pictures of coral reefs, maps of north Sumatra, getting there, safety, staying at Gapang and Ibioh
Pristine coral reefs and the common sighting of large marine animals attract visitors to this
unspoiled tropical paradise. The currents around pulau Weh draw the big plankton feeders such as whale sharks and manta rays, with the former frequenting the area each January.
Dolphin sightings, sometimes with pods numbering hundreds, are a common occurrence. Around and on pulau Weh are two protected areas: Rubiah sea garden (2,600 hectares) and Iboih recreation park (1,300 ha). A 350m wide channel separates pulau Weh from its reef-encircled sister island, pulau Rubiah.
Photos of coral reefs and sea turtles at pulau Weh, click to enlarge. All photos © Imtiaz Dharssi
Krabi and Koh Phi Phi
Gunung Leuser |
Lake Toba |
Berastagi and Karo highlands
Travel tips for Pulau Weh
- Location: Pulau Weh is located at the north western tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. The nearest city to pulau Weh is Banda-Aceh, on mainland Sumatra.
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.
Map of Pulau Weh and north Sumatra
- Getting there: Arriving at pulau weh must be done in several steps.
- 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. I 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).
- Safety: Indonesia Travel Advice from the British Government
- Accommodation: Most visitors stay at Ibioh or Gapang, I have stayed at both resorts and prefer Gapang. Malaria can be a problem so make sure that your room has a mosquito net.
- Ibioh is more popular, 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.
- Food: Consists almost entirely of rice and noodles, don't expect meat or chicken on the menu. Surprisingly, there is very little fish or sea-food on the menu. To improve your diet catch your own fish or buy some from a passing fisherman.
- When staying at Gapang, some friends and I bought two large, freshly caught, tuna fish from a passing fisherman. Our guesthouse restaurant refused to prepare or cook the fish. So we gutted the fish by some rocks near the shore. We gained an unexpected bonus as blood flowing from the tuna into the sea had the effect of attracting Moray eels into the shallow waters around the rocks, where the eels are easily seen. In the evening, we built a bonfire to cook the fish. Finally, we persuaded our guesthouse to rent out a wok and also to sell us some cooking oil and spices. The Tuna was delicious.
- Costs: For food and accomodation, expect to pay about 5 to 10 US dollars per day. A basic bungalow costs about Rp 10,000 per day, a bugalow with attached bathroom costs about Rp 20,000. A cheap meal costs about Rp 5,000.
Good Points about pulau Weh
- Pristine coral reefs and great snorkelling.
- Chance to view manta rays, whale sharks and dolphins.
- Relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.
Bad Points about pulau Weh
- Remote location, difficult to reach.
- Facilities are basic.
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