Lonely Planet introduced Pulau Weh as a tiny tropical rock off the tip of Sumatra. Look carefully on the map or you would probably miss it. What brought me to Pulau Weh exactly? Diving, of course. In all honesty, I’ve not heard of this island and i literally had to google it up to see where in the world is this place. It is located on the north of Banda Aceh, Sumatra and the main town where most of Weh’s population live is known as Sabang. Surprisingly, it was just a 1.5 hours flight away from Penang to Banda Aceh via Fireflyz airline.
Pulau Weh marked my first trip for the year of 2017! There were so many modes of transport involved to get to Pulau Weh. Ulee Lheu Harbour is about 40 minutes away from Banda Aceh Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport and to get there, it is recommended for you to take a taxi. At the harbour, you have a choice to either take the fast or slow ferry depending on the availability. I arrived at 940am by flight and by the time i got to the harbour, it was almost 1030am. That left me with only one option – the slow ferry departing at 11am, which took about 1.5 hours to Balohan Harbour, Pulau Weh. From Balohan Harbour to Iboih beach, it took another 45 minutes by bejak (a local three wheel transport).
The two main beaches in Pulau Weh are Gapang and Iboih. Most of the accommodations were concentrated in both of these beaches. Take a stroll around and you will notice most of the tourists were there mainly for snorkelling or diving. Prior to my travels, I had cherry picked Iboih Inn as it offered tree-top like chalets nestled deep in the forest, overlooking Rubiah Island. It was just perfect and secluded from civilization and internet. I have been longing for that peace and tranquility, it felt so good to be away from the hustle and bustle back in the city.
The next two days were scheduled for diving with Monster Divers. Their representatives picked us up at 830am and we made our way to Gapang Beach. Upon arrival at the dive shop, there were a group of divers, of what seemed like a little spanish party. At a glance, the dive shop is very clean and spacious. Each diver is given a specific number. All their equipments were in excellent condition and laid out accordingly with respective to the given number. We did 2 dives each day.
I have visited several spots in Indonesia, namely Jakarta, Medan, Bali, and Jogjakarta. Pulau Weh was pretty different from the rest of the places and they seemed to be pretty conservative, especially when it comes to drinking. What’s an island trip without some good local beers, right? We noticed that the hotels and restaurants did not stock up on beers because they are not allowed to by law. After talking to some locals, we got a tip – we could get some beers, or rather pre-order them at this little shack in the village. The shack was painted in orange and took us some time to actually locate it. At last, with much effort, we got some cans and enjoyed them to our heart’s content.
After two days of bubbling through walls of sea fans, rock pinnacles and coral reefs, it was time to discover and explore what else this island had to offer. We rented a bike for the day and rode around the island. The bike came with very minimal fuel and the tyres needed to be filled with air. They actually do not have proper petrol stations and fuel were sold in the form of water bottles. We kept a lookout for local shops with the wordings “Tempel Ban” to fill air for the tyres. First pitstop was the Pria Laot Waterfalls. It wasn’t a big waterwall, roughly about 10 metres in height. It took us a good 20 minutes hike into the lush jungle before reaching this sweet spot. I swear we came across a couple of wild boars along the way, but it was well worth it.
It was almost noon and we stopped for lunch at a local coffee shop, located at the intersection towards Sabang – Keunekai. The fact that Pulau Weh is not as touristy as other parts of Indonesia, they weren’t maps available for us and I relied on a snapshot of the island overview on my iPhone. We decided to journey towards Keunekai to check out the hot springs and volcano at Jaboi. Both sites were merely 15 minutes apart. There weren’t anyone at the volcano site and it looked like a perfect site for a horror eruption scene. No lavas, but there were some smoke rising from the hot sulphur. It smelt terrible like rotten eggs, most likely due to the high concentration of sulphur and methane.
We continued our journey and made a coffee stop at White Sand Beach, Southwest of the island before riding off again for a good 45 minutes without any humans in sight. Like a wild zoo, it was pretty enticing to come across wild animals just straying around on the main road. We saw several herds of cows, tribes of mountain goats, monkeys swinging from tree to tree, and also an eagle. It was an uphill journey and along the way, you get a glimpse of the Indian Ocean. We only stumbled across some locals when we passed by the entrance of Gua Sarang. The island has got a huge potential but it was still very untouched and rather under developed.
Kilometer Noi (KM 0) was probably the only spot that I was looking forward to visit, everything else were secondary or more like by chance. Reason being that there is a monument to commemorate and mark the northern-most point of Indonesia. It is located right at the tip of Pulau Weh, about 15 minutes ride from Iboih Beach. There is only one road leading up to KM 0 and we were told it was the best spot to watch the sunset. We passed sunset and retreated back to Olala restaurant for dinner in Iboih Village.
Points of Interest
- Kilometer Zero Indonesia (KM 0) – IDR 5000
- Pria Laot Waterfalls
- Gapang Beach
- Iboih Beach
- Jaboi Volcano – did not explore further
- White Sand Beach – it wasn’t spectacular
- Gua Sarang – passed by the entrance and did not explore
Food and Drinks List
- Olala Restaurant, Iboih Village – good food, value for money
- Iboih Inn Restaurant, Iboih Village – expensive, amazing view
- Special Menu RujakAceh Western Restaurant, Gapang Beach – mediocre
- Zero Cafe and Restaurant, Gapang Beach – next to dive shop, good food and convenient
- Flights Penang/Banda Aceh (Fireflyz Airline) – RM 267 / USD $61
- Flights Penang/Kuala Lumpur/Penang (AirAsia Airline) – RM 243 / USD $55
- Accommodation – IDR 1,100,000 / RM 364 / USD $83
- Airport transfer via taxi to Ulee Lheu Harbour – IDR 140,000 / RM 46 / USD $11
- Slow ferry to Balohan Harbour – IDR 27,000 / RM 9 / USD $2
- Bejak to Iboih Beach – IDR 80,000 / RM 27 / USD $6
- Expenditures for 5 days, inclusive food etc – RM 310 / USD $70
- Bike rental – IDR 100,000 / RM 33 / USD $8
- Diving (4 Fun Dives) – IDR 1,295,000 / RM 430 / USD $ 98
All in Without Diving : RM 1299 / USD $294
Diving : RM 430 / USD $98