Here is an excellent report written by a traveller Bora Horza on Lonely Planet Thorn Tree.
Here is the link but it will most likely disappear after a few months so I have cut and pasted for the distant future.
Posted 26-May-2008 07:29
Pulau Weh, Sumatra Trip Report
Well I’ve recently returned from a 26 day trip to North Sumatra - well, Pulau Weh mostly :-) I flew via Singapore into Medan and got a 30 day Visa on Arrival, then made my way to Danau Toba for about 3 days to chill out and get over jet lag.
Lake Toba is a beautiful place to visit, with plenty of good value accommodation to choose from, and because of the higher altitude is pleasantly cool compared to the fumes and heat of Medan. After a 4 hour minibus trip I arrived at Parapat, then took a ferry across to Tuk Tuk where I got a nice room in a Batak style house with a big bathroom and hot water for 50,000 Rupiah. I didn’t do that much, just chilled, walked around the little peninsula there, enjoyed the scenery, relaxed, had some nice food and conversation…
Then back to Medan where I booked a flight to Banda Aceh with Lion Air (300,000 Rupiah) for the next morning. After a 50 min flight I got a taxi from Banda Aceh airport to the ferry terminal at Ulee Lhe (about a 40 minute trip, cost was about 80,000 to 100,000 Rupiah).
Before I go further I should mention there’s some very useful free tourism booklets with lots of information (maps, accommodation contact details, etc) you can pick up at places tourists hang out.
I got mine in Medan, at Corner Café Raya which is a popular little place across from the Mesjid Raya mosque for travellers to have a beer and some food and watch satellite television.
The booklets (there are a few different ones) are also available to download in the form of PDF files from www.sumatraecotourism.com/
and the Pulau Weh PDF booklet is www.sumatraecotourism.com/bull(...)in/wehbulletin04.pdf
It’s well worth getting hold of these!
There are between 2 and 3 ferrys a day between Ulee Lhe and Pulau Weh, depending on what day of the week it is. Current schedules are listed at the booklet download.
I met a bunch of other backpackers, UN workers and divers on the 2 hour ferry trip, so we clubbed together to get a minibus across the island to the beach destinations (think we paid 40,000 Rupiah each). I went to Iboih, the northern of the 2 main beaches (the other beach is Gapang, with more upmarket accommodation by accounts I heard, but as I never visited it I can’t really comment).
Iboih has about half a dozen low key restaurants, and some pretty basic but spectacularly located accommodation (a bunch of bungalows on stilts right at the waters edge, with hammocks on the balconies) strung out along the rocky shoreline. I stayed at Erick’s (I paid 50,000 Rupiah a night - about 5 $US or so), a more conventional place higher up the hill, on account of the clean nice big bathroom/mandi there, and because it was not so far from the beach.
During my stay I dived with Rubiah Tirta Divers- www.rubiahdivers.com/
They are an Indonesian owned operation, with German and English Instructors, and Indonesian dive guides. A very friendly, welcoming and calm atmosphere, the kit I hired was fine - I had a great time diving with them! They also have a nice big dive boat. Here’s a Youtube clip taken as we set off diving one sunny morning: nl.youtube.com/watch?v=at-oUVk1j_M
The diving around Pulau Weh is really good. There are dives around the coasts of little islands (Rubiah and Seulako), around rocky pinnacles, across channels between islands, and in mellow shallow coral gardens. Many dive sites are characterised by big volcanic rock boulders with partial coral cover, with lots of nooks and crannies.
Around the north west tip of the island are a couple of my favourite dive sites, the Canyon and Peunateung. This side of the island is more exposed to the open ocean, so sometimes quite a sea swell when on the boat. The Canyon dive site is basically a rocky wall with 3 or so canyon cracks cutting into it, with lots of big gorgonian fans. Peunateung has 2 rock walls. Both sites are very colourful, with lots of fish, and schools of barracuda and jackfish are regular visitors.
Shark Plateau was another excellent dive - a plateau at about 35 meters, with a series of steps going up towards an island - lots of boulders and coral and fish action, really beautiful.
There can sometimes be a lot of current around Pulau Weh. I did 24 dives in total, and most were fine, even for newly qualified divers.
We had one day though when the currents were ripping. That morning we first went to a site called Batee Gla, a slope dive with lots of boulders.
Two visiting Instructors went into the water first, then surfaced a few minutes later a hundred meters or so down the coast - current too strong!
So we went to an alternative site - Batee Tokong. In we went, and the first 20 minutes of the dive was fine, some current but manageable if you stayed close to the bottom.
We saw a big school of Jacks along with some Giant Trevelly. Our group was trying to work its way up the back slope of this pinnacle, but the current was getting stronger and stronger. Then we were just hanging onto the rocks! That’s when I took this video clip: fierce current dive. nl.youtube.com/watch?v=ohwgCdafe4c
We let go and went to safety stop soon after - this dive was a lot of hard work, and lots of air was used. I like current dives, you see so many interesting things, but overall I prefer going with the current instead of against it, LOL!
During my time there I saw lots of octopus, turtles, some blacktip sharks, an eagle ray in the distance, had a close encounter with a big black blotched stingray, plenty of moray eels including a pair of huge honeycomb morays, barracudas, schools of jacks, napoleon wrasse, a school of big bumphead parrotfish, blue ribbon eels, longnose hawkfish, plus all the other colourful reef fish, crabs, shrimps, too much to list!
I also enjoyed the more mellow, low key dive sites, as I’m still learning how to use my new Canon Powershot A570 IS camera, so I had fun taking lots of pictures. At the Seagarden we came across a beautiful blue jellyfish. Snorkelling was also a lot of fun, there was lots to see (and no dive buddy to keep up with, when all you want to do is stay put and take just one more photo…)
As I mentioned before, simple accommodation, no hot water, and as the water comes from locally sunk wells this can sometimes be a bit brackish depending if there has been any rainfall recently or if the tides have been high - it varied from day to day. A final quick rinse with bottled water after washing did the trick for me though. Occasional power cuts were common as well.
Altogether I stayed put for 18 days at Iboih beach (although I did one afternoon / evening trip to the main town Sabang to top up on cash at the ATM - MasterCard/Cirrus only, not Visa). It’s really nice communal atmosphere when you get to know all the folks at Iboih. Food at the restaurants was good, great fish and chicken meals. My breakfast was usually a cup of strong coffee and fresh hot donuts - very tasty! - but this depended on whether the lady who made them was in the mood to get up early to make them…
Overall I had an excellent holiday, and there are some photos from this trip travel.webshots.com/album/563467925LzmJjf
Take it easy all…