So here I was, on the ferry to Weh island, or Pulau Weh. As I had mentioned in my earlier post, I had planned to go here for just a few days; 4, maybe 5 max… I ended up staying almost 4 months.
Pulau Weh is famous for diving. It is supposed to be one of the best diving locations in the world… I can’t yet say if this is true, but it sure is beautiful there. I wanted to do a small diving course, and befriended a group of tourists, none of whom knew each other before. We all did the PADI open water course, and after that most of us went on for the advanced open water diver course as well. I loved it! Diving just felt so natural. I wanted to do more with it. While I was doing the advanced I was doubting for about 4 days if I was going to go “all the way”. I met a divemaster who lived there, talked to a few instructors, looked up some info on the internet, and I came to the conclusion that this was a really good place to go all the way. A good location, with a lot of currents and potentially challenging situations. Not so in other locations where there is more “factory diving”.
So I went all the way for PADI divemaster. I did a lot of diving there, saw many people coming and going and started to feel local. The first few weeks I could still remember new people’s names and faces, but after a while I just didn’t notice anymore. They were mostly tourists who were only there a few days. As for the locals, they were no longer “locals” to me, but friends with their own way of life, and dealing with it’s difficulties. When I finished my divemaster I “worked” there a bit longer as a guide to get my experience and number of dives up. I did not get paid for it, but I got to dive for free and could get lunch with the rest of the guides.
There is a lot of studying involved in becoming a dive master. Granted, you can fly over it, but you get out of it what you put into it. I like to think I put a lot into it. I have done several cool decompression dives (well… any dive is sort of a decompression dive), I have seen most of the dive sites here, including the ones that are not often visited. guided people in easy situations and in challenging situations, explored and expanded my own boundaries in a lot of different diving conditions and of course: I’ve had a great time.
I’ve seen all kinds of aquatic life: parrot-fish, ghost pipe-fish, squid, octopuses, lion-fish, green turtles, stone-fish, scorpion fish, leaf scorpion-fish, trigger-fish, tuna, dog-tooth tuna, barracuda, black tip sharks, black tip reef sharks, white tip reef sharks, grey reef shark, silver tip shark, devil ray, blue spotted stingray, manta ray, eagle ray, marble ray (sleeping on the deck of the Sofie Rickmer wreck), moray eels, albino moray eel, honeycomb eel, ribbon eels, nudibranches and a dozen or so different ones I am not recalling.
My favorite dive-site here is Batee Tokong. Most people seem to go for Canyon or Peunateung, I can understand why, the scenery is awesome, but Tokong has just as much if not more in my opinion. It is also more accessible to less experienced divers (under similar conditions), because there is a lot to see in the shallows as well and there are more places to hide from currents. In Peunateung there is usually a lot more current in the shallows than there is in the deep, and Canyon can be boring for new divers if the current is a bit strong and they are unlucky enough not to spot any napoleon wrasses… Not much fun in only burning air in the currents.
In Tokong, you can almost always see something. There can be challenging currents for those who are up for it, and if there is little current it can be an extremely easy and relaxed dive.
There is also a nice “wreck” in Peunateung that not everyone is aware of, but it is sort of way to the south of the divesite and out of the way.. One day, we did the dive and missed the original entry point. Which meant we didn’t hit the rocky bottom and missed the start of the first Peunateung wall. We were too much to the North, and found only sand. Because there was no point in swimming deeper and deeper we turned around and found the rocky wall coming from Canyon heading south. This wall goes from ca 17m at the bottom to 4m top in some places. It’s a good place for a safety stop, and close to the shore. There was a lot of coral there, and some current, so we just drifted along that wall. At some point we drifted into a big plate, then another one, and then a really big chunk. It was at the south of Peunateung, but still within the dive site, and while all the local divers knew about it, I hadn’t heard of it before. It was a nice find.
Basically, Tokong is shaped like a tapered cylinder with a few pinnacles sticking out of the water. Between these pinnacles the depth is between 2 and 4 meters, and makes for a fun swim through (swam next to a small dog-tooth tuna there once). There is a nice wall with a lot of things to see on the west side to about 20m, and from there a slope, which turns a little steeper with a less steep slope (maybe even “bottom” if you will) at about 50m. There are a bunch of underwater rocks/cliffs/hangovers scattered around this tapered cylinder, there is a ridge going up to the north at about 26m, and next to it is the shark plateau, from 35 to about 45m.
When going to Tokong, it can be possible to go start from either side of Seulako island, and depending on the current, go all the way around Tokong. You can see all kinds of aquatic life this way. For the lucky ones there are devil rays and/or manta and/or eagle rays (I still can’t tell which is which). There are a whole bunch of different moray eels, including an albino one that sits somewhere just after west Seulako towards Tokong at about 20m. Honeycomb eels, ribbon eels, tuna, trevally, sometimes turtles, barracuda, juvenile emperor angelfish (they are sooo much prettier than the adult version), squids, octopuses, white tip, black tip, grey reef shark, etc etc.
I’ve had a great time diving, and I’m hungry for more. Instructor looms on the horizon…