Weh

Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Sumatra Weh

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Introduction

Weh Island is a small volcanic island to the northwest of Sumatra, 45 minutes by fast regular ship or 2 hours by ferry from mainland, Banda Aceh. It was originally connected to the Sumatran mainland and became separated by sea after the volcano's last eruption in the Pleistocene era. The island is situated in the Andaman Sea.

The only town of Weh island is Sabang, reason why both names are being used without making the distinction. The name Weh is more popular among foreigners, Indonesians tend to say “I am going to Sabang” rather than “I am going to Pulau Weh”. And their reasons for going to Weh Island are snorkeling, diving and fishing.
Sabang enjoys the status of being the most northern and most western town of Indonesia. The republic is often said to stretch 'from Sabang to Merauke', Merauke being on the border with Papua New Guinea in the south-east. At the end of the road to the northwestern tip of Weh they have built a monument at 'km 0', imparting the message that at this point Indonesia begins.

Actually Weh is not the most northern and western island of the Indonesian archipelago. That is the island Rondo (0,650 km2) at 20 kilometres northwest of Weh. However, being uninhabited, Rondo is commonly disregarded. The municipality of Sabang comprises Rondo and three smaller islands which lie in Sabang Bay, viz. Rubiah (0,357 km2), Seulako (0,055 km2) and Klah (0,186 km2). Sabang is part of the province Aceh Special Region and counts about 35,000 inhabitants.

History

In the Middle Ages Sabang may well have been an important trading port, due to its strategic location and sheltered harbour. Admiral Cheng Ho is reported to have anchored here (1413-1415). But around 1900 Sabang was just a small fishing village. Then the Dutch enlarged the harbour making it a free port and a store of coal and fresh water for coal-fired steam-ships. Before WW II Sabang harbour was bigger than Singapore harbour. As coal was replaced by diesel oil Sabang became less important. During WW II the Japanase fortified the island with bunkers and gun emplacements, some of these remain as a tourist attraction. The government of the republic tried to revive Sabang harbour by declaring it a Duty Free zone in 1970. But the envisioned future of Sabang did not materialize, the duty-free status was revoked in 1986, and nowadays Sabang is again a quiet fishing town.

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Geography

The shape of Pulau Weh is irregular, its dimensions not more than about 20 kilometres from east to west and from north to south. Sabang town, its fishing harbour and its small airport lie on the north-eastern tip of the island, whereas the ferry harbour Balohan is located in a deep bay 15 kilometres to the south. The west coast consists mainly of cliffs and is sparsely inhabited. That is why Weh island has hardly been affected by the 2004 tsunami.
The island is of volcanic origin. Some volcanic activity still exists, like boiling mud holes and fumaroles. It is known for its ecosystem; the Indonesian government has declared 60 square kilometres of inland and sea around the island as a wildlife protection area. A rare megamouth shark species was found on shore and the island is the only habitat for the threatened toad, Duttaphrynus valhallae (formerly Bufo valhallae). Coral reef areas around the island are known for their large variety of fish species.

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Towns

Sabang

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Sights and Activities

Rubiah Island

Rubiah Island

© theo1006

  • Snorkeling - It is good snorkeling around Rubiah Island. If you don’t stay on the island, a boat will take you there from Teupin Layeu (Iboih) jetty for IDR 50.000 one way. Take the boatman’s mobile number to call him when you want to return. Right at the jetty where you land on the Pulau Rubiah you can plunge into the clear water. Or you can walk the half kilometre to the east side of the island where there is a small sandy beach near Peune Edenn restaurant. Of course you can also hire a boat to go snorkeling at more remote locations.
  • Diving - There are several centres on Weh Island from where to go diving: The oldest is Rubiah Tirta Diving Centre, located at Teupin Layeu beach (usually referred to as Iboih), facing Rubiah Island. Lumba-Lumba Diving Centre is located at Gapang, which is on the coast of Sabang Bay close to Iboih village, a few kilometres south of the beach to which the village lent its name. Iboih Dive Centre, like Rubiah Tirta facing Rubiah island. New is the Padé Dive Resort on the west coast of Weh, at a site know as balek gunung (behind the mountain).
  • Zero Kilometre Monument - One cannot come home from Sabang without having been there. But actually the Zero Kilometre Monument marking 'the starting point of Indonesia’ is an ugly construction, not even providing a good sea view because of the trees surrounding it. From Gapang or Iboih it is only a ten or seven kilometre ride through a forest reserve, the only purpose of the road being to lead to the monument. It is standing on top of a cliff where Weh Island as well as Indonesia abruptly come to an end. A group of monkeys profits from the daily stream of visitors. They are better behaved than those at Monkey Forest in Ubud (Bali).
Japanese Bunker at Anoi Itam

Japanese Bunker at Anoi Itam

© theo1006

  • Anoi Itam Bunker - The Sabang Tourist Authority boasts of the ‘huge number of Japanese bunkers scattered across the island’. Presumably most of them lie hidden in the forest. There is a small one at Pantai Kasih, the beach north of town. But the finest specimen is on the east coast near Anoi Itam. It looks out over Malacca Strait.
  • Pria Laot Waterfall - Do not expect a big waterfall on an island as small as Weh. Yet as the fall in Pria Laot river is the only one the island can boast of, this small but multi-tiered fall located in protected forest has been made accessible. The pool under the waterfall is 1.5 metre deep. From Pria Laot on the road between Sabang and Gapang the fall is just a kilometre south.
Scavenging monitor lizard

Scavenging monitor lizard

© theo1006

  • Rubiah Island - In colonial times Rubiah Island was more developed than it is now. Pilgrims to Mecca travelling by sea on their return were quarantined on the island. Witness is the Karantina Haji building which one can’t fail to spot when crossing the island from the jetty to Peune Edenn resort. The building has been maintained in good repair, although it stands empty. The haji’s could while away the time by walking around the island. One can still follow traces of the footpaths that were neatly laid out, now heavily overgrown. And hidden in the forest is a cistern where rainwater was collected. Remnants of the pipes leading the water to the building can still be found. As for wildlife, monitor lizards are easily spotted on Rubiah Island, as they come scavenging among the rubbish left behind by careless visitors.
Boiling Water Hole

Boiling Water Hole

© theo1006

  • Jaboi Geothermal Area - Sometimes referred to as Sabang's 'mini volcano', this geothermal area has not even a real crater. Yet, judging by the charred tree trunks, the trees must have had the opportunity to grow in historic times and then have been destroyed by increased volcanic activity. The site is located near Jaboi village in the south and can be reached by car or motorbike and a short walk. Once there do not leave without crossing the ravine to find the boiling water hole and enjoy the view of Balohan Bay.

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Getting There

By Plane

Sabang has a small airfield, Maimun Saleh Airport, owned by the Indonesian Navy. The only regular flights connect with Medan three times a week, and are operated by Wings Air.

By Boat

The usual approach to Weh is by ferry from Ulee Lheue harbour of Banda Aceh town. The cheaper slow ferry takes about two hours for the trip to Balohan harbour; the fast boat covers the distance in less than an hour. Both boats make the trip at least twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. As the schedule may change on short notice, inquire for the latest at your hotel in Banda Aceh.

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Getting around

On foot

Sabang town is small, and is best explored walking. From Pantai Kasih (Love Beach) in the north to the quay in the south is just about 1 km.

By taxi

A taxi brings you from Balohan to town. But you may well opt for skipping town and ask to be driven directly to one of the beaches: Sumur Tiga, Gapang or Iboih. The fare is negotiable, typically IDR 30,000 p.p. (minimum two passengers) for Balohan to town. To Iboih is about double that amount. You can of course rent a car with driver for a day.

By motorbike

An ideal way to get around Weh is by motorbike. No driving license required, there is so little traffic. Typical rental price is IDR 100,000 per day ex petrol, cheaper at the beach than in town.

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Eat/Drink

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Sleep

  • Peune Edenn - The only accommodation on Rubiah Island consists of a handful of wooden bungalows near the restaurant of the same name. The cheapest rooms (IDR 100.000) share the open-air bath at the well with the owners. Three two-room bungalows have their own bathroom and go for IDR 300.000. Of these the ‘Rumah Mlinjo’ is the most remote, at 250 m north of the restaurant in the forest looking out over the sea. When staying on the island one depends for food on the simple menu of the restaurant; everything else one may need one has to bring, e.g. snorkeling gear and reading matter. There is electricity only from 6pm until 10pm. For reservation contact the owner, Pak Yahya, mobile +62.852 7746 4764. You can also call him to be picked up from Iboih jetty or from Sabang town by speedboat.

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This is version 29. Last edited at 8:49 on Dec 12, 18 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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