The remote Indonesian island of Pulau Weh is worth the journey for the delights divers can find in its waters, says Georgina Grant.
My fiancé Phil and I were excited to be heading off to the remote destination of Pulau Weh, a volcanic island to the northwest of Sumatra in Indonesia. Also along on this trip were Jo, Lydia, Marla, Hongbo, Mo and Wong, with Gary Savins in charge.
After two flights – Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, then onwards to Banda Aceh and a ferry ride – our sleepy group took a coach through mountainous vegetation and lush rainforest to the tranquil resort of Pulau Weh.
Hongbo brought along his huge camera housing, which Gary dubbed ‘the mini-submarine’ – we all gasped with delight when we saw his underwater photos the next day.
The wooden dive boat took us to Seulako Island and Tokong dive sites, where underwater we saw a rainbow of colours from different shoals of fish – sweetlips, cardinalfish, anemonefish, damselfish, surgeonfish and huge parrotfish. There was something for everyone to look at, take photos of or just hover and admire.
There were also plenty of moray eels hiding shyly under rocks, surrounded by banded shrimps. Several times you had to look twice at the stone fish and crocodilefish, who were so well camouflaged. But it was the several octopuses that generated lots of interest and could transform from black to speckled grey to white in seconds.
A couple of times we came across the titan triggerfish but luckily it wasn’t nesting season and they were too busy rummaging around to notice any divers. Still I noticed that everyone kept well away from them, Gary included.
We returned to different areas of Seulako Island and Tokong and were in for a dazzling display of fish life. Shoals of angelfish, triggerfish, trevallies, fusiliers and sergeant majors were swimming around the reef in all directions. We all agreed that this had probably been the best diving we had done in Asia, on par with Sipadan, Malaysia.
After a heavy downpour in the morning, we were hesitant about another dive due to lower visibility. The dive guide promised us a macro, easy dive then changed his mind when we got on the boat. This became an adrenaline-filled ‘resort’s most challenging dive’ and it certainly lived up to its name – we were dropped into the blue.
While descending, at 31 metres there was still no sign of a wall or the sea floor. As the current was strong and like a washing machine, I ended up swimming and panting behind. It felt like a tricky swim through streams of lemonade, so I was relieved when I caught sight of the wall.
We were thrown by the current over a fast moving wall. Poor Hongbo carrying his mini-submarine was sick in his regulator.
Looking up there were two manta rays. Then turning around a corner for shelter, I was greeted by a peaceful turtle who looked at us curiously.
For our last dive the boat crew took us to an underwater hot volcanic spring. There were holes in the sand where jets of warm bubbles constantly streamed, much to the interest of some yellow fusiliers.
One of the dive guides had brought a bag of damp, black volcanic sandy paste onto the boat. We all had great fun smearing it on our faces and body as it was warm and felt great for the skin!
As we made our way back to Singapore we had a few hours to spare in Banda Aceh so we visited the Tsunami Museum. Luckily, Wong could speak the local language which really helped us.
Overall, it was a fantastic and fun holiday. I would recommend visiting the pretty island of Pulau Weh for some fantastic diving – it is definitely worth the journey.
Photos by HongBo Zheng.