching, I'm now better than I was before.
There were some 'trick' in the test during the deep dive. I won't give that away but throwing in the small trick does prove a point, of our slower response the deeper we go. Thanx Albert, it was quite fun after all. Got me there.
P/s : There is ONE point I must share. If you are doing your course, best to read your manual and do your knowledge review in the day (or back home online, before the trip). If you do it at night, the lights in the whole resort and in the rooms, are quite dim, so it does affect your reading. Anyway, since it is a dive resort, it is meant for us to chill away from city life thus for those not needing bright lights, it's a welcoming environment Fun Dives
I remember the first few days, waters were very rough (choppy) and the morning dive were cancelled (can't remember if it was 8 or 9 Feb). Afternoon dive was almost cancelled too, but they made great efforts to accommodate.
Their captain managed to get to the boat, drove it across the opposite site where waters were much more claimer. Than the resort made efforts to use their van to ferry us from the resort to the other side (quite near by land), so that we could still have an afternoon dive.
The first few days of CNY encountered rough waters probably due to new moon. Also, not forgetting, Pulau Weh faces Indian Ocean, Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca, so the waters can get a little choppy, faced with decently strong current sometimes, and visibility isn't going to be crystal clear (but, I got about 20 meters of visibility for all the dives).
On dives. they have 4 DM trainees, they planned their dives rather well. Quite often, if there were 4 divers, it would be lead by a DM guide, assisted by a trainee. In the event a diver (like myself) consumes air faster than others, the assistant guide will bring us up first, while not ending the dives of those good with air.
Guides were also eagerly pointing out marine lives to divers. This is something, as a untrained eye diver, needs. After all, we are not familiar with the sites, so a good guide pointing out things, is necessary. I remember another dive elsewhere (not Pulau Weh), the guide was just minding his own, leaving me to my own (really, it was unenjoyable) thus with this comparison, the guides at Lumba Lumba made my dives more fun.
Quite a lot of divers saw Devil Rays, but not me. Meals
There are about 4 eating places (or more). The 'setback', every menu seems so similar, so after a few days, you really wonder what to eat, but the food are tasty.
For anyone going there, and if you are a coffee addict (like myself, I must have my morning fix else I'll get a headache), I suggest bringing your own 3-in-1 at least. The local coffee doesn't impress me, since I'm either drinking my regular 3-in-1 (white coffee) or at the regular coffee shop.
Coming to individual eating places at Gapang Beach that I went.
- The one directly next to Lumba Lumba (on the right, from e beach) serves not bad food.
- The first one on the left, Barracuda, is the cleanest and the food is good! They washed their kitchen at the end of each day.
- Next to Barracuda (can't remember the name) eating place, be prepared to wait. Not that there are a lot of diners, but they are slow, and they serve everything at once (instead of serving when food is cooked).
- Smaller out fit next door, the food is ok too. Not much impression now.
- Last eating place (think it's called Zero) next to another dive operator serves good food (if the chef is the male owner).
Price of meals there are rather comfortable. Breakfast is about Rp15,000 for Sandwish or pancake (coffee with milk is Rp10,000 on average, but not worth the price since it doesn't have the omph factor). Lunch/Dinner servings are about Rp30,000 on average. Transit Night At Banda Aceh
I put up at Hotel Medan, Rp320,000 a night. Nothing much to do there, just rows of shophouses which I didn't explore. Dinner was along the street (left from hotel). I only ate
- Sate priced at Rp20,000 for 10 sticks. It was ok (smaller stick than ours) tasting, different style from ours, gotta try.
- Cockles priced at Rp12,000 for a few pieces (maybe 10) but they are large, twice the size of what we get.
- Avocado Shake at Rp12,000 a glass
Saw durian sold from a car, so took 2 and bargain it down to Rp50,000. It's kampung durian, so don't expect much, but since I love durians, I got to try it.
By the way, taxi (private) from Jetty to hotel, and hotel to airport, were bargain to Rp100,000 per trip. I shared taxi (so the cost is reduced) with 2 chinese, since we left Pulau Weh together and are on the same flight the next morning.Anything elseAunty With Blue Basket
This local aunty tends to come over to the dive shop after the after noon dive, selling some light snacks (donut and kueh) at Rp3,000 each. It's welcoming after a dive isn't it.
If you are there, do grab some for the dive boys as they are lowly paid, so snacks are welcoming.Dive Operations
I must say, it is well run! Every diver I encountered seems to feel at home. The dives were great, from planning to logistics and the very dives itself, everything went right.Information
Lumba Lumba has almost every information you need to know to plan your trip. Their initial email comes flooding you with every bits, from taxi prices (airport to pier, pier to resort) to ferry fares. Also has a few different hotels in Banda Aceh that you may need to put up during transit. I'm impressed. They made your planning much a breeze.Prices
Though they are not the cheapest, but it's not way high, but just a tad bit. I won't mind the bit since this whole operations are very professional, I enjoyed my stay throughout, so it's worth every penny.Unpleasant
Ok, complaint complaint complaint. I'm whinny. But let's be fair, this is just me.
Two issues that does make me look forward to coming home. It's just me I must emphasize.
First. MOSQUITO! That really got me. I hate the mosquitoes at night and I must say, after nearly a week, it still itches bad! Not that I'm so badly bitten, but still... So, I would suggest you bring repellent! Don't be off guard like me. The consolation though, mosquito coils. In the rooms, coils are provided, as well as electric type diffuser mat. I slept with the windows closed and burning only a small piece of coil (why waste the whole coil and also sniff the smell the whole night).
At one eating place (zero), I had also requested for coil, which they promptly got for me.
Second. Regardless of how well run the resort is, it's never as comfortable and clean as our own home isn't it? But let me also say, the resort is really clean, the shared bathroom is clean! Just that unlike own home, it is not the same, thus my mild OCD problem gotten me.
Other than these 2, I love this place. I didn't feel this way till the plane took to the skies and when I look down at the beaches (Banda Aceh), my heart and soul is trapped in Lumba Lumba.Communication
It pays to be able to speak a little Bahasa as the locals mostly can't speak English (only a few may speak simple few words). In Banda Aceh, their Bahasa is similar to Bahasa Malaysia, so it's possible to communicate the basics.Repeat Trips
Would I go back there again? 50/50. I guess since there are many dive destinations, we naturally would love to explore more places, but than again, I have the habit of wanting to go back to the same place to make it more complete, the familiarity and comfort at Lumba Lumba is a draw.
I think if I do revisit, I probably need to plan better on the transit in KL so I don't end up having to sleep on the dirty carpet floor at the airport. This way, it will make the trip more enjoyable.
There are several divers I encountered, that are on their repeat trips there. So that speaks volume.
It's a bit too lengthy a trip report. But I'm happy with the trip, it was a good experience.