Pulau Weh is an island that is situated on the most northern part of Sumatra. It might be considered the only place in Indonesia where you would be diving in the Indian Ocean. The people who stay in Pulau Weh and around Banda Aceh are generally more conservative Muslims and their culture should be respected. We were there during Ramadan and were politely asked to have our lunch indoors instead of outside the restaurants. Likewise drinking of alcohol and smoking in the open is considered to be taboo. Similarly, women should be dressed more conservatively in Aceh; it would probably be okay to wear a bikini once you are on the dive boat but definitely not on the beaches.
Getting There & Away
There are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur via AirAsia (Mon, Wed, Fri & Sun) and Penang via Fireflyz (Tue, Thu & Sat) to Banda Aceh (BTJ). We flew the 0745 flight from SIN-KUL to catch the 1155 flight from KUL-BTJ. Return airflights from SIN-KUL-BTJ on AirAsia inclusive of tax and 15kg baggage allowance cost us S$235.
You would arrive at Banda Aceh Airport at about 1230; the flight takes about 1.5 hrs, but Aceh (+7 GMT) is an hour behind Malaysia. From the airport, it is a half an hour taxi ride (IDR100,000) to Ulee Lheu Ferry Terminal. You would spend about 2hrs waiting at the ferry terminal because the ferry – “Express Bahari” only leaves for Pulau Weh at 1600. Return ferry tickets on VIP class would cost you IDR150,000. The return ticket has an open date and you only need to turn up at the ferry terminal on departure day. The ferry takes only 40min to reach Balohan Ferry Terminal on Pulau Weh. From there, it would cost IDR35,000 per person in a van to Rasa Seni Resort at Anoi Itam.
On the return journey, the “Express Bahari” ferry leaves Balohan Ferry Terminal at 0800 and you would be reaching Banda Aceh Airport by 1000, in time for your flight connections.
We stayed at Rasa Seni Resort, IDR250,000 for a deluxe room per night. The room rates are also inclusive of daily continental breakfast. The rooms are very comfortable – king sized beds, minibar, coffee/tea making facilities, air-conditioning and attached bathrooms with hot water showers. It is probably the best resort available on the island and I would strongly recommend it for divers are want to stay and sleep in comfort!
The resort is situated at Anoi Itam, in a secluded part of the island as there are no other buildings and shops around it. We would have our dinner at the resort and it costs IDR85,000 per person for a wonderful 3 course meal that is prepared by the resort’s German owner.
The resort links up with Rubiah Tirta divers and provides free return transfers for divers. The journey from Anoi Itam to Ibioh where Rubiah Tirta dive centre takes about 75min by car.
The Dive Centre
There are 2 established dive centres on Pulau Weh – Lumba Lumba (Dutch owners) and Rubiah Tirta (locally owned). Rubiah Tirta is owned by Dodent and he has his 2 sons, Yudi and Asfan who help him with the daily diving operations. The dive centre is well equipped with rental equipment and I found them to be professional and safe. It costs IDR200,000 per fun dive if you are using your own equipment. You can do up to 4 dives a day, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Night dives are also possible but there is an extra fee for that.
You would return back to the dive resort after each dive and there are a couple of restaurants along the beach where you can have your lunch - nasi goreng or mee goreng (IDR20,000) and a soft drink (IDR7,000). There are also shops along the beach where you can stock up on your snacks, food and toiletries.
We were there during the new moon period and the currents were pretty strong at most of the dive sites. The outer dive sites in the north-west area (Pantee Aneuk Seuke & Pantee Peunateung) are particularly more challenging because they face the open ocean, making entry and exit to be difficult. The boat rides out to these sites take about 45min in rough sea conditions. Visibility was pretty good at about 15-20m and water temperatures fairly warm at 29.5’c.
Pantee Aneuk Seuke: Also known as “The Canyon”, this dive site is considered to be one of the best in Pulau Weh. It is often done as the first dive in the morning because of the deeper dive profile. The underwater landscape is beautiful with rock boulders, formations and sea fans. The reef landscape slopes gently to about 30m
Pantee Peunateung: Another dive site with rocks and boulders. We spotted a large school of jacks circling at about 15m and also a large napoleon wrasse during our dive. The reef slopes to about 24m here.
Batee Tokong: A group of rock outcrops that is partially visible on the surface. Underwater, the rock drops vertically to about 20m, creating a wall dive before sloping onto the sandy bottom. Many different species of moray eels can be found here.
Seulako: An island that is about 10min from the dive centre. We did 2 dives around this island. The dive site has gentle currents and we saw 3 black-tip reef sharks cruising past us at about 5m.
Sea Garden: A dive site that is usually done as a third dive because of its closer proximity to the dive centre and generally calm conditions.
Tugboat Wreck: This dive site takes about 30min to reach. It is also known as “Sabang Wreck” and is situated just off the beach from the main town. The wreck is a 15m long old tugboat that sits upright on the sandy bottom at 14m. There is pretty good coral growth on the wreck. Lionfish, moray eels, mantis shrimps, stone fish and pipefish can be found around the wreck. There is a mooring line on the surface that leads you to the top of the wreck at 6m. Visibility here is poor, about 4m, due to its close proximity to the main village.
The Volcano: A very interesting and unique dive site! This site is done as the second part of the dive after the Tugboat Wreck. You would spend about 35min on the wreck and then ascend from the dive, sit on the boat for 25min and make the second part of the dive at the Volcano using the same tank earlier. So in essence, you are doing 2 dive sites on one single tank. The smell of sulphur (or rotten eggs) would greet you when you arrive! What is so special about this dive site are the bubbles that come out from the numerous vents around the muddy ash bottom at 7m! The bubbles are warm and you can feel the temperature difference when you are around them.