Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Aceh

Dec 29th, 2009, in IM Posts, Opinion, Travel, by

DivingThe BBC says Pulau Weh in Aceh is the next great location for diving enthusiasts.

As mentioned in my previous article, the BBC World News show Fast Track featured Indonesia recently.

A story about Acehnese tourism five years after the tsunami - watch it here - was surprisingly positive.

It featured some of the dive sites near Pulau Weh, a small island off the coast of Aceh, the northernmost province of Sumatera.

Pulau Weh Diving
Diving near Pulau Weh, Aceh.

According to the feature, unlike more popular locations, its relative isolation has helped it be preserved and not destroyed by pollution, overfishing or tourism. One of the unique attractions in the area is a very rare undersea geothermal vent. While the 2004 tsunami did damage the coral, it has subsequently recovered; some locals have also helped the undersea life by grafting and growing new coral.

During the report, we meet two dive operators: Pak Dodent, the director of one of only two local dive shops in the area; and Ben Stokes of Dive Safari Asia, an English-based diving company which leads groups to more remote/isolated Asian diving locations.

It also said while few people come specifically to see the tsunami sites, local residents are surprisingly happy to show you tsunami relics and discuss their experiences. A Tsunami Museum also recently opened in Banda Aceh.

Tsunami Museum
Tourists visiting another famous tourist attraction in Aceh


The question is: Having seen the report above, would you consider visiting Aceh on your next holiday, especially if it was for diving? Why or why not?

And regardless of your answer to the previous question, what could the Acehnese government do - in your opinion - to encourage more visitors?


36 Comments on “Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Aceh”

Pages: [1] 2 »

  1. avatar riniss says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Been long time i never come to aceh.after the tsunami everything has changed everywhere.but i never visit pulau weh yet!after i seen those undersea pictures,i consider to have holiday in aceh.n it’s better to come there than have vacation in thailand..;).and

  2. avatar Laurence says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I sailed to Banda Aceh in Xmas 2007 and was quite suprised of the beautiful little islands there.

    Did not get to dive but would assume many great sites. I think a lot of promotion would be required to draw foreigners there due to its history of conflict (GAM), post tsunami recovery and of course islamic law.

    The best diving site in the world for diversity and beauty is the Banda Islands in Indonesia.

  3. avatar Oigal says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Physically sounds great, My concern if I had an Indonesia family how exposed are they to harrassment by uneducated thugs in uniform when I am not around. Jeans, skin suits or bathers are prety much holiday musts for diving and other beach activities.

    Doesn’t seem to be much fun spending a night in jail because you busted some mongrels nose for demanding your other half not wear jeans or tshirts or because we kissed under a palm tree.

    I confess I have not been there but reports would indicated the religious fruits have the upper hand. Would be interesting to hear others opinions or better first hand experiences there.

    For anyone else who has been there to Aceh recently, how is the impact of local regulations on visitors managed? In particular, mixed gender groups?

  4. avatar Laurence says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I expect could not stay in same room if not married and not free to swim in bathing suit if female??

  5. avatar timdog says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I’ve not been there myself, but on other quarters of the internet where “travel” is the main topic of conversation I’ve seen a steady increase over the last couple of years in questions and reports relating to Aceh, suggesting that earnest white folks with sandals, cameras and backpacks are taking an interest.

    And the reports (one from a single female travelling alone sticks in my mind, though please don’t ask me to go and track it down) strongly suggest that – for non-Muslim foreigners at least – the idea of Aceh as a grim tropical Afghanistan where any lonely planet-toting backpacker who dares to sport an above-the-knee skirt or to check into a hotel with her boyfriend will be stoned to death by the morality police, is waaaay off the mark. They all seemed to find the place extremely friendly, and the only manifestation of shrieking fundamentalism likely to trouble a foreign tourist was a certain lack of beer…

    Plenty of people who’ve never been to Indonesia assume that the whole country is swarming with machete wielding fundamentalists, that suicide bombs explode daily on street corners, that the national womanhood is draped beneath black cowls, and that any white man who dares step onto the streets will instantly be hacked to death. It seems that at least a few people within Indonesia – bule and otherwise – harbour similar ideas about Aceh. Perhaps we should all reserve judgment until we’ve been there…
    How about an Indonesia Matters family outing to Aceh (in the style of those office group holidays so popular here)? We could rent a bus, Achmad could bring his ukulele, we could all take photos of each other with our mobile phones, grinning on the beach and not enjoying the heat, we could all buy vast quantities of whatever the underwhelming local snack food is in Aceh buat oleh2 and those wishing to preserve their anonymity could wear burkas. Then we could all go home, burdened with the aforementioned oleh2 and a faint, indefinable and inexplicable sense of ennui… Whadaya reckon?

  6. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Seksi Friend,

    Is Good Idea. We post for foto-fotoan at Obyek Wisata; we can take foto with the Bule and post on the internet. I can show Oigal a few pencak silat moves so he’s not such a pussy and then at night I will play Koes Ploes songs on the ukulele while we all do the Poco2. : )

  7. avatar Laurence says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Well I been there but like what you have to say Timdog I’m with you, get the bus going!!!!

  8. avatar ET says:
    December 29th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Oigal said

    For anyone else who has been there to Aceh recently, how is the impact of local regulations on visitors managed? In particular, mixed gender groups?

    There has been an ICG (International Crisis Group) report which treated the matter.

    ISLAMIC LAW AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE IN ACEH
    Asia Report N°117 – 31 July 2006

  9. avatar David says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 1:29 am

    Look at that picture! Nice job that Simon Hancock has.

    Like Oigal, my only concern would be with Mrs Patung, I guess the locals would instantly recognise her as non-Acehnese but they would assume her to be Muslim, but not sure how much leeway they give non-Acehnese Indonesian women with the jilbab issue. I don’t know if the law there only applies to resident Muslims or all Muslims who happen to be in the province, on the head-covering front.

    That video, surprisingly smooth, fast loading, better than the average youtube video for me and youtube videos are compressed to within an inch of their lives, … you can see some of the western women are just wearing what they feel like more or less, within reason (pic)…., although there was one who like Camilla Parker Bowles in Saudi Arabia (yes) made a half-hearted attempt to cover her hair, the one on the little boat…

    I like the idea of an IM Aceh tour, even if it has to be in a bus.

  10. avatar andy says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 2:57 am

    Aceh may or may not be as bad as suggested but the fact that human rights against their own population are appalling would turn me off the place. People getting caned for playin cards and drinking has no place in any society in this century (or the last for that matter). At least the good folks of the other two desitinations can sleep at night with a clear conscience after spending the tourist dollars of the masses.
    I actually met a couple from Aceh in Adelaide on the weekend and they were nice enough folks and praised the hospitality and openness of my country’s people. All seemed nice to me until I shook hands with the male then the female almost ducked for cover to avoid the same display of affectioness. I never encountered this in other parts of Indo.

  11. avatar diego says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Hey andy, congrat, you’ve became a bit more balanced. Where the hell have you been the last couple of weeks, off to balance-therapy?

  12. avatar Burung Koel says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I went swimming at Lampu’uk village near Banda Aceh in late 2005 (a year after the tsunami). We had a mixed group of foreigners, Indonesians (including Acehnese), men and women. Nobody seemed bothered by people swimming together, as long as we all wore fairly modest outfits. We had a tent on the beach and a barbecue going, too. Not a jilbab in sight.

    The surf wasn’t bad, either, at least for body boarding on esky lids. OK, so I admit that I was desperate for a surf.

  13. avatar deta says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Love Timdog’s comment. Acehnese must not be stupid enough to realize that tourism provides a major contribution to regional income by treating the tourists with horror.

    And for this part:

    and those wishing to preserve their anonymity could wear burkas

    Great idea. Burka for women and Ninja outfit for men, with the pseudo name tag on the chest. Ooh…It’ll be fun.

  14. avatar andy says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Hey andy, congrat, you’ve became a bit more balanced. Where the hell have you been the last couple of weeks, off to balance-therapy?

    If you must know on holidays. Check the calender, it is that time of the year again. Back in Melbourne now with sharper claws and pen……If you read my previous comments you will see I have never wavered from the fight against militant islam, a menace i’m sure you will agree with me on as the Balinese have suffered as much as any. But only now it seems you have put aside your personal feelings towards me to at last agree with my sentiments. As a person who supports peace and liberal freedoms, I can bring myself to holiday in Bali knowing the worst the locals will do is pinch my wallet or sell me a dodgy watch. They are not the ones wanting to blow up westerners, it is their neighbours to their west. Even if Aceh were the most beautiful place on earth I would boycott it until shariah law is thrown out on the scrapheap.

  15. avatar Ketut says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Andy I agree, peaceful Bali bombed by other Indo. I find map of Indonesia that world tourist see. I have watch good price for you boss.

  16. avatar timdog says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Patung:

    Like Oigal, my only concern would be with Mrs Patung, I guess the locals would instantly recognise her as non-Acehnese but they would assume her to be Muslim, but not sure how much leeway they give non-Acehnese Indonesian women with the jilbab issue.

    I think this is an entirely understandable concern. But there surely must be a few non-Muslim Indoensians resident in Aceh. I’m sure local Chinese ladies don’t wear jilbabs, and there’s always a scattering of Catholics wherever you go. As Mrs Patung is not a Muslim, I really can’t see there being any serious issues beyond the usual snide comments and disaproving looks…

    The photo of that sign – “entering the village, dress politely” – they used to have signs like that IN BALI, until the Balinese threw up their hands in defeat at the swarming floods of bikinis, hotpants and sagging australian flesh…

    If Aceh is too far to go for a family outing, then could I suggest a dangdut bar in Dolly (with a live video feed from Pappa Cafe on Jalan Jaksa for those at the other end of Java)?

  17. avatar diego says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 10:34 am

    But only now it seems you have put aside your personal feelings towards me to at last agree with my sentiments.

    It’s christmas. I celebrate it with my friends by getting drunk throughout la noche buena (malam kudus), and I’m still recovering from hangover. I’ll be back to my normal me a week after new year eve.

  18. avatar Oigal says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 10:46 am

    As Mrs Patung is not a Muslim,

    Ah but if she was but not an Aceh Muslim????

  19. avatar ET says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Although it would never cross my mind to spend money in places where syariah is applied I would welcome tourism development in Aceh for two reasons:

    1. It would take the pressure off Bali which lately is becoming overcrowded, overbuilt and overcommercialized.
    2. Daily confrontation with people from different non-islamic cultures would possibly in the long run induce more tolerance for other lifestyles and open local peoples’s eyes to the nonsense and barbarity of a syariah-dominated society.

  20. avatar Farah says:
    December 30th, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    @ all
    Hahahaha… indonesia matters family outing in Aceh, with burkha and ninja suit ! lol !! put my name on the list !!!!

    Ninja and burkha on beach (it will be as hot as sauna). I would love the diving/snorkeling/swimming part.

    I saw my friend swim with her jilbab and full clothes and jeans i told her, its easier to take a rope and hang her self if she want to die. Its a horrible way to seek death in water as she jumps in the jilbab will cover her face and she will be busy with her jilbab around 1 minute, kicking here and there trying to breathe, its scary.

    Can’t imagine if someone dive with that clothes (kind of remind me of jelly fish).

  21. avatar andy says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Daily confrontation with people from different non-islamic cultures would possibly in the long run induce more tolerance for other lifestyles and open local peoples’s eyes to the nonsense and barbarity of a syariah-dominated society.

    You would truly hope so but I doubt it. Why? Because the places in Indonesia which have been attacked (Bali, Jakarta etc) are the ones which are the most liberal and it’s the goat beards who can’t stand seeing others enjoy themselves that has been the problem. In Aceh unfortunately you wouldn’t even have to import terrorists from the backblocks of Java to these parts as many locals would put their hand up to blow up themselves and the rest of us with them.

    On the topic of the family outing, i’ll be there with bells on..I won’t be hard to pick. Pornstar moustache like Merv Hughes, large rotund figure, shorts, thongs, Bintang singlet and of course a never ending supply of the local product in my hand at all times.

  22. avatar David says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 8:50 am

    If Aceh is too far to go for a family outing, then could I suggest a dangdut bar in Dolly (with a live video feed from Pappa Cafe on Jalan Jaksa for those at the other end of Java)?

    Well, for the bus odyssey I think Mrs P could just mind the home front….she would also mind the home front if at a dangdut bar in Dolly, which sounds great. I’l’ be there with bells on, try to get Chris along as well.

    Ah but if she was but not an Aceh Muslim????

    Well that was what I was sort of getting at, doesn’t really matter if she’s Muslim or not, if she ‘looks Muslim’, I mean surely they don’t ask for ID cards to check the religion, or maybe they do.

  23. avatar ET says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I mean surely they don’t ask for ID cards to check the religion, or maybe they do.

    According to the ICG report the Wilayatul Hisbah (syariah police) don’t even care if you’re muslim or not. It’s their way or no way.

  24. avatar Burung Koel says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 10:28 am

    @ Farah

    You never know, one day this woman might have to rescue you:

    Burquinis - Yowzah!

    Burqinis – Yowzah!

  25. avatar Laurence says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 10:49 am

    When I lived in Malaysia they use to check any Malay looking persons ID in bars or clubs during raids as like Indonesia they have your religion on it. Well Malaysia is flogging that Singapore model for drinking beer so anyone is at risk.

  26. avatar ET says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 10:54 am

    The halal way of having fun.

  27. avatar Oigal says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Well that was what I was sort of getting at, doesn’t really matter if she’s Muslim or not, if she ‘looks Muslim’, I mean surely they don’t ask for ID cards to check the religion, or maybe they do.

    Yea, and that sort of rules it out for me as well unless I could rule it out for certain. Kind of a shame really as despite AS slurs from time to time, I figure we would normally be called the “good tourists” a few bucks to spare, looking for a nice feed, beach and bit of swimming. The yahoo days are somewhat history these days and we always say thank you.

    Which brings me to a point posted before. Any suggestions that combine reasonably nice accm and beaches without the over the top yahoo factor? The reality is Bali beaches are well over rated and filthy and the vast majority of so called tourist attractions are places where empt plastic bottles go to die. Its got so hard, most holidays now are Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

    For those still into the more “back packing” type diving etc. I strongly recommend the Island of Aturo (Tim Tim). Drop offs 90 to infinity and seriously great diving (best in the world?). We hired a fishing traditonal fishing boat for two weeks at a time, brought out compressor, food etc etc. The old fisherman loved it (easier than fishing) and we had a rustic ball.

    Some of the stories from the villagers were great as well. Apparently (so the story goes) when the Ports did a runner from Tim Tim, all craft able to be sailed re-grouped just off Aturo. Those craft that they figured could not make it all the way back to Europe were then sunk in situ. The fishermen will point and say “di sana” although we never found the wrecks but had a great time trying.

    To the darker side, if you can gain their confidence they will take you to the site of where one village used to be but apparently (not real sure we understood why) the other villages decided they had to go and did the AMOK thing. If you are really lucky they may show you the “cave of bones” that resulted.

    They had an “interesting” approach to dealing with refugees from both sides of the Tim Tim conflict as well. Lastly, the “Rape Hotel” is a sad story which will one day come to light and more than one person in Jakarta has a lot to worry about.

  28. avatar sputjam says:
    December 31st, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    best to respect local culture when visiting. Even europeans expect similar arrangements.

  29. avatar Chris says:
    January 1st, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Hi Oigal,

    Which brings me to a point posted before. Any suggestions that combine reasonably nice accm and beaches without the over the top yahoo factor?

    I have covered a similar topic in a previous posting:
    Desperately Seeking Seclusion? Indonesia’s Best Deserted Beaches

  30. avatar Farah says:
    January 1st, 2010 at 11:10 am

    @ Burung Koel
    what i’ve seen more to like the picture ET post there… well… minus the hairy guy of course hehehe

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