Sabang  is a town name on a island north of Banda Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra. Strictly speaking, the island's name is Weh Island (Pulau Weh) and Sabang is the main town on the north coast, but the names are often used interchangeably. Among locals the place is more often referred to as "Sabang" but among tourists it is well known as "Pulau Weh". The island is best known for its snorkeling and diving.
Pulau Weh is a small island off the northern tip of Sumatra. The northern most point of the Indonesian archipelago is known as kilometer zero,or KMZero. It is best known by tourists for its world class snorkeling and diving.
Sabang has a small airfield, but currently reserved only for military uses.
See the diving websites of Rubiah Divers and/or Lumba Lumba for up to date information in regards to getting to and from Medan to Banda Aceh and from Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh.
Travelling from Balohan port to Sabang costs roughly Rp30,000. From Balohan port (harbour) to backpacker hangouts of Gapang and Iboih Rp50,000 (negotiable) in shared transport (~1 hr drive) and to Semur Tiga Rp25,000 in shared transport (~20 min drive). From Iboih to Semur Tiga in shared transport costs Rp100,000 (~1 hr drive). Prices for minibuses (shared transport) from and to harbour are fixed (also if there is only one passenger in the car).
A possibly cheaper option is to arrange transport in becaks or on motorbikes. For this transport you need to bargain. You can also take the whole taxi for Rp150,000. Bargain hard, since the prices are not set (although the drivers try to show you written notes with prices). A motorbike ride should cost around Rp30,000.
Alternatively you can rent motorbikes at Iboih and Gapang and Semur Tiga (Rp100,000 per day). Besides that bicycles are for rent in Iboih,Santai Sumur Tiga and several Places like Kartika and Holiday Hotel. If you want to cycle from the port to your hotel its best to rent a bicycle in Banda Aceh and take it with you on the boat.
The main reason to go to Pulau Weh is for the beaches. Relaxing, swimming, snorkeling, diving. Don't worry about doing anything else.
Kilometer Nol (Kilometer 0), the most Western point in Indonesia, is on Pulau Weh. You can rent a motorbike from Iboih for around 100,000 Rp/day and head out on your own, or rent a minivan and guide to take your group.
It's still considered a secret spot even amongst the diving community and Pulau Weh's reefs are genuinely untouched and offer something for every level of experience. The bottom topography ranges from large boulders on sandy slopes and deep volcanic pinnacles to craggy wall sections and coral gardens.
The house reef at Gapang Beach boasts a wide range of macro life including rare critters like Frog Fish, Star Gazers and Gurnards. Large pelagics like Mantas, Whale Sharks and Mola Mola also come to feed when the season is right. Pulau Weh offers some of the finest diving in Indonesia, yet it is still very much undeveloped.
Snorkeling - Lots to see including octopus, turtles, morays.... Nothing - nice place to do nothing as well :) - Rubiah Island Sea Graden off Iboih is AMAZING even for snorkelling and you can start at the southern end and float along in the currents to the northern end. You could hire a boat (with driver) for the afternoon and should not cost more than 150,000. Must do.
Learn Indonesian. Speak to Eva in Iboih beach
Dive instructors are in short supply at the local dive centres, so you might be lucky to find work here. Divemasters are plentiful both among the staff and guests, so I wouldn't get my hopes up.
You can only find ATMs in the city of Sabang, which is about 40 minutes from Gapang and Iboh beaches. Two of three ATMs in Sabang should accept mastercard and have a maximum withdraw facility of 500,000 so consider bringing lots of cash with you. Recent experiences show, that mastercard usage is dependent on the bank issuing the card. Get the necessary cash in Banda Aceh if you don't want to rely on Western Union money transfer with banks in Sabang.
Gapang Beach Gapang Beach has a few restaurants to choose from.
- Dang Dang Na is next to Lumba Lumba and serves a range of local and western food, prepare for a long wait though. Gado Gado is a peanut and salad based Indonesian dish well worth a try, also noodles and curry available. Best to order early as everything is on island time, and try to relax if your having to wait.
- Further down the beach there are Limbo Cafe, Zero Cafe and Mama Jungle (best to order in advance), all places can do fish and sometimes chicken BBQ's, give them a little notice first though.
- Barracuda is the newest around and is between the Lumbalumba Dive center and the souvenir shop. Owners speak very good English, and serve a comprehensive menu with the tastiest food on Gapang. Their curries and Tacos are just delicious.
- Freddies () who, next to his normal restaurant, daily from 7:30 p.m. serves delicious four course meals (let him know before 5p.m. that you want to join) for Rp65.000.
- Casa Nemo () has a limited menu but the people are very friendly and the food is fresh and good.
- Further about 6 KM the newest comfort accommodation on Pulau Weh on Anoi Itam Bay the Rasa Seni Hotel Resort.
Most restaurants have somewhat the same menu like fried noodle, fried rice (15,000 Rp) or curries (25,000 Rp.). The guacamole and avocado salads are excellent choices at most any of the bungalow restaurants.
You can expect to wait as long as an hour for your food even if the restaurant is nearly deserted. The best strategy is to arrive well before you plan to eat and place an order for a later time.
A few places that stand out are:
- Mama's that makes a superb chicken kebab. Also you can join in a 'family dinner' (Rp25.000, start at 7:30 p.m.; Acehnese 'rubber time'). Let her know in time that you want to join in.
- Olala also makes great food, try the taco or the superb pizza on pizza-night.
- Norma (at Oong's bungalows) makes homecooked communal meals (25,000 Rp). Just swing by before noon to announce your attendance and you will be treated to a feast. - DeeDees serves delicious food. Try the Tempeh-burger.
There are no nightclubs or bars on Pulau Weh, if you like to party this is the wrong place to go. Alcohol is generally forbidden in the entire Aceh province, however some places may have it available. Beer (25,000 Rp) and banana brandy (80,000 Rp) makes up the selection of the local poison.
Popular places for a sundowner at Iboih includes Ozone Restaurant and Olala. Oong's, Iboih Inn and Yulia's all have beer in the fridge for sale, if you prefer drinking at home.
At Sumur Tiga, Freddies has a menu of drinks inside the four-course meal restaurant. You can even get wine here. Casa Nemo serves beer.
Backpacker style beach huts with hammocks on the balconies from RP50,000 per night (longstay) up to RP150,000 (short stay) depending on the location and features of the bungalow (and your negotiating ability). Shared bathrooms (squat toilets) are the norm, but more and more bungalows with private western toilets are being built (ca. 150,000 Rp).
Walk east along the road from the village and you'll find the newer, more expensive upmarket bungalows with air-conditioning (starting around RP300,000). Walk west past the village and up along the path into the jungle to find the budget accommodations. From the village you find the following in this order:
Erick's Green House. is a higher standard very close to the sandy beach. Erick speaks good English, is very together and in a fountain of information. As many of the rooms are attached to one building, there is a community feel to this place. 60,000-100,000 Rp.
Fatimah's bungalows. 50,000 Rp.
Mamamia. 50,000 Rp.
Olala. started with two bungalows right on the water, but has since built a few more. If you're lucky enough to get one of the original shacks, you can watch the fish from the hammock on the balcony. 100,000 Rp.
Oong (Norma's place). Norma is the default location for return visitors. Expect a communal atmosphere with home cooked meals. Norma is an institution! 50,000-100,000.
Iboih Inn. . More up-market, Iboih Inn offers a range of bungalows from cheaper smaller one with no views to huge air-conditioned places, right by the sea. This is the closest you get to luxury in Iboih. They also have their own dive shop. 100,000-370,000 Rp..
Yulia's Bungalows and Restaurant. . At the very end of the path sits Yulia's. This place seems more professionally run, i.e. less of a family atmosphere. The views from the bungalows, their spacious positioning, and immediate access to one of the better snorkeling spots more than make up for the higher price long walk. As a bonus, the shared bathrooms have clean western toilets and showers. 90,000-150,000 Rp..
Although not much of a tourist destination in itself, there are a few guest houses and "resorts" if you want to be someplace closer to town life. There are a few in the residential areas of town, but the more interesting ones are on the seaward side of town.
There is less accommodation available right on Gapang beach. This means that the prices are higher, and it is somewhat more exclusive. There is a largish upscale resort close to the entrance to the beach, which offers some of the best accommodation on Gapang (glass windows, hot showers, a/c). Don't be scared away though, you can always haggle and the beach has more to do than Iboih for a non-diver.
Kincir Long Beach
Also known as Teupin Redeup. A secluded beach just before the forest reserve three km northeast from Iboih. Seulako View Cafe & Bungalows has three bungalows and 3 rooms above a friendly seafront restaurant. Divers at Steffen Sea Sports can book one of the dive centre's new, colourful rooms.
Sumur Tiga and Anoi Itam Bay
The newest accommodations with higher standard are to find on the east coast of Pulau Weh Island.
Fredies Santai Sumur Tiga with nice Bungalows (Fan)in traditional Style and Restaurant with good food and drinks.
Casa Nemo also with nice Bungalows (Fan) in traditional Style, hot and cold water shower (and bath), drinking water tank in the room, good views from the hammock and seats on the veranda. Diving provided.
Rasa Seni Hotel Resort Anoi Itam, the newest and most comfortable accommodation on Pulau Weh, with air conditioning, hot and cold water shower and studios also with bathtub and mini bar. Restaurant with international food and Asian specialties. Very good dive spots in front of the Resort in Anoi Itam Bay
Pulau Weh is at the end (or beginning depending on your point of view) of Indonesia. From here you can only go back to Banda Aceh.