8 – 19 August 201

Dili

We hardly knew anything about Timor-Leste as we plunged in head first to photograph it. Upon arriving at the airport, we immediately noticed UN presence. There were a lot of men in uniform and loads of vehicles with the UN logo. And yet we were told, their presence had shrunk considerably the past few years as they are slowly pulling out of East Timor. Peace was finally at hand. A short history of this place can be  read in a website called East Timor Now and this website gives a pretty good overview of the country now through pictures and some good background information.

I was born and raised in the Philippines and I felt a stronger kinship here in East Timor I had not felt in other parts of the Coral Triangle – first because of the Catholic faith and second because we too struggled and freed ourselves from many years of oppression. The efforts this country is doing to raise itself from the ruins of its recent past is so admirable and it is heartwarming to see the world respond. They recently finished their 2nd Tour de Timor and are, at this very moment, having their inaugural Timor-Leste Underwater Photo Competition to bring in attention to its splendid marine life for it is, after all, the 6th country of the Coral Triangle!

USS Mercy

The third largest ship in the U.S. Navy Fleet, this impossibly humungous USNS Mercy hospital ship was in Dili for a week to provide humanitarian and civic assistance to the people of East Timor. Their medical staff from Operation Smile performed cleft lip surgery to many during the ship’s visit. And at low tide, many Timorese women and children came out to the coast to glean for marine life they can bring home to eat

Gleaning is done every low tide when the shallow reefs are easily accessible for people to walk out and gather marine life along the way till the edge of the reef. The favorite targets are bivalvesgastropodscrustaceanseaweedsea cucumbersoctopus, and small fish.

This boy shows off his what he and his friends gleaned after half an hour of turning over coral heads. They arm themselves with long stainless steel rods to poke out unwilling marine creatures deep inside the holes

This boy shows off his what he and his friends gleaned after half an hour of turning over coral heads. They arm themselves with long stainless steel rods to poke out unwilling-to-die marine creatures deep inside their holes

 

With two steel rods and a basket, this woman picked and prodded the coral rocks until she got what she wanted. This went on for hours until it was too dark to see

With two steel rods and a basket, this woman picked and prodded the coral rocks until she got what she wanted. This went on for hours until it was too dark for her to see . . .

All along the coast of Dili, gleaning activities were happening. Wonder if there are any marine life left . . .

All along the coast of Dili, gleaning activities were happening. Wonder if there are any marine life left . . .

On our first day in Dili, we saw this man throw his cast net going towards low tide by the mangroves. Yogi had been looking and looking all over 5 countries of the CT to find cast net and there he was, in Dili.

On our first day, we saw this man throw his cast net at low tide by the coastal mangroves. For 16 months, Yogi had been looking and looking all over Asia Pacific for a cast net fisherman! And there he was, in Dili.

And in some areas along the esplanade, fishermen and vendors displayed and sold their fish by the road where cars would stop and buy what they needed to take home for dinner.

A giant trevally beside much smaller catch of scads and mackerels

The giant trevally lorded over much smaller catch of scads and mackerels

By the coast going west, we saw the same way fish was sold.

By the coast going west, we saw how fish was sold, East Timor style

How much for a bundle of fish?

How much for a bundle of fish?

If you want to keep updated with our new expedition blog entries, please sign up to our RSS feed by clicking here or clicking on the “Subscribe to this blog!” link at the top right of this page.

And to look up past entries, go all the way down and click into << older posts.  Or go to the Archives on the upper right column of this page.