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Weh: Sumatra's Prime Attraction

Lying a mere 350 m (1,150 ft) off northern Sumatra is the tiny, volcanic island of Weh, surrounded by the Andaman Sea, Weh is the northernmost point of Indonesia's archipelago, and was formed during the Pleistocene age by an eruption that separated it from the mainland.

The highest point is a fumarolic volcano reaching 617 m (2,024 ft) in height, but there is also a volcanic cone in the rainforest, three boiling mud fields, hot springs and underwater Fumaroles. During the 2004 tsunami, Weh received some damage. However, thousands of replacement mangrove seedlings have since been planted, houses rebuilt and the island has recovered.

Sabang harbour, which is both deep and sheltered, was used as a re-furling station, first for Dutch naval steamships in the 1880s, and later for merchant's vessels. It was few Port for time, though the government withdrew that status during the 1980s when both the economy and the population declined.

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Today the island's economy and population have declined. Today the island's economy is based upon cloves, coconuts, fishing, rattan furniture production and a little tourism.

For those who make the trip, Weh is charming. Its significant ecosystem has been recognised with a nature reserve, covering both sea and land, scenically lovely, with hills, rocks, caves, and secluded beaches.

The spectacular coral gardens have suffered somewhat, but there are still magnificent underwater walls and canyons to explore, and the canyons to explore, and a multitude of both small, colourful reef fish canyons to explore, and a multitude of both small, colourful reef fish and large species such as lionfish, manta rays, sharks and turtles. During the winter monsoon, whale sharks can be seen. In 2004 a megamouth shark was found here, thought to be only the twenty-first sighting since 1976.

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Weh is a tranquil spot, as yet undeveloped. The locals don't see many foreigners, just a few NGOs from Aceh, and the occasional intrepid diver - simplicity and natural beauty are its strengths.

When to visit

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It can always rain on Weh, but the wettest months are from November to February

How to reach

  • The freshwater lake near Sabang.
  • The driving and snorkelling around the island
  • The Iboih Forest Nature Reserve
  • The Sea Garden coral reefs

You should know

Northern Sumatra is very strongly Muslim. So be careful not to offend people by dressing or behaving inappropriately

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