Already 10 days in Timor Leste.
I had thought of diving there for many years now, but with the country fighting for its independence, I kept on postponing it, thinking, one day I will be there! (Have a look at my map page if you wonder where it is.)
Three weeks ago I discovered Blue Ventures was opening a program there. I did not think it twice and signed up for the 3rd Discovery expedition. I am now able to confirm what I suspected at the time: the reef is just spectacular!
Above a giant Hard Coral Foliose.
Our first 2 days were spent to discover Dili the capital. Even if most people use Tetun, one of the many local language, I was surprised to see Portuguese is still one of the official languages… and Tetun has incorporated a few Portuguese words, such as Bom dia or Obrigada. Otimo!
We went to a few places of interest, among which the Christ statue that Indonesia offered East Timor before their independence. Almost felt I was back in Rio.
Dili seems to be a very chilled out capital, well I would characterize it more as a small town, compared to the big Asia megalopolis. Speed limit is …38km/h, yes, 38!, and everyone is driving very very chill, which is both funny and relaxing after all the crazy driving of South East Asia.
Really liked their microlet, the local bus that they customize. Felt like being back to Latin America again!
Above right, about to take a microlet to the seaside and catch a boat to go to our expedition base: Beloi, on Atauro island.
So who is part of this expedition?
We are 7 volunteers coming from UK, USA, Germany and France, all keen to learn more on marine conservation.
Our staff, Jen, aka Fishwoman, Sean aka Coralman and of course Greg, the Dive instructor and also the Operations manager. Plus Amos, Mema and Antonio all from Atauro.
Special mention to Mema who is the first local woman being a scuba diver in Timor. Go Mema!
Above Jen & Mema.
We are quite lucky to stay at Barry’s place, an eco-lodge on Atauro island.
Below a picture of my little hut with seafront view and a hamac… what else?!
So what’s the expedition like?
5 weeks to explore and map dive sites, assess the reefscape and what the fish population is like. Spot places where dugongs could have been. Nothing much has been done in Timor on all this so here we are, all super motivated to help do this.
Above the crystal clear water we dive in everyday.
But first, we need to learn all the benthics (coral and other species) and fishes to be able to survey in a reliable manner this beautiful underwater environment.
Above, Sean pointing out to us a Hard Coral Tabular.
So not so much time yet to chill on my beautiful hamac… We have some courses and tests to do. We have all passed the Benthic test both underwater and above the water in just a week with more than 90% grade! Well done to all of us!
Question to my fellow volunteers: what are all the species can you identify in this picture?
A big Thank you to our teachers on this, Sean and Jen you guys are really good. Would not have achieved that without your drawings, pointings under water and explanations of all points of differentiation between them all.
Next week: fish families!
Next post: what we do on the island when we have some time off… Stay tuned!