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

Dili, Dili District

Map of west Dili showing the airport and the Timor Lodge Hotel
(click to enlarge)

It took just over 1.5 hours for Sriwijaya Air flight SJ 270 to travel the 1138 km from Denpasar, Bali to Dili. There was also a Merpati flight on the same route at around the same time. This was our first time with Sriwijaya Air as they had only started flying the route the previous month. On arrival at Nicolau Lobato International Airport the most obvious difference was the absence of the multi-national UN Police we had grown so accustomed to seeing since the survey was initiated in 2009. Their places were now taken by the National Police of Timor-Leste. The UN left after the 2012 elections, 10 years after Independence.

Our international contingent comprised nine persons, only three of whom had been to Timor-Leste previously. We collected our baggage from the baggage hall and in so doing I badly pulled my back, exascerbating an old injury that would debilitate me for several days and haunt me for much longer. Once through Customs we met with Laca, one of the original Jets. We learned we would also be joined by Paulo, the fifth Jet who joined the team in 2012.

President Nicolau Lobato International Airport, Dili
named after the East Timorese president and war hero,
shot and killed by Indonesian forces on Dec 31st 1978
click to enlarge images

We loaded everybody and everything into the Timor Lodge Hotel minibus for the five minute journey to the hotel. The TLH is our regular expedition base where we prepare, pack, rest and store our equipment between phases.

We took four chalets at TLH, one for the leaders (Hinrich and myself) where we would also store kit and set up the lab and the photo studio, two for the four girls and one for the three guys. Laca and Paulo would stay at their homes in Dili.

The four chalets taken by the team at the
Timor Lodge Hotel (TLH)

For a description and general views around the Timor Lodge Hotel see Phase III.
The pool at the TLH is claimed to be the best pool in Dili, if not in Timor, but taking a swim in it seems to be fateful. Apart from Hinrich, nobody who has swam in the pool had returned to the projecton a later phase. Caitlin Sanchez (all Phases I-VII) swam in the pool at the end of Phase VII, and she was not with us this time. Is this a coincidence?

The team sorted out our kit from the container where it is stored between phases, and we set our chalet up as the laboratory and photographic studio. Sven took the students out herping locally around the compound. They returned later with Rice-paddy frogs (Fejervarya sp.), Asian black-spined toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus), Striped treefrogs (Polypedates cf. leucomystax), Common house geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus), Roti Island house geckos (H. tenkatei), Mutilated geckos (Gehyra mutilata) and an Island wolfsnake (Lycodon capucinus). Later Laca also turned up with some interesting specimens of his own, including a Lesser Sunda racer (Coelognathus subradiatus) from Palapasu, the same place he had captured a Macklot's water python (Liasis mackloti mackloti) on a previous phase.

Rice-paddy frog
Fejervarya sp.
Asian black-spined toad
Duttaphrynus melanostictus
Striped treefrog
Polypedates cf. leucomystax


Mutilated gecko,
Gehyra mutilata
Roti house gecko,
Hemidactylus cf. tenkatei
Common house gecko,
Hemidactylus frenatus


Island wolfsnake,
Lycodon capucinus
Lesser Sunda racer,
Coelognathus subradiatus

We now had some specimens and could start teaching the procedures associated with fieldwork. The only problem was the strong smell of formalin fumes that pervaded our room all the time, hence the two battery operated fans and the open screen-door.

Hinrich initiating the lab work The team get down to basics
Julia and Laca examine one of his preserved
Tokay geckos
, Gekko gecko
Britta injecting a specimen..
but not with coconut shampoo (left)