Aceh SCUBA Dive Sites

Category: IndonesiaAceh

My dream’s come true! That’s what I thought when Sandy came up with the idea to dive in a remote area we had never been to before. We discussed several possible dive sites before settling on Pulau Weh, an island located at the north-western-most tip of Indonesia. (Actually, I had planned to dive there in early 2005, but the massive tsunami that struck Aceh made me cancel).

Our twosome quickly expanded to six participants, five from Jakarta, and one from Aceh.

Our plane departed for Medan at dawn on schedule and continued to Banda Aceh shortly after. Since we had plenty of time for lunch and sightseeing, we tried Aceh’s specialty “Ayam Tangkep” and then went around the city. After that we caught the ferry to Weh Island. We were surprised to see the natural beauty of Weh while we rode in a chartered car to Gapang Beach. The island was so natural with no pollution and lots of monkeys along the road. We reached Gapang at dusk, and immediately unpacked our gear in Lumbalumba Dive Center for the first night dive from the shore.

We stayed in a bungalow at Gapang Resort about three or four hundred meters from the Dive Center. The Baramundi bungalow was not big, but could accommodate all of us. The bathroom was not pretty, but clean. Two of the three rooms were equipped with AC. Exhausted, we all fell asleep.

The second day, right after the morning had broken we rushed to the dive center, had a quick breakfast and then geared up for the first morning dive from a boat. I can’t remember all the names of the dive sites, but I do remember the beauty of the rock formations. I think the name was ‘The Canyon’, which describes the formation of the sea bottom; there were many huge sea fans and fishes who let us get so close to them! We also saw many small underwater Christmas trees (around 30 cm high) with small crabs living on them. See the picture.

The dive to Sophie Rickmers, a shipwreck lying in 40 – 70 meters of water, started at noon. With a quick descent and double-tanks on the back of the DM, we went to 45 meters. Unlike other shipwrecks I have seen, this huge wreck lies vertical on the sea bottom. Following the line we landed on the captain’s cabin, part of which had collapsed due to corrosion. On the starboard side we quickly saw many things before returning to the captain’s deck and starting the ascent as planned. During the decompression stop we saw many bat fish near the line, one was accompanied by a remora. I wondered what they were looking for in the blue water. I promised myself that if I returned to Weh, I would certainly dive Sophie Rickmers again.

Beach diving in front of the “Bob Marley Café” was also an unforgettable experience. Colorful baby fishes, orange colored shrimps, and hawksbill turtles made us stay underwater until our tanks were nearly empty.

Another dive site was called Batee (=stone) Tokong. Here we found and played with octopus. They were not afraid of our presence and we could get close to them. We enjoyed watching those octopi changing color to adapt to their surroundings. I got great pictures of them, too. Around a corner of the dive site, a strong current swept us. We had to hold onto the hard coral and follow our DM’s instructions. Before I surfaced I saw a white tip shark swimming in the distance, but I didn’t have a chance to take a picture. Near the surface we saw schooling needlefish hovering in front of us.

I played with a sea snake in Rubiah Sea Garden. This was the first time I encountered a sea snake up close and could take a picture. It was thrilling, yet scary …. J The site was full of various soft corals, lots of camera-shy shrimps, octopus, decorator crabs, a honeycomb eel and several flatworms. We ended the dive at dusk, and a yellow-orange moon welcomed us at the surface.

Pantee (=beach) Peunateung had the clearest water with the visibility of 40+ meters! It made the underwater scenery so beautiful. I took my best picture of the trip here, of a long-nose hawk fish on one of the many sea fans at the site. I was so occupied taking pictures that I didn’t realize I was in deco; I had to spend several minutes on my decompression stop. In the distance, my friends enjoyed watching giant grouper, schooling barracuda and jack fish. They were surrounded by the schooling jack fish, cool!

Arus Paleh had strong unpredictable current. The visibility was so-so, but we easily found many pelagics, such as giant snapper and huge grouper almost a meter long! At the end of the dive we saw a garden of whip coral with tiny fish.

One of the most unique dive sites I have ever seen was the Underwater Jacuzzi in Weh’s bay. At the surface of the dive site you can see bubbles and smell the sulfur from a crack in the sea bottom. It was amazing that there were fishes around the area, which I presume have adapted to the sulfuric water. If you wear silver jewelry, you will find that it turns “gold” in the water; but don’t worry it will turn silver again in a few weeks. This dive really amazed me with such unique and unforgettable phenomenon. On the way back we saw a Manta in the distance; only one Manta the whole trip and we couldn’t get close to it.

There were more interesting dive sites, such as Batee Gla. All of Weh’s dive sites displayed unique underwater beauty, astounding given that such a powerful tsunami hit the area less than a year ago- a miracle I would say. Go and enjoy God creation’s in Weh.

Reef type: Most of the seascapes are reef contour, except the canyon has the many underwater canyon, Batee Meuduro is in the blue water. Pria Laot is an extreme deep shipwreck (37 - 75 meters).
Visibility: Most are 25 - 30 meters, certain sites up to 40+ meters.
Current: Mild - Strong (only certain sites), in front of beach is calm :)
Coral condition: Very healthy
Marine life: Only one divesite (north Rubiah) is damaged by tsunami, the other is still intact. Very healthy various soft and hard coral, lots of pelagic (including White Tip and Black Tip Shark, Manta, and Dolphin, Huge Groupers, Giant Snapper and Trevally). Uncountable small fishes and tiny critters, but few sea slugs. Turtle is swimming around the beach.
Highlights: Gorgeous Sophie Rickmers, Underwater Jacuzzi, see also Marine Life (above) especially in Pantee Peunateung, Batee Gla, Batee Tokong and Rubiah Sea Garden
Accomodation: Simple bungalow (Gapang and Leguna Resort), with fans and AC
Tips: Plan carefully for transportation and its schedule. For the best food, ask local resident around the beach to cook seafood with their own recipes, you will not regret. For the dive, always ready for sudden current.
Difficulty: Medium - High (only certain sites)
Temperature: Relatively warm around 28 - 30 °