Tiny Pulau Weh (Weh Island) sits just off the northwestern tip of Sumatra, across the bay from Banda Aceh, which suffered great damage in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 2004. Although this small island does still bear some scars from the disaster, there is still much to offer travelers. Stop first at Kilometer Zero, the furthest west point of Indonesia and where this country begins. And the scuba diving in Pulau Weh means it really is a true paradise for divers. Despite its size, there are over 30 dive centers, which means you’ll have no trouble finding the right one for you.
There’s plenty to do topside as well, with waterfalls, volcanoes, idyllic beaches and coastlines to explore, along with picturesque, small villages and nature reserves.
If you’re looking for a lesser-known diving destination for your next vacation, Pulau Weh could be just the right fit.
How to get there
Until a few years ago, getting to Pulau Weh was not easy. It was quite isolated with little to no connection to the mainland. Nowadays, however, it’s easy to catch a flight to Banda Aceh from some of the surrounding countries and cities including Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia), Jakarta (Lion Air) and Penang (Firefly). Once you arrive in Banda Aceh, you can take a ferry to Pulau Weh. Ferries connect twice a day, so keep this in mind when booking a flight to Banda Aceh.
Once you get to Pulau Weh, Iboih Beach is a great place to stay. There are a number of restaurants with lots of western and local choices. Don’t forget to bring cash — there are no ATMs on Iboih Beach. Some of the dive centers accept cards, but call or email in advance and check directly with them.
How is the diving in Pulau Weh?
There is a whole range of diving on Pulau Weh to suit all levels of diver. Technical divers can try the Sophie Rickmers This deep dive dive requires decompression and deep training. Advanced divers, who enjoy fast-moving currents should check out Shark Plateau. If you’re looking for something a slower-paced and want to get up-close-and-personal with the marine life, then there is plenty for you to see as well. The waters surrounding Pulau Weh are teeming with marine life, large and small.
When is the best time for diving in Pulau Weh?
If you’re looking for maximum visibility and a huge quantity of marine life, the best time to dive in Pulau Weh is during the dry season from April through October. Dive sites are brimming with life during this time. If you travel to Pulau Weh during the wet season, remember that the waters can be extremely choppy, with some dive centers stopping their trips around this time as it can get quite dangerous.
Here are our top picks for the best dive sites in Pulau Weh.
This spectacular dive site is one of the top three in Pulau Weh. It is located at the northeastern point of the island and is the closest to Kilometer Zero. Here you’ll find large, sandy patches of underwater landscape and a deep wall, covered in gorgonians that drop to around 197 feet (60 m) below. At the start of the wall, you’ll find a cave/small overhang. As you travel the east, you’ll reach two large rock formations at 33 to 98 feet depth (10 to 30 m), separated by two canyon channels. Floating through the channels is a lovely experience and provides much-needed relief from the currents and a chance to slowly observe marine life.
The Canyon prominently features dogtooth tuna, trevally, jackfish, unicornfish and barracuda. It is quite common to see a number of sharks as well. When looking at the wall, keep an eye out for porcelain crab, starry puffers, scorpionfish and titan triggerfish. This dive site is best for advanced divers due to the strong currents.
Divers usually visit the Underwater Volcano site alongside another site called the Sabang Wreck. Located on the eastern side of the island, the waters here are unusually warm due to the high thermal activity and rising bubbles. Marine life that enjoys the warm water, such as soft-shell crabs, is common at this site. This dive site can be on Underwater Volcano is a great site for all levels of diver.
The Sabang Wreck is a tugboat lying close to the shoreline. This is the perfect choice for a second dive after visiting Underwater Volcano. You’ll find a huge variety of healthy hard and soft corals attached to the wreck, as well as a picturesque reef located nearby. This dive is perfect for newbies but all divers will enjoy it.
The Sophie Rickmers is an impressive wreck dive, stretching for approximately 440 feet (134 m) in a sheltered bay away from strong currents. The cargo ship was one of five confiscated by the Dutch in May of 1940, but the German crew scuttled the vessel so as to keep it from Dutch control. This decompression dive requires a lot of experience. Open-water divers can dive this wreck, however they must have a minimum of 100-plus logged dives and be familiar with decompression procedures. The decks are located at 148 feet (45 m) and the bow is at 180 feet (55 m).
This great dive site is located to the east of Underwater Volcano. This shore dive can range anywhere from a shallow dive to a deep dive, depending on the dive operator you choose. You’ll never see the same thing twice at Limbo Gapang, which is teeming with marine life. If you’re planning on doing a diving courses while visiting Pulau Weh, then this is the perfect spot. Easy conditions also make for a fantastic night dive. Tropical fish abound here, so make sure to bring an underwater camera.