6/11 to 14/11/2021
Photo by Desmond Lee
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 Aaron 'Bertie' Gekoski, presenter of the from Below dive series, on an exciting trip into the wilderness, at the best dive destination you've never heard of.
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 4-5 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. 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.
Dolphins, Pilot Whales and Melon-Headed are encountered in large pods, and we will try to get in the water with them as well. Although skittish there is a good chance you will have a couple close encounters.
During this trip we wil also do several dive days. A famous dive is at Tasi Tolu. The muck diving is fantastic and you can see many species of seahorse, cephalopods, crustaceans, and more. However this dive spot is best known for its famous resident dugongs: Douggie and Debbie. Most mornings, one or the other can be found feeding a short wade from shore.
Another renowned dive spot it Anemone Garden, which lies a bumpy two-hour drive from Dili. Located off the side of a remote and dusty road, it is one of the strangest sites you will ever visit. Yet once you wade in, you will find yourself immersed in a gigantic patch of anemones, pulsing with clownfish, barely a grain of sand in sight.
Check out the Bertie SZ TV episode on the blue whales.
Check out the Bertie SZ TV episode on the encoutnering the mighty sperm whales.
Check out the Bertie SZ TV episode on finding Dugongs.
Hosted by Bertie and our local experts 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.
THE DIVE SHOP
Aquatica is one of Timor-Leste’s premier dive operators. It’s owner, Desmond Lee, is a fantastic underwater photographer and has completed thousands of dives here. The dive guides at Aquatica have amazing eyes and will unearth some unusual critters…and hopefully introduce you to Debbie and/or Douggie.
The dates are perfect in the middle of the Blue Whale migration, it is the best opportunity to get in the water with the,. All other animals are living in the Strait, so you can technically encounter them all-year round.
Please contact us for rates at Simon@insiderdivers.com
As all our trips this trip is operated by Southern Cross Travel Limited, Hong Kong