Poker, diving and hitting the hammock

Iboih Travel Blog

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Octopus

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Ash (England), Erick (Indonesia)

The North of Sumatra has always been somewhat of a hot bed of religious and political tensions. After the heartbreaking, devastating 2004 tsunami, where over 220,000 people in this area alone died, the Indonesian government and Free Aceh Movement laid down their weapons and united in their attempts to rebuild the area. With large numbers of foreign aid workers in the area, the tensions have now calmed to a level where tourism is back on the rise. Seeing the opportunity to get there before the area is once again 'rediscovered' by tourists was too good an opportunity to miss - oh and the World class diving wasn't a bad reason to drop in either!

The only downside to there been so many foreign peace workers, was the inevitability that prices had soared in recent years, in comparison with other areas of Indonesia.

Soft Coral
This was evident in the pricing of the boat that we caught over to Pulau Weh from Banda Aceh and also the jeep that took us from the port to Iboih beach. In fairness to our van driver, he agreed to take 3 of us for 100,000Rp rather than the standard 50,000Rp each. I later found out that this was not common at all, as they realistically had a monopoly on the transport across the island. The van ride itself was interesting due to the huge number of macaques on the road, and as it snaked its way up and down the hilly terrain, we had to be careful not to run them down!

Arriving in Iboih, we immediately met an English guy called Will, who had lived in the area on and off for many years.

Shrimp
He was kind enough to take us to Ericks guesthouse and help us get some food from the local shop. The islands inhabitants are almost entirely Muslim and due to fasting for Ramadan, nearly all the restaurants were closed during the day. Thankfully Erick let us use all his kitchen facilities whilst staying with him, which was a real saving grace. Erick himself was a strict Muslim and had not missed a minute of Ramadan in his life, even though it nearly killed him when he was in hospital one year with malaria. This was a guy that deserved some serious respect!

Our room was set slightly up a hill, with a balcony that offered very pretty views out to sea and an ideal place to play some chess and watch the changing of the tide. The communal areas at Ericks were also fantastic, with plenty of hammocks set up to chill in and a plethora of board games and books to pass the time.

Scorpion Fish

My first objective on the island was to get some diving booked, but i was pretty surprised to find that even though we wanted to do 10 dives between us, the price was basically more expensive than anywhere else that i had dived in South East Asia. The prices i was originally quoted ranged from $28-$45 a dive and the fact that Indonesia is one of the cheapest places in Asia, i had expected the price to be more like $20 a dive. After chatting with a nice old bloke called Stan, who had been visiting Pulau Weh for over 20 years (and travelling a mind blowing 54 years on and off!), he told me that it used to be only $16 a dive up until 6 months ago! What infuriated me more, was the flyers that the dive shops had printed to attract tourism back to Pulau Weh, these stated that they had slashed their prices in an attempt to attract divers back, what a load of nonsense! Not to be put off, i carried on looking for another dive operator and eventually met a guy from Pulau Weh divers, which had only been open a month.

Moray Eel
Unbelievably he knew Chris, who was Julias dive instructor in Mabul and he agreed to do our dives for $23, which seemed much more reasonable. The diving was booked for Tuesday and Wednesday, which gave us a few days to chill out in advance.

A routine was pretty much established for how we spent most of our 9 days on the island. The mornings involved waking up whenever the mood took us, walking to the nearby shop to buy some noodles, eggs and tomatoes, which Julia would cook for lunch - or possibly walking to the far end of the beach to a cafe that was sometimes open. Exceptions were rare, but occassionally involved the cooking of pancakes and spaghetti blognaise!

Our afternoons were filled with playing chess and backgammon or possibly going snorkelling.

Cuttlefish
The snorkelling was actually wonderful, with dozens of lion fish spotted each time, as well as a manta shrimp, moorish idols, sargeant majors, parrotfish, batfish, huge titan triggerfish, Hermit crab, Butterflyfish and too many cursed patches of sea urchins to mention!! Normally you are lucky to see so much on a dive, let alone a snorkel :)

The evening was what i was really looking forward to though and believe it or not, there wasn't a drop of alcohol in site. Due to the strict Muslim laws, it was prohibited to sell alcohol on the island and what little of it was available was subsequently expensive, thus a complete healthy lifestyle was achieved! Instead, the entertainment was provided through poker, with Erick having his own set of chips. Some nights saw as many as 7 of us gathered together and playing for small stakes.

Blue spotted stingray
Even so, i managed to win basically every night and must have won the rent for the 9 nights in the room by the time we left! One night was especially great, when we were invited by Will to a local woman called Desi's house. She cooked up fish in banana leaves on the bbq and served up some really good chips too. I was in my very own little paradise :)

Right, lets get on to the diving then! Im not sure that words can really do any of it justice, i guess that my pictures will explain the story a lot better :) Ash and I did 4 dives each and Julia did 2 and on each dive there was always something completely spectacular that made you desperate to get straight back in the water again. On Dive 1 i saw my first ever octopus, which was amazing, as it changed colours and kept hiding in between rocks whenever i got too close to try and take photos.

Leaf Fish
It was like a game of cat and mouse :) I also got my first sighting of a black and white spotted ray whilst equally rare for me was seeing a moray eel swimming, which i'd only ever seen once before. The second dive was just as memorable and Julia spotted a cuttlefish, which was again the first one i'd ever seen and i was completely buzzing by this. As if this wasn't enough i got to see 2 blue spotted stingrays and a huge area of garden eels, both of which i'd also never seen and desperately wanted to and by this stage i was on cloud nine. Other impressive sightings included a scorpion fish, nudy branch and moray eels.

The second day of diving was just Ash and I and first stop was to the canyon, which had some unbelievably strong currents, but also some colourful fish and corals.

Garden Eels
My favourite things on this dive have to be the leaf fish and the sole. I was the only one to see the leaf fish and the dive master was really surprised, as they are extremely rare there. The final dive had an absolutely amazing surprise in stall as we passed over a small ledge. What lay before us was a stingray that was so huge that it left me absolutely gobsmacked. I don't think my pictures do it true justice, but with the tale included, it was going on for 2.5m long and at least a 1.2m wide. The rest of the dive was also sublime and it included seeing lion fish, moray eels, clown fish, some beautifully coloured schools of fish, several types of pufferfish and a huge titan triggerfish. Just writing about all this stuff makes my skin tingle, it was literally THAT good!

On Friday the 3 of us took motorbikes to the port town of Sabang, which was also the only place to have a cash machine on the island.

Moray Eel
We had only ever thought of staying a couple of days and all of us were almost out of cash as we had stayed for so long. Annoyingly the bank didn't take visa cards, so i had to use my other card, which charges an arm and a leg to withdraw anything. The main thing however was that it enabled me to get some money to get off the island - although i can think of worse places to get stuck :)

Whilst on our journey across the island, we came across the macaques again and decided to stop, so as i could take some photos. They didn't seem particularly friendly so we kept our distance, but this was supposedly not good enough for one of the little buggers. It came slowly at first to the opposite side of the road and then began to run at us. I twisted the throttle and tried to accelerate away, not realising that Julia wasn't even on the bike properly and nearly caused a very nasty accident, with her half on, half off the bike and trying to run aswell! Thankfully it turned out ok and the second she was back fully on the bike, we were getting the hell away from these demonic creatures!

As we had the bikes until 7pm, we decided to drive to km0, which i'm guessing gets the name as the most northern point in Indonesia, but i may be wrong.

Giant Stingray
Turning up around 5pm, we were comfortably in time to watch a very pretty sunset and there wasn't even one other soul to disturb us.

So 9 days of peace and bliss had passed us by on the island and it was with great regret that we eventually packed our bags and left. If our visas were not running out, i'm sure we would still be there now! It was not only the scenery above and below the water, but the people that make this place a little bit special. If anyone is reading this and is thinking of going, then stay at Ericks and you will get to know what the word hospitality and friendship means. A true superstar.

Deats says:
Thanks :) I take it you really love diving then :) Its such a great place to chill out and dive - but watch out for the triggerfish haha
Posted on: Mar 11, 2009
Connie says:
I've heard such amazing things about Pulau Weh - it's on my list of top three places I want to visit next. Your photos look amazing. I'm particularity jealous of the octopus and the spotted eel - I STILL haven't seen one!
Posted on: Mar 09, 2009
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Octopus
Octopus
Soft Coral
Soft Coral
Shrimp
Shrimp
Scorpion Fish
Scorpion Fish
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Cuttlefish
Cuttlefish
Blue spotted stingray
Blue spotted stingray
Leaf Fish
Leaf Fish
Garden Eels
Garden Eels
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Giant Stingray
Giant Stingray
Sunset at KM0
Sunset at KM0
Iboih beach
Iboih beach
Diving on Pulau Weh
Diving on Pulau Weh
Small monitor lizard goes fishing
Small monitor lizard goes 'fishing'
Me and Ash play chess and Julia re…
Me and Ash play chess and Julia r…
Me and Ash playing chess
Me and Ash playing chess
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Spotted Ray
Spotted Ray
Pufferfish?
Pufferfish?
Lion Fish
Lion Fish
Porcupine pufferfish
Porcupine pufferfish
Porcupine pufferfish
Porcupine pufferfish
School of fish
School of fish
Red Starfish
Red Starfish
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Octopus
Clown Fish
Clown Fish
Iboih beach
Iboih beach
Ash entering the water and Julia p…
Ash entering the water and Julia …
Coral and sivers
Coral and sivers
Ash lovin it
Ash lovin' it
Coral
Coral
Soft Coral
Soft Coral
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Blue spotted stingray
Blue spotted stingray
Nudy branch
Nudy branch
Garden Eels
Garden Eels
Pufferfish
Pufferfish
Me diving
Me diving
Scorpion Fish
Scorpion Fish
Blue spotted stingray
Blue spotted stingray
Blue spotted stingray
Blue spotted stingray
Oriental sweetlips
Oriental sweetlips
Gecko at the guesthouse
Gecko at the guesthouse
Clown fish
Clown fish
Fish at the canyon dive
Fish at the canyon dive
Fish at the canyon dive
Fish at the canyon dive
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Giant Clam
Giant Clam
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Spot the fish!
Spot the fish!
Getting ready to dive
Getting ready to dive
Moray Eel
Moray Eel
Giant Stingray
Giant Stingray
Giant Stingray
Giant Stingray
Clown Fish
Clown Fish
Clown Fish
Clown Fish
2 Lion Fish
2 Lion Fish
School of Fish
School of Fish
Coral and fish
Coral and fish
School of Fish
School of Fish
School of fish
School of fish
Lion fish and Moray Eel
Lion fish and Moray Eel
Fish including Moorish Idol
Fish including Moorish Idol
School of fish
School of fish
Titan triggerfish
Titan triggerfish
Macaques
Macaques
Macaque that attacked me
Macaque that attacked me
On the road from Iboih to Sabang
On the road from Iboih to Sabang
Sunset at KM0
Sunset at KM0
Sunset at KM0
Sunset at KM0
Julia and I during another power c…
Julia and I during another power …
Erick playing backgammon
Erick playing backgammon
Chilling in the hammocks at Ericks
Chilling in the hammocks at Ericks
Iboih
photo by: Deats