East Timor is not what comes to mind when most people think tropical diving in South East Asia. However, it really should be, with warm waters, some good visibility, muck diving and spectacularly surprising shore diving. There really is something for nearly every diver in this largely unknown dive haven. The atmosphere is safe and relaxed whilst also feeling starkly different to back home. The dive resort was extremely comfortable but rustic enough that you didn’t feel too removed from the real world, a must for me when I am travelling.
Arturo Island is situated about 2 hours from the Timorese capital of Dili and is a must for any foreign visitor. The waters around the island provide some beautiful boat diving opportunities, vast coral gardens surround the shallows until huge drops plummet thousands of metres off into the abyss of the ocean. An abundance of Angelfish and Butterflyfish swim around the soft corals and sizeable hard table corals. You may even run into the odd humphead parrotfish or two.
The shore diving around the capital Dili is top quality, for people who are used to shore diving Timor really does impress. You wonder through the rocky beaches on your first shore dive not knowing what to expect, a surprise definitely awaits. Beneath the water at a depth of 2 metres hard corals and schools of fish begin to appear, spread out as far as the great visibility lets you see. Out of nowhere as you delve a little deeper a vast and expansive reef opens up straight off the beach. The depth can plummet very sharply but the reef wall maintains its shallow origins, starting at ten metres and sloping down into the depths.
My personal favourite and highlight however is muck diving. Muck diving involves poking around in the sandy murky depths looking for nature’s more unusual creatures. Anglerfish with their strange feet and gruesome mouths stalk through the coral, Mantis Shrimp get ready to release dangerous punches on unsuspecting prey and Ghost Pipefish hide eerily amongst the seagrass. One particular site Tosi Tulu holds examples of most of Timor’s great macro/muck diving. With scattered artificial reef running down the incline you bounce between them encountering various strange but beautiful ocean creatures each time.
So why not think about East Timor next time you are looking for a dive holiday or just want to be a bit more removed from the world. With a great local diving atmosphere and friendly people I’d recommend it in a second.
Diving holidays really do take you to some of the more remote and removed areas, this is one of the reasons I love them. Discovering hidden gems like Timor makes for a lifelong memory. So if you want to get off the beaten path and dive somewhere unique and different find yourself a lesser known South East Asian nation and go for a divecation (diving vacation). Who knows you may fall in love with its beauty and never come back!