Diving Safaris & Snorkeling Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Timor-Leste’s diving is not only spectacular but also very accessible. The bulk of the regularly visited dive sites are located either in Dili or near Maubara in the west. The drive out to the sites to the east of Dili is part of the adventure, as you rise above the sea before descending to the dive sites. All of these sites can be accessed from the shore. Drive up to the beach, unload in the shade, gear up and walk into the water. Within minutes, schools of fish, colorful corals, marine critters and dugongs surround you. The diving is not deep either, so more time is spent seeing marine activity rather than decompressing. Boat dives can get access to the sites in and around Dili, in addition to the underwater paradise of Atauro Island. If you can get a group of six or eight divers together, these boat dives are similarly priced to those from the shore. Further along the east coast, the Dili dive operators can arrange dive safaris to sites around Corn, Tutuala and Jam Island. This can be done by vehicle or boat, or you can go by car and meet the boat there. The expense increases for these trips, but the dive sites are well worth the effort for their rich coral and sea life. Those who want to learn to dive in East Timor will find a full suite of PADI courses on offer in Dili. Courses start at $255 (US dollars) and include dives at some of the Country’s best sites. Discuss your requirements with the dive operators who will be able to put together a package that will cater for your needs and budget.
Everyone that comes to Timor-Leste (East Timor) should go snorkeling. A mask and a snorkel is every season’s must-have accessory. It is always good to bring your own mask and snorkel equipment with you. Although dive operators cam supply them. a well-fitting mask is essential and it also means you can go snorkeling at any time! There are two ways you are going to be able to do some snorkeling: either under your own steam or with a dive operator. Going independent is easy, particularly if you have a vehicle. As the reef hugs the north coast, pulling over on one of the deserted beaches for a look can prove to be an underwater paradise. There is also good snorkeling to be had at the existing dive sites. Ask around where you are staying, as most people are happy to share their favorite spots with you. Just like with diving, keep your buddy close and be careful of currents. One of the great things about diving in East timor is that with the prevalence of shore diving, your non-diving friends and family can easily join you. Add operators are comfortable taking non-divers on the trips to the dive sites for a reduced fee. Snorkelers can still have amazing experience, as a lot of the coral and marine life is also accessible to them.
Planning Your Diving & Snorkeling Trip
Diving is possible year-round, although the conditions are smoother and the water clearer during the May to November dry sea-son when visibility is typically 20m to 30m. During the wet season, from December to April, the visibility is still 15m to 20m. February is probably the worst month for visibility with some sites affected, to varying degrees, by silt run-off from the swollen rivers comping from the torrential downpours. It picks up again by mid- to late March, and in April visibility is once again excellent. September is great for manta rays and, if you are lucky whale sharks. Some dive sites can experience strong currents and are more suitable for advanced, experienced divers. The water temperatures fluctuates between 26°C and 28°C year-round.
Why is the Diving So Good?
The diving in Timor-Leste (East Timor) is world class, thanks to a perfect mix of cool, deep water, undamaged reefs, under fished marine life and its prime location in the Coral Triangle. Ocean trenches that reach several kilometers deep yield cool thermo climes that rejuvenate the coral life, which is also relatively untouched compared with East Timor’s neighbors, such as Indonesia and the Philippines. The practice of dynamite fishing never caught on because explosives were so tightly controlled during the Indonesian occupation.
The sea life is as plentiful as it is diverse, from nudibranchs to turtles to schooling trivially. Scientists travel halfway around the world to see one or two of the species of fish or sponge that are so plentiful in East Timor. Large-scale commercial fishing has not started around any of the dive sites, and supplies are now in equilibrium with what the locals eat and sell to foreigners in Dili ‘s restaurants.
This perfect mix treats divers to a colorful array of hard and soft corals as well as a vivid assortment of reef fish. Pelagics (open-water species such as tuna, bonito and mackerel) are regularly encountered, along with harmless reef sharks, manta rays, dolphins and dugongs. The coral reef runs close to the shore along much of the north coast, and divers have only to wade in and swim a few strokes to reach spectacular drop-offs.
The Coral Triangle
Timor-Leste (East Timor) lies in the southwest corner of the pristine Coral Triangle, which also includes the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and the Solon-ion Islands. Scientists believe that each eco-region contains at least 500 species of reef-building corals. The Triangle encompasses portions of two biographic regions: the Indonesian-Philippines Region (where East Timor lies) and the Far Southwestern Pacific Region. The Coral Triangle is recognized as the global epicenter of marine biodiversity and has the highest coral diversity in the world, with 76% of the world’s 805 coral species found there. Moreover, 37% of the world’s coral-reef fish can also be found in the Triangle, which is the highest diversity of coral-reef fish in the world.
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More recently we have watched the emergence of the practice of Surfing in Timor-Leste. If you are a surf practitioner don’t forget to visit the resources that this island has to offer.