There is some excellent scuba diving in Timor Leste, with dive sites ranging from beautiful bommies and coral reefs to excellent critter sites – not to mention the beautiful walls of Atauro Island!
Timor Leste is also a very interesting and deserving country to visit with an strong culture and a turbulent recent history!
Devastated by the departing Indonesian military, and the militias it sponsored, the country had a very troubled birth in May 2002 when it finally became fully independent.
Some significant progress has been made since then, but much remains to do… So don’t expect five-star resorts and multiple-lane freeways for your trip to Timor Leste – but there is some great diving and interesting things to see!
A quick look at the map and a basic understanding of the Indonesian Throughflow is enough to tell you that the north coast of Timor Leste has significant potential for some great scuba diving.
To the north of Timor Leste are the remote islands of Alor and Wetar – the most easterly of the chain of islands called the Lesser Sundas which form the southern boundary of the huge Indonesian archipelago.
Further north above Alor and Wetar are the deep basins of the Banda Sea, and as the rich Indonesian Throughflow surges its way south and approaches the Lesser Sunda shelf it creates upwellings that suck up the phosphorus & nitrogen laden detritus of the sea that are so rich in nutrients.
One of the three main passages for the Indonesian Throughflow through the Lesser Sunda islands is the Ombai Strait between Alor, Wetar and Timor Leste.
Scuba Diving in Timor Leste: The Main Locations
The main diving locations in Timor Leste can be broken down into four main areas – in and around the capital Dili, coastal locations to the east and west of Dili, the island of Atauro roughly in between Alor & Wetar and the island of Jaco at the far eastern tip of the country.
Dili Dive Site Summary: The sites I have dived around Dili were all shore dives and mainly muck/critter sites such as Tasi Tolu and the Pertamina Jetty, plus Dili Rock which is a mixture of critters and coral gardens.
Coastal Dive Site Summary: All the sites I have dived east and west of Dili were also shores dives and were mainly on reefs and bommies close to the shore and offered some excellent diving. The coast road in both directions from Dili is very scenic and although quite a lot of time is consumed driving to the sites, I really quite enjoyed the whole experience.
Atauro Dive Site Summary: On my first trip to Timor Leste as I was diving with Dive Timor Lorosae and their boat was out of action due to a force majeure situation and the replacement had yet to arrive from Australia… So I was unable to get over to Atauro, which was a big disappointment as I had heard some excellent things about it.
In late March 2014 I returned to Dili to do 10 days of diving with Compass Dive Charters – who probably know Atauro and it’s diving better that anybody. It was a great experience and I had some wonderful dives which I have documented on my Atauro pages
Jaco Dive Site Summary: I have also heard great things about Jaco, but it’s remote location means it can only really be dived from a liveaboard and I will also update this guide soon as I have been there.