Pulau Weh, a small active volcanic island to the northwest of Sumatra Indonesia and is part of the Bandah Ache province, the surrounding reefs offered some great ‘off the grid’ diving. Our personal experience was that the diving is good, but not comparable with the best of Indonesia; such as Komodo National Park or Lembeh Strait. We really enjoyed that there were only a couple of divers out there. Around popular dive areas you often see millions of bubbles ascending from other divers on your way down. Diving from Pulau Weh we hardly ever encountered divers from other groups during our dives. Out of thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, with a point marked ‘kilometer zero’ this is where Indonesia starts in the North West corner of the island.
With great visibility and amazing marine life, ranging from small creatures to big swimming pelagics, definitely a dive area worth visiting. Pumping currents flow around the island making for good drift dives, deep wrecks are great for technical diving and an underwater volcano is something different for even the most experienced diver. You have to cover up on this conservative Muslim island, Aceh is a special province where Sharia law is still practiced. Nothing to worry about, but bikinis are not allowed, at certain times on Fridays no swimming is allowed and alcohol is not readily available. So this is not really a party island, but it is a beautiful, cheap island with very nice diving and good snorkeling from the beach!
Cost of travel in Pulau Weh
This is probably the cheapest good diving that I have ever done. Other then diving our budget for food and accommodation was less than $10 per day each! It is possible to do it for $5 per day if you really do the budget thing staying at a budget homestay and eat rice or noodles at local eateries. Diving cost about $25 per dive, including gear depending on dive center, dive site and how many dives you do.
Best season for Diving Pulau Weh
May to September it is dry season, comfortable temperature, rare rainfalls, cleaner water and better visibility for diving and snorkeling.
The Marine LIfe around Pulau Weh
Doing research for this trip, we were really excited reading about just about every awesome, large pelagic you can imagine swimming in these waters; mantas, whale sharks, dog tooth tunas and even mola mola and killer whales! We really thought we found Indonesia’s best kept diving secret. Unfortunately big animals are rarely seen these days, but who knows, you might get lucky! We still enjoyed the diving with good visibility and an abundance of marine life.
Pelagics diving from Pulau Weh
Mantas, whale sharks and killer whale we did not see, there were many blue fin trevallies hunting in packs on all the reefs that we dived. We encountered some massive Giant Trevallies patrolling in the deep and saw a couple of white tip reef sharks, some schooling Barracudas and Horse eye Jacks.
On the reefs of Pulau Weh
The jungles of huge gorgonian fans covered by massive clouds of Indian trigger fish everywhere was spectacular.
Closer to the reef some highlights were octopus, we saw a couple of Leafy Scorpionfish and were lucky to spot more than one Mantis Shrimp. The Peacock Mantis shrimp is an incredible little animal. It has 2 powerful appendages called dactyl clubs that punch faster than a 22 calibre bullet to destroy it’s pray and those beautiful, huge, colorful eyes are some of the most powerful eyes in the universe, seeing colors we can not even comprehend. Don’t crawl on the reef, there were a couple of scorpion fish and they are highly venomous. Scorpion fish are passive, but well camouflaged, don’t press on their toxic spines with a hand or a knee! I love nudibranches and there were a variety of these colorful sea slugs hiding all over the reef if you kept an eye open for them.
Blue fin Trevally hunting at Bastard Current.
Diving Pulau Weh – from our Logbook
We dived in current on all our dives, varying from very mild to strong. The water temperature was a very comfortable 29C and depth ranging between 8m and 41m. Most of the dive sites start shallow and slope deeper. There are a variety of sites suitable for all levels.
Our first dive was disappointing. We completely missed the reef and had to abort the dive, finding it on our second attempt. Nice standard reef fish found in SE Asia and couple of nudis, not what we were hoping for. Giant clams, magnificent slug, powder blue surgeon fish, moorish idols etc. Very average dive.
Dive log Pante Peunateung:
Viz: 15m, Temp: 29C, Max depth 31m, Avg depth 15m, Dive time 61min
Good dive! This was much better diving! The reef is spectacular with massive Gorgonian fans and a variety of beautiful corals. Thousands of Indian triggerfish covered the reef.
Packs of medium sized Giant trevally and Blue fin trevally hunting. Interesting life on the reef, a Honeycomb Morey, White eye Morey Eel. Scorpion fish, Octopus, Titan triggerfish and all the normal small reef fish.
Dive Log, The Canyon
Viz: 10-15m, Temp: 29C, Max depth 31m, Avg depth 15m, Dive time 62min
Arus Balee (Bastard Current)
Great Dive, most beautiful reef we saw around Pulau Weh. Gorgonian Fans, Staghorn coral, Table coral amazing. Big Giant Trevallies. So many fish it looked like it was getting dark sometimes! Similar marine life to The Canyon, just more dense.
Dive Log, Arus Balee
Viz: 15m, Temp: 29c, Max depth 31m, Avg depth 15m, Dive time 61min
Finally a dive with some big fish! Three massive Giant Trevallies, a school of 20 to 30 Barracudas, school of about 100 Horse eye jacks. Plenty of Blue fin trevally and smaller Giant trevally hunting. Two Blacktip reef sharks. Nice macro life, Leafy scorpion fish, Mantis shrimp, Boxer banded shrimp.
Dive Log Batee Tokong:
Viz: 15m, Temp: 28C, Max depth 40m, Avg depth 15.8m, Dive time 61min
More interesting sites
The Sophie Rickmers Wreck
The Sophie Rickmers is an 134m long wreck, scuttled in a sheltered bay. This wreck lies in deep water and is done as a decompression dive and is only for experienced divers, dive schools require a minimum advance open water and rescue with 100 dives plus. The top of the wheelhouse is at 37 meters with the decks at 45 meters and the bow lies at over 55 meters deep.
A shallow dive, can also be snorkeled. Abnormally warm water due to thermal activity. The rising bubbles makes for a interesting dive.
Pulau Weh Dive Centers
I heard there are plenty of dive centers on Pulau Weh, but only saw six. We dived with Iboih Dive Center, dives are cheap at about $23 per dive including gear, the equipment was well maintained and the staff where friendly and professional.
I heard that decompression problems are common on the island (about once a month). Some of the popular dive sites are deep with current. I would recommend that you dive with your own computer and always closely monitor your depth, do not only rely on the dive masters, some of the young, local divemasters are inexperienced. A very inexperienced diver staying in our hostel was taken to 45m by a divemaster that missed the reef!
Read current Tripadvisor reviews of the dive centers, this will give you a good idea of what is going on at each center. Dive leaders and instructors come and go, so things change at these centers. I would recommend that you rather pay $5 per dive more to dive with a center you trust, than to risk you life to save a couple of cents.
Diving Pulao Weh, Batee Tokong
Snorkeling Pulau Weh
Snorkeling trips can be done with dive shops or local operators, there are some really good spots to just snorkel yourself from the shore. The shoreline is rocky with some entry points from beaches or bays, do not walk over the reef. We found snorkeling from the beach was good at Yulia guest house pier, shallow, some corals along the shore. The marine life was nice, we saw there was an octopus, some lion fish, trumpet fish, clown fish etc. The spot is so shallow you can only snorkel here at high tide.
Snorkeling in front of Erick’s Green House, was nice, you can swim there from Rubiah beach along to the shore. We saw there two big scorpion fish, some big bat fish, some clown fish, needle fish, trumpet fish, lion fish and thousands of small reef fish. A lot of the hard coral around Pulau Weh is dead, but here the reef itself is very nice and colorful. Watch for scorpion fish and sea urchins there are many around.
Best beach to stay on the island
The three main beaches to stay on the island are Gapang, Iboih and Simur Tiga Beach.
Gapang and Iboih are located 10 min. drive from each other.
- Iboih Beach – The most popular place for tourists, still not very touristy. We stayed at Iboih beach, the main reason we found prices for diving in dive centers at Iboih beach were cheaper. We really liked it here, it is a small village with a few dive centers, many accommodation options and food places, motorbike rental, snorkeling trips and some shops. If you want to dive with a specific dive center it makes sense to stay at the beach where the center is located.
Dive Centers on Iboih Beach – Rubiah Tirtia, Scuba Weh, Iboih Dive Center
- Gapang Beach – less touristy (less backpackers) than Iboih Beach, very chilled out atmosphere. Beach and nice house reef for snorkeling, often spot turtles here.
Dive Centers on Gapang Beach – Lumba Lumba, Bubble Adict, Monster Divers
- Simur Tiga Beach – More remote, nice palm fringed white sandy beach, romantic island setting, have to drive or taxi to the dive centers.
Accommodation Pulau Weh
To stay closer to the main town and the airport than stay around Sabang, the main town on the island. We stayed at Iboih beach and found its location quite good not very busy but with something going on around, a couple of dive shops, local food places and several accommodation options for different budget.
Accommodation in Sabang
Freddies Santai Sumurtiga, Sabang – a great and budget place right at the beach, bungalows and family rooms with sea view, beautiful restaurant terrace. Bungalows are quite spacious, with double bed, fan, wi-fi, hot water shower, safety box, balcony facing the sea, private beach, helpful staff etc.
Casa Nemo Beach Resort & Spa, Sabang – a bit more expensive and luxury place with bigger bungalows, extra large beds, AC, mosquito nets, wi-fi, hot water shower, included breakfast. Restaurant with sea view, close to the beach and good snorkeling spot.
More accommodation options in Sabang
Accommodation at Iboih beach
Bixio Cafe, Iboih beach – another great and budget option at the beach. Spacious bungalows with private bathroom, double bed, hot water shower, wi-fi, balcony, fan, mosquito net, safety deposit safe etc. Continental breakfast for US$3 extra.
Treetop Guesthouse and Bungalows – Great location on the water, nice snorkeling, hammocks, nice bungalows, fantastic place.
Pele’s Place – great budget accommodation, bungalows on the beach, excellent staff, good snorkeling, even nice pizza!
More accommodation options on Iboih beach
Accommodation at Simur Tiga
Casa Nemo Beach Resort & Spa – want a bit more luxury, still for fantastic price? Excellent location, beautiful beach, really good spa treatments and facilities and good restaurant
For more about island life on Pulau Weh see our Guide to Pualu Weh. It is a nice island to explore by scooter with hot springs, a volcano and secret beaches strewn around the main road meandering around the island. If you want to climb an iconic volcano consider going to Java and climb Mount Bromo for free
Thinking of things that can go wrong too much can put a damper on your trip, but there are obvious risks. Many dive locations are remote with minimal medical facilities. Accidents do happen, be prepared. World Nomads travel insurance covers travelers from most countries around the world and cover can even be organised while you are traveling. They specialize in covering adventure activities like diving. Make sure you take out the appropriate cover. Get a online quote in seconds. Have your trip, your health and your gear covered, read the small print. World Nomads Diving Insurance
Handy things to pack for your island trip!
We always have a mask in our backpacks and love the Mares Star liquid skin. Doesn’t take much space and important to have one that fits without leaking when going for a dive or snorkel. The liquid skin material is super soft and fits very comfortable for both of us. Our favorite mask for Scuba and snorkeling
This awesome, soft silicone snorkel folds away in your backpack, if we have a mask and snorkel the dive center we dive with often borrows us fins, so snorkeling costs us zero. Aegend soft fold away snorkel
Thermo Guard dive/swim vest
Great for all water activities. 0.5mm neoprene keeps you warm swimming and diving, protects you against the sun. Light to pack in your backpack. Mares Thermo Guard 0.5mm
Micro fibre towel
Very important to pack a nice towel that doesn’t take to much space in your luggage. We suggest a quality microfiber towel.
- Cap or hat
- Board shorts/Bikini
- Beach cover/beach dress. Unlike Bali Pulau Weh is a Muslim island you’re not supposed to walk in your bikini anywhere except for the beach.
- Beach towel
- Mosquito repellent
- LifeStraw water filter
Recommended books and guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Indonesia (Travel Guide). Paperback. 2019
- Insight Guides Southeast Asia. Paperback & Kindle. 2018
- Diving in Indonesia: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Best Dive Spots: Bali, Komodo, Sulawesi, Papua, and more. Paperback & Kindle. 2016
- Diving in Southeast Asia: A Guide to the Best Sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand (Periplus Action Guides). Paperback & Kindle. 2017
- Lonely Planet Bali, Lombok & Nusa Tenggara (Travel Guide). Paperback. 2019
- Lonely Planet Indonesian Phrasebook & Dictionary 7th edition. Paperback.
- Pulau Weh Island Guide – Indonesia off the Beaten Track
- Dive Sipadan – a Travelling Instructor’s Guide
- Dive Komodo National Park – a Traveller’s Guide
- Dive Nusa Penida, Bali Indonesia
- Diving Perhentian Islands
- Dive Lembeh strait in North Indonesia
- Dive the Togian Islands, Indonesia
- Bira diving in South Sulawesi
- Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cebu, The Philippines
- Choosing the Best Dive School in Koh Tao Thailand
- 17 Awesome places in Indonesia
- Indonesian visa on arrival; extendable vs non-extendable
- Komodo island and Flores complete guide
- How to get from Bali to Flores
- Nusa Penida island guide, Bail
- Dive trip in Indonesia; Bali to Sulawesi
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