If you’ve never heard of Sumatra before, you aren’t alone. Though it is a large island in Indonesia and the sixth-largest throughout the world, it is still a secret for most. It’s rugged and wild, so it blends the extremes of Mother Nature well.
Of course, it is also prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcano eruptions, landslides, and tsunamis. Therefore, it can be a little scary to visit the island, but that also makes Sumatra diving one of the best in the world.
Sumatra Diving: What’s in the Area
Primarily, Sumatra is more well-known for its orangutans, tigers, mountains, and volcanic lakes. As a diving destination, it’s all but obscure. The west coast is near to the Indian Ocean, which provides different species of marine life.
The Indian Ocean is well-known for rough conditions. The best diving locations are those off of the smaller islands, such as Bintan Island and Pulau Weh. This is likely going to require you to have the right equipment, such as split fins.
Though it’s not the top of the list for diving, the area does have special treasures to uncover. Plus, the diving sites aren’t very crowded because most people don’t know about it or desire to visit.
1. Pulau Weh
Pulau Weh is a popular place, of course, and is found in the Andaman Sea. It features warm temperatures of about 84 degrees Fahrenheit, which means you can dive year-round.
The small volcanic island features stunning scenery, white sandy beaches, and clear waters. It’s ideal for those who don’t want a tourist town but want to relax. When you don’t want to dive, you can still snorkel, swim, and get a tan on the beach.
Visibility on this island can sometimes extend to 131 feet. You’ll find coral gardens, wall dives, and boulders. Plus, there are a variety of drift dives in the area.
Since it is a volcanic area, you’ll have access to Anoi Hitam, a black sandy reef. That said, there is a custom that you should follow. The locals claim that you should not dive after 7 p.m. on Thursdays until 2 p.m. on Fridays.
Sumatra is also home to Padang, another dive location. It was initially discovered by those who enjoy surfing, but you can dive year-round, as well. Visibility is up to 50 feet while near the land, and even more when you go further out.
This area is considered excellent for beginner divers. Generally, the underwater conditions are quite calm and easy to maneuver.
3. Pantee Peunateung
In this area, you will experience a sloping reef of about 25 meters with a vertical drop-off right after. There’s a stunning topography regardless of where you are. At deeper levels, there is a wall covered with sea fans, and you can see sharks.
The shallow slope is a great place to go hunt for a variety of critters like octopi, moray eels, lobsters, and shrimp. However, you can’t forget to check the open ocean for trevally, jacks, fusiliers, and triggerfish.
4. Batee Tokong
Divers who are familiar with the area tend to love Batee Tokong. It features a wall, sloping reef, and pinnacle. You’ll also find a diverse variety of marine life.
The deep plateau is a must-see for those who want to experience sharks, while the slope has trevallies and groupers, as well as moray eels, lionfish, and ribbon eels.
5. Arus Balee
This is a site full of pinnacles and has thousands of fish with plenty of color. You’ll find vibrant reefs and fish that swarm around the corals.
Black-tip reef sharks are known to cruise along these waters, too. You’re also likely to see giant groupers, tuna, trevally, and Mobula rays.
If you’re interested in macro life, spider crabs, moray eels, and ribbon eels are plentiful. It’s possible to see big and small creatures at this dive site.
6. The Canyon
Though it is part of Pulau Weh, the Canyon is so magnificent, that it deserved its own explanation apart from the main island’s description mentioned earlier. This location has an interesting topography that you won’t want to miss.
It features a cave, but the amazing part is the swim-through archway. There’s also a slope and wall with plenty of fish.
There are also plenty of gorgonian sea fans, which are a highlight of the area. You’ll also see Napoleon wrasse, schooling barracuda, and eagle and manta rays.
7. Sophie Rickmers
The Sophie Rickmers is a cargo steamship, which was built in 1920. She was scuttled by a German crew in 1940 to prevent her from being captured by the Dutch. However, she was wrecked along her route around the Sumatra area.
She now sits intact and upright at the 55-meter mark with a wheelhouse under 30 meters. Therefore, you will require a deep diver certification to dive here. It might be worth it to get such accreditation because the wreck itself is magnificent.
Since she has been underwater for so long, the ship is fully encrusted in coral. It’s also visited by giant grouper, marble rays, and a variety of macro life.
How to Get to Sumatra
Before you can experience the underwater life, you have to get to the location. You’ll need to fly to Kualanamu International Airport (Medan) and use AirAsia, Firefly, or Malaysia Airlines. From the airport, it’s about 30 minutes to Ulee Lheue Jetty by taxi.
Then, you’ll need to take a 45-minute ride on a speedboat to the island of Sumatra. Public boats are also available, but they will take longer for you to get to your destination. Once on the island, you can use motorbike taxis to get to your preferred dive spot.
Some places require you to take a ferry to get there. Bintan Island is one of them, and you will start in Singapore or Malaysia, depending on where you’re visiting beforehand.
When it comes to Sumatra diving, you should understand that this area isn’t well-known for diving. As such, you can explore "uncharted" territory, but that also requires you to have the right equipment and skill level for your diving adventure.