HIDDEN PARADISE - PULAU WEH
There is a place in Indonesia very dear to my heart.
It is a small active volcanic island where time and stress seem not to exist. The place could easily be under a magical spell.
Life is simple and wonderful. It is a paradise above and below water. Everybody is happy, smiley, very friendly and extremely chilled out. Everything here is “Bagus!”(Good!), as the locals say.
I fell in love with Pulau Weh as soon as I set my foot on it...
It is located on the north-west of Sumatra, in the Aceh Region. There is a point on the island called “Km 0″. It is the extreme point of Indonesia and it is said to be the starting point of the Country.
Until few years ago, Pulau Weh was not very well known to the travelers due to its poor connections with local and international airports. The good thing is that Pulau Weh has kept its natural and unspoiled beauty.
Nowadays more travelers and divers have started to arrive. The transports have improved. It is now easy to fly to Banda Aceh from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Jakarta and from there to catch the ferry to the island.
THE TZUNAMI EFFECT
The flat area of Banda Aceh was devastated by the big tsunami on 26th December 2004. Pulau Weh suffered less damage than the mainland, but still the local people suffered a lot from this. Some lost family and friends; some had to rebuild their business, their houses.
They are very open to talk about what happened. When they do, their emotion is clearly visible in their eyes. They tell stories of how the island used to be before the tzunami. It's hard to believe that a place so beautiful used to be even more beautiful.
One of the dive masters at one of the local dive shops said: "We went out diving and did not feel anything. When we got back the dive shop was not there anymore". It is heartbreaking. These people went through terrible times but they have not lost their hopes and smiles.
They went a long way since then. Everything that was destroyed has been rebuilt and the islanders are back on business.
DIVING IN PULAU WEH
Scuba diving in Pulau Weh is one of the best I have experienced. Two Oceans meet here, the Indian Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. They both contribute to the bio-diversity of the marine life.
Visibility is almost always good. It very rarely drops below 15 meters and most of the time it is around 25 meters.
Some of the most colourful marine species are found here, including the Juvenile Emperor Angel Fish, one of the cutest little creatures of the Oceans. There is an abundance of large fish as well as macro.
Cleaner Shrimps, Boxer Shrimps and nudibranch are scattered all along the reef. It is not uncommon to spot the shy Mantis Shrimp on almost every dive.
Scorpion Fish are easily spotted camouflaging with the environment and there is a huge population of Clown Fish aka “Nemo”.
On a lucky day you could come across a school of Mobulas (Devil Rays) or the gentle giant of the Oceans the beautiful Manta Ray. If you are not so lucky you can still face encounters with the slender and graceful Black Tip and White Tip Sharks and several turtles.
Currents are very challenging in almost every dive sites around the island. Not for the inexperienced, I would say. We found ourselves on many dives having to perform some "underwater rock climbing" in the middle of ripping washing machine currents. All for the great of good and a proper adrenalin rush. Loved it!
Only five minutes boat ride from the shores of Iboih Beach, there is a dive site called "Arus Palee", literally translated into English as "Bastard Current". This dive site definitely keeps up to its name. You might start the dive with a gentle drift or no current at all and eventually find yourself flying underwater.
My favorite dive site is "Tokong" a massive pinnacle of volcanic rock surrounded by a variety of colourful fish, black tip reef sharks, devil rays and the occasional manta ray.
It is also known as the moray eel’s world capital, in fact they can be found hiding into every hole. Everywhere there is at least a moray eel. It is a paradise for underwater photography lovers, if currents allow.
Pulau Weh is also a great place for deep diving. There is a particularly exciting deep dive only about 50 meters away from the shores of Sabang, the island’s main village.
The Sophie Rickmer Ship Wreck. It is a 134 meters long World War II cargo ship that lies at a maximum depth of 60 meters with the deck starting at about 37 meters. It is a decompression dive and requires divers to be at least rescue divers with a certain minimum number of dives. A must do.
The dive sites of Pulau Weh can be dived from a liveaboard trip or from one of the dive operators on the island.
@ This article is written by Carlotta Arona (PADI MSDT #284952), please give respect to her copyright!
This article & photos are not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Carlotta Arona.
You can find more articles written by Carlotta Arona via her personal blog here: HOPSKIPDIVE.