20 Mar - 07 Apr 2012 Iboih Beach

Republic of Indonesia
Sabang aka Pulau Weh
Iboih Beach
Norma's O’Ong Bungalows +62 813 60700150
Rugged and comfortable sea-view bungalow with private terrace and bathroom (Asian squat toilet and mandi) for IDR 90,000.- or US$ 9.75 per night.
Beer: Bintang beer freely available, for a steep IDR 25,000.- or US$ 2.75 per luke-warm 330-ml can; thus being the most expensive beer of Southeast Asia (...so far).

Click below for an interactive road map of Norma's O'Ong Bungalows on Pulau Weh, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Chilling on the veranda of our wooden beach bungalow (built on stilts and overhanging crystal-clear water), spotting from our hammock and rocker an abundance of the most colourful reef fish almost directly right below us (e.g. redlip parrotfish [Scarus rubroviolaceus], powderblue surgeonfish [Acanthurus leucosternon], painted flute mouth [Aulostomus chinensis]), meeting our Australian friends Sal & Rich (“Slow Train Coming”) and many other young and older backpackers from all over the planet, and spinning many yarns together, pigging daily into Norma’s delicious Indonesian family dinners aka makan malam (IDR 25,000.- or US$ 2.70 per generous helping of spicy fish curry, white rice and a diversity of local veggies in a rich coconut cream), and enjoying our daily plunges into the lukewarm water of the Indian Ocean right in front of our bungalow - island life’s a beach!

Exploring the palm-fringed shores/beaches and the jungle-covered interior of Pulau Weh: (i) hiking to the most northerly point of Indonesia (tugu kilometer nol Indonesia), the rotten Monument of Kilometre Zero of Indonesia, located at N 05° 54.36' E 095° 13.01', and listening there to one of the locals of Indian origin who seriously wanted to show us “his” city of Bombay on the horizon where sky and sea meet, (ii) hanging out at the nearby sandy Gapang Beach, around the headland from Iboih, and (iii) meeting friendly, relocated Acehnese people in the nearby “new village” of Iboih (a planned settlement with an almost brand-new, post-tsunami mosque, a clean hospital and a noisy school).

"I came upon a wedding that old families had contrived;
Bethlehem the bridegroom,
Babylon the bride.
Great Babylon was naked, oh she stood there trembling for me,
and Bethlehem inflamed us both
like the shy one at some orgy.
And when we fell together all our flesh was like a veil
that I had to draw aside to see
the serpent eat its tail."

Noticing the positive effects of the late Mahyiddin Dodent, the nestor of Acehnese scubadiving, local eco-warrior and 1986 founder of Rubiah Tirta Divers +626523324555 info@rubiahdivers.com, and learning about his tireless and ceaseless campaigning in order to protect the unique coral reef systems around Rubiah Island and to establish the Marine Park status around Iboih, as well as about the many battles which he fought against destructive fishing practices involving the use of dynamite and cyanide as well as against shark-fin fishing.

DM Konni: Scubadiving together with Pulau Weh’s friendly and highly professional dive brethren Ismayudi, Iskandar and Isfan from PADI’s Rubiah Tirta Divers +626523324555 info@rubiahdivers.com and exploring the exciting and well-preserved dive sites of Pulau Weh in the vicinity of both Rubiah Island and Seulako Island: (i) the fairytale-like u/w formation of sea-fan forests (both holaxonia and sclerazonia) and volcanic rocks of Arus Paleeh at a depth of 30 m, (ii) the sloping wall of Batee Tokong, covered up to a depth of 50 m with large waving gorgonians and striking giant barrel sponges (Xestospongia muta), caressed by forceful circular currents, (iii) the bolder-strewn shallows of Batee Gla with its very healthy gorgonians and colourful reef fish in abundance (e.g. clearfin lionfish [Pterois radiata], clown triggerfish [Balistoides conspicillum], emperor angelfish [Pomacanthus imperator], moorish idol [Zanclus canescens], blue-spine unicorn [Naso unicornis]), (iv) the stunning seascape of The Canyon with its 60-m deep wall where new, post-tsunami table corals flourish, and (v) Pantee Peunateung, Pulau Weh at its healthiest and best, a deep reef covered in healthy corals (gorgonians, green cup corals, whip corals).

DM Konni: Teaming up with the experienced dive guides from Rubiah Tirta Divers +626523324555 info@rubiahdivers.com, searching for more sizable prey and spotting at the first push (i) blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus), (ii) hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and (iii) giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus) in 5 - 15 m visibility at a depth of 25 - 40 m.

DM Konni: Performing a deep decompression dive, together with experienced PADI DM Isfan from Rubiah Tirta Divers, and diving the impressive wreck of the 134-m long German cargo steam ship “Sophie Rickmers” which was scuttled by her captain in 1940 CE during WWII and which now sits upright on the bottom of the Pria Laot Bay at a depth of 55 - 65 m, covered with the most beautiful soft corals, and houses a lonely giant grouper who is visited only sometimes by experienced wreck/tech divers; many thanks, Isfan, for being such a great dive buddy!

DM Konni: Relaxing from my dives and snorkelling leisurely in the crystal-clear tidal streams right in front of our bungalow thus ticking off: (i) titan triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens), (ii) blue aka rippled triggerfish (Pseudobalistes fuscus), (ii) barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda), (iv) broadclub cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus) and (v) reef octopus (Octopus cyanea).

Sharing a boat (IDR 100,000.- or US$ 11.- for the return trip) together with fellow travellers Caro and Kati from Germany, Eva & Roman from Czechia, Fabrizio from Italy ("Vagabondo del Dharma") and Ramsey from the United States and organising a full-day snorkelling tour to Rubiah Island opposite Iboih Beach, a densely forested island surrounded by a once spectacular but now mostly destroyed shallow coral reef still teaming with many colourful fish in its mesmerizing Sea Garden.

Meeting a considerable number of holidaying agents of virtue from several NGOs which operate in Southeast Asia, listening to their boasting, thus having the opportunity to look at the more ugly side of humanitarian aid, conservation and development, and verifying our previous observations made in Bali, Battambang and Unawatuna about the more than questionable value of many large NGOs and charities in general as well as about the lack of accountability and the abasement of morality within; the higher the amount of corruption in a country in the global south, the more NGOs from the global north seem to operate in this particular country, and the higher the profits/benefits for all parties involved: (i) for the corrupt thugs and agents of the local regimes, (ii) for the clever entrepreneurs in charge of these NGOs, in complicity with their (not-so)na├»ve do-gooders and helpless young helpers from the democratic welfare states, and (iii), last but not least, for the tax-money wasting, highly paid office sitters in the rich Western donor countries (more about the negative side effects of NGOs at Bottom Up Thinking).

Bidding farewell to the resident fish eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), the regular flying foxes (Pteropus scapulatus) and the vast number of beautiful butterflies which share the airspace over the Indian Ocean in front of our stilt bungalow, as well as to the very friendly and hospitable people of Pulau Weh, taking a Kijang taxi to the island’s ferry port at Balohan (32 km, ½ hour, IDR 70,000.- or US$ 7.70 for the ride), thereafter the slow car ferry KMP “Tanjung Burang” (“We Bridge the Nation”) in economy class to the new, post-tsunami ferry port Ulee Lheue (about 15 nm, only 1 ½ hours, IDR 19,000.- or US$ 2.10 per person, +6265149977) and eventually the black minibus/opelet (locally known as labi-labi) no. 5 to the opelet terminal in Banda Aceh’s city centre.

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
2012 Map Konni & Matt

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