From majestic mountains to rarely visited coral reefs, East Timor is a destination with a variety of fantastic adventures on offer. Located in the heart of the coral triangle between Australia and Indonesia, East Timor has some of the world's most bio-diverse corals that practically explode with color and divers have nearly endless options for underwater exploration, both from shore or boat. This country also has a fascinating history and the locals typically welcome visitors with open arms. Almost all of the produce is locally grown so meals are fresh and delicious. If you're looking for a calm, relaxing destination where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, explore tropical island waters and hike through magnificent mountains, then East Timor is for you.
When to go:
June to October is the dry season and visibility is fantastic. November through May is usually wetter but diving can be great all year.
When to Get the Best Deals:
Some hotels have accommodations promotions from December through May.
What to Pack:
Aim to pack light because some connecting flights from Indonesia and Australia have weight limits. In addition, some dive equipment may be hard to come by, so check with your PADI Dive Shop regarding equipment before you depart and bring spare straps, masks, etc. As with most travel, it's a good idea to travel with any essential or recommended medications.
Average water temperature is about 28° C/82° F.
The air temperature ranges from 30 - 35°C/8 - 95° F all year. The temperature can drop to 15° C/60° F at night in the mountains at night.
United States Dollar (USD).
A valid passport is required and you should check with the local immigration office for visa requirements. Citizens from some countries may be able to obtain a visa on arrival for vacation or holiday use.
Usually $10 US paid at the airport, but it may be included in your airfare. Check with your airline for variations.
None are required but Malaria and Dengue Fever can be a concern. Check with local officials before travel as this information can change.
What to Eat:
The taste of East Timor is inspired by an assortment of international cuisines but most locals enjoy rice, taro, cassava, sweet potatoes and maize, which is often boiled into delightful curries and served with fresh, native spices. Fried fish is the national dish and, if you're lucky, you'll also taste some prawns - a delicacy here. Along the Dili waterfront you'll also find an assortment of freshly picked fruit for sale by friendly locals.
What to Drink:
Organically grown coffee is a popular daytime beverage choice with fruit juice, smoothies and cold beers also available. Castaway Bar and Restaurant in Dili is a popular option for travelers and due to its great variety and immaculate ocean view.
Immerse yourself in the culture by visiting the local markets. Here you'll see Tais (a beautiful, traditionally woven cloth) for sale. You can also hike through the mountains on the mainland or on the eco-friendly Atauro Island. Last, visit Cristo Rei of Dili, the "Jesus Statue" overlooking the ocean, with breathtaking views and surroundings.
Customs and Culture:
As a relatively new tourist destination, East Timor locals normally welcome visitors with a wave and a friendly chat. There is a unique blend of cultures here and you'll be amazed by the diversity of traditions to experience.
The annual Carnival de Timor - normally in late April - celebrates music, fun and multiculturalism. The Dili "City of Peace" Marathon is held in May.
Electricity and Internet:
220V, 50 Hz. Australian three-pronged plugs (Type I) are fairly standard. The power supply throughout the country can be unreliable and public internet is only available in Dili.
Drink the water?
Drinking bottled water is recommended.
Portuguese and Tetum are the official languages but English is also spoken in popular tourist areas.
Amazing Marine Life
Large pods of dolphin often frolic around East Timor. Head to Atauro Island where you're almost guaranteed to dive with these intelligent creatures.
These frilly, brilliantly colored invertebrates proliferate among the East Timor reefs.
You'll often see turtles relaxing just off Dili and they often venture to the eastward islands as well.
Pipefish, sea horse, ghost pipefish:
Although these little critters are tiny, their fascinating features make them well worth spotting.
Impressively large barracuda inhabit the ocean around East Timor.
These fish can vary in a range of different colors and true to their name, resemble a leaf in many ways.
A variety of whales can be spotted around November. These breathtaking icons of the deep are not to be missed.
Dugongs frequently pass through this location and these large marine mammals are a spectacular sight to see on a dive.
Top Dive Spots
This is, without a doubt, one of the most specular areas in East Timor. Known for its fantastic visibility, vast number of fish species and impressive coral, the island has a variety of dive sites. Here are three of the best:
A popular certification spot, North Point offers an immaculate coral formation and a vast array of fish just off the white sandy beach.
This spot features nurse sharks and an impressive wall.
This calm drift dive over shallow reef and along a coral wall is a great spot for spotting turtles, sharks and other large pelagics.
Secret Spot/Sacred Garden:
Known for its timid current, Secret Spot offers a beach entry and the chance to see an array of marine life, including sharks, spotted rays, lobster and large clams.
Whale Shark Point:
East from Dili, Whale Shark Point is subject to strong oceanic currents which result in spectacularly rich coral and marine life diversity.
This is a popular area to see blue spotted rays and is west of Dili.
Located on the far east of the island Twin Peaks can take a bit longer to reach. But, the solid visibility and possibility of shark sightings make it worth the wait.