|Diving in Pulau Weh -An Island hit by 2004 Tsunami|
A. Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh, an active volcanic island, is located in the Andaman Sea and north of Bandar Aceh, which is a town in the northern tip of Sumatra Island and totally devastated by the 2004 tsunami.
In Pulau Weh, most of the buildings on the beaches were washed away by the Tsunami in 2004. It was reported that only 12 people perished during the Tsunami in the whole island which seems like a miracle given the scale of the disaster in the nearby Bandar Aceh. Damages to the reefs around the island were also minimal. It is obvious that the presence of mountains close to the shores prevented a disaster like in Bandar Aceh.
To go to Pulau Weh, there is now a direct flight by Air Asia from KLCC to Bandar Aceh which takes about one and a half hours. The fast ferry from Banda Aceh (leaving from Ulee Lhee ferry port) to Balohan, Pulau Weh takes about 60 minutes. Gapang beach, where Lumba Lamba Dive Centre is located, can be reached by car in about 45 minutes from the ferry port of Baloham. Therefore to reach the beach resort in Gapang, it takes less than 10 hours including a couple of hours free to explore Bandar Aceh.
Our journey by road from the ferry port of Baloham to Gapang was most pleasant even though the main portion of the mountainous roads was covered with potholes. It was a scenic trip going around bays and over steep mountains with prime forests and monkeys.
Sunset over the hills
There weren’t a lot of vehicles on the road. But some were conspicuously overloaded with passengers hanging precariously by the door. There was even one overloaded vehicle seen overtaking a police car without any qualms.
The Lumba Lumba Dive Centre where we stayed for four nights is located in the quaint beach in Gapang Bay. There are six chalets, fully refurbished after the 2004 tsunami, each has two spacious living quarters for two or three guests but without air-con and hot-water shower.
Some simple Indonesian style restaurants are located on both sides of Lumba Lumba. However, a simple meal, like fried noodle, would take an hour to be served. So to avoid waiting for too long we had to order our meals well in advance, i.e. we ordered our lunch after we had our breakfast!
Gapang Beach was rather quiet and serene during our sojourn there. It is an ideal haven to practice the fine art of doing nothing slowly!
The quiet & serene Gapang Beach
Sunrise in Gapang – Photo taken from the dive boat
The nearest village is Iboih which was quite severely hit by the tsunami, but it has now been rehabilitated.
I took a walk in the evening of our last day in P. Weh. I walked passed Iboih and crossed the mountains to Lhong Angen, a bay located on the west side of the island.
The walk on pothole covered road was pleasant and the people I met on the way were friendly. The sunset in Lhong Angen was magnificent.
Sunset in Lhong Angen Bay