Timor Leste offers incredibly diverse diving without the crowds. The dive sites offer colorful reefs, world-class macro and pelagics in excellent visibility. During whale migration several species of the gentle giants can watched from the boat.
There are only 4 dive shops in whole Timor Leste, all in the capital Dili. Thus the pristine reefs can be enjoyed without seeing any other dive groups all day. It gets a bit more crowded over the weekends when the expats who live in Dili go diving.
About Timor Leste
Timor Leste is a small country in the east of Southeast Asia. The capital lies on Timor, half of this island belongs to Timor Leste, the other half to Indonesia. Most of the country is mountainous with the highest point at almost 3000 meters. The climate is tropical with distinct dry and rainy seasons. The dry season is May to November, the temperatures range from 30° to 35°C and 22°C overnight.
There are two main diving areas; the north coast of Timor and the small island Atauro 25 Km north of Dili.
Most dive sites are reached by car from Dili. It takes anywhere between 5 minutes and 1 1/2 hours to get there. The dive sites are located on the fringing reef which lies close to shore. The dives usually start right after walking in from the beach. The sites vary between pristine coral reefs and muck sites. The colorful reefs are teeming with tropical fish and macro fans will find an incredible amount of rare critters.
The best chances to see large pelagics are around Atauro. The visibility around the small island is usually great and schooling fish pass by the pristine reefs.
During whale season the boat ride out to Atauro can become an adventure itself. Many different types of whales travel through the waters of Timor Leste every year in October and November. The chances are quite high to see pods of dolphins and pilot whales from the boat all around the year. During the whale migration even blue whales have been observed from the boat.
Click here to read more about the scuba diving in Timor Leste.
As part of the coral triangle the waters of Timor Leste offer some of the highest marine biodiversity on the planet.
Some dive sites lie just outside of to the capital Dili and can be reached in just a few minutes by car. These are world-class muck diving sites, some coral reefs and sites suitable for courses. The best site for macro is Tasi Tolu, a typical muck site with rare critters everywhere. The marine life there includes frogfish, pipefish, nudibranchs, shrimp, crab and even rhinopias.
West of Dili
A few dive sites lie west of the capital on a sloping reef or sand and some coral bommies. The best encounters are turtles, schooling fish, lobsters, eels, sea horses and some more macro.
East of Dili
Most of the dive sites lie east of Dili. The dive sites have been named according to landmarks due to the shore diving. As most of the diving is done from shore the sites have names according to highlights on land like "Lone Tree" or "K41" (41 Km from Dili). The different dive sites along the coast are usually reached by car in up to 1 1/2 hours drive. The roads are not too good so it takes a bit longer to get there. Which is fine as the drives themselves are amazing. The view from the curvy roads along the coast line is incredible. It is also possible to see how the people of Timor Leste live. And sometimes there is attractions like a salt water crocodile next to the road.
The dive sites here lie on a fringing reef sloping down. The reef is teeming with colorful fish and covered in healthy coral. Many critters like nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, scorpionfish, leaf fish, pygmy seahorses, flatworms, crabs, shrimp and even ladybugs hide in the diverse coral. Further away from the reef in the blue reef sharks and schooling fish pass by. Sometimes even a dugong comes to visit in the sandy areas covered in sea grass.
The best chances to see large pelagics are around Atauro. During whale season the boat ride out to Atauro can become an adventure itself.
Atauro is characterized by walls, bays and slopes covered in sponges, hard and soft coral. The visibility is usually great. The currents can vary from mild to strong. The marine life includes turtle, tuna, napoleon wrasses, rays, sharks (sometimes even hammerheads) and schooling fish like mackerels, trevallies and barracuda.
All dive shops lie a short car ride from the Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili. The dive shops will organize the pick up. Direct flights are available from Bali (Denpasar) with Sriwijaya or Air Timor, Singapore with Air Timor and Darwin with Airnorth.
Alternatively it is possible to get into Timor Leste by bus from Kupang in the Indonesian part of Timor. The trip takes around 12 hours in total and a letter has to be obtained before to get the visa at the boarder.
The dive shop owners might organize little trips around the area of Dili or can organize a driver to take you there. Taxi fares are low and are the best way to get around Dili. If you want to explore the rest of Timor Leste it is possible to hire a car or take buses.
The dive shops
All shops offer daily diving trips by car to the shore dive sites. However, if there are not many other guests possibly only to the dive sites close by. For boat trips to Atauro they need several divers. So these trips normally happen during the weekends.
Dive Timor Lorosae is a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre. They offer the whole range of courses up to Instructor and even some tech diving. By building artificial reefs the staff of Lorosae is creating shelter and a home for marine life. The artificial reef also serves as new dive sites.
Aquatica Dive Resort is an Australian owned and run PADI dive resort. One of the owners is also an avid underwater photographer and the staff knows where to find the critters for the best shots.
Compass Charters & Ocean Adventures is a PADI 5 Star Resort offering shore diving and trips to Atauro.
Freeflow Diving was the first dive shop in Dili established in 2000 by an English couple.
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