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  7. Sabang on Pulau Weh island

Sabang on the island of Pulau Weh

Sabang a diving paradise

Sabang is a beautiful island with an impressive coastline, white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving on Sumatra.  The most famous bays on this island are the Gapang bay and the Iboih bay on the island of Rubiah. You will find here an impressive underwater world with coral reefs and a underwater visibility of up to 25 meters. For diving fanatics: you can also dive towards shipwrecks.

As you will notice when you reach the island, it is actually a volcano. As a result, underwater craters, hills, and canals have been created by natural forces. The surrounding sea is up to 600 meters deep with coral reefs in the shallow parts. The combination of a relatively strong sea current guarantees a large variety of fishes. It is, therefore, a great destination for snorkeling and diving fanatics.

To go to Sabang, you should take the ferry from Banda Aceh. The trip by ferry takes about 1 hour.

Background Sabang

After the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Indonesian archipelago was no longer approached from the south, via the Sunda Strait, but along a more northern route, via the Malacca Straits. After 1890, regular shipping lines were established by the Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (Royal Dutch Package Company), the Dutch Steamship Company and the Rotterdam Lloyd. A coal depot was established in 1894 in the natural harbor of Sabang on Weh Island. Sabang is the town on Pulau Weh or Weh island, but most people call it simply ‘Sabang’ when referring to the island.

The bay of Sabang is absolutely beautiful. During colonial times, the harbor was named after Princess Emma of the Netherlands, mother or the former Queen Wilhelmina, who was queen during the heydays of Dutch colonial rule. Sabang was important as it was the first harbor in Indonesia where the big passenger ships from Europe could dock.

The famous Dutch writer Couperus visited Sabang in 1922 and wrote:

‘The coast green and gold, the proud harbour town … we moor, I put my first step on Sumatra’s ground, Sabang. Did you know that around twenty years ago this harbour town was nothing but jungle? Then, during the Russian-Japanese war, the location of this island attracted the attention of the world powers, especially of England. It was then no more than a small settlement. …. Let us stay for a while longer under the abundant fresh green mango trees, jackfruit trees… When we returned, Baron van Aerssen van Beyeren, head administrator of Limited Company Sabang, had invited us for dinner.’
(Couperus L. Oostwaarts 1923: 23)

Shortly after Louis Couperus, the Dutch artist Harm Kamerlingh Onnes visited Sabang in January 1923. Harm also wrote about the beautiful bay and the picturesque city of Sabang and made a fine drawing of the harbor. And like Couperus, he also visited the head of the Sabang Company, Baron van Aerssen van Beijeren van Voshol, who was a personal friend of Harm.

The house of the Baron is still there and a stone inscription has been put in front of the house.

right: Drawing by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes, 1923

Drawing by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes, 1923

The best-known guesthouses on Sabang are Casa Nemo Beach Resort & Spa and Freddies Guesthouse in Sumur Tiga, just outside Sabang. The guesthouses are located on an idyllic private beach, cozy cottages and a kitchen that serves delicious local and international meals.

We can organize a trip for you to Sabang. Ask us for the possibilities and prices.

Drawing by Harm Kamerlingh Onnes, 1923