Why we love it
Marvel at the pristine reefs of Atauro island in Timor-Leste, a wonder of the Coral Triangle and home to more species of coral and fish than anywhere else on earth. On this two-week trip, you'll discover the natural and cultural highlights of Timor-Leste while making a meaningful contribution to ongoing conservation efforts in the country.
Blue Ventures has been working with coastal communities since 2003, developing locally-led approaches to marine management that benefit people and nature alike. Blue Ventures began working alongside communities in Timor-Leste in 2016, developing new approaches to marine conservation and starting to build the island’s capacity for effective marine management.
Who is it for?
For experienced divers (PADI Advanced Open Water level or equivalent). If not an Advanced level yet, you can complete a course before joining the trip.
Prices and Dates
The program starts and finishes in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. You will meet expert field staff and community members working to protect Timor-Leste’s spectacular waters, and enjoy exclusive conservation and wildlife talks.
Arrival to Dili and Atauro Island:
- Introduction to the trip and meet the team
- Locally guided day tour through Dili visiting some of the capital’s highlights such as the iconic Christo Rei
- Departure to Beloi on Atauro Island incorporating a full day whale and dolphin survey tour
- Site tour of Barry’s Place - home for the next two weeks!
Learn & Immerse:
- Presentations on conservation efforts including data collection methods, coral bleaching, and how to identify Cetaceans (otherwise known as whales, dolphins, and porpoises)
- Diving and/or snorkeling on some of Atauro’s incredible coral reef and seagrass habitats
Immerse in Atauro's local culture:
- Homestay experience
- Trip to the village - “Vila” - to visit the local Bonecas de Atauro and Jewelry cooperatives
Discover more of the island:
- Attend Beloi market - a weekly highlight on the island!
- Hike across the island to Adara on the west coast and stay in beach side huts
Dive in Atauro's first marine protected area:
- Dive and/or snorkel in the Adara tara bandu - the islands first locally managed marine area
- Take the boat back to Beloi circumnavigating the north end of Atauro island - pass incredible scenery and keep your eyes open for resident whales and dolphins!
Transfer back to Dili and last whale and dolphin survey:
- Depart Beloi and return to Dili incorporating a full day whale and dolphin survey tour
- Overnight in Dili before your flights home
- Accommodation in eco-lodges, hotels and community home-stays as mentioned in the program description
- Three prepared meals per day, including tea and coffee at breakfast and lunch
- Transfers between Dili and the dive camp on Atauro
- Training with our team of field scientists and researchers
- PADI tune-up course with dive instructor on arrival
- Diving, boat surveys and all other scheduled activities
- Use of scuba diving equipment, including: buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, weights and cylinders
- Comprehensive logistical support from the expedition medics and dive managers
- Pre-departure support from Blue Ventures UK-based headquarters
- International flights to Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste
- Entry visa for Timor-Leste
- Any medication or vaccinations that you require
- Travel and dive insurance
- Personal diving equipment and personal kit: wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, watch or dive computer, dive torch and underwater slate – Blue Ventures will provide detailed guidance on what you need to buy for your expedition
- Spending money for drinks, snacks and souvenirs
- Hotel accommodation in Timor-Leste before or after your expedition dates
- Atauro is a whale and dolphin hotspot! With both resident and migratory species that can seen and surveyed at close quarters.
- Some key species include: Spinner, Bottlenose, Striped, Risso’s, Frasier’s and Rough-Toothed Dolphins and Blue, Pygmy Blue, Sperm, Cuvier’s Melon Headed and Pilot Whales.
- The 2 week Whale and Coral Dive Trips are timed to coincide with the expected migration season of Pygmy Blue Whales and the survey aims will be to collect data for an ongoing study by a whale researcher at the National University of Timor-Leste.
- The island’s spectacular marine diversity and productivity has given the Timorese people a longstanding relationship with the ocean, but with fishing being the main source of income for many coastal families, sustainability and conservation are now key concerns.
- Season: all year round, with a dry season from May to November, and Wet season from December to April to January
- Currents: little to strong seasonal currents
- Visibility: at least 10 meters(30 feet) most of the year and up to 40 meters(feet) around December
- Water Temperature: 25° to 29°C (77° to 84°F)
- Depth: mostly shallow dives
- The majority of the dives sites visited will be on fringing reefs at around 15m depth
- Diverse topography with coral gardens, slopes and walls, and spectacular hard coral formations
- Timor-Leste has surpassed Raja Ampat in having the most number of fish species counted in one dive in 2016
- Upwelling of waters from the deep oceanic channels of the Ombai and Wetar straits can create strong seasonal currents. For experienced divers this can offer the enjoyment of a more challenging dive, and the comprehensive dive protocols will ensure we always dive safely.
- These currents also bring nutrients to the reefs contributing to exceptionally high biodiversity and the channels are important migratory corridors for Cetaceans.
- Operation started in 2016
- 7 permanent staff, both international and Timorese
- The activities will be lead by an Expedition and Dive Manager, with the support of our 2 Field Scientists, 2 Dive and Science Assistants as well as a wider team of operations and logistics staff
- Group size: 8 maximum
- Equipment Recommended: included in the expedition fee is the use of our scuba diving equipment, including buoyancy control devices (BCDs), regulators, weights and cylinders. You will need to bring some personal items of dive kit such wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, booties and a timing device with you. You will be provided with a kit list during your pre-departure
- Insurance: both dive insurance and travel insurance are mandatory
- Nearest Hyperbaric Chamber: Darwin, Australia or Manado, Sulawesi - note that there is a chamber in Raja Ampat, but it is not certified or compliant with international standards
Visas, flights, and more!
- Many visitors to Timor-Leste will purchase a 30 day entry visa on arrival in country at the airport. The local team will then help you extend this for a further 30 days if necessary.
- Please check the current visa policy that applies for your country.
How to get there
- The trip starts and finishes in Dili, and live at the dive camp in Atauro island
- You will fly into Dili (DIL) the capital of Timor-Leste. To reach Dili, you can take an international flight connecting via Darwin (Australia), Singapore, or Denpasar (Bali, Indonesia).
- If you are planning to fly from Denpasar to Dili, we encourage using the airline “Citilink”, as this is the only airline operating on this route that currently meets EU safety standards.
- Timor-Leste is subject to malaria, dengue and chikungunya. Take necessary precautions to avoid it (cover yourself, have mosquito repellent and take malarone tablets).
- Bring sunscreen, a hat, a rash guard, a sweater or a light-weight jacket, some walking shoes