Teluk Sinabang (Ujung Babang) Date unknown (2008?). Active; focal plane 40 m (131 ft); white flash every 3 s. 25 m (82 ft) square cylindrical skeletal tower, painted white. No photo available, but Google has a satellite view. Teluk Sinabang is a magnificent natural harbor on the southeastern coast of Simeulue. Located on heights at the east side of the entrance to the harbor. Site status unknown. Admiralty F1274.5; NGA 23308.
With its isolated geographic location, Simeulue has not been affected by the turmoil of conflicts in mainland Aceh between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). There has been no major GAM activity on the island.
Simeulue was once a part of West Aceh Regency but was split off in 1999 with the hope that the region’s development would improve. The seat of the regency is Sinabang.
Although Simeulue Island was only 60 kilometers from the epicenter, while Banda Aceh was about 250 kilometers, 6 residents died while the remaining 70,000 persons were safe because of local wisdom called ‘smong’, which after an earthquake, when the tide suddenly recedes, they should evacuate to highland as soon as possible.
Welcome to Simeulue…
“Simeulue Ate Fulawan”, or in Indonesian “Simeulue Berhati Emas”, describes the openness and friendliness towards visitors in Simeulue. It means “Simeulue With a Heart of Gold”.
Simeulue has a lot to offer; beaches, islands, caves, forest, wild life, surfing, diving and even two lakes and a waterfall. There are traditions and culture; performances such as Debus, Nandong and Nanga-nanga.
Simeulue Regency consists of many islands. Besides the big Simeulue (100 km long) there are many more smaller beautiful islands with inviting beaches and great waves for surfing. Simeulue has a great tourism potential. Besides all the attractions, it is also easy to go there.
This Simeulue section is under development and much more information will soon follow together with up-dates of maps and many more photos.
Facts about Simeulue
The big island Simeulue and 56 other islands form together the Simeulue Regency. Pulau Simeulue is 100 km long, 8-28 km wide and 198.021 Ha big. With surrounding smaller islands a total of 212.512 Ha. Highest mountain is 600m. It rains 2.824 mm per year. The Eastern monsoon season is normally between March and August and the Western monsoon season between September and February. The main harbor, Sinabang, is 105 nautical miles from Meulaboh and 85 nautical miles from Tapaktuan.
The regency Simeulue was established in 1996. It has 10 Sub-regencies and 135 villages.
The majority of the 84.000 inhabitants (18.800 families) are Muslems. There are several ethnic groups: Dagang, Lanteng, Abon, Pamuncak dan Painang plus later arrivals of Acehnese, Batak, Minangkabau, Buginese and Javanese. They speak several local languages such as Aneuk Jame (same as in Singkil), Devayan, Sigulai dan Leukon. The major income originates from farming and fishing.
Tsunami on 26 of December 2004 and Nias Earthquake on 28 March 2005 caused a lot of physical damages. The whole island raised about one meter and the number of islands increased by 35%.
Magic’s in Simeulue
Simeulue is rich in traditions, folk tales, superstition and black magic. This island has a reputation in the rest of Aceh for its black magic. One often meets people who tell strange stories, but one seldom (read never) finds any proof or witnesses of any black magic oneself in Simeulue, unless you believe in it. The subject is however always interesting. Locals in Simeulue do not like to talk about it, as they feel embarrassed and are afraid that people would refrain from visiting their island.
The magic’s are performed by a so called “dukun”, which can be translated into witch-doctor, shaman or healer. There are both good and bad magic. A “dukun patah” can heal a broken leg. An other dukun, can kill with only a simple touch. People claim that they have got cancer planted by a dukun. This kind of negative black magic is often called “guna-guna”. The way to get well in such case is through treatment by another dukun who can counter the evils of other bad dukuns. A doctor cannot treat a sickness caused by a dukun.
A recent example of the powers of the dukuns could be witnessed as late as in July 1997. A ship had stranded on a reef at Ujung Selingar. When all logical ways of getting the ship loose had failed, a famous dukun was asked to help. With his supernatural powers he managed to decrease the weight of the ship resulting in the ship to float higher an in this way got off the reef. The dukun was, according to local information, paid five million Rupiah, which he used for social work. Before someone starts to study and learn magic’s, an oath, never to use the magic for personal profit, has to be taken. If the oath is broken, mantras loose their function and special powers are lost. There is one kind of black magic that destructs the dukun himself unless he uses it against other people. According to local beauty standards, a dukun is often ugly looking.
A related phenomenon is the “pawang” who can communicate with animals. Simeulue is famous for its many “pawang buaya” (buaya is crocodile). A pawang buaya has long experience with crocodiles and have often full control over all the crocodiles in a certain river. His control is based on super natural powers and the crocodiles follow his orders. The late pawang buaya, Pak Kalitua, used to ride on the back of a crocodile over the river. “That was just showing off” one becak driver in Sinabang explained. When a pawang buaya calls a crocodile to come, he gives the beast eggs and betel leaves and read mantras, Not only men are pawang buaya. In the 1990ies there was an old female pawang buaya in the village of Latiun near Labuhan Bajau.
Debus is a form of magic that often is performed on stage. Debus can be seen in most areas of Aceh. Debus is sometimes also labeled as traditional dancing. The performers stab and cut themselves with sharp objects, without getting hurt. In Simeulue they even use chainsaws.
Normal forms of traditional dancing are also interesting. Look out for “Tari Seulaweut” expresses devotion and love towards the religious teachings of Prophet Muhammad. Nandongconsists of advanced poetry singing with very beautiful voices, accompanied by “gendang”.Sikambang is often performed at official receptions, such as weddings and receiving important guests.
If you are willing to put in the effort and time, Simeulue can offer a unique way to disconnect with the weathered grind of established surf destinations that litter the archipelago. Photo: Cleland
As I write, I’m watching Sinabang harbor spin as the boat I am living on aligns with the shifting wind. It is one of many brief, but dramatic, equatorial squalls. These are usually accompanied by torrential downpours.
In terms of geographic stardom, Simeulue has no peer. Four huge earthquakes have rocked this island in the last eight years, each with varying degrees of devastation. However, situated 120 km from the West Coast of Sumatra, Simeulue could be considered the last of the main islands in the archipelago to gain attention in the surfing world. Virgin and uncrowded, it has a number of good reef and beach breaks, and is open to consistent swell from the Indian Ocean. The door of discovery is still wide open for those with time and the intent. If the numerous teams of visiting pros and photographers are anything to measure by, it seems Simeulue is no longer just a gateway to the Banyak and Hinako Islands.
There are over 80,000 inhabitants on Simeulue, the majority of whom practice Islam. Barely a word of English is spoken and very little Western culture permeates this regency of Aceh. I have been careful to show respect and always wear tees, and not disrupt any of the periods throughout the day reserved for prayer.
The harbor we have anchored at acts as an amphitheater of sound before sunrise every morning. The Muslim practice of chanting in the mosques begins each day, at precisely 5 AM, amplified by walls of giant speakers, and this continues for close to an hour. I don’t know how many mosques there are in Simeulue, but the sound is staggering. Anyone that has woken up early in Padang after a stint in the Mentawai Islands would have experienced this. The chanting repeats again at midday, sometimes at 3 PM and again at around 6 PM. Also, at these times all business ceases for the hour-long prayer. Islam is incredibly ingrained with everyday life here.
There is no alcohol available on the island. A few years ago, an Indonesian friend of mine did nine months of hard jail time for supplying one carton of beer to the Red Cross. There are shelves upon shelves full of “skin whitening” creams in the Indomarket. It seems white people want to be dark and dark people want to be white. Obsessed with football, everyone has their own favorite Premiere League team, and there are numerous soccer fields nestled amongst the lush rainforest. The food is typically sickly sweet, but I have been successfully running the gauntlet with the plentiful street vendors, with tasty traditional cuisine always available. While the weather has been amazing, I’ve learned that access to fresh water is sometimes a problem with reports that wells have been drying up. Whilst traveling on my motorbike, I’ve seen water buffalo, giant monitor lizards, eagles, snakes and domesticated goats, roosters, chickens, geese, cats and dogs.
As I have been looking for surf, I have been stunned by the impact of the 8.7 magnitude earthquake that hit Simeulue in March, 2005. On some parts of the coastline you can see sharp dead reef that has been lifted as much as six feet, and suspended palms that are clinging to life as their exposed root systems dangle from their raised podiums. Primary life has returned to this bleached landscape, yet I remain in awe of the power the Earth. Visible and distinct fractures in some buildings leave me feeling preoccupied with the notorious “ring of fire” when I am inside them too long.
The waves are really fun. I’ve have been surfing this left and right peak near the most popular surf camp. A new wave after the quake, it seems very consistent, breaking through both tides and usually over head high. My favorite wave is a fun right hander near the airport, short but hollow with an awesome shape. I have heard of good, but fickle, hollow lefts and rights on the offshore island of Palau Tapah. Also, there are many punchy, hollow beach breaks that scatter the coast when the swell drops. There is just the one road that extends the length of the island; so working out where the waves are isn’t difficult. During the normal peak swell period for Indonesia, I am certain you can consistently score uncrowded waves. Simeulue doesn’t have the A-list celebrity wave, but I believe this perhaps works in favor of the traveling surfer who doesn’t want to deal with the trials associated with popular waves. Accommodation varies from basic huts to dedicated surf camps (with beer), but expect more options in the coming years. Also, fishing boats are available to take you around to the various breaks. Locals don’t surf, malaria is not an issue, and the neighboring island of Nias is only a ferry ride away for the tube starved.
If you are willing to put in the effort and time, Simeulue can offer a unique way to disconnect with the weathered grind of established surf destinations that litter the archipelago. If you want to tick off world-class waves, or intend on feeding an insatiable barrel appetite, Simeulue will no doubt disappoint. However, if your Indonesian pilgrimage is enriched with culture, stunning landscape, lots of uncrowded, consistent, quality waves and the potential for further discovery, then this seldom-mentioned gem deserves closer consideration.