Diving Pulau Weh (Island), Sumatra

Pulau Weh (Weh Island) or sometimes known as Pulo Weh by the locals, is a volcanic island off the coast of northwest Sumatra. The largest city in the island is Sabang. Hence the island is also sometimes known as Pulau Sabang

Pulau Weh had been well known for its ecosystem, diving and considered off the beaten track in oppose to its famous distant sister Bali of Indonesia. A part of this island had been declared as wildlife protection are by the Indonesian government because it is the home to many rare species on land wild the coral reefs are bursting with large and diverse variety of Indo-Pacific marine life.

Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia Map

Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia Map

Where is it

It is located on the Andaman Sea, about 15 km off the northwestern tip of Sumatra. It takes 45 minutes of a fast boat or 2 hours regular boat from Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh.

Why go

Boat at Iboih, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Boat at Iboih, Pulau Weh. Photo by BenJam

Off the beaten track from Sumatra and one of Indonesia’s beautiful islands, this jungle island house many rare species from the land to the sea.

Also, one of the best diving site in Indonesia with 20 diving spots, though not as well known as the others but many who had dived here agree it is among the top stars.

Visiting this somewhat remote island is also suitable for conscious independent traveling where you can contribute to the locals here yourself and keep to eco-travel.

When is the best time to go

Best time to go to Pulau Weh, Sumatra is during April to November, the dry season of Indonesia tropical climate. This is the time with good weather where you can enjoy more of the sun and sea.

What to see

Not that much to see in Sabang or land, most travelers head to the beaches either Gapang beach or Iboih beach.

Iboih Beach at Pulau Weh, Sabang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Iboih Beach. Photo by hartanto

What to do

Diving of course with up to 20 dive spots around Pulau Weh to choose from and it is known as one of Indonesia’s best diving site!

Here are the top dive spots in/around Pulau Weh:

Arus Balee – with water passage around a rocky pinnacle between islands of Seulako and Rubiah, offering chance of drift diving in strong currents
Batee Meuduro – an hour south of Pulau Weh, worthy to go to for being a top site where you can chance upon several species of shark
Gapang house reef – famous for its dense marine life
Pulau Rubia for a lush coral garden that drops 30 meters.
Batee Tokong – steep and rich with marine life, this 40 meters downwards wall will be sure to delight
Pantee Aneuk – lined with caves, arches, wall and canyongs that many divers love to explore.
Pantee Peunateung – famous for the 70 meters drop off that boasts wild marines like baraccuda.
Sophie Rickmers – for impressive wreck dive, this is a cargo steam ship built back in 1920 in Germany, which sunk at the bay of Pria Laot. Decompression dive is needed here.
Sabang harbour – for shallower wreck dive of a tugboat

Diving Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Diving Pulau Weh. Photo by Eric Beerkens

Where to stay

Stay in the island’s main city Sabang for various choices ranging from hostels to guesthouses and hotels. People tend to either stay at the center of Sabang or along the guesthouses at Iboih beach *.

-> Find the best hotel deals on Pulau Weh at Booking.com *

How to get there

Ferry from Banda Aceh, Sumatra to Sabang, Pulau Weh.

Ferry Banda Aceh to Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Ferry Banda Aceh to Sabang. Photo by Franc López

Fast ferry/boat, it will take about 45 minutes at 60000-80000RP. It leaves everyday 9.30am and 4pm from Banda Aceh and 8.30am and 4pm from Sabang. The fast boat is call Pulo Rondo .

Slow ferry/boat will take about 2 hours and cheaper priced at 18000-32000Rp. It leaves Banda Aceh at 2 pm and from Sabang, Pulau Weh at 8 am.

How to get around

You can rent a motorbike to go around on Pulau Weh or rent a minivan and guide if you are in a group.

Where to go nearby

Being at the northernmost tip of Indonesia off Sumatra, there is nowhere else to go but back to Banda Aceh. From Banda Aceh you can make your way to Bukit Lawang for Orang Utan or chill at famous Lake Toba.

Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sabang, Pulau Weh. Photo by Franc López

Travel Tips

Tsunami struck Banda Aceh at 2004 and had heavily affected Pulau Weh too. At 2005, the reefs of Pulau Weh was surveyed at depths and was reported that most sites are still alright especially those deeper than 10m. For some shallow areas, the reefs are damaged, and out of the chartered dive sites, only reefs at Rubiah/Iboih was affected. Restoration efforts are also being looked into.

Related articles:
Lake Toba
Top 10 Must Visit Places in Sumatra
Sumatran Orangutan Trekking at Bukit Lawang

2 weeks or 15 days Itinerary in Sumatra

Planning to take a trip to Sumatra for about 2 weeks (15 days)? Don’t worry as we are here to help you sort it out. As Sumatra is not a well-trodden tourist trail in Indonesia, in opposed to Java or Bali, it may be a little difficult to plan out your days here.

In this itinerary you will cover some of the top 10 must-visit places in Sumatra in the northern part of Sumatra. The attractions are such as the buzzing city of Medan, the Karo highlands of rice fields at Berastagi, the largest volcanic lake in the world Lake Toba, the conservation area with treks to seek out the Sumatra Orang-Utan at Bukit Lawang, the less congested Sumatran city Banda Aceh and diving off the volcanic island Pulau Weh.

The plan is to fly into Medan and then leave flying out of Banda Aceh to save on the land travel in Sumatra, which may take a while due to road conditions.

Sumatra Travel Map

Sumatra Travel Map

Sumatra Travel Map

Week 1 Itinerary

First fly into Medan, one of the major city in Sumatra and known to the locals as a culinary hub. You will spend your first week here and its surrounding.

Day 1 and 2 – Medan

May not be the favourite of many tourists but Medan does hold some charm with its colonial Tjong A Fie Mansion, grand Mosque and old palace. It also packs a punch in the food department, like its famous Soto Kesawan.

Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, Sumatra. Photo by Pratyeka, via Wikimedia Commons

Day 3 and 4 – Berastagi

Heading here with 2 hours ride up to the Karo highlands, you will find yourself relaxing to the cooling atmosphere. There is the Gunung Sibayak mountain to hike and the Sipiso-sipiso waterfall to marvel at.

Gunung Sipiso-piso Waterfall at Berastagi, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sipiso-piso Waterfall at Berastagi. Photo by Ronald Tagra

Day 5 and 6 – Lake Toba

This famous lake of Sumatra beckons us to come and just sit down and idle our time away. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world and a wonder to reckon with. Besides chilling by the lake, the Tuk-tuk village is also worth to check out for its rich Batak culture.

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Holmes Nainggolan

For a detailed itinerary on this first week, check out our 1 week / 7 days in Sumatra itinerary.

Week 2 Itinerary

On the second week, we proceed onwards to the north of Sumatra.

Day 7 and 8 – Bukit Lawang

Head on to Bukit Lawang from Medan, you may hire a car or taxi to get here for the quickest option or there are several buses plying this route. The ride will take about 3 hours. Many come here specifically for Orangutan trekking, which is quite an experience itself.

Mother and Baby Orangutan @ Bukit Lawang

Mother and Baby Orangutan. Photo by Arian Zweger

Day 9 and 10 – Banda Aceh

Buses also run from Bukit Lawang to Banda Aceh, so head onwards here to northern Sumatra trip. At this fairly less chaotic city of Sumatra in comparison to Medan, one can find many things to do in Banda Aceh, such as the beautiful mosque, historical sites, musuems and coffee shops for the famous Aceh’s coffee beans.

Masjid Mosque Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Aceh great mosque. Photo by Vidi Agiorno

Day 11, 12 and 13 – Pulau Weh

Take a ferry out of Banda Aceh to Sabang, to get to Pulau Weh, with fast ferry with only 45 minutes and slow ferry/boat for 2 hours. As one of the best diving site in Indonesia with 20 diving spots, Pulau Weh is worth to take a trip out to. Off the beaten track from Sumatra and one of Indonesia’s beautiful islands, this jungle island house many rare species from the land to the sea.

Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sabang, Pulau Weh. Photo by Franc López

Day 14 – Banda Aceh

Get back on land to Banda Aceh and fly out at the airport here onwards to other places in Indonesia or elsewhere. There are frequent flights to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur from Banda Aceh.

If you have some more time, do consider adding more days in Pulau Weh or Lake Toba for relaxation, as they are one of the favourite gems of travelers in Sumatra. As you can see, there are more than Sumatra that meets the eye, with 2 weeks we are only barely scratching the surface of northern part of it. But with that, we have covered a lot of the best of what Sumatra can offer and it’s good enough as a tasting tour of Sumatra.

Related articles:
Sumatra 7 days (1 week) Itinerary
Sumatra Travel Guide

Author: Pearl

Living in Jakarta for more than 20 years now, she still have not manage to cover the tip of Indonesia’s diverse destinations, people and even food! Pearl loves shopping as much as enjoying luxury but she knows all these have to be done sensibly and on a budget. Therefore you may find the best scoop and offers in Jakarta and beyond with her.