Most Kiwis have either been to Bali for a break or pondered the idea, and while this popular tourist get-away offers a great deal, it’s not exactly the world’s best-kept secret as far as holiday destinations go. So if you’re up for something a little off the beaten track but with those essential add-ins such as warm water and tropical fruit – why not head to Pulau Wey.
This little-known destination is none other than a tropical island at the northern tip of Indonesia. Just a 45-minute fast-ferry ride from the city of Bande Aceh, it’s most frequently accessed by flying first to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and, from there, flying to Bande Aceh itself.
Pulau Wey is a living island where tourism hasn’t taken over. Covered in verdant jungle and swaying coconut palms, its shores are lapped by stunning turquoise-blue water teeming with tropical fish life. What’s more, it is renowned for not only the best but the cheapest diving opportunities. And if you’re into snorkelling rather than donning a tank and diving deep, the shallower waters hold just as much attraction with off-shore access opening onto coral reefs just metres from the shore.
Accommodation options vary from low-key bohemian bungalows at the village of Iboih to inexpensive resorts close to Sabang (the island’s main town). Wherever you decide to book, getting around won’t be difficult. Taxis ply the route from the island’s main port (Balohan) to outlying villages, or for some fun, why not take a local tuk-tuk (an island motorbike with side-car seating for two). Most roads are well sealed so if you want to tootle around the island independently, motor scooters are available for hire at most villages for around $10 a day.
Eating out is easy with meals (western or Indonesian) available at numerous guest houses, street carts or restaurants for around $1-5. Be sure to try the nasi goreng – a tasty combo of rice topped with whatever you fancy from spicy fried fish, vegetables in coconut milk or crispy fried tempeh (the fermented bean cake Indonesia is famous for). When you tire of rice, stop off at Bixio, an Italian restaurant at Long Beach from which swimming and snorkelling are just metres away.
Fresh fruit connoisseurs will find themselves in a tropical paradise of pawpaw, mango pineapple, snake fruit, mangosteens, lychees and more. Whether you buy from roadside stalls or tiny local grocery outlets, you can be assured of the freshest, juiciest selection imaginable. And if peeling it seems too exhausting, why not have it juiced for you! We recommend the environmentally friendly Molina’s Cafe in Ibohi village – and while you’re there, why not try the chocolate muffins topped with … cheese! Yes, they’re a local favourite!
If Pulau Wey sounds like your kind of island, plan to go in the months of March-September, when rain is less likely and the seas should be sparkling clear. When packing, remember that the region of Bande Aceh observes Sharia law, so be sure to dress and behave appropriately. While swimming (one-piece suits for women) is acceptable in tourist spots around the island, modest attire should be adopted outside these areas. And alcohol is strictly off-limits.