Australians are well known in East Timor as friends and allies, as Australian troops helped establish independence from Indonesia. A small contingent of Aussie peacekeepers remains today.
East Timor wants tourists – East Timor needs tourists and tourists are catching on. Tourist arrivals are up by 250% over the last three years. This trend is sure to continue as travellers worldwide learn of East Timor’s hidden treasures.
This is a land of colonial towns, lush green forests, palm lined beaches, peaceful friendly locals, Portuguese pastries and beachfront bars.
New raw energy of an emerging nation invites us to join the early days of travel to this new destination at the front door of Australia.
We have the unique opportunity to exchange ideas, vision and friendship with a neighbour who has already made itself a great friend of Australia at a strategic government level. Aussies can be among this culturally diverse half island nation.
The capital of Dili offers a taste of Portugal in the tropics with restored colonial buildings, waterfront promenades and relics of old forts mixed with new developments that point in the direction of a bright prosperous future.
A lively port town of whitewashed buildings and beachfront bars to catch the setting sun. Enjoy a fine wine with dinner or late night beer at funky bars. Always laid back but never sleepy Dili remains active from dawn till late at night. The fantastic waterfront area where fishing boats unload their catch of the day early in the morning is a popular meeting place. People smile and say “Bon Dia”. Along here water front stalls sell papaya, mangoes and coconuts.
Dining in Dili takes on many modes with local style Portuguese, Chinese, Italian Pizza, Japanese, Thai and Western tastes all catered for. Fresh fish are very popular due to the areas reputation for abundant variety. Curry and rice remains a local favourite though, strong locally grown organic coffee and great bread rolls help start the day. Markets and old churches and the aroma of sandalwood add a spicy blend to this old city, just miles away from Darwin. So close yet so different.
Yachts from around the world compete in the Darwin to Dili yacht rally. This year the race started on the 3rd July at Darwin Harbour and attracted adventures from all over the yachting globe.
East Timor is also a spot for sport and game fishing. Yellow fin and dogtooth tuna, Wahoo, and Spanish Mackerel are some of the prized game. East Timor recently hosted an international fishing tournament.
Other events hosted by East Timor include the Tour de Timor cycling marathon; a five day mountain bike race across the country where competitors sweat to win prizes up to US$100,000. Mountains up to 10,000feet make this a tough event.
The Dili City of Peace marathon with participants from 26 countries kicks off in June 2011. The world is starting to hear of East Timor.
The Timor-Leste Adventure Challenge, a survival type extreme adventure race designed for TV will attract a new breed of tourist from its international audience. Running November 1st to 12th 2010. World class athletes climb, run and drop from stunning mountains into prehistoric forests against the backdrop of reef studded coast.
Most people come for the diving, pack snorkel mask and fins as this is not to be missed. A grade all the way. Fluorescent fish of the reef eternally shine in endless streams. East Timor doesn’t brag about is fields of undamaged reefs, so that’s why you are usually the only ones at your chosen dive spot. Some are just 15minutes from Dili, there is even one right off the pier downtown. The coast drive 45 minutes to Dollar Beach, winds past sandy coves, natural rock-pools and sleepy fishing villages. There are over 25 dive sites within a short range of Dili. Most are accessible walking in from the beach, some only 10metres from shore with steep drop offs into deep water. Reef fringe the entire north coast of East Timor with beaches of shiny white sand, perfect for a sunbake or swim. This wonder-world of diving is a magnet for marine life from the smallest shrimp to the monstrous whale shark, all can be spotted in East Timor especially in the north as migrating whales, dolphin tuna and all species in-between ride the corridor current above a massive trench.
Australian soldiers swear the beaches of East Timor are better than Bali. This is long and sandy and undeveloped. A coral garden and a coconut canoe hopping to offshore islands, windsurfing and surfing are all on offer in East Timor. World class surf can be found.
With animals including the rare badak jawa a species of one horned rhino, monkey, deer, crocs and buffalo there is a need to sustain its flora and fauna. East Timor has taken the initiative to declare its first National Park – Nino Konis Santa, in 2008. Stretching from mountain jungle to sea, it is home to the famous civet cats known for their unusual role in coffee production. Plans for 12 more protected areas are under design to secure a solid future in the tourism market.
Mt Mundo Perdido (The Lost World) is a famous bird sanctuary with over 100 or more rare species calling this home. New species are still being discovered. Hiking to Mt Ramelau the highest mountain can take you through forest, past wooden hut villages. Many spend a night at the peak where a statue of Virgin Mary looks over the country. The mountain is also home to the spirits of the ancestors. A very special place. Pilgrims flock here for festivals.
Everywhere you go people wave at you, it is like the golden years before the discovery where tradition is real, not a show. Traditions that reach back thousands of years like hand woven textiles that come with distinct local styles from the many different districts. Community collectives operate throughout the country so money spent by travellers in these districts goes a long way to preserving the culture.
One of the friendliest countries in the world invites you to come and visit, stay in a hotel or a pousada with a family, get into the warm water or take a relaxing walk along a tropical beach.
Come to East Timor where people share a vision of optimism for the future and are working strongly towards it. Australians can be part of this just by going there. Tourism should help move the country forward to even greater self-reliance.
Motorbikes can be rented, cars hired, bicycles ridden, group tours, day trips, scuba dives and extreme sports are all here. Take a local bus or join an expedition. The choice is yours.
New adventures, friendships and beauty await in our welcoming northern neighbour. Relaxing Dili offers accommodation to suit any budget. Find a bed in budget backpacker lodge or a high level resort. To save money travel during week days, get a local sim card from Timor telecom to book dives, local calls are cheap.
Expats work here in large numbers for the United Nations in various roles adding to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of this surprising town. With 20 main languages, Tetum Prasa being the largest along with Portuguese, the Asian/Euro blend mixed with the international guests keeps daily life interesting.
For further information on travel to Timor-Leste please contact the tourism office at www.mtci-timorleste.com/