28 July 2014 2 of 4

TIMOR-LESTE (Dili to Lautem Distr.)



After Baucau we were paying particular attention to crocodiles as we crossed bridges, even though the rivers contained little water, and this vigilance eventually paid off, because Laura sighted a Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) in a billabong only a few metres from the road. It disappeared as we approached on foot, but by making ourselves blend in with the bridge it resurfaced for photographs. It was probably between 2-3 m in length. We learned that two children from the village primary school had disappeared two months earlier right here, presumed taken, but not by this crocodile as it was too small, and probably not by a single crocodile either - crocodile attacks have become a big problem in Timor-Leste since independence, as local economic activity has increased after the removal of restrictions during the Indonesian occupation, and it more frequently includes areas near water (for fishing, laundering clothes, or washing motorcycles. The billabong led to the sea and looked as if it could easily hide a much larger crocodile. We also briefly heard a baby croc call but it soon stopped. We moved on towards Lautem.

Saltwater crocodile,
Crocodylus porosus

resurfacing - click image for a close-up
The billabong led to the open ocean and could
hide a large crocodile

We dropped by Laca's mother's house in Raça and then drove onwards across the karst plateau that holds Lake Ira Lalaro. The plateau is basically a large sink, called a polje, where rainwater collects and flows out only through a single outlet. The lake is Timor's largest and home to 300+ crocodiles and the endemic Timor snake-necked turtle (Chelodina mccordi timorensis). We drove on to Tutuala, the easternmost village in Timor-Leste, from where it is a mere 8 km to our destination, Valu Sere or Tutuala Beach. This road is clearly one of the worst roads in Timor, and it took about a half-hour in 4x4 to get down to the beach. I filmed the descent with a GoPro attached to the troopie hood. Upon arrival at Valu Sere we unpacked and set up our campsite comprising seven tents, by which time it was dark. The two drivers, Hinrich and myself, were extremely tired and elected to stay in camp to get some rest. The others, in contrast, were keen to go herping, and so Hinrich dropped them a short way back up the road at a limestone cliff-face we had herped when last here in 2009.

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