EXPLORING ACEH – WEH ISLAND : THE UNPARALLELED UNDERWATER UNIVERSE
Weh island might not be as famous as other underwater destinations in Indonesia yet but its unique natural wonder has opened up to the world. It is situated off the northern tip of Aceh Province of Sumatra, the kilometre Nol, the “beginning” of Indonesia. This territory is the gate to the Indonesian archipelago, on a volcanic hotspot, and its underwater environment reflects this geological history. The presence of underwater volcanoes and volcanic seamounts provides a unique backdrop for underwater exploration. These geological features contribute to the island’s allure and offer insights into the dynamic forces shaping the region. The biodiversity is the mix between species in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. We could find approximately 558 reef fish species, 44 hard coral genus, 3 sea turtle species with at least six species in Weh Island and its surrounding is endemic to Indonesia waters.
A Glimpse into History
Weh island’s history dates back centuries, with captivating cultures, traders, and adventurers who have left their mark on this island. Its name, “Pulau Weh,” is derived from the local Acehnese language and means “Pulau” (island) and “Weh” (underwater). It is an apt name, given the island’s reputation as a mecca for divers and snorkelers, boasting underwater treasures that have been captivating visitors for generations.
The first recorded discovery of Pulau Weh is attributed to the famed Chinese admiral and explorer, Zheng He, during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century. His monumental voyages to the Indian Ocean brought him to this island, making it one of the early connections between Pulau Weh and the wider world.
More recently, Weh Island gained worldwide attention due to its geographical significance during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The island’s northern tip acted as a natural barrier, sparing the coastline of Aceh, including the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, from the full force of the devastating tsunami. The event highlighted the island’s unique location and its role in protecting the mainland from natural disasters.
Famous Visitors and Their Adventures
Over the years, Weh Island has drawn its fair share of famous visitors, adventurers, and scientists. Jacques Cousteau, the legendary French oceanographer and filmmaker, was one of the early pioneers in underwater exploration. He ventured to Weh Island and its surrounding waters, capturing the island’s pristine underwater world on film and sharing it with the world. His documentary work showcased the vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, elevating the island’s reputation in the global diving community.
Another notable visitor was Alfred Russel Wallace, the British naturalist and explorer, who spent time in the region during the 19th century. He conducted extensive research on the flora and fauna of the Indonesian archipelago, including Weh Island. Wallace’s observations and studies significantly contributed to our understanding of the rich biodiversity of the region.
One of the most captivating underwater discoveries in Weh Island is the presence of hydrothermal vents. These vents, located in the island’s surrounding waters, release superheated, mineral-rich water from beneath the Earth’s crust. The environment around these vents is akin to a submerged alien world, with unusual species of organisms adapted to extreme conditions. The vents not only provide valuable insights into the Earth’s geology but also offer scientists an opportunity to study life forms that thrive in such extreme temperatures and chemistries
“With Weh’s captivating history, illustrious visitors, and newfound accessibility, your journey to this hidden treasure promises an unforgettable experience. It’s an island that appeals to explorers, divers, history buffs, and nature enthusiasts alike. Heading to Aceh from Bali is possible and we are here to assist. Come and join BBTF2024. Explore the unique destinations of Indonesia. Meet your business partners and enjoy networking together with us”. I Putu Winastra, the head committee of BBTF 2023-2024 and chairman of ASITA Bali chapter stating. Come and join us at BBTF 2024 and learn more at www.bbtf.co.id