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Published: June 21st 2019
HUGE SEA FANS ABOUND
East Timor has it all. I only begin to appreciate the teeming life, fish, corals, barrel sponges, sea fans and nudibranchs, after reviewing my photos. Best of all the water is clear so I got some good photos of the diversity.
LET’S DIVE EAST TIMOR
As I wrapped up my vacation I realized I needed a little more diving since the weather had interrupted my plans to dive Burma. I decided I should dive East Timor. Now it would have made sense to dive Timor when I was in Bali, because you fly from Bali to get to Timor…but hindsight is 20 – 20. I decided to tack this dive destination onto my trip because a fellow diver I met in Brunei wrote me an email extolling the diving on Atauro Island in East Timor. “The best diving ever,” he raved. I extended my trip by two weeks and flew back to Bali. It took a lot of persuasion to get the agent at immigration control to allow me to go to East Timor. I might still be talking to her, except her shift was up and I got a more congenial fellow to help me. She was confused, perhaps citing rules that were for people wanting to work there.
I spent three days in a big family-type compound, Malinamoc Paradise Hotel, with a swimming pool and fully equipped kitchen. I had a huge suite and a restaurant on site.
AMAZING COLOR AND SHAPES
My dive friend was right, East Timor is a true cornucopia of sea life. The diving was incredible. Each time I turned around there was something else to see.
I spent my time catching up on my journaling and trying to unravel the problems with my return trip to Seattle. I planned to go swimming but took a nap instead. I visited the dive shop, Dive Loro’sae Dili and I made a reservation for one of their rooms so I wouldn’t have to travel back and forth. There was a very good restaurant, the Castaway Bar, over the dive store, and I enjoyed my meal.
When I got back to my hotel it was getting dark and it looked like rain was imminent but I really wanted to use the pool so I changed clothes and grabbed a towel. I jumped in thinking I would just do two laps. As I approached the far end of the pool huge bats swooped down from overhead. I will brave lightning, but not bats. I hurried back to my room and a cold shower. To end my stay here on a positive note however, the order of fries the restaurant delivered to my room was enormous and delicious.
I got up the next day and did my final packing. I walked out the door to go to breakfast and Moses,
VIBRANT SOFT CORAL
I never get enough of these beauties.
my driver, was there. My watch was wrong. He lugged my bags to the car and I rushed to the restaurant to get toast and watermelon for a to-go breakfast. When I arrived at the dive shop I just dropped my bags in the storage area and went diving.
I asked the divemaster, Man, from Manado in Indonesia, if we could do some “muck diving” and he said he was the best at spotting small creatures that live in a shallow habitat. He was really good, but the creatures were so small I soon grew weary of photographing microscopic creatures I couldn’t even see. Suddenly Man tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. In front of me was a long wall of sand about two feet high. Then I saw a big brown blob. It was a Dugong, a relative of the manatee. I actually saw a dugong in the water! Man immediately began chasing it. After six or seven feet of hard kicking I realized the futility of the effort. I would never be able to get in front of it to take a photo. I went back to my camera. When we got to shore Man picked
HUGE TABLE CORAL
Thanks to these two divers it is possible to see how really big this coral is. I think it looks like a giant flower.
up my fin, a long split fin I like so well I have two pair. He shook it in disgust and told me my fins were no good. He said I should wear hard heavy fins like his. I have two pair just like his at home that I wore when I started diving thirty five years ago. I think they are relics. He was angry that I couldn’t swim fast enough to catch the dugong. I wanted to tell him, “Hey Man, it isn’t the fins. Trying to catch a dugong who is running away is like trying to catch a running gazelle.”
Much of the diving was local shore diving. I remember one hot day I sat on the beach in a grassy area on a tangle of tree roots, to eat my lunch during a surface interval. There were two trees growing in the water, spaced at some distance from each other. It was quiet and I felt a little isolated. One divemaster fed a starving mother dog part of his lunch. Later, I wondered…
On a three dive day we came back to the shop before going to the third dive site. As I
LET'S TAKE A WALK IN THE PARK
This divemaster is having a good day, holding hands with a nervous, new diver.
crossed the threshold into the shop, someone thrust a microphone in my face and asked me some questions about my diving experience in Timor Leste. It was a Swedish reporter making a television documentary about the island. I love talking diving, but then he asked, “How do you feel about the crocodiles?” “What crocodiles?” I asked. It turns out there is a tribe on the other side of the island who revere crocodiles; they are not hunted and the population has exploded. Recently there have been many more deaths from crocodile attacks. Nice to know.
They usually occur at night along the river. I’ll stay away from rivers, and trees in the water.
I did eleven dives with the shop and I felt safe. We did two days of boat diving, each lasting most of the day. The first dive on Atauro Island was deep and the water was unusually clear but I didn’t see anything exciting. That is the thing about the sea; every day is different. In deep water, if you are lucky you may see sharks, manta rays, turtles, dolphins or seals. But some days everyone is running errands and no one is at home.
Always stately and beautiful. I love to dive with lion fish in their habitat and not where they will be destroyed as an invasive species.
That is one of the things that makes diving so interesting and unexpected.
I found East Timor quite different from many places I’ve gone diving. The population is mixed…dark skinned people like Papuans, and light skinned people similar to Philipinos. One of the dive shop staff said the government is trying to make fishermen of the people who were born in the highland interior. They know nothing about conservation and sustainable fishing practices. And the people in power don’t understand that their construction practices are harming the underwater environment.
I didn’t see much of Dili, the capital city. I was there for the diving. I discovered there was a very good market several doors away. Also some of the locals set up small tables in their yards and sell their home grown vegetables. I enjoyed talking to the women and the children and bought some of their produce. The people are friendly and kind and want to talk with tourists. But I usually cooked my own food, or made a chopped salad, edited my photos, checked my emails, and I visited with other divers and the staff.
The taxi drivers were particularly nice, always ready with a
This is one of those tiny creatures that often blend in with the background. This one could be mistaken for a soft coral.
smile or a laugh.
And I didn’t meet any crocodiles.
Tot: 3.605s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 24; qc: 103; dbt: 0.0715s; 3; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 4;
; mem: 1.6mb