Sunday, November 11, 2007


The Dive sites
1. Batee Dua Gapang: Gapang's house reef
Just snorkel out to Batee Dua (Two Rocks) and start the deep part of your dive at 30 m and head back to the shallower reef closer to the beach. Look out for the reef sharks, the manta or eagle rays in the blue and the loads of blue-spotted ribbontail rays and blue spotted stingrays. Or make a long shallow beach dive and stay in the bay part of our house reef. Till 14 m you’ll see different hard corals and big waving leather corals. Our 4 local residential hawksbill turtles are found here. The house reef is densely populated by scorpion and lion fishes. Special are the brown and yellow coloured leaf scorpion fishes and the small size bi and even tri-occelated lionfish. Look for frog fishes, see razor fishes, an abundance of butterfly fishes, schools of red tooth triggerfishes and more. The banded sea snake and the look alike snake eel can be studied from close by. Whale sharks have been seen in the months September, October, November while snorkeling and even once during a special night dive (!) just 30 m of the beach in front of our shop!
2. Batee Meuroron
Is just 5 minutes from Gapang, but a less frequented dive site. It’s a rocky outcrop, where strong currents can sweep through. It is a place to see clown fishes in their anemones, giant reef rays and other stingrays, turtles, different kinds of moray eels and big schools of black snappers hanging out in the shallow water at safety stop level between the rocks.
3. Rubiah Seagarden
Famous for its shallow colourful coral gardens. From 10 m down follow the rocky slope with big branching hard corals till over 30 m before hitting sandy bottom. See colourful nudibranches and flatworms. And a couple of amazingly red fluorescent bubble anemones at 13 m. You are almost sure to find the beautiful honeycomb morays here, of which some of them are often on the move, so you can see them free swimming in full length! Check out the difference if you spot a black spotted or black blotched moray, both quite similar to the honeycomb moray as well.
4 Rubiah Utara (Rubiah North)
A dive here starts on the north point of Rubiah Island by following the rocky outline to the north. The deep part till over 30m offers beautiful scenery with huge boulders and gigantic seafans forming a dense cover of orange, pink & red colours. Coming back up to the 18 m level you’ll reach a remarkable field full with white whip gorgonians like an underwater savannah. Sharks, giant reefrays, schools of fusiliers, trevallies, snappers, butterfly fishes. This dive site is only diveable in no current or mild current conditions.
5. Arus Balee (Widow's current)
Arus Balee is the name for the water passage around a rocky pinnacle situated between the islands of Seulako and Rubiah. Appropriately nicknamed by the Acehnese Arus Palee, which means bastard current ;-), this narrow passage often sees lots of current as well as sharks and other current loving sea creatures, making it a very popular dive site. Best site for a kaleidoscopic moving palette of colours displayed by underwater “rivers” of hundreds and hundreds of neon bright fusiliers… enjoy the show! Also our best site for spotting Blue ribbon eels; here you can easily manage to find both the black juvenile as well as the blue male adult, and sometimes even the yellow female adult. The dive site that became best described with the words of one of our former Divemaster Trainees (Thierry, a French chef cook, 1998): “It’s like diving in the fish soup Bouillabaisse…!!!”
6. Seulako’s Drift
For specifically “flying WHILE diving”, we only schedule this site with its long steep slope for when we expect currents to be strongest. We enter south of Seulako Island and drift along the island to the north, sometimes making it all the way till past nr. 8, Batee Tokong, with maybe a safety stop in the blue. During the dive soar over the rocks, hard corals and gorgonians in the deep and the fields of soft leather corals in the shallow. Put your hands down on some bare rock, and let the current push you over into making a somersault. Big fun!
7. Batee Tokong & 8. Shark Plateau (often dived separately)
With its spectacular scenery and it’s abundance of marine life, Batee Tokong tends to be a favourite site for most short and long term divers in Pulau Weh. It takes approximately 20 minutes by boat.
“It’s the Nr. 1 Moray place in the world”, as all visitors so far have agreed on: giant, fimbriated, white eye, snowflake, whitemouth, yellowhead, zebra and yellow margined. Blue ribbon eels reaching out for orange anthiases, honey comb morays living together with their giant cousins and our local unique variety of the masked moray outnumbering all these other morays together by far. Hover above a few square metres of rocks and count at least a dozen of these morays sticking their heads out of their hiding places.
Batee Tokong, which translates as ‘Central Rock’, is a round plateau with one of the rocks sticking out of the water forming a vertical wall till 20 m. A steep slope densely covered with fan gorgonions continues downwards till well over 40 m, where a second wall starts. On the north side you’ll find a 24-28 m deep plateau, ‘Shark Plateau’, where black and white tip reef sharks, gray sharks and the occasional silvertip are met. Marbled & giant groupers play hide and seek along the slopes, black snappers, giant and big eye trevallies, big blacktongue unicorn fish and barracuda’s try to induce vertigo to all divers swimming in their midst, while big needle fish circle high above all this, just under the surface. Deeper down bluefin trevallies hunt together with yellow goat fish and 2 or 3 long face emperors. See octopuses, lionfish, scorpion fish, frog fish, nudibranchs close to the bottom. Butterfly fish, triggerfish and the beautiful bignose unicornfish fish. And nice to watch the last one upside down to see their funny behaviour of having an upward “shower” in your bubbles of “air”. And don’t forget to look up once in a while anyway, as an eagle ray or a formation of devil rays might be passing over your head…
9. Pantee Ideu
Deep submerged reef around 100 m from the island’s shoreline. Because of it’s usual exceptionally good viz you can look “for miles” and have a splendid panoramic view of this reef with it’s spectacular underwater landscape of big boulders covered with huge gorgonians, sponges and big branching hard corals. Making your way back to the shore, end the dive between the beautiful coral boulders and table corals in the 10 m depth range. Good place for Napoleon wrasse in the deep, and (non aggressive) nesting yellow margined triggerfish in the shallows (the species one size down from it’s notorious “Titan” nephew, which by the way is usually a much more peaceful bloke in Pulau Weh as compared to it’s reputation in many other places).
10. Batee Gla (Slippery Rock)
The rocks at this location form a ridge from the surface sloping down to more than 40 m deep. The massive rock formation with its pinnacles and swim throughs offers a spectacular view, and combined with the usual current that sweeps past, it’s as if flying over a mountain ridge in a hangglider or a small plane. At 18 m you’ll find an underwater beach with a whole bunch of garden eels poking their heads into the current. Good location for seeing bumphead parrotfish in the shallower areas. Usually great viz for fully enjoying the view.
11. Pantee Aneuk Seuke or ‘The Canyon’
Another favorite divesite.
(by Peter, Divemaster Trainee, 2000)
When the current is heading north, a typical dive starts with a descent in the south to the cave (1) at around 29m. In the shelter of the gorgonian-covered wall (2) it is usually very busy with all kind of small fishes. Often you’ll see big schools of barracudas. Going down to the end of the wall at around 40-45m watch out for sharks and eagle- or manta rays passing by.
During the ascent towards the canyon (3) you can hover over the beautiful gorgonian garden. The canyon measures at its narrowest space only 1.80m and is “home” of some napoleon-wrasses.
Further north it’s like a ‘ceremony’ to swim through the arch (4) before ending up the dive on top of the reef.
But if there is a lot of plankton in the water, the end of the dive will end above the rocks in the shallow water, looking out for the manta rays that cruise around the coastal line in their search for food.
12. Pantee Peunateung
(Written by Ben, Divemaster Trainee, 2001)
Meaning Rice field terrace, this is a deep dive site with the bottom well beyond the regular limits of recreational diving. The reef runs North to South and be seen clearly in the water when deep ocean waves hit it and rise up as the reef causes a sudden change in depth.
The direction the site is dived is determined by the currents, if the tide is going to high, the current usually flows from South to North. I usually prefer best to start the dive at the North and head south. Once in the water we descend over the shallow part of the reef and make our way to the drop off which starts at around 30 m and drops to 70 m +. When swimming to the drop off look out for schools of barracuda both chevron and yellow tailed, large schools of trevallies can also been seen. Moray eels are often seen amongst the rocks, but it’s best not to spend too much time here as it’s best deep!
The drop off starts at about 30 m and is pretty much vertical, the wall is covered in large gorgonian sea fans which thrive in the current and nutrient rich water. If conditions are favorable a dive to about 45 m is good, but often a down current, caused by water falling down the drop off, calls for caution, it’s easy to go too deep here! While deep, keep a look out for sharks – black tips, white tips and gray reef sharks. Only once have I not seen a shark here! Every so often look up to the surface for eagle rays, often seen here and maybe a manta ray. On a clear sunny day looking up at the sun with the wall and gorgonians in sight can be quite special.
We ascend slowly up the wall to the shallows again looking for barracuda and big fish, swim at 20 m for a while looking in the rocks for octopi, morays, nudibranch and lobster. If we reach one of the small sand filled canyons you could head up it. This is nice looking for more lobsters. At around 10-12 m you can start to feel the surge caused by the waves passing overhead. The surge is often good fun to play in as you fly past rocks and fish; the shallows sometimes have bump head parrot fish, which are always good fun to watch. Turtles are commonly seen here in the shallows.
At 50 bars do a safety stop and if things are nice, stay down till 30 bars looking for more sharks.
Pantee Peunateung is a big stuff dive, which is why I like it!
Ben, Divemaster Trainee, 2001
13. Lhong Angen and Pantee Gua
A shore dive location and a nearby underwater pinnacle on the west side of Pulau Weh. Both less frequented dive sites, but occasionally chosen when conditions elsewhere are less favourable.
14. Limbo Gapang
Also a less frequented dive site, even though it’s just one or two minutes by boat straight out from Gapang Beach. You’ll find an abundance of nudibranchs, flatworms and mushroom corals on this underwater hill with it’s top at 7m. The turtles from Gapang Beach sometimes visit this area, which in fact is still an extension of the Batee Dua Rocks on the house reef.
15. WW II Wreck "Sophie Rickmers"
The 134 m long “Sophie Rickmers” is an impressive wreck, covered with corals, situated in the sheltered bay of Pria Laot. The cargo steam ship was built in1920 in Germany. During WW II, the “Sopie Rickmers” was one of the 5 ships which were confiscated by the Dutch on May 10, 1940 in the waters around Pulau Weh. However, the crew of "Sophie Rickmers" sunk their own ship at that same day.
The wreck is home to a giant grouper, giant morays and giant trevallies. A school of unicorn file fishes often swims past to add some confusion of “whatizat?” to your nitrogen narcosis, and schools of batfishes accompany you down and up along the mooring line. Most special fish to try and remember to notice, is probably the black-spot angelfish (Genicanthus melanospilos). Usually rare to find because of it’s preference for deeper waters, it’s fairly abundant on this wreck, if you just don’t forget to look for it. With the wheelhouse at 37 m, the decks at around 45 m and the straight bow resting on the bottom at over 55 m deep, we organize the wreck dive as a special decompression dive for experienced deep divers only.
16. Wreck Tugboat
In the harbour of Sabang the tugboat wreck lies in 14 m of water. A very relaxed macro dive and ideal for shallow afternoon dives, or night dives. Spot the banded and ghost pipefish, crocodile fish, spiny lobsters, nudibranchs, cleanershrimps, bi-occelated and common lionfish.
On the way back we often stop for a 10 minute shallow (5 - 10 m) dive in the streams of hot spring bubbles of the underwater volcano in the bay of Pria Loat. A unique experience.
17. Sumur Tiga
For a relaxed drift over the shallow unspoiled and beautifully coloured coral gardens along the Sumur Tiga beach. On the way there, or while going back, often dolphins come and play in front of our boat, a big extra treat for going that way.
18. Anoi Hitam
A new dive site which we’ve started to combine regularly with the Batee Meuduro daytrip. Get surrounded by the many sweetlips and numerous other schools of fish here, and enjoy the incredible density of all kinds of Acropora hard corals in the shallows.
19. Batee Meuduro
Situated 70 minutes away on the south side of Pulau Weh. This is surely one of Pulau Weh’s top dive sites, but due to it’s distance is mostly operated as a 2 tank daytrip. Visibility is usually very good here and the often fierce currents around this pinnacle attract lots of pelagics; tuna, mackerel, huge schools of barracuda’s, napoleon wrasse, manta and eagle rays, lots of different sharks, amongst which even the amazing thresher sharks! The shallow plateau is covered with huge table corals, a perfect hiding place for lobsters, stone fish, sleeping baby sharks and more.
Trash underwater showing need for cleanup
Photo courtesy of Aceh Coral Conservation
Debris from the 2004 Tsunami that had washed onto the coral reef near Iboih Village, Indonesia (October 2005). Seacology is helping to fund the clean-up of this reef.