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Hidden gem in the western tip of Indonesia

If you are thinking about something impressive and mesmerizing in the sphere of the underwater kingdom, you will easily regard the seas around Pulau Weh in Indonesia, Sumatra and Aceh province as a place like this. If you want to leave behind the lush tropical rain forest and are seeking the unrivalled variability of eel populations between the rocks –this will probably be the new adventure waiting for you.

Csaba Sellei • OM-D EM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-5.6
• PT-EP11 • Sea&Sea YS-01


However, this is not only the most famous wide-angle paradise; you may also shoot stunning underwater cliffs fully packed with colourful algae, baby sponges and solitaire hard corals. I rather focused on the creeping and crawling creatures. Therefore I set my gear with M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ on EM-1 Mark I and the accessories like INON UCL-165M67 close-up wet lens and two Sea&Sea YS-01 strobes. This equipment could satisfy me during most of the dives; especially as sometimes the visibility did not encourage me to consider shooting wider frames. Honestly speaking, I rarely wanted to chase open water themes in the blue because the enormous number of tiny crevices, holes and ledges could provide plenty of things to see and deal with.

Csaba Sellei • OM-D EM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-5.6
• PT-EP11 • Sea&Sea YS-01

Nevertheless, I should start with a little piece of safety advice: when you are taking your position in the water for the best picture ever in your life, make sure to carefully investigate the terrain around you to avoid physical contact with the abundant amount of couching scorpion fishes and hole dwelling moray eels. They are everywhere and waiting for the keen underwater photographers.

Normally, it is not a really demanding kind of photography. Regarding the camera settings you can work with the same basic settings you did at the first day. Then you can further improve your skills by slightly modifying the aperture, strobe power or even the flash synchronization time to achieve a more dramatic scene which can tell a story about the creature. My general settings for the beginning of the dive was as follows: shutter speed (sync time) 1/160, F-number 11-18 (with aperture priority), ISO variegated 200-800 but in the low range, centre weighted metering mode.
Well, the strobe manipulation kept me busy all the time to find out the best level of emitting power, sometimes the manual setting, other times the TTL mode could lead to a good result. Often, a few experimental shots were needed right at the start plus the constant monitoring of the animals’ movement. This made the entire operation so exciting – to catch the right moment. I was so thankful to the tolerant eels abiding my time-consuming curiosity and my embarrassing presence in front of their faces.

Csaba Sellei • OM-D EM-1 • M.ZUIKO Digital ED 12-50mm f3.5-5.6
• PT-EP11 • Sea&Sea YS-01

Just a few more competitors from the land of eels, fellow divers and eel fans – that was it. This place can definitely be put on your bucket list, you will never forget the hundreds of curious eyes staring at you while diving around.

Csaba Sellei • OM-D EM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-5.6
• PT-EP11 • Sea&Sea YS-01

Such a diversity in the eels’ kingdom. Like a well distributed society sharing the availabilities, food and housing, every creature is doing its own business as usual and there are outsiders as well, just like this frably fellow seen below.

Csaba Sellei • OM-D EM-1 • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-5.6
• PT-EP11 • Sea&Sea YS-01

Apart from that, the eels do not represent the entire aquatic life there but draw a significant attention from the divers, they are everywhere. Other fellows are swimming, creeping and roaming around as usual in a rich and fertile tropical sea. However, it is worth mentioning that this area was hit by the devastating tsunami in 2004 at Christmas time and today we can see that most of the damaged seafloor started to recover, the life takes back its place, fortunately.

After two weeks of being a guest in these lovely waters and enchanted by the vibrant island around, I have to say that this place is a total hidden gem in the western tip of Indonesia, without question.

Author and Photographer: Csaba Sellei