Sabang a diving paradise
Sabang is a beautiful island with an impressive coastline, white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. The island is perfect for snorkeling and diving. The most famous bays for snorkeling and diving are Gapang Bay and Iboih Bay in front of Rubiah Island. The water area around Rubiah Island is an impressive underwater world with many coral reefs and visibility up to 25 meters below sea level.
There are also shipwrecks sites for divers. As the island is based on a volcano with underwater canyons, walls and channels, surrounding deep waters till 600 metres and in the shallow part many coral reefs, this in combination with the currents, cause the wide variety of fish. Sabang is a very fine destination for water sports enthusiasts.
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 Steamship Company Nederland and the Rotterdam Lloyd, a coal depot was established in 1894 in the natural harbor of Sabang on Weh Island. Sabang is the town at Pulau Weh or Weh island but mostly people say just Sabang when they talk about the island. The bay of Sabang is 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 the Dutch colonial rule. Sabang was important as it was the first harbor in Indonesia where the big passenger ships from Europe could bunker.
The Dutch writer Couperus visited Sabang in 1922 and wrote:
‘The coast green and gold, the proud harbor town … we moor, I put my first step on Sumatra’s ground, Sabang. Do you know, that around twenty years ago this harbor town was nothing but jungle? Then, during the Russian Japanese war, the location of this island attracted the attention of the world powers, especially England. There was then no more than a small settlement. …. Let us for a while longer stay under the abundant fresh green manggo 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 Januray 1923. Harm wrote also about the beautiful bay and the pictoresque 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 is still there and a stone inscription has been put in front of the house.
The best known guesthouse is Freddies Guesthouse in Sumur Tiga, just outside Sabang. The guesthouse has an idyllic private beach, cosy cottages and a kitchen that dishes up savory meals.
To reach Sabang nowadays you have to take the boat from Banda Aceh which takes about one hour.