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Timor-Leste now

Tourism

Asia's best kept Secret (for now)

Timor-Leste coastline
marine life The waters off the coasts of Dili are unpolluted, allowing reef life to flourish.

DILI – For any country emerging from conflict and committed to peace and stability, progress comes in steps; and that is exactly how Timor-Leste wants to approach its tourism industry, too.

With miles upon miles of unspoiled beaches, picturesque mountains and clear waters, Timor-Leste is one of the world’s undiscovered tourist destinations. Timor-Leste is in its early stages of tourism promotion, and leaders say they want to strategically attract adventurer and sun-seekers.

“As a new destination, we don’t want to overdevelop our tourism. We need to learn from other countries ... take it step by step,” Timor-Leste’s Tourism Director Joseí? Quintas told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I’d love to come back. It is early days for tourists, and the people we have met have been friendly.” Sally Eaton

Timor-Leste boasts all the trappings of any sunny island-nation – offering plentiful opportunities to snorkel, swim and dive – without the crush of tourists.

Away from the frenetic activity of other tourist destinations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, Timor-Leste provides snorkeling and diving without charging high prices. Pristine coral reefs in and around Atauro Island, Manatuto, Tutuala and Jaco Island provide some of the best spots for diving in the world.

Diving schools are also popping up in and around Dili. Dive Timor Lorosae offers equipment and courses for divers. Dili Dive and FreeFlow offer dive safaris and specialized trips for more experienced divers.

Andrew Vagg of Melbourne snorkles off the coast of Atauro Island

Tourists are discovering the secret firsthand.

Ray Eaton and his wife, Sally, ventured from Broome, Australia, after reading an article about Timor-Leste. Noting that they like islands, the Eatons left the beaches of Australia for Timor-Leste, where they read and spent time by the water.

“I’d love to come back,” Sally Eaton said. “It is early days for tourists, and the people we have met have been friendly.”

Andrew Vagg of Melbourne hopped on a plane from his native Australia after his good friend, Annie Major, invited him to visit her in Dili. He was amazed at the ease with which he could be on the beach.

That was the best part, Vagg said, who added, “Snorkeling is easy. You can do it straight from the beach.”

Timor-Leste’s unspoiled beaches are a secret that may not be kept for long.

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