Diving In East Timor: The Heart Of The Coral Triangle

Diving In East Timor: The Heart Of The Coral Triangle
David Mckee

Diving on the small island of East Timor is really incredible.

The pleasant tropical climate and outstanding aquatic conditions combined with a goldmine of marine resources are what attracts divers to its waters.

East Timor

East Timor is located at the eastern end of Indonesia and northwest of Australia situated in the eastern part of the Malay Archipelago. This Southeast Asian country occupies a total land area of 15,410 square kilometers (24,795 square miles).

East Timor’s main income sources are from its petroleum and natural gas resources and also producing coffee. Despite this, the country still struggles economically.

Diving in East Timor

Miles and miles of pristine territory, situated in the middle of the famous coral triangle, East Timor and its surrounding waters is considered one of the country’s top tourist attractions. The crystal-clear waters of East Timor feature one of the world’s richest scuba places.

Divers from around the world at varying levels of skills often visit East Timor for its vibrant coral reefs and deep coral walls, shipwrecks, and lots of big fish action. With its incredible diverse group of animals, this premier dive destination is certainly a natural masterpiece.

Check out The Top 5 Must-See Coral Reefs.

Venturing underwater, divers will find creatures from the tiniest shrimp to enormous whale sharks.  Dive sites in East Timor are so spectacular it makes it hard to get out of the water.

A lion fish on the reef of East Timor
A lion fish on the reef of East Timor
Photo by: David Mckee

Reaching the dives of East Timor

The home base of almost all diving activities in the republic is in Dili, the capital city of East Timor.

From affordable to expensive, hotel lodgings and diving services are available to its guests. Public transportation is offered to visiting divers. Most of the dive sites can be reached within about an hour’s drive along the roads off the coast.

Divers can also check out Wetar Strait. This stretches along the northern coastline of East Timor and measures approximately 3 km (just slightly under 2 miles) in depth. Here divers will see dolphins, tuna, and whales swimming along with them in the waters and beautiful coral reefs.

You may also check on The Best Places To Go Scuba Diving in Thailand.

Seasons for diving East Timor

East Timor has a 2-season hot and humid climate. The dry season is from May to November and ideal for divers because of water visibility of up to 30 meters (98 feet).

Dive Sites

Topnotch dive sites put East Timor on the map of the world’s best dive destinations. Islands, wrecks, and coral walls can be explored endlessly. Here are 6 of the most highly recommended:

1. Tasi Tolu

This is an excellent place to night dive. The dive site of Tasi Tolu is an excellent area to meet rhinopias, frogfish, sea horses, and the harlequin ghost pipefish. Small species of octopus and pink soft coral crabs are some of its favored features as well.

2. Atauro Island

Want to see a diver’s underwater paradise? You will find one with only about an hour’s boat ride away on Atauro Island.

This dive site is known for its wall diving and considered to be the best in the Indo-Pacific region. Atauro Island brings you face to face with dolphins and other members of the cetacean family including pilot and fin whales.

3. Bob’s Rock

If you are a huge fan of macro diving, exploring Bob’s Rock gives you great opportunities to spot unique and rare species.

Named after the word that is engraved on it, this dive site features a huge gorgonian fan measuring 20 meters (66 feet) across that serves as a home to many pygmy seahorses. There are several species of nudibranchs also among this dive site’s popular attractions.

Pygmy seahorse in a Gorgonian sea fan
Pygmy seahorse in a Gorgonian sea fan
Photo by: Dan Exton

4. Lone Tree

Also known as Whale Shark Point, Lone Tree in the eastern seas of East Timor gives experienced scuba divers a chance to see underwater giants. Pods of orcas, whale sharks, humpback whales, and manta rays frequently journey along this marine route from August until November.

5. Pertamina Pier

Aside from hosting cargo vessels delivering buckets of petroleum products, the Pertamina Pier is noted for its vast wealth of sea critters, providing countless inspirations for macro photographers. A solid amount of shrimp, porcelain crabs, and nudibranchs is this dive site’s amazing highlight.

6. K41

Located 41 kilometers (25 miles) east of Dili, K41 owes its appeal to its impressive reef wall and assorted populations of macro life. Shoals of sweetlips and fusiliers are found on its eastern side while vibrant nudibranchs amaze divers on its west side.

Sweetlips hiding in a hard coral
Sweetlips hiding in a hard coral
Photo by: Levent Konuk

Knowing More About East Timor

East Timor’s diving industry continues to grow. Numerous dive shops have opened for business, offering certification classes and exploration dives. Many new activities are always being scheduled and several dive sites are continuously being discovered.

However, East Timor did not become an exciting destination only for its impressive scuba diving attractions. The eastern half of the crocodile-shaped island also offers several favorable land-based activities that make every visitor’s stay on the island absolutely worthwhile.

You may also check the Best Places For Snorkeling.

Dili, aside from being East Timor’s capital city, is also the center of tourism. The waterfront along the Palacio de Governador is a favorite spot for romantic evening walks. There is a gigantic statue of Jesus on the hilltop of Cape Fatucama that is often visited as well.

The districts of Tatamailu and Lautein are notorious spots for mountaineering and bird watching. Hiking through Tatamailu, the highest peak of East Timor, provides a breath-taking view of cone-shaped Mambae houses. The Lautein district is a desirable location because of its several species of birds ranging from eagles to parakeets.

Tourist visas are easily available when you arrive in Dili Airport or Dili port for $30 US currency, cash only. Direct international flights are provided in Bali (Indonesia), Darwin (Australia), and Singapore.


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