The Island of Crocodiles – TIMOR-LESTE

The Island of Crocodiles – TIMOR-LESTE

By Ms. Elisa Maria Da Silva, Chargé d’affaires (A.I.) of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste to the Kingdom of Thailand

A Southeast Asian nation occupying half the island of Timor, Timor-Leste, or East Timor is ringed by coral reefs teeming with marine life. It is bounded by the Timor Sea to the southeast, the Wetar Strait to the north, the Ombai Strait to the northwest, and western Timor (part of the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara) to the southwest

Timor-Leste shares land border with Indonesia and maritime border with Australia. Unilaterally, Timor-Leste declared its Independence from Portugal on 28 November 1975 but was invaded by neighbouring Indonesia nine days later. It will commemorate its 18th Anniversary of Restoration of independence from Indonesia on 20 May 2020.


Timor-Leste is also known as the Island of crocodiles as the shape of the island is like the shape of a crocodile. Timorese people believe that crocodiles are lulik – ‘sacred’ and they are their ancestors – often with the term: ‘Grandfather Crocodile’. As per the traditional myth, the crocodile sacrifices itself to create the land of Timor Leste, the mountains are his spine, a home for the boy who had trusted him enough to ride his back to a new land. Killing a crocodile is culturally a taboo as well as illegal in the country.


Timor-Leste has rich flora and fauna. It is a beautiful island and has incredible natural beauty, rich history, and unique cultural experience. TimorLeste also has clean and stunning beaches, mesmerizing tropical reefs and amazing marine life, and rugged mountains.

As an intriguing new tourism destination, it has been attracting an increasing number of international travelers, who are keen to experience its coral reefs, beaches, rugged mountains and heritage. TimorLeste has 13 municipalities. Each municipality has its unique beauty or characteristics. So, each municipality has something special to offer to the travelers. There are some special and popular municipalities that tourist can visit such as:


Atauro Island is part of Dili, the capital. It offers world class diving and snorkeling in its fantastic reefs. Recent research shows Atauro Island has the highest diversity of reef fishes and coral species on the earth. It is also perfect for beach relaxing, swimming and hiking. It gives very friendly, hospitable and welcoming vibes. Boat access from Dili can be easily arranged and good accommodation facilities including small eco-resorts are available here.


It has an old fort which provides expansive views of the surrounding country side. Within the fort is a boutique hotel and restaurant. Guided visits to local villages and caves can be organized here.


A highlight for many of a holiday in Timor-Leste is a guided hike from the village of Hato Builico, located high in the Tatamailau range (2000m), to the summit of Mt Ramelau to watch the sun rise.

In all directions the views are stunning. Other guided hikes also can be organised in the surrounding valleys and to nearby traditional villages from the guest houses. A good 4WD vehicle or motorbikes are needed to access Hato Builico due to the steep mountainous terrain.


Jaco Island lies at the far eastern tip of Timor-Leste. Sacred Jaco Island is a tropical paradise. Its transparent waters teem with underwater life and offer fantastic diving, snorkelling and swimming opportunities. Besides diving, you will have the opportunity to view dolphins and whales in the wild – a totally exhilarating experience!

To access Valu Island, we need a small fishing boat. Accommodation at Valu ranges from eco-camping to guest houses. Guided trips through the forest to the local caves within the Nino Konis Santana National Park are another highlight. The drive down to Valusere from Tutuala is very steep in places and requires a 4WD vehicle.

At the top of the Tutuala escarpment from the local pousada, the views out to sea and across the forested ranges of the national park are stunning.


The Marobo geothermal hot springs are located near Bobonaro in beautiful mountain country. Lying back in the hot water pools having a soak looking out over the valley is a very blissful experience. Most visitors travel up from their accommodation in Maliana or Balibo by motorbike or 4WD vehicle.


To visit Timor-Leste you can either take a flight from Bali, Singapore or Australia or by land from the Indonesian side of the island, West Timor. From Australia-Darwin, it’s just over an hour, from Bali to Dili, it’s only two and half hours and from Singapore is about 3 and half hours by flight.

If you are interested in exploring unique cultures, different and new places and have an adventurous spirit, Timor-Leste is for you – come and visit.