Pulau Weh is a small island at the very northern tip of Sumatra. I’d heard that it offered some of the best diving in the area, and that hardly anyone went there…that was enough for me, so I decided to head up there to check it out. From the town of Medan it was a 12 hour overnight bus ride interrupted several times by military checkpoints. The bus passes thru the Aceh province which has been under active insurrection against the government for several years. I was the only non-local on the bus, and I think I had the easiest time. They didn’t even want to see my passport…just my white face was enough for them.
Once we got to the town of Banda Aceh, I found the fast ferry to the island. I knew to head for Gapang beach, and with a combination of gestures and badly drawn maps I was finally able to figure out which truck was going that way.
This was probably the most primitive place I’ve ever stayed…toilets were just pits, and there was one shower (basically a cold hose) for three complexes of bungalows. All the places were pretty much the same…thatched roof bungalows up on stilts, with simple Indonesian cuisine available thru the day. Usually if you ordered 24 hours in advance you could arrange a special meal with fresh fish and veggies.
I wandered down to the Lumba Lumba dive shop, and decided to sign up for the rescue diver course. The shop was staffed with a combination of western and local divers. My instructor was a British guy who’d been living here for several months. The course itself was excellent, as was the diving. The corral was just amazing..hardly any damage, and just tons of fish. There was one dive where we found a wall full of moray eels just waving their heads out of crevices in the rock. I also got to see my first lion fish and cuttlefish in the wild.
The social life down here is very laid back. This is in a Muslim province, so alcohol isn’t a huge focus. It’s available, but since most people are diving the next day it’s consumed only very lightly. People usually hang out in one of the restaurants and chat…sometimes there will be a movie played from a pirated DVD. I saw the 2nd Lord of the Rings movie here for the first time, complete with badly spelled English subtitles. I’m not sure why they felt the need to include English subtitles, especially since the movie had its original soundtrack!