Weh is a small island off the very tip of Sumatra. It lays claim to being the northern-most point in Indonesia. The island is part of Aceh province, which fought a decades-long fight for independence against the central government. The 2004 tsunami, which killed as many as 150,000 Acehnese, brought world-wide attention to the province, and in 2005 the dispute was settled, with the province being granted more autonomy from the government.
The diving around Pulau Weh is truly some of the best I've had in Southeast Asia. The numbers and variety of fish seen on most dives is amazing, and the reefs are in excellent condition, with almost no sign of any destructive fishing practices or over-fishing. Although they do get large fish such as mantas and sharks, they can be a bit more rare here than, say, Komodo. Otherwise, I'd put the diving here on par with that much more famous area.
The diving around Weh tends to be a lot more relaxed than the live-aboards that ply Komodo and many other popular Southeast Asian dive destinations. Most dive operators only do two dives a day, with an optional third shore dive in the late afternoon or night. In between dives you can have a leisurely meal (there really aren't any other kind on Weh) or catch some rays on the beach.
To get to Weh, you will end up going through Banda Aceh. The provincial capital doesn't have a lot to see or a well developed tourist infrastructure, but it might well be worth some sightseeing for a day on your way from the island to your next destination. There are several interesting tsunami-related sights as well as some very interesting markets in the city. See my own Banda Aceh travel guide for more information.
Getting to Pulau Weh
Although the island does have a small airfield near the main city of Sabang, it is currently used only for military flights. So, the only way to get to Pulau Weh is by boat from Banda Aceh. Ferries leave from the harbor on the western side of Banda Aceh, about 30 minutes from the airport or 10 minutes from the center of town.
There are generally two high speed ferries a day between Banda Aceh and Pulau Weh. Ferries dock at Balohan on the south side of Pulau Weh. From here, there are always taxis and minibuses to take you to Sabang, Iboih, Gapang or elsewhere.
Getting to Banda Aceh
As noted above, to get to Pulau Weh, you first have to get to Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh Province at the northern end of Sumatra. The easiest way to get there is to fly. There are several domestic flights from Medan and Jakarta, as well as international flights from Penang or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. See the Asia Airports guide to Banda Aceh airport for a current list of flights as well as all the ins and outs ofthe airport.
Dive Resorts On Pulau Weh, Indonesia
There are just a handful of true dive resorts on Pulau Weh - places with both accommodation and a dive operation. There are several other small resorts that can arrange diving through one of the local dive shops. There are also several small guest-houses and bungalows on the main beaches of Gapang and Iboih where you can stay and dive with one of the dive shops.
- Lumba Lumba
- In business more than a decade, Lumba Lumba Diving Center is the second-oldest dive operation on the island.
- The Pade Dive Resort
- Beautiful resort - possibly the best the island has to offer - on the west coast. Somewhat isolated location and well away from the popular dive spots.
- Pulau Weh Resort
- Set more or less on its own little beach north of Iboih, this seems to be the most posh accommodations close to the dive sites. However, you will find some rather negative comments about them around the web, so you may wish to read and consider them before making a reservation.
Pulau Weh Dive Shops
Although a search turns up a number of operators, I can only reliably verify the existence of the following dive shops:
- Lumba Lumba
- Based on Gapang Beach, Lumba Lumba is a pleasant little resort as well as full service dive shop.
- Rubiah Tirta Divers
- Rubiah Tirta seems to be the oldest operator on Weh, and provides dive services for many of the other resorts around the island. They are based in Iboih but have shops in other places as well.
Lying just six degrees north of the equator, Pulau Weh has a typical, relatively constant year-round climate. While September to January are the wettest months, there's a good chance of rain at any time of year.