Scuba Diving Sumatra
Explore some of Indonesia’s best kept secrets, pristine reef diving, wall and wreck diving.
Sumatra is one of Indonesia large island and the sixth largest island in the world. Wild and rugged, Sumatra is blend of Mother Nature extremes, blessed with natural wealth as well as proneness to natural disasters. Volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunami, and landslides are common headline grabbers of this one of the world’s richest ecosystem. But nobody can deny Sumatra’s beauty from the top of majestic volcanoes to the lush of the jungles and down at sea level, where idyllic deserted beaches are scattered along the island
SCUBA DIVING SUMATRA
Sumatra is more renowned for its tigers and orangutans, its volcanic lakes, and high mountain treks, and is relatively unknown as a diving destination. Its west coast faces the Indian Ocean, making for a slightly different distribution of species than elsewhere. The Indian Ocean also brings rough conditions, so the best diving is found in the shelter of smaller islands such as Pulau Weh on the northwestern coast. Bintan Island is easy access from Singapore so it is a good weekend diving destination.
HIGHLIGHT DIVE AREAS
Pulau Weh – Bandah Aceh
Bandah Aceh is located at the northern tip of the island of Sumatra and the main point of access to Palau Weh Island. It is the northern most point of the Indonesian archipelago. Pulau Weh offers world class diving due to it’s location of where the Andaman Sea meets the Indian Ocean. This remote paradise and new frontier is visited by few divers and is off the beaten path. The Indonesian Government has helped preserve Pulau Weh by declaring two areas a marine park, Pulau Weh Marine Park and Iboih Marine Park.
Tsunami – While northern parts of the island suffered tsunami damaged in 2004 most of the dive sites were spared and are fully intact with damage being reported only on the shallower reefs.
Bintan Island – Riau Archipelago
Bintan in the Riau archipelago can be reached by ferry from Singapore making it a popular weekend dive getaway. The diving is decent, if not as world class as other Indonesian destinations. The Riau archipelago, actually consists of around 3,000 islands, Bintan is the largest and the one with the dive resorts. There are many dive sites, most of them fringing reefs. The visibility isn’t that good due to the proximity to the Malacca Straits, one of the world’s busiest shipping channels. Visibility can be 20m but is often just 5m. However coral is healthy and there are plenty of reef fish and macro critters. Also, there are several ship wrecks in the area to be explored.
DIVING SEASON: Year-round. Winds are less likely to effect the more popular dive sites from October to April, and there are fewer chances of heavy rain showers during these months.
VISIBILITY: 5m/16ft – 25m/82ft. Individual sites and locations vary according to season and location on the island.
WATER TEMPERATURE: 26C/78F – 29°C/84F
WEATHER: Average temperatures 29C/84F to 32C/89F. The best time of year to dive Sumatra is any time during the dry season, between late February and August. Heavy monsoon rains occur between October and April.
SKILL LEVEL: Beginner to advanced
MARINE LIFE: morays (of some different species), lionfish, seafans, colorful nudibranches, trevallies, fusiliers, stingrays and octopus. Depending on the location, time and current you may also see tuna, barracuda, sharks (whitetip, blacktip and occasionally a grey reef shark), Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, big groupers, giant mantas and eagle rays
Other Interest – The world famous crater lake of Danau (Lake) Toba is the third biggest tourist destination of Indonesia. The island in the huge lake, Pulau Samosir, attracts many tourists. Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia, once created by an enormous eruption less than 100.000 years ago. The eruption was approximately 8.000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helen in 1981. Ashes in the stratosphere circled around the earth for years and changed the climate. As things began to settle another volcanic eruption happened about 25.000 years later and built up a secondary volcano inside the caldera. The cone of that volcano collapsed and formed the island Samosir while the crater of the first eruption filled with water, what to become Danau Toba.
CLIMATE: The climate is tropical, but due to its many highlands, temperatures can be lower than one expects. Temperatures are approximately between 22-30 degrees Celsius. The rainfall differs from area to area, but averages 1.000-4.000mm per year. The relative humidity is 70-90% in lowlands. The year can be divided in two major seasons, dry season from February to August and wet season from September to January. However, the difference between seasons is not as big as in other parts of Indonesia. The change of season is also normally extra wet.
TIME ZONE: Western Indonesia Time which is GMT +7 or 16 hours ahead of US Pacific Standard Time.
LANGUAGE: Bahasa Indonesia is the national and official language in the entire country.
ELECTRICITY: Electric power supply is 220 volts in all regions. So be careful with your 110-volt electronic equipment. The sockets will only fit with with two pins rounded-tip plugs (technically known as Type C, E, and F) or use adaptors.
CURRENCY & CREDIT CARDS: The Indonesia Rupiah (Rp) is also called IDR. IDR and US$ are the most acceptable currencies. Most tourism resorts have money changer facilities. When you are traveling to remote areas it is advisable to exchange your money and clear your check. Credit cards are only acceptable in big hotels, restaurants, shops and traveling agencies.
GRATUITIES: Most hotels add a 10% service charge to the bill on top of the 10% tax. In restaurants where service charge is not added, a tip of 5 to 10% on the bill will be appropriate depending on the service and type of establishment.
PHONE & INTERNET SERVICE: Country code +62. Most hotels and many restaurants in large cities provide internet connections or free WiFi.
VISA & PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: All travelers to Indonesia must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of arrival, and have proof (tickets) of onward or return passage. Visa upon arrival is $35 Payable by USD cash only. Please check with your country if you are eligible for visa upon arrival. Visa-on-Arrival are valid for 30 days and are extendable with another 30 days to be applied at Immigration offices in Indonesia.
CUSTOMS: Maximum items allowed by customs when you visit Indonesia, 1 liter of alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes OR 50 cigars OR 100 grams of tobacco, Reasonable amount of perfume per adult, meaning if you arrive drenched in perfume the customs probably will not mind you carrying loads of bottles, Cameras, video cameras, portable radios, cassette recorders, binoculars and sport equipments are admitted provided they are taken out on departure. They must be declared to Customs.
DEPARTURE TAX: An airport tax of IDR150,000 – IDR200,000 is levied by airports on departing passengers on international flights and IDR30,000-IDR75,000 for those on domestic routes. Airport tax must be paid in Rupiah cash.
GETTING THERE: Most all major cities are connected by direct international flights and many carriers fly passengers to Indonesia’s towns and remote locations.
Banda Aceh: Sultan Iskandarmuda International Airport (BTJ)
Batam: Hang Nadim International Airport (BTH)
Padang: Minangkabau International Airport (PDG)
Medan: Kuala Namu International Airport (KNO)
Palembang: Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport (PLM)
Pekanbaru: Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport (PKU)
Tanjung Pinang: Raja Haji Fisabilillah International Airport (TNJ)
More information on Indonesia
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