Pulau Banyak, meaning “many islands” in Indonesian, is a group of stunning islands located off the west coast of Sumatra. Despite being relatively untouched by progress, these islands fall under the administration of Aceh, a province known for its adherence to Shariah law. As a result, there is limited transport infrastructure connecting the islands to the mainland.
To reach the ferry port in Singkil, the town serving as the gateway to the islands, you can take an eight-hour drive from Medan or a ten-hour drive from Bukit Lawang. The route passes through Berastagi and is also conveniently located near Lake Toba, making it an ideal stopover for travelers exploring Sumatra.
However, reaching the islands themselves can be a challenge. While there may be daily boat departures, the vessels are not particularly seaworthy, and they do not operate during stormy weather. It’s important to note that even during calm periods, delays can occur, especially during the peak season of July and August.
From November to March, the risk of bad weather decreases, but nothing is guaranteed. The twice-weekly Indonesian ferry (ASDP) is an option, but schedule changes and repairs are common, making it difficult to rely on a fixed itinerary.
Accommodation options on the islands are limited, and facilities such as equipment rentals are scarce. However, what Pulau Banyak lacks in amenities, it makes up for with its picture-perfect tropical islands, featuring pristine white sandy beaches and swaying coconut palms.
While the snorkeling and diving may not be as impressive due to damage from the tsunami, there are still a few surf resorts for water sports enthusiasts. Travelers with ample time to explore Sumatra can consider a visit to Pulau Banyak for a relaxing beach getaway with basic facilities.
For those seeking world-class diving, snorkeling, or high-grade hotels, it is recommended to fly from Medan to other parts of Indonesia, such as Komodo, Bunaken, Raja Ampat, Bali, or Lombok. Additionally, Pulau Weh, which is much easier to access with reliable ferry services from Banda Aceh and its own airport, is another option for Sumatran travelers.
Discover the hidden gem of Pulau Banyak and immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of these Indonesian islands. Experience the simple charm of a tropical paradise that offers a unique escape from the modern world.