Indonesia: Preserving the beauty of Weh Island

Otniel Tamindael Antara 16 May 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Constant efforts need to be made to preserve the beauty of Indonesias westernmost island of Weh in Sabang District, Aceh Province.

Weh Island is known for its natural beauty, waterfalls, coral reefs, marine species, white sandy beaches, and historical relics that the local government and relevant agencies should continue to preserve and promote.

The island is known to have several interesting tourist attractions, which need to be managed optimally, so every tourist is left with a wonderful, lasting impression and beautiful, unforgettable memories.

Every tourist visiting Weh Island is on the lookout for comfort and memories, and if they find it there, they will yearn to come back again.

Not all areas have such beautiful tourist charms alike those on Weh Island; hence, the Sabang city government should continue to improve sea and land transportation services for tourists to facilitate travel to the island.

Sabang city government spokesman Sofyan Adam has affirmed that the local government will continue to promote the tourism industry with the hope of improving the welfare of the local communities.

"We continue to make improvements and rectify any shortcomings in stages for the convenience of the tourists as tourism is the mainstay product of Weh Island whose landscape and forest are beautiful," Adam noted.

The Aceh government had designated Weh island and its surrounding areas as a national tourism strategic area, and this step demonstrates its commitment to promoting Sabang and Weh island tourism.

The waters of Weh island are home to 133 coral reef species, according to a study on coral reefs which was jointly conducted by the Fishery and Marine Research Centre of Syiah Kuala University, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University of Australia, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Flora and Fauna International.

The results of this study show the uniqueness of coral reefs in Weh island and its vicinity. This is reflected in the species composition, which is a mix of Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean coral reef species, as well as the ones which are commonly found in Indonesian waters.

The diversity of coral reefs in Weh Island waters is similar to that of Halmahera island in North Maluku province.

Halmahera waters are also home to 130 species and are famous as the most diverse coral reef region in the northern waters of Indonesia.

Compared with other regions in Indonesia, the coral reefs in Weh Island waters are "unique despite having similarities with those in the Andaman Sea".

If Weh Island is considered as a representative of the Andaman Sea, the coral reef in the area should be jointly protected by Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar.

Protection should be first provided in the Coral Triangle region, covering the waters of the Philippines in the north, Solomon Island in the east, and Indonesia (Bali province) in the west.

The Coral Triangle is home to 605 coral reef species, which account for 76 percent of the total number of recorded coral reef species in the world.

Accordingly, the Sabang Regional Management Board (BPKS) is also taking steps to make the region an international tourism destination in Aceh Province.

"We will continue to promote Weh island in Sabang as a world tourist destination to attract increasingly more number of foreign tourists to the area," BPKS Chief Fauzi Husin affirmed.

The number of foreign tourist arrivals to Sabang has grown steadily, and new tourist attractions must be developed there to make the area a world-class tourist destination.

In addition, various arts, cultural, sports, and other events hosted by the city must be propagated to draw the interest of foreign tourists visiting Sabang.

"We also continue to increase the frequency of cruise ship arrivals in Sabang, and in 2017, our target is to see some 30 cruise ships making a stopover in the district," according to Husin.

With intensive promotion, Aceh province is ready to receive one million foreign tourists from different countries in the well-known Weh Island in Sabang District in 2017, according to Governor Zaini Abdullah.

"Our target for next year is to receive one million foreign tourists in Sabang, especially in the beautiful Weh Island," the governor remarks.

He also affirmed that the number of foreign tourists visiting Sabang from year to year had continued to increase, and this proved that the promotion of tourism had been quite successful.

In 2013, some 450 thousand tourists visited Sabang, and the number increased to 500 thousand tourists in 2014, and continued increasing by 700 thousand in 2015.

"The surge in the number of tourists visiting Sabang is inseparable from the availability of direct flights between Medan and Sabang and more conducive conditions in the province," he explained.

Abdullah remarked that the increase in the number of cruise ships arriving in Sabang, with thousands of tourists from various countries, will contribute to boosting the number of tourist arrivals.

The governor said that in April alone, 11 cruise ships had called at Sabang port before sailing to another country, and many more will come later this year.(*)