Located 15km off the northern tip of Sumatra, the tiny island of Weh marks the western extremity of the Indonesia archipelago. If you’ve made it that far in your Indonesia adventure, this tropical jewel in the Andaman Sea is the perfect place to mark the occasion with a few days of rest and relaxation. Literally a volcanic rock of an island, Weh is crowned with lush tropical foliage, sweet smelling clove and coconut plantations surrounded by gorgeous sandy beaches sloping away to an underwater world of deep ravines, coral shelves and bubbling volcanic fumaroles teeming with a mind boggling array of marine species. It’s a snorkelling and diving hotspot without the crowds.
Weh’s main centre is Sabang and the adjacent port of Balohan located on the northeast tip. Most tourists head straight across the island to Gapang or Iboih on the northwest peninsular facing Sabang Bay.
From Iboih, slightly further north of Gapang, to the tip of the peninsular has been designated a marine reserve incorporating Rubiah Island, some fabulous beaches and notable dive sites. The sheltered waters of the bay are frequented by large pelagics such as manta rays, whale sharks and a type of sunfish called Mola Mola. The house reef off Gapang Beach is renowned for its rich and varied marine life including rare species such as the frog fish whilst underwater fumaroles are found nearby at the so-called Hydrothermal Point.
Whilst Gapang is a better choice for non-divers and has a better beach, beachside accommodation there is among the most expensive on the island (though still cheap by Western standards). A good range of cheaper accommodation and restaurants has made the small village of Iboih unfailingly popular with backpackers despite its small beach. The lovely Long Beach a little way north and Rubiah Island directly offshore more than compensate.
With 10-15 metres of visibility in the clear water and exceptional sea gardens, snorkelling and diving around Rubiah Island is exceptional. Boat transfers from Ibioh to Rubiah cost around 20.000Rp but for 250.000-300.000Rp you can charter your own boat for an afternoon to snorkel all of the best locations around the island. Highly recommended is getting dropped off at the southern end of the islands and floating with the current to your waiting boat at the northern end.
When you tire of the beach, head north through the forest reserve comprising most of the western peninsular to Km0 “kilometre zero,” the westernmost point of Indonesia. There’s not really anything to do there other than take a photograph to mark the occasion but it’d be a shame to be so close and not do so.
Afterwards, climb to top of Gunung Keris, the highest point on Weh Island or delve into the jungle opposite Gapang and spend a few hours exploring Gunung Balek. Try to time your trek to coincide with low tide so you can walk around the coast to several small caves that can only be reached at low tide or by boat. Heading south from Gapang along the main road you’ll quickly reach Siruit near the bottom of Sabang Bay. Opposite the waterfront coffee shop you’ll find a hot mud pool on the beach and if you swim out a short distance you’ll feel the warm water gushing from an underwater hot spring.
Further around the bay at Pria Loat, locate the small creek flowing into the bay and follow it back into the hills. After a bit of a scramble over rocks and criss-crossing the creek a few times you’ll come to a small, pretty waterfall with a nice pool for cooling off in.
Places of interest on the east coast of Weh include Sumurtiga just south of Sabang. The beach here is arguably the best on the island. Further south you’ll find Anoi Hitam, a fine black sand beach with some excellent offshore diving. The remains of a WWII Japanese fortress and bunker are located on the adjacent cape which also provides sweeping views back across the bay. Some of the newer and more upmarket accommodation is found at Sumurtiga and Anoi Hitam.
Weh Island can be accessed daily by fast ferry from Banda Aceh (Ulee Lheue wharf). At March 2015 tickets were 75.000Rp per person for the 1 hours crossing. A daily slow ferry cost 18.000Rp but the crossing takes 2.5 hours.
Weh Island is only small and it’s fairly well connected by public or shared minibus. Transfers from Balohan Port to Sabang cost around 30.000Rp, from Balohan to Gapang or Idioh 50.000Rp for a shared minibus. Prices tend to be fixed so there’s not a lot of scope to haggle. If you prefer a taxi, expect to pay around 150.000Rp for Balohan to Gapang or Idioh or 30.000Rp for an ojek.
Scooters can be rented at Iboih, Gapang and Semur Tiga for around 100.000Rp per day; not a bad option as Weh is a great place to have your own wheels to get out and explore. Bicycles are also available for rent across the island and one or two companies offering guided mountain bike tours. If you prefer being chauffeured around, ask your accommodation to arrange a private car with a driver or alternatively book an all inclusive walking and/or snorkelling tours.
Dive shops and dive resorts are located in Iboih, Gapang, Semur Tiga and Lhong Angen Beach. They all offer dive trips from the shore or boat all around Weh Island and the Rubiah Island and will generally provide pick-up from wherever you’re staying. Non-divers can rent snorkelling gear from any of these places if your accommodation doesn’t rent it.