top of page
  • mattiadena97

Blue Whale migration in Timor Leste: a guide to affordable and sustainable whale watching.

If you would love to sight some whales or other cetaceans but your budget does not allow it, you have to keep reading.




Whale watching is probably the most famous and tourist sought activity in Timor Leste, bringing thousands of tourist each year from October to early December. The coastal waters of the island are considered a hot spot for cetaceans. Most of them are migratory, while some can be seen all throughout the year. It is believed that one-third of all the species of whales and dolphins swim past the Wetar Strait. 


Wetar Strait - Timor Leste
Wetar Strait - Timor Leste

Wetar strait divides the island of Timor from the islands of Ataùro and Wetar. Due to its depth of 3 kilometers, it's the perfect channel for cetaceans migration, in particular pygmy blue whales. The channel links the water of the Pacific and Indonesian oceans and restricts the presence of saltwater crocodiles from tropical Australia as they can not cross the deep and densely populated strait. 


Unfortunately, whale watching activities promoted on the island are not for those on a budget. In fact, while scrolling through the various tour websites you may notice how expensive this activity can be. Tours must be booked long in advance and for no less than 300 US Dollars for a full day. Yes, the currency is US dollars! This discouraged me while I was deciding whether or not to join the tour. However, I was lucky to find a way cheaper offer that I feel I must share it with you so everyone can have the opportunity to see these magnificent animals, without spending a massive amount money.


But let’s start from scratch. 


Timor Leste, a tropical country whose independence was recognized just 22 years ago, is located in far South East Asia. It is reachable directly by plane from Bali (Indonesia) and Darwin (Australia). 


Timor Leste's flag
Timor Leste's flag

The island is rich in natural beauties, from an unbelievable coral reefs, to green and freezing mountain peaks. The former, located in Ataùro island is recognized as the most healthy and biodiverse in the world, the latter, Mt. Ramelau, reaches 3.000 meters and is a famous sunset-hike destination.

Besides, Jaco island: an unspoiled, Maldivian, white-sand-surrounded atoll on the far east. And Baucau: second city and a cooler, greener and peculiar escape from Dili. 


Best spots and tourist destinations in Timor Leste
Best spots and tourist destinations in Timor Leste

That is exactly where our journey started. Located three hours east from Dili, Baucau offers natural spring pools, a dense, green forest, and incredible, hidden beaches. 

It is exactly where DaTerra hostel, the only Timorese hostel listed in Hostelworld and based in Dili has recently started a new biodiverse and sustainable business.


Custard apple tree in Baucau permacolture farm
Custard apple tree in Baucau permaculture farm

Surrounded by hundreds of plant species, Fernando, the owner, built an eco-friendly retreat composed of 15 beds spread across wooden huts.

Welcoming volunteers and guest from all over the world,  the mission is promoting highly nutritious and draught resistant species as well as providing examples of integrated systems of sustainable living, specifically among the youngsters. They are deeply committed to growing the seedbank they've built along the years, to keep and spread biodiversity.



Among their projects, DaTerra aims to sustain local fishermen by offering whale watching tours. 

The unbeatable price is just $30 USD per person for a full day tour if booking in a group of four, with an optional barbecue (but highly recommended) on a hidden and absolutely insane beach. It's even more enticing knowing that the money goes straight into fishermen pockets, instead of foreign tour companies. Fernando also offers the option to rent the boat for yourself if you would like a more private experience, but the cost of that is $120 USD. 


Fisherman's boat for whale watching expeditions
Fisherman's boat for whale watching expeditions

We left the hostel early in the morning to jump on a long boat headed towards the deep water of the strait. Normally, all the tours are run in front of Dili, 130 kilometres west from where DaTerra is. Therefore, it's less likely you'll run into other boats that might bother or scary the whales away and steal the natural show. 

After 45 minutes of sailing we started spotting whale blows in distance.

The fisherman knew exactly where to go, and drifted to the left instead of pointing towards them. Blue whales, according to our guides explanation, spend 15 minutes swimming in the deep before resurfacing for 7 long breaches, before diving below again. The fisherman were aware of their behavior and took us to where he predicted they would resurface again. He was not wrong, and the whales were so close to us we could even seen them from below the surface. 


Blue whale migrating through Wetar strait in Timor Leste
Blue whale migrating through Wetar strait in Timor Leste
Blue whale migrating through Wetar strait in Timor Leste
Blue whale migrating through Wetar strait in Timor Leste

To conclude, even if you are not interested in whale watching, I do recommend visiting Baucau and the permaculture farm of DaTerra. For more tips, informations and activities check out my youtube channel.

Kommentare


bottom of page