Imagine a place where it’s possible to see blue whales, sperm whales, resident dugongs, super pods of dolphins, and experience the world’s most biodiverse reefs? Oh, and be the only boat out on the ocean. This isn’t utopia, this is Timor-Leste.Join your Insider for this trip Aaron 'Bertie' Gekoski, presenter of the from Scubazoo "Below" dive series, on an exciting trip into the wilderness, at the best destination you've never heard of.
Watch below video from our 2022 trip with Aaron Gekski to Timor Leste
As one of the newest countries on Earth (founded 2002), Timor-Leste has remained something of an anomaly to divers.
Despite sharing the same reef systems of Indonesia, Timor-Leste attracts less than 100,000 visitors a year. This lack of tourism makes for a refreshing change. In the capital, Dili, old Portuguese colonial buildings line streets occupied by graffitied taxies, that rarely clock more than 20mph. Life here moves at a leisurely pace and has a higgledy-piggledy charm to it.
The reason for Timor-Leste’s marine riches lies in the Ombai-Wetar Strait. Located in the pathway of the Indonesian Throughflow (the major current connecting the Pacific and Indian Ocean), the Strait boasts the largest movement of water on the planet: 5 million cubic metres per second works its way through this narrow gap, at depths of over 3000m.
These nutrient-rich waters attract life in abundance and 24 species of dolphins and whales can be found here. Sperm whales are resident, whilst blue whales pass through every year on their 10,000km migration to breeding grounds further north. Other species include melon-headed whales, pilot whales, spinner dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and more. We have even seen mating turtles and breaching mola-molas whilst out on the boat!
During your week with us, you will spend 5 days out on the open ocean, taking in the drop-dead beautiful scenery, looking for blue whales and sperm whales.
You will not be part of a tourist circus like in other whale destinations - we will mostly be alone on the water, there are only two or three operators out there. This is a raw and real experience, and one for the adventurous at heart. The blues are on a mission, so in-water encounters are not always easy, but we will do our best to get you close to these 25m behemoths.
The blue whales are migrating here in October and November, so our week is absolutely perfect timing.
Dolphins, pilot whales and other marine mammals can also be encountered in small, large or gigantic pods, and we will try to get in the water with them as well. Although skittish there is a good chance you will have close encounters.
Check out Bertie's SZ TV episode on the blue whales of Timor Leste.
Check out the SZ TV episode on Bertie encountering the mighty sperm whales.
Hosted by Aaron Gekoski we will all work hard to get the wildlife experiences. However please note whale encounters are notoriously difficult (everywhere in the world), we will spend a lot of time searching them. While seeing them often from the surface is mostly guaranteed, but getting in water close enough for detail is a challenge.
Also it has to be noted this is an exploratory trip for Insider Divers, so bear with us when we adjust the itinerary for optimal outcome.
Aaron "Bertie" Gekoski
Aaron Gekoski is an award-winning environmental photojournalist, film-maker and TV presenter, specialising in human-animal conflict. He fronts environmental film series and is founder of Raise the Red Flag, a global campaign to end cruelty in the Wildlife Tourism industry. Aaron's articles and images regularly appear in the international press and have won numerous awards, including the coveted Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
His "Timor Leste Above and Below" SZ TV series has created a big momentum for the young diving industry of the country. Traveling with Aaron you can count on his expertise and local connections getting you to right spots at the right time. Aaron will also provide free talks on Wildlife Tourism and whale biology.
ATAURO ISLAND SCUBA AND FREEDIVING
Across the ocean from the mainland lies Atauro Island - a remote and breathtakingly beautiful island. Its location in the Ombai Strait separates it from the islands of Alor and Wetar and is right in the path of the Indonesian Throughflow. Rich with nutrients from the deep basins of the Banda Sea to the north.
Atauro offers deep blue waters, superb walls and interesting scenic reefs.
There are over 20 dives sites which is why we are offering this as an optional extension with 2-3 dives a day.
The dates are perfect in the middle of the Blue Whale migration - we have secured the best two weeks historically, it is the best opportunity to get in the water with the whales. All other animals are native to the Strait, so you can encounter them all-year round as long as they are in the area.
Please contact us for rates at Simon@insiderdivers.com