The Timorese revere the crocodile. The crocodile is the focal point in the fable of how Timor began. I will not duplicate the story for you, since you can read it in the website below. In short, the island itself is a massive crocodile, who in kind payment to a man, gave himself to be the island the Timorese call home. (and yes, there are some slight alternative versions, such as - http://www1.ci.uc.pt/timor/croc2.htm)
The symbol of the crocodile can be found everywhere in Timor, the Timorese Army have even adopted the crocodile as their mascot.
The Indonesians kept the populations at bay during the occupation by hunting and killing the animals, but during the Independence, the Timorese reverted back to their ways and let them live without any regulation. All of this reverence however has caused a bit of a risk. The crocodiles are growing in population and increasing the safety risk.
Saltwater crocodiles are large and rather dangerous. Timor has vast coast lines and pristine beaches, but beware that a few of these that appear to be vacant are not. The crocodiles enjoy the silty, muddy waters near river mouths. They also enjoy the protection of the mangrove trees.
Stay away from these and keep yourself on the large, expansive beaches with clean water and you will be fine. When in doubt, ask some some locals.
I toured East Timor on motorcycle. That is mainly due to three reasons. Firstly, I like exploring and enjoy finding myself in remote places. Secondly, I could not justify the additional cost of renting a 4WD and fuel. Third, I believe I am a confident, skilled and responsible driver.
If any of those three were not true, I would have had to have found alternative means of transit.
The roads in Timor are uneven, narrow, often have dirt/gravel over them and have the possibility of debris.
If you are driving in Timor, drive slowly, use your horn around turns (particularly blind turns), and be prepared for flat tires. With that being said, I had two flat tires on a motorcycle. I saw many cars also on the side of the road nursing flats.
Shown is a picture of me after having my second flat tire. Thankfully the National Police happened to be driving by shortly after and helped me take my bike to a repair shop. My first flat tire on the other hand required me to push my bike for nearly 3km to a village and it took 7 hours since they village had no replacement inter tubes...
Timor has just come out of a bloody war and occupation period, where indonesian armed forces caused the death of one third of the whole population. In my travel. from 1999 u can read about the last stage of Timor's dramatic history.
East Timor is now safe, very few attacks on foreigners by impoverished youth at night have been reported the last years.
Since May last year (2006) random violence in the streets of the capital Dili has shocked the inhabitants and foreigners alike... Houses and shops, even a hotel were arsoned. Pity that East Timors capital follows the trend of all capitals of the world, less social contact among the people makes it less safe...
The recent presidential elections were completed without any serious violence so many of us are optimistic that the worst maybe over....
Check Australian safety warnings for travellers before travelling!
Travellers should, as much as possible, travel in pairs (at least) as it is very dangerous to walk on the streets of Dili alone, especially when you are not familiar with the place. Robbery and kidnapping are common and always be careful, especially at night. Ladies, you need to pay more attention to this arning though.
Avenida Presidente Nicolau Lobato, Dili, East Timor
Good for: Couples
Av. Direitos Humanos, Lecidere, Dili, East Timor
Good for: Couples
Av dos Direitos Humanos, Lecidere, Dili, East Timor
Good for: Couples