This Adventure of the Week comes from Jonas Rejda of Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. Jonas is a secondary school principal and IB history teacher at Bandung International School – not to mention and a loyal Tahoe Mountain Sports customer.
WHO: Jonas Rejda, along with a teaching couple with nearly 2,000 career dives between them, a pair of Grade 12 students from our school and their diver moms
WHAT: SCUBA diving
WHERE: Pulau Weh, Aceh, Sumatra – Indo
WHEN: October 24-31, 2010
WHY IT WAS SO EPIC:
Pulau Weh is spectacular horseshoe-shaped island just north of the city Banda Aceh, which took perhaps the worst hit from the 2004 tsunami. The island is incredibly lush and wild still and certainly gives visitors a feel for what a great of deal of Indonesia used to look like. It is also home to some of the most amazing reefs and concentrations of sea life. We opted to stay at Gapang beach where we stayed and dived with the well-established Lumba Lumba dive camp and little else. The pace of life on the surface is very slow with only a few cars or motorbikes arriving to drop off visitors at the beach. There isn’t much to do except dive, dive, dive.
It is about a 10- to 20-minute boat ride from the dive center to a wide range of world class diving. There are amazing pinnacles, imposing underwater canyons, fantastic rock formations and above all lots of fish! I could not believe how many times I would get interested in a honeycomb eel or an octopus and be completely oblivious to the two-meter white tip shark circling around or the hundreds of jacks spiraling above me. I logged several massive rock grouper and the biggest moray eel I have ever seen. It was like an underwater python. Big!! On every dive there was just so much to see and the dive masters were constantly dinging on their tanks to get my attention… “Hey check this out!”
As beautiful and serene as it was at 30 meters below, there were some hairy currents that could switch directions without warning. At one point I was drifting along in one direction while my buddies, who were only a few meters above me were being pulled along the opposite direction. At a few dive briefings, the dive masters would say, don’t go here… very bad swirling down currents… We knew that we were on the edge of nowhere and there was only a little margin for error. As much as I hated to come back to the surface after 60 minutes below… the view of pristine jungle with not a trace of human activity to be seen was a real joy. This place is still very much alive.
The recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami that took over 400 lives in the Mentawi Islands in October 2010 occurred while we were on Pulau Weh. In the 2004 tsunami, the dive shop and site was hit with a 15-foot wall of water and the damage was catastrophic. Tensions were running high as we took advantage of the reasonable satellite internet connection to scan for tsunami warnings. After hearing the news from a friend in Doha, but not feeling the actual earthquake, I spent a long time watching the beach that evening. We were lucky this time, but you never know when things are going to go south in Indonesia.
Finally, the most important thing to divers after air and beer is food. On first glance the scene looked pretty grim. A few rundown warungs were all that we could see on this little strip of paradise. I was thinking, “oh no, nasi goreng and instant noodles for a week, great.” Amazingly, it was some of the best food I have had in my 10 or so years in Indo. Amazing, fresh shrimp, squid and fish, which is not a surprise, but it was in a nice garlic pasta or with toast and guacamole!
Would I go back? Hell yes. In a second, amazing place, amazing people and the world below the surface is the stuff of dreams.
The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, bike, ski, surf, climb, dive) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.