East Timor's Underwater World

Dili is the diving world's newest and most precious discovery. Find out what there is to see both in the water, or on land.

Welcome to Dili, the capital and largest city in East Timor, the world's newest nation that also houses what might be the diving world's most precious discovery.

Indeed, the diver who makes it to this little known nation will find plenty to see. Sea walls plunge dramatically down towards the sea bed, and remarkably clear waters house schools of colorful angelfish and batfish, which play hide and seek among the hard and soft corals. You'll also see tuna, macherel and manta rays, and other more uncommon water creatures such as whale sharks, turtles andmanatees - if you are lucky of course.

Getting to the diving sites, however, involves some effort. Chartetting a boat costs about US$800, so shore dives are commonly preferred. Even then, you'll probably have to swim at least 50 meters out to sea before making the underwater descent. But because currents are strong and big waves are aplenty here, entering and exiting the water can be quite a challenge. Most of Dili's most popular dive sites are within an hour's drive from the city; car rental will set you back about US$60 a day and the journey itself will treat you to a series of jaw-dropping scenic views and some opportunities for sightseeing.

Dive Into It
Once you get to Dili's dive sites, you'll be richly satisfied with what they have to offer. Dili Rock poses a challenging dive; currents can be strong, and the swirling sands can affect visibility. However, once you get past all this, the rewards are worth the while. You'll see turtles, manta rays and lionfish, and schools of batfish and butterfly fish. Black Rock is also where manta rays are often spotted. but the dive site is not for amateurs either. its steep walls and strong currents make it treacherous for less experienced divers.

Black Rock in Behou East Timor (Photo by Rob Swanson)

Newer divers might do best tostart at Dollar Beach, which is an especially good viewing ground for manatees. The shallow waters and clumps of seaweed make this the ideal mating ground for these endangered mamals. Even if you're not a diver, the stretches of white sands make it a haven for sun worshippers who want to do little else from relaxing on the beach.

Amateurs can also dive safely at Whale Shark Point. Less experienced divers should stick to the gentle reefs within the coves, whole non-divers may be content to sit around and wait to spot whale sharks, which are known to visit the area around August. if you've missed the season, however, this diving site, just like the rest in Dili, is gorgeous nonetheless.

K41, 41 kilometers to the east of Dili, is yet another favorite among divers. Unlike typical tropical beaches, k41 has a pebble beach that is filled with large rocks. Waves are huge and strong, but currents in the water are fairly gentle, and the dive is straightforward. This is a great spot for night dives and the underwater scene is stunning because of its large variety of sponges and corals that sparkle with vibrant colors in every hue.

Atauro Island - East Timor (Photo by trash0)

Largely given a miss by casual divers because the island is three hours away by boat from Dili, Atauro Island offers one of the most stunning dive experiences. Chartering a boat to the island costs no less than US$700, but most who have enjoyed the experience have declared it worth every cent. During the boat ride, you can expect to see hundreds of dolphines and pods of whales, and if you return during sunste, the view of golden skies reflected upon a shimmering area is one of the most magnificent sights you could imagine.

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