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Diving in East Timor

Diving in East Timor is brilliant. You’ll have great visibility for the plentiful encounters with whales and dolphins. Primary dive locations are Dili & Atauro Island.

Diving in East Timor

Quick facts

Imagine a tropical paradise well off the beaten tourist trail. Imagine rarely visited pristine coral reefs plunging to abyssal depths just a few steps from perfect sandy beaches. To top it off, conjure up some genuinely friendly locals and fine fresh food. Hold those thoughts and book a trip to East Timor, you won’t be disappointed. East Timor, Southeast Asia’s newest country, lies northwest of Darwin, Australia. It’s within the Coral Triangle and home to a staggering diversity of coral and reef fish species. Sometimes called the “Amazon of the Seas,” this region is a globally recognized center of marine biodiversity and an international conservation priority. It’s also a great place to see a variety of whales migrating from September through November. The diving is brilliant. The primary dive locations are around the capital, Dili, and nearby Atauro Island. Local PADI Dive Shops know the best spots and will be happy to point out the plentiful whales and dolphins while you’re en route to your site. You’ll have great visibility, wild diving on wicked walls and enough open water pelagics to keep even the most critical diver satisfied. The downside? If there is one, it’s the same as the upside. For many, East Timor’s attraction is that it’s not a developed tourist destination with all-inclusive resorts and hotels on every corner. If you can live without a mint on your pillow every evening, this could well be the spot for a dive adventure of a lifetime.

Recommended training

East Timor is a great location to learn to dive with the PADI Open Water Divercourse. For certified divers, take the PADI Underwater Naturalist courses to help you identify all that you will surely see in East Timor or extend your dives with the PADI Enriched Air Diver course. This is also an amazing and unique location to become a PADI Divemaster or Open Water Scuba Instructor.

When to go

Diving is possible all year round, but the tropical cyclone season in Timor-Leste normally runs from November to April. Air temperatures range from 30-35°C/86-95°F. However, it’s much cooler at night in the mountains. The water temperatures average 28°C/82°F. In addition, visibility can exceed 40 metres/130 feet but is affected by the usual variables such as run off in the rainy season and oceanic currents. Visibility peaks from April to November.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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* Atauro Island – This is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular areas in East Timor. Known for its fantastic visibility, vast number of fish species and impressive coral, the island has a variety of dive sites including North Point, a popular certification spot with immaculate coral formations and a vast array of fish just off a white sandy beach. * Secret Garden – East of Dili and renowned for consistent visibility and minimal current, this shore dive features stunning coral “gardens” and teems with myriad reef critters. Bring a dive light to check out the caverns and watch for sharks, spotted rays, lobster and large clams. * Dirt Track – Sometimes called Whale Shark Point, the reef here is one of the most beautiful. There are strong currents here (best dived between tides), which support a vibrant and healthy coral population and an incredible diversity of reef fish. Manta rays and reef sharks are rare, but popular visitors. * K57 – With so many great dive sites, naming them all can be bit of a challenge. Hence K57, which you’ll find 57 kilometres/35 miles east of Dili. There’s a stunning wall right beside the beach here, and it’s covered in gorgonians, sponges and healthy hard coral. Big Napoleon wrasse, barracuda, turtles along with occasional shark visit the area, but make sure to spend some time looking for the small stuff, this place is home to some psychedelic sea slugs too.

What to see

There’s much to see in the waters of East Timor. Whale sharks have been seen around September. Plus, whales and dolphins are positively numerous. The waters near shore are excellent for macro enthusiasts. You’ll find octopus and schooling barracuda nearby, too. Like elsewhere in Indonesia, tropical fish are a dime a dozen, reef sharks are abundant and sea turtles are seemingly everywhere.


For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings


East Timor is a small country in Southeast Asia. It is located on the eastern side of the island of Timor, and is seemingly stuck in the middle of Indonesia. The political borders also include the islands of Atauro and Jaco as well as a small area named Oecussi-Ambeno, inside the west side of Timor. Without the development or tourism that define Indonesia, East Timor has been left behind. Recent turmoil hasn’t helped. However, the country is now welcoming ever increasing numbers of tourists who come in search of off-the-beaten path adventures.

Other attractions

Visit Nino Konis National Park, a protected area with some of the last surviving tropical lowland rainforest in the world. The national park is a great location for hiking, bird watching and exploring prehistoric archaeological sites.

Getting there

Access to East Timor is limited. Dili (DIL) and Suai (UAI) are home to the two international airports, but you’ll most likely need to take a connecting flight through Indonesia or Australia. It’s also possible to enter the country by land or sea from Indonesia.


Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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