TIMOR-LESTE 2012

Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
Phase VII

Baguia to Fatucahi, Manufahi District

From Baguia we headed to the south coast but although Baguia is already a good third of the way across the island of Timor we were uncertain of the condition of the road further south and whether we could actually reach the coast by that route. We also knew that although we had forded several rivers on the south coast before there was one in our way that had almost cost us a Troopie. We therefore decided to take the longer route via the north coast. Our chosen route therefore took us back north from Baguia, stopping at a mountain waterfall with a natural plunge pool, and then west to Baucau.

Andrew and Mark on an old bridge near the waterfall swimming hole Caitlin doing her best mermaid or film starlet pose above the waterfall

On the north coast road near Seiçal we encountered four road-kills: a young Indo-Malay dog-faced watersnake (Cerberus schneiderii) and three Timor monitor lizards (Varanus timorensis). All were photographed and their GPS coordinates recorded. The snake was good enough to take as a voucher specimen.

Indo-Malay dog-faced watersnake
Cerberus schneiderii
Timor monitor lizard
Varanus timorensis
Timor monitor lizard
Varanus timorensis
Timor monitor lizard
Varanus timorensis

From Baucau we drove on to Manatuto, where we turned south to traverse the mountains again. The drive to the south coast is long, winding, rocky and interesting, and impassable in several places without four-wheel drive. We climbed to around 1200 m and into clouds but when the clouds parted there were some spectacular views.

Mountain views
The hand-brake on my Troopie was faulty so this was how we stopped it from rolling away.

 

On the way down the southern side of the mountains the vegetation changes to a lusher and more verdant rainforest, unlike the dry rain-shadow north coast. On the road we encountered a large dead snake, a Lesser Sunda racer (Coelognathus subradiatus), which had clearly been clubbed, noosed and then dragged onto the road. This large specimen was fresh enough to collect as a voucher.

Lesser Sunda racer (DOR)
Coelognathus subradiatus
The road and habitat where we collected the racer

Eventually, after approximately 200 kms and after dark, we reached Natarbora on the south coast of Manututo District and, turning west again, drove over a bridge into Manufahi District. A short distance beyond, near the village of Fatucahi, is located the Convent of St. Antonio d'Lisboa where Father Cornelius, a friend from our previous visit, again made us welcome. This was our base for two nights.