Pulau Weh It’s the kind of place where you slip into a groove, and time losesits meaning. The island of Weh, off the very Northernmost tip of Sumatra, provides the quintessential tropical paradise experience. It’s not for the weak or the faint of heart. If you need such cushy conveniences as private bathrooms, hot showers, or electricity, then don’t even think about Pulau Weh. (And forget about airports and air-con.) But if the idea of an unspoiled, secluded, palm tree-covered white sand island, with a coral reef that makes Australia’s Great Barrier Reef look like Lake Michigan, sounds attractive, then you just might like Pulau Weh.
Pulau Weh is located at the north western tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. The nearest city to pulau Weh is Banda-Aceh, on mainland Sumatra. Medan, the capital city of Sumatra, is located 600 km south-east of Banda-Aceh. Sabang is the only town on pulau Weh but most visitors stay at Ibioh village or Gapang bay. The Rubiah sea garden is located about 350 meters from Ibioh. On and around the island are two protected areas: Pulau Weh Marine Park (2,600 ha) and Iboih Recreation Park (1,300 ha).
The dive shops and schools here, numbering only about 3, are well run and reliable. Most trips go out with 1 rescue-trained guide per 2 to 3 divers, as well as a PADI certified local divemaster.The mild yet fickle currents of Pulau Weh, which draw the big plankton feeders and fan the soft corals, are suitable for beginner divers who heed the expert advice of local guides. Most sites are reachable by boat within 30mins from Ibioh, a thoroughly pleasant fishing village.
Ibioh is the more popular place to stay, presumably because of the close proximity of Pulau Rubiah and the sea garden (marine park). Accommodation at Ibioh consists of simple wooden bungalows and guests have to wash at a well in the middle of the resort. Gapang bay is just a few kilometers from Ibioh with a small coral reef of its own and a resident hawksbill turtle population. Manta rays also swim into this bay. Accommodation at Gapang is better than at Ibioh and some bungalows have attached bathrooms with running water.
When to Visit Pulau Weh
Average water temperature is 28°C with some thermoclines. Pulau Weh has generally good weather year round: Dec-Feb sees a bit more rain and cooler temperatures, but is the time when whale sharks are most likely to frequent the area.
Getting to Pulau Weh
Getting to this island is a challenge in itself, and this barrier serves to keep the place relatively untouched. The first step is to reach the Krueng-Raya harbor 33 km east of Banda-Aceh. From Medan (Belewan port), a Pelni ship travels every two days to Krueng-Raya. However, very few passengers are using this service so it may be dis-continued. Alternatively, overnight buses connect Medan (pinang baris bus terminal) to Banda-Aceh. From the central market in Banda-Aceh regular bemos travel to Krueng-Raya (45 minutes).
A ferry runs between Krueng-Raya and Balohan port on pulau Weh. The ferry usually runs once a day, leaving Krueng-Raya at 3pm in the afternoon and arriving at Balohan about two hours later.
On Mondays, there is an additional ferry trip leaving Krueng-Raya at 9am in the morning. The voyage can be very choppy so watch out for fellow passengers throwing up. We recommend that you travel AC (air conditioned) class rather than economy class, but hurry when booking your seat since there are only a few seats in AC class. A tourist mini-bus (charging tourist prices) takes visitors on the one hour journey from Balohan to Gapang and Ibioh via Sabang. There are public mini-buses connecting Balohan and Sabang but there does not appear to be any public transport to Ibioh and Gapang (for tourists).